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A Box Of Hope

by: Eric Allee 8/13/2014

I've had anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and mild depression off and on my entire adult life. There have been years go by without even the slightest hint of any symptoms of any mental illness (still don’t like that term) whatsoever, but there’s also been months where I felt paralyzed by panic which leads to depression. When the depression sets in things can get scary fast…hope is a powerful thing, and when you lose it all bets are off.

I remember sitting in my room completely hopeless and tired of feeling like a guinea pig. The doctors had given me a number of different medications none of which seemed to do anything more than make me blah and tired. I called the doctor’s office and told them I felt tired all the time and hopeless…. They wanted me to go in so they could write yet another prescription for more pills. After that phone call I had a brief moment where I felt like this was all too much. I felt like I was waiting for a magic pill that didn't exist and I’d be dealing with anxiety and depression my entire life.

At that point in my life I was extremely agoraphobic and my room was basically my life. It’s hard to explain to someone that hasn't been in a depression like that, but my room was the only place I felt comfortable. I’d clean it multiple times a day trying to keep my mind and body busy doing something. I’d cleaned that damn room 100 times before I realized the only spot in the room I didn't spic and span was my closet. As soon as I opened the closet doors I noticed a box tucked away in the corner. I don’t remember seeing that box before so I had to pull it out and see what was in it…. It was old fishing magazines, my fishing logs, master angler awards, and pictures. That very moment is when my battle with anxiety and depression changed.

Between the medication and despair I forgot about my passion. I know it sounds crazy that someone so crazy about fishing can forget about it, but I did. I thumbed through those old magazines reading articles I've read what seems like hundreds of times before. I looked through master angler awards reliving each and every memory in my head. One memory in particular that really stood out was a big brown I’d caught with my cousin Jeremy. It was a big shouldered monster brown, but that’s not why it stood out so much. A few minutes after the fish was landed and we had celebrated…. We just sat on the banks of the lake and soaked everything in. For a moment it felt like time was standing still. I’d been so wrapped up in my problems I forgot about moments like that. I eventually fell asleep reading old fishing magazines, in particular I was reading Giles Alkire’s columns.

The next morning I woke up and felt different… I went out to the garage and started sorting tackle and getting a few boxes set up. I didn't really have a plan of where I was going, but I knew I would be fishing soon. For the first time in a long time I wasn't worried about anything. I wasn't afraid of having a panic attack or overcome with an anxious feeling that’s unexplainable. I was just a fisherman getting ready to go out and do what I love.

You’d think that I would remember that first time like it was yesterday, but I don’t. One of the reasons I think I don’t remember that trip is that I went fishing every day for months after that… who am I kidding the reason I don’t remember the first couple trips is the doctors had me on huge dose of Xanax. The more I fished the less medication I took.

Eventually I found myself back in the doctor’s office smiling from ear to ear. I tried explaining to the doctor that I felt great and didn't want to take medication anymore. He responded with something but all l heard was noise after he said I couldn't quit taking the medications or I’d be back to square one. He attributed me getting well to medications… I knew it was fishing. He even said you’ll be back here in a month begging for these medications. I quickly responded with “bullshit”.

That was almost a decade ago now… I still get anxiety from time to time and I still treat it with the same medicine. My preferred medication changes almost as rapidly as the Colorado weather, but currently my favorite medication is chasing brook trout with my 3wt. 

Blog content © Eric Allee
Member comments
Eric Allee (TigerHunter), CO   8/13/2014 11:59:44 AM
I doubt anyone will say anything but just in case... I know some people do great on certain anxiety and depression medicines. I'm not discrediting the medication.... Just saying it wasn't what worked for me.
Mfishing, CO   8/13/2014 12:20:54 PM
This is a great blog post. I've had similar problems such as depression and anxiety. Honestly the only thing that really helps is fishin, and occasionally crackin a cold one while on the water haha. I'm glad to see i'm not the only one who uses fishing as a a way to help me through tough times!
yard dogs, CO   8/13/2014 12:39:07 PM
Good on you buddy! Give me fishing over doctors and pills anyday!
Ajax5240, CO   8/13/2014 2:06:59 PM
I think that more people than will admit have dealt with some form of depression or anxiety at some time in their life. I have had my battles with it as well, it seems the more I fish the longer before I need a prescription refill. One doctor explained it quite well to me, basically that there is no way to develop a pill that blocks only the bad feelings. When they block the lows out, it also can block a lot of the highs as well. This info was when I seriously started to cut back on the meds I was taking, I can truly say that I enjoy life more since that day. It is not an easy thing to talk about, and I am sure that writing this took a lot of courage on your part, thank you for sharing! Life ain't easy, I don't know if it ever is.. but we only get one shot at it, so ya might as well enjoy the ride.
Tiny Stevens, CO   8/13/2014 8:41:15 PM
Eric my friend, Thanks for having the guts to share such an intimate and private part of your life with us all! We all have our reasons to fish, I shared my story with you before. I am glad that things are in a positive direction for you now, and once again, I am glad to have the best outdoors writer Colorado has ever produced as my friend! I have learned so much from your experiences and your writing. I treasure every word. Tiny
fishmohr, CO   8/13/2014 9:04:41 PM
One of the first signs of depression is people stop doing what the love to do. Whether it be fishing, golf, hunting or activities they have loved to be involved in past with. It is great you were able to express your experience in words. The meds do help though. So make sure you use them as instructed. Thanks for writing a great blog.
Goosehunter82, CO   8/18/2014 6:32:10 AM
I don't read many of these blogs. It is usually the same person searching for something to say. You have hit the nail on the head. I think there are many of us that suffer from anxiety and or depression. Thanks for sharing your story. Reading stories such as this give others who haven't gotten as far as you hope. I take my daily pill and keep busy. That's what works for me. I fish a lot but think that your prescription of fishing is the way to go.
Eric Allee
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