Last week I climbed a mountain.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure avid climbers would have laughed at such a simple hike. The trail was three miles up to a beautiful waterfall and three miles back down.
As a flatlander with chronic pain, however, this mountain seemed incredibly daunting. Attempting the hike seemed absurd by almost every standard. I can’t physically walk without being in pain. Regardless of how much endurance training I do, my pain levels always force me to stop short of what I know my body could accomplish otherwise. Add to that the fact that my lungs weren’t accustomed to the thin mountain air and I really truly thought the hike was doomed before I had even put on my shoes.
An intense headache hit me about 2.5 miles into the hike that laid me out flat on the side of the mountain. My legs and my back ached through the entirety of the hike. I cried. I threw up. I almost passed out. But I did it. I made it. I completed the hike.
I won and chronic pain lost.
After I finished the hike and looked in the mirror at my ghost-like, exhausted face, I thought long and hard about whether or not it was worth it. Was it worth the pain? Did I even have anything to show for it? Should I have listened to my body’s signals and quit?
I’m a huge advocate for recognizing and acknowledging physical signals that your body needs rest. Physically and logically, that’s the best way to take care of your body. As a modern culture, I think we should be better at recognizing that. I have personally grown so much in allowing myself to listen to my body’s needs while I have struggled with chronic illness.
However, my body is literally broken. My nervous system sends me pain signals that should never exist and have no physical purpose. It’s painful and exhausting. I’ve lost so many battles because of it. That would take a toll on anyone’s mental health.
The day I climbed the mountain, I chose to listen to my mental health needs instead of my physical health needs because life is about balance.
I needed a victory. I needed tangible evidence of progress in my life. I wanted to win.
Literally seeing how far I had come, pushing my body and getting to the end of the trail was incredibly empowering and healing for me.
Yes, chronic pain has taken so much from me.
I’ve lost so much.
But climbing a mountain reminded me that I am still strong. I am still fighting. I am still growing. I am still alive.
And when you’re as stubborn as me, sometimes you have to climb a mountain in order to learn the truths that are hard to remember.
I don’t know what your mountain is. Maybe your daunting mountain is something like cooking dinner or brushing your teeth. There’s no shame in that. And there’s no shame in listening to your body.
But there is also healing in allowing yourself the freedom to push through the pain and accomplish something great.
I’m still learning how to balance listening to both my emotional and physical health needs. They so often conflict for those with chronic pain.
But it is possible to do both. And It is possible to thrive despite pain. Don’t forget that, okay?
You know Alathia (amazing name by the way, when I though I had a cool name being named “Odysseus” you beat me !!! Love your name just stating a fact) your story reminds me sooo much of an accident that happened to me in Val d’Isere in French Alps which is a famous ski resort not far from Switzerland. It had been years since I tried snowboard, and I don’t know why but the first day instead of being cautious and taking Skiis I hopped onto a snowboard (bad idea, or as you stated I should not have) I mean going on fast tracks and everything…
Well I actually broke a bone on a jump… Yeah…
Long story short it was the very FIRST day of my holidays…
I ended up skiing cautiously and forgetting about snowboarding for this vaca. Too bad or pity as you guys said. Well, actually what happenned is that at the end of this week i had to run a half marathon, so I went to a physical therapist to ask him if I could run he said I could if i breathe slowly, because the bone that was broken was not far from the heart, and if I breathe hard and loud it will cause pain and might actually worsen the wound.
So i followed his advice and ran very very slowly the full 21 km.
It ended up actually being my best memory of running (I did an Iron Man by the way just to state the comparision) yet, this small and slow half marathon was for a greater victory than achieving a full marathon on an Iron Man.
Why is that ?
Exactly for the reason you stated, that out of pain and thanks to belief we grow more than just “muscles”
Thank you for sharing this story and take care.
God bless you.
Thank you for sharing a part of your story with me! I’m so glad I could be an encouragement to you. 🙂
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