Living in Darkness, Dealing with Depression

I’ve shared a little bit about myself and some of my . . . struggles before on the blog.  I share these experiences hoping to inspire people to change their lives and follow their dreams, or to let others know they aren’t alone.  Many people live with and battle chronic depression.

I am one of them.

It is with the above-stated purpose that I’ve decided to do a new series — Living in Darkness.

I have battled clinical depression since I was very young.  While some of my depression may be genetic and related to brain chemistry, a lot of it was related to unresolved childhood trauma secondary to extreme sexual, physical, and emotional abuse by my mother and others.

living in darkness, oasis door, tightmert, morocco

At age 10, I decided to try to kill myself by drinking some paint solvent.  Fortunately for me, the red plastic cup I had intended to use was melted by the chemicals before I could bring the vessel to my lips.

In my teens, I finally found my anger after a stepfather drugged and raped me.  When my mother completely ignored the event, and the police weren’t much help, I decided I had enough.  I would eventually end up in foster and group homes.  I was sexually abused in the first two homes as well.  By age 16, I had decided I was no longer going to be anyone’s victim.  I turned on my ultra survival mode, was legally emancipated at age 17, and went on with my life.

I had yet to face my inner demons, though.

They reared their ugly heads again in my early 20s.  Brain development goes through a big change in the 20s and there are still some hormonal shifts happening.  I began sinking into the darkest depression I have ever experienced.  I began losing track of time.  I would get in my car and the next thing I knew I was in the parking lot at work, having no memory of the 30-minute commute.  I would be told I had done or said things I could not remember.  It got to the point where I mentioned it to my doctor who referred me to a neurologist.  He had no clue what was going on and decided to label it a seizure disorder.

That move ended up in me losing my driver’s license for 6 months since a newly diagnosed seizure disorder is a potential hazard.  In spite of my voiced depression, he went on to put me on a medication which has a significant depressant effect. The two were a toxic combination.  I could feel depression tightening its grip on me.  My friends were concerned, and so was I.  I sought help, but when no one could see me right away, I decided they would be of little help.

As time continued, I became more and more smothered by the darkness until one day I came home with ice in my veins.  I popped open a beer and downed the large supply of antiseizure medications I had been given.  Having worked in the medical field, I knew what they would be looking for when they eventually discovered me, so I dumped all the pills I had in my home down the toilet so they wouldn’t know what they were working with.  Just in case.  I had 2 cats, and I didn’t want them to suffer, so I filled up huge containers with food and water to last them.

oasis, tighmert, morocco

Our bodies are amazing, and even though I took enough meds to easily kill me a couple of times over, my undiscovered will to live sustained me.  After three days of barely breathing, paramedics entered my home and strapped my unconscious body onto a gurney.  Because of my childhood trauma, I can’t tolerate having both my legs and arms restrained.  That managed to revive me a bit, well enough for me to break the straps and give the paramedic a black eye when he tried to calm me down.

Upon reaching the hospital, my respiratory system finally shut down, and I “coded.”  I was, obviously, resuscitated.  When I awoke with a tube down my throat making me breathe, I felt like I was drowning.  I still remember my inner dialogue:

“I’m drowning!”

“But you want to die.”

“Not this way!” I retorted before extubating myself.

They restrained me and reinserted the breathing tube.  I broke the restraints and yanked it from my throat again.  They chemically paralyzed me and reinserted the tube.  When your will to survive is that strong, you really can’t do much to the body.  Later doctors told me that I had been given enough medicine to make it impossible for me to even blink before 45 minutes, yet after 10 minutes I had broken through another restraint and removed the tube.

“I tell you this because I want you to realize how much you really wanted to live,” he told me in the hallway after I had returned to work.

When the medication was mostly out of my system, and I was no longer in danger, I was given the option of a mandatory 72-hour hold or entering a voluntary 30-day residential program.  Surprisingly, I chose the latter.  The cause of the earlier mysterious behaviors was identified as dissociative identity disorder related to severe PTSD.

I spent a few years doing intensive therapy to deal with my past and trying to bring all the shattered pieces of my self back together again.

I am determined to never let myself get to that point again. Because of that, I am hypersensitive to when those symptoms come and stay too long.  I go back to therapists occasionally for “tune-ups” when needed and also go back on antidepressants when I need to in order to get me over the hump.  After 1-3 months, I’m able to go back off the meds.

living in darkness, breckenridge, colorado, marathon

I ran up this mountain!

Previous to our travels, I had discovered that exercise was a huge natural antidepressant for me, and I threw myself into endurance running, cycling, snowshoeing, etc.  And then we began our nomadic life.

After all this time of constant travel, living life on my terms, creating the life I want (it is my life after all), and sharing amazing moments with my child, I can honestly say I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, and I’ve been that way for the longest continuous time I can remember.  I regularly reflect and think “I love my life!”  This constant feeling of happiness and unbridled joy is still new to me, so I relish those now frequent moments.

Recently, I’ve considered how long-term travel has helped me be the happiest I’ve ever been.  I’ve already talked about the wonderful changes in my son and some of his challenges.  I wondered if travel was a wonder drug for anyone else dealing with depression.  Guess what—I’m not alone!

I have found several people who have battled with depression, traveled in spite of it, and discovered that travel is their most successful elixir.  They have graciously agreed to share their stories with you, and I will be posting their interviews soon.

I hope you find their stories inspirational, even if you don’t have similar challenges.  Hopefully, their experiences will help encourage others to live without regrets and to “chase down your dreams and make them your bitch.”

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84 Comments

  1. What a story. I have no words to comment on what happened in your childhood, I want to give you a virtual “high five” and a hug to congratulate myself for having found your way in life.
    I am sure travel has a therapeutic action on some people, and even in my struggle against anxiety and panic attacks this has been the case. Thanks for sharing this, I am sure it will inspire and motivate many readers to get out of the darkness and seek the light.
    There are too many people who keep killing themselves daily taking medications that make them numb… But that’s not life!

    Way to go, bravo :)
    Giulia recently posted..Photographing Amsterdam from aboveMy Profile

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    • I so agree with you on especially your last sentence!

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  2. Thanks you for sharing this with us, it brought tears to my eyes. I can’t even begin to imagine what you’ve been through but I’ve had my own struggles with a much milder version of depression. I’m so glad you were able to work your way through the depression & that you’ve found such a wonderful path to happiness in travel.
    Ali recently posted..Evaluating Transportation OptionsMy Profile

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  3. I usually throw some major *side-eye* to ‘how travel changed me’ style posts because I’m not the sentimental, gushy sort. But this post is an exception. I think because it’s not sentimental at all – it’s a remarkable and very real story. Thanks for sharing and congratulations all the changes you’ve made.
    David @ That Gay Backpacker recently posted..That night I partied at Oaxaca’s only gay club.My Profile

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    • Thank you, David. I’m with you on some of those posts. This has been a very happy surprise really.

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    • Thanks, Adam. Real is the only way I know how to be. I decided long ago if I was going to blog that’s how it was going to be. The triumphs and the crap. I hope it does help people by putting a face on it.

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  4. You are not alone. I am not alone. We are not alone. ❤

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    • So very true. I love that quote about how if we could see our true potential we would astound ourselves. I really believe that. We truly have no clue of what we’re really capable of.

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    • So true, Bret. In my chaplain training, our supervisor referred to “eternal flavors.” Those are things that will always be there for us in some form or other. Hopefully, they lose power and diminish in size as we continue healing, but some things just never completely disappear.

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  5. Talon, I think you were meant to be here because you had a little boy to save…….

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    • Could very well be true. I believe with C I was to get him to a certain point no one else could, and then it was someone else’s role to take him from there. I’ve often joked that the Universe said I’m going to give you this one that’s going to rock your world, but then I’m going to make up for it later. LOL

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  6. I love this post! I’m bi-polar, so i totally understand where you are coming from for some of this. (depression, not PTSD stuff)

    I also understand how travel helps ridiculously. I haven’t even been on my meds since i came home, and barely on them while i travel (lost health insurance before my trip, cant afford my meds). Though, I do still have an emergency stash if i need to “tune-up” as you put it.

    I love that you are so open about this. I don’t hide that im bi-polar, and often joke about it, especially when people say “but you seem so normal!” , (duh, cause the meds) but I also don’t talk about it on my blog and stuff because of the stigma of it.

    This post is so amazing. You are amazing. Keep up the awesomeness! <3
    Dani Blanchette recently posted..I LOVE SPAMMy Profile

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    • For some reason, I’m not surprised to discover this about you, Dani. LOL I’ve often joked about “better living through chemistry,” too. Sometimes it’s just what’s needed. :)

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    • Thanks, Mary. I’m hoping by putting some faces to the problem, more people find some understanding, maybe even some peace.

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  7. I am so incredibly proud of you right now! I’m teary and I know we had chatted about things of this nature but to see it on a public forum is a huge deal. Thank you for sharing your story.
    Erica recently posted..Weekend Review: TieksMy Profile

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  8. I was just thinking the other day about how cycling is a natural mood booster for me and one of the main reasons I love it. I can tell a huge difference in my mood and general outlook after being out on the bike. I’m also finding that traveling does the same. Makes you wonder how all those people get by in life with no passion for anything. I can’t imagine that for myself.
    Jen recently posted..1st week in Tucson: Riding, Christmas trees and meeting Team GarminMy Profile

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    • I’m not sure either. I can look back and see times in my life when I lived, well, you know what I mean, like that, but after finding a different side. . . I can’t imagine ever going back to a different existence. It’s sad to see when people live dispassionate lives.

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  9. Hey, Talon. Your story inspires me. Big hug to you. You are a survivor and conquerer. Love, Dawn

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    • It just possibly could! Exercise alone does absolute wonders, though. Love me some endorphins. :)

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  10. man… i dont know what to say… i hope a lot of people read this and I hope that by reading this they won’t feel alone in their depression and i hope that they find the courage to continue on with their lives just like what you did…

    look at you now… you’re travelling the world and helping other people when you have the chance… who would’ve thought that you went to such ordeal…

    i hope this article gets read by a lot of people especially young ones who are going through some tough times…

    :-)

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    • Salamat! I hope it helps, too. And I hope the interviews that will be part of this series do as well. I think the more faces that get put to this the more people will be ultimately be helped.

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    • Thanks, Leif. Yes, I agree. When asked if I would change my past if I could, my general answer is no. I am who I am today because of what I’ve been through, and because I’ve been through SO much and come out the other side, I definitely have a LOT more compassion for others.

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  11. T, the crucible is burning out and you’re rising shining and new from the ashes. Your sharing is your gift to the world. Blessings & joy be yours, my friend! <3
    Yvonne recently posted..ChangeMy Profile

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    • Just one more reason why I have such an affinity for the phoenix. :) Thanks!

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    • I so agree! We need it to occur more and more so people realize it doesn’t make you a bad person, doesn’t make you weak, abnormal, etc.

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  12. I am so sorry for the struggles you’ve endured. They’ve touched my heart very deeply. I really admire you for your determination to make your life better and knowing what you’ve overcome to be what you now are has increased my appreciation of the wisdom you share with us even more. I hope life brings you and Tigger a future full of blue skies, puffy white clouds and millions of smiles!

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    • Thanks, Diane! Thankfully, I’ve learned that (1) happiness comes from within, (2) I’m in control, and (3) it’s all about perception. I just simply refuse to have bad days anymore. :)

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  13. Talon, it’s the third time that I read your post today, and I thought that now I’d know what to say, to find the words worthy your story. I’m still not even close to be able to say how deeply your life story touched me, words are just not enough. You’re inspirational, very strong and a very honest person. And a heck of a writer too. Keep it up, all my best wishes to you both, Pal
    Pal recently posted..Newtown – When The Meaning Of My Name Changed ForeverMy Profile

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  14. Thank you for sharing such a private and painful part of your life. I am holding on to your words and looking at your path with admiration and hope.

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    • Thank you, Shelly. I hope sharing my and other people’s stories helps others.

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  15. I’m so thankful you survived and that we are friends. Thank you for sharing this; you are very inspiring! Love, Ada

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    • They are truly miraculous. It is absolutely amazing to me what our bodies and minds are capable of. And it was refreshing to realize that deep down inside I really did want to live. A WHOLE lot. Now I’m REALLY living. :)

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  16. My dream is to create a program that gives mentally ill teens and young adults the opportunity to travel the world long-term. Of all the things I’ve tried, nothing would work like long-term travel. Your now my resource.

    I’ve seen my share of PTSD and the rest, and what you have managed to do is amazing! It really is. Whatever you did, please bottle it and keep giving it away to others.

    Nicely done!
    Justin recently posted..The Great Family Travel BudgetMy Profile

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    • That is an amazing dream! I’d love to help out any way I can. Please keep me posted.

      I wish I knew what I did. I often don’t understand it myself. LOL

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    • Thanks, Tiffany! I hope it helps others as well. I’m excited to share some other people’s stories, too. The more faces we put on this the better!

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  17. Wow, Talon! I command you for your courage to speak up! I also suffer from an anxiety disorder and depression (I am on meds) and I also had my worst depression episod in my early twenties. I didn’t know the brain was going through some major changes at that time. Thanks for sharing that info! You are inspiring me to write about it on my own blog. I am not afraid of judgement anymore, I am at peace with the disease and the decision to be on meds (after 3 attempt to stop them, gradually, in the last 10 years that led to terrible panick attacks and depression). I want people to know that we are so many to suffer from this condition. And yes, I totally agree, the travel lifestyle is the best antidepressant for me too (unfortunately not enough to be off meds, but it sure makes my life so much more meaningful).
    Catherine Forest recently posted..The migraine curseMy Profile

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    • It’s quite interesting. It is why some people will go their whole lives without exhibiting any mental health issues, and then in their early 20s suddenly manifest it. Often people try to figure out what happened, but sometimes it’s just a trigger as the brain does some developmental shifting and some other things change in the body.

      I’ve taken care of some kids who were so frustrated they needed to be on meds. I just explain that sometimes a person’s body needs extra help. I’m on a couple of meds for other issues that will be lifelong. Would love not to have to take them, but if they help. . .

      So glad to hear travel has been so powerful for you as well, even if you can’t go completely off meds.

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  18. You are another proof that a rotten and abused childhood need not be continued in a life of destruction of other lives and yours. Keep up the courage.
    Marlys recently posted..Some More Walking in ParisMy Profile

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    • This is why I get incredibly frustrated when people make excuse’s for their life. “Well, my mother didn’t love me!” Oh, puhleez! Ultimately, you make a choice: you’ll either be a survivor or a victim your whole life. Which do you choose, because it really is a choice.

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  19. ((( Talon ))) Thank you for your courage. Thank you for shining the light on a topic that thrives best when it is shamed and in darkness. Thank you for exposing your story so others can feel safe to be vulnerable. Thank you for inspiring hope and healing! ((( Talon — I’m so honored to know you. ))) ~*~ Namaste, Talon ~*~

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  20. I feel you. *hugs* Kudos for finding what makes you happy, most never do.

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    • Thanks, Jenny. You’re so right, and that’s so sad, too.

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  21. Talon,
    You amaze me.
    Thank you for sharing that. As you’ve told me, it takes a lot to put yourself out there.

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  22. Hey Talon — we don’t know each other, only via the usual social media suspects, which doesn’t quite count. So now that I’ve learned so much about you, let me let you know how impressed I am with your recovery and strong spirit. I used to be a shrink, I worked in a big public hospital in NYC (Bellevue) among other places. I’ve seen what serious depression can do. I know what it looks like and I know how hopeless and helpless it can make people feel…and how angry, too. You’re an amazing man, you’ve done amazing things for yourself and your boy. I hope you know that there are always people around you who want to be there for you, if need be. Including me. Any time.

    In the meantime, I’ll continue reading and enjoying your travel blog posts! Have a lovely holiday season.
    Jennifer recently posted..This is 40 Movie Actor Interview and Romantic Weekend GetawaysMy Profile

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    • Thanks, Jennifer. I am lucky to have so many people in my life who are so incredibly supportive. They are who I refer to as “family by choice.”

      I appreciate you taking the time to write this note, and thanks for being a part of our journey!

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  23. I am so sorry for what you have been through Talon. I know how horrid depression can be ( while I was going through ppd, my husband’s cousin killed herself; she never recovered from it) and I too found travel to be a mental way out for me. I’m glad you are alive and sharing your knowledge and insight with the world!!
    Elizabeth recently posted..Our apartment in AmsterdamMy Profile

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    • Thanks, and thank you for sharing a bit of your experience as well!

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  24. Wow, I had no idea you’d been through all that. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like to deal with the abuse that you received growing up. I am so, so glad that your suicide attempts were unsuccessful, and that you’re now loving your life.

    I struggled with depression and anxiety early this year. It was nothing like what you went through in either intensity or duration, and I fear death too much to have ever considered taking my life, but it was a tough period. But getting back to blogging and traveling — and, yes, karaoke — helped me return to a much happier place.
    Harvey (H-Bomb’s Worldwide Karaoke) recently posted..Santacon 2012: a photo and video essayMy Profile

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    • I’m glad you got through your patch okay. It can be so debilitating. It’s so easy to see how people get sucked into deeper depths which makes it harder and harder to escape.

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  25. Wow, what a life! Glad you are still here to tell the story.

    I’ve also suffered from depression and travel makes me feel alive and in control. I never thought of it as a coping mechanism but I think maybe it is! If you’d like me to contribute my story, I would be happy to as well.
    Kelly recently posted..5 Ways to Immerse Yourself in Local CultureMy Profile

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    • I think it’s the best depression treatment so far! Glad it’s helping you as well. Thanks for the offer. I’ve emailed you.

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  26. What an amazing post, thanks for sharing so eloquently, it’s helped me, as I’m sure it will help others. I suffer from anxiety and depression on and off, you’ve made me realize what a charmed life I’ve had compared to your early years. I won’t take drugs after a bad experience, I run, cycle, walk on the beach alone, anything, to shake it off. I think it’s the alone thing, the head space, time to just be me that helps the most. I’m not sure if travel helps or not, I have a feeling I’d just take the depression with me. Stay happy.
    Alyson recently posted..My Biggest Travel RegretsMy Profile

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    • I’m so glad it helped you!

      You can’t travel away from your depression, BUT for many people the change of pace, the different life, etc., seems to be an alleviator. I look forward to sharing some more stories.

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  27. Wow, what a story! I so admire your willingness to share your story. I hope it helps someone out there and that you will be blessed in return.

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  28. I’m impressed with how open you can be with your story. I’ve always been open about my depression but had a hard time with the details, though my life has not been a difficult one.

    And though everyone has different ways of dealing, it’s amazing how exercise is the one thing that works across the board and everyone recommends. It’s something I need to remind myself of all the time. ;P
    Nicole recently posted..Amazing Anime Tokyo Disneyland AdMy Profile

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    • It’s amazing how powerful of a natural anti-depressant it can be!

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  29. Hello Talon, I commend you for your bravery in sharing your story. Thank you, and I hope it gives strength to those struggling with similar demons that you do. Let me also say that I’m relatively new to the travel blogging field, but I am not new to depression. I’ve studied neuroscience for many years, and my research was on links between stress and depression. I think you have stumbled upon the best forms of antidepressants you can find, exercise, writing, travel, the love of your son, and CONTROL. You have taken control of your life, and you’re right, it is your life. Peace my new friend. Dave

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    • Yep, control is a huge thing, especially when dealing with depression.

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  30. I can’t begin to put into words what I think about this post; so thank you, that’s all.x

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