Learning how to breathe. It’s harder than it seems. From day one, our body is programmed to do it automatically, our diaphragm contracting to let the air in and out, but breathing is much more than that essential mechanism. It’s how we pace ourselves, how we instil rhythm to our lives, how we can somehow regain control over our frantic minds and lives, and that is not as easy of a task. For Katie Ramey, it’s what allows her to stay on top of her anxiety and depression and helps her let go of the things she can’t control, one breath at a time.
Katie admits always having been an outdoorsy person. Her parents made sure her and her brother got their fair share of fresh air. She even took her first steps on a campground. Through her life, she kept active and even moved to Whistler after graduating to snowboard more, but it took her a while to understand the importance being outside had in her life.
“I was working in the food and beverages industry. Both my husband and I were working like crazy. We were still active but we were living in the city, working 10-12 hour days on opposite schedules. Then we decided we were going to try and have kids. I came off birth control and after not having my period for six months, we found out I had a pituitary tumour.”
That event was a major turning point in her life. The diagnostic was preceded by numerous stressful tests. Her marriage was suffering, making it harder for her to deal with the events. She fell into a major depression.The only bright side, she was lucky enough to have realized she needed to change career and get out of the high pressure industry she was working in.
“Moving to work for Arc’teryx was awesome because it was less stressful and I was surrounded by people that were going outside all the time. I started to do more. I got into mountain biking, started running more regularly. I felt like if I couldn’t do anything for my cancer, I could at least get healthier. I started to realize how important it was for me to be outside.”
On the outside, Kathy looked normal, but on the inside she was sick and hurt. The medication she was taking for her tumour was only keeping it from growing and surgery was to risky. The tumour was also creating hormonal imbalances that impacted her mood even more. Her days and nights were populated by anxiety attacks, and depressive bouts. On top of her personal health and marital issues, her mother-in-law lost her battle against cancer while her father started his.
“Ever since I was a kid, my mind would always go to negative places. With all the cancer around, I’d go to bed at night dissatisfied with how I spent my day and thinking I was just one day closer to dying. Every night. I could never kill myself I don’t think, but I was hoping something would happen to me to make all that pain end.There were definitely times where I was on the floor, done. I felt like such a failure.”
Through all that pain though, Katie was determined to not go on antidepressants. She didn’t want to stop feeling, she just wanted all the pain to go away.
“I’m kind of a functioning depressed person. I don’t want to go on drugs. For me, It’s always an extra motivation to work harder to get out of my depressive cycles. I don’t want this to rule my life and I flex back. If I didn’t have the activities I have, there is no way I would be alive at all. I call them depression sessions because I get in it, find ways to get out of it and then thrive for a while. I’m aware I can easily get back into it. Sometimes it doesn’t take much. It’s such a long road, but I definitely feel like they are sessions and through them, I learn a little more about myself and hopefully end up with better coping mechanism.”
Those mechanisms, she is perfecting them. She focuses on improving her personal, professional and marital life. She has also found in the outdoor powerful tools.
“Climbing, running, solo hikes. I’m getting better at pulling myself out. I don’t win very time but it helps. I go out and I can feel the life. I can feel there is more. It helps putting things into perspective. It’s nice to know Steve can help me with it too. He sees me getting into my depressive state and forces me outside. He says, “I know you hate me and you hate life right now, but we’re going for a hike or a walk”. He can help pull me out of that.”
She’s also working on a personal project to help build the community of women in the outdoor, a subject she is deeply passionate about.
“I think Tree Line stems from the passion inside me and I want to build from that. Building this community of women, help elevate all of those small communities of women and use that platform to talk about mental health and the outdoors. If I could help people that way, it would be huge. It’s a way to pay it forward.”
There is a lot of positive in Katie’s life and a lot to look forward to. That’s what she’s focusing on when the hard times hit. That’s the message she wants spread.
“What I really want people to know is that it really does get better. I’m really working on my mind and brain and thoughts and trying really hard to get better. If you can find ways to get out of your depressive state or have someone to help you with that, it’s not that you’re not going to fall again, but it starts slowly to get easier to get out of it and do better. It’s what I’m working on at the moment. The process of getting better.”
One thought at a time, one breath at a time, Katie is working on getting her life back on track. She is learning she has no control over some things like her tumour or people she loves but she has discovered she can help control her thoughts and her mood and for that, she can be grateful for having discovered what nature has to offer.
“For my personal mental health, I think being outside in the trees, almost without anyone around and really being in touch with nature is the best. It helps me simplify things. I feel like worst comes to worst, if all hell breaks loose, I can still come out here, breathe and see all this beauty, be healthy, get out and enjoy all this. It’s almost taking everything out of life and going back to the most simplistic thing. Slow it down.”