I love hiking, it’s easily my favorite activity of all time. The birds, the trees, the fresh air, the views. There’s something about being in nature that makes me feel most like myself. Stand under a 240 foot (73 meters) redwood tree sometime, and tell me you don’t feel a tinge of something in your heart.
Some hikes are easy, but there are others which are more of an aerobic activity than a pleasurable jaunt through the woods. There are times when hiking flat out hurts, when I’m sweating, I’m tired, I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, my calves burn, and I’m out of breath.
“Sounds like a load of fun, Jen. Much better than getting a massage, or helping Rick Perry remove his head from his ass.”
I won’t lie, I’ve considered turning back many times. My body is begging me to turn around, but I know there’s an end destination. It could be a waterfall, or a mountain view, or wildlife spotting. There’s something to look forward to, and I know I won’t regret pushing my body to keep going forward.
Lately I’ve been going on a hike of a different kind, an emotional hike. My mind is huffing and puffing, hurting so deeply that sometimes I think I’ll collapse. I’m sweating through my tear ducts, and I’m starving for nourishment of a different kind.
It’s hard to go on because I don’t know when the pain will stop, and when I’ll see the thing that will make it all worth it. It could be a month, a year, or a decade. All I know is that I’m climbing the highest mountain of my life.
My early years were difficult despite having what most people would consider a good life. I went to private school, I had the opportunity to join extracurricular activities, and I never really wanted for anything. And yet I was plagued by anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, body image issues, a mistrust of others, and social phobia.
I’ve made bad decisions, burned bridges, and at times have strayed very, very far from my true self because of my afflictions. I grew a shell around my heart, and became the master of coping mechanisms. I became so good at stuffing down my feelings that now it’s an automatic process, no thinking required. I’ve coped myself out of having real feelings.
This is a serious problem in adulthood because life throws you all kinds of obstacles. You have a tough day at work, money is tight, you fight with your significant other, someone you know becomes very ill. Instead of dealing with it in a healthy manner, I simply shut down. I may have an initial reaction appropriate to the situation, but I eventually resolve that life sucks, and insist that I’m fine.
Now it has all come crashing down on me. Last week I (very seriously) asked myself, “Why do I exist?” Why do I exist? That’s a totally normal question to ask yourself while shopping for groceries.
I’m hiking up Mt. Dysfunctional, and the only thing I can see is a path lined with commitment phobia, paralyzing social anxiety, the inability to allow others to truly know me, and an overwhelming sense that people wish I would disappear.
I’ve been climbing for so long, and I’m tired. Without an end in sight, I’ve been wondering if struggling with self-improvement is worth it. Why not just throw my hands up like I always do, and accept that this is one uphill battle I won’t be completing?
Then A Clown on Fire wrote this post about being a dry drunk, and coming to the realization that he never really dealt with the reasons that drove him to drink in the first place. He has been able to keep himself from regressing, but he’s also not really going forward either. He’s chosen to seek counseling to help put to rest those lingering pieces holding him back.
Have you ever received something you didn’t know you needed at the exact moment you needed it most? His post was that for me. I’ve somehow managed to make it this far on my own, but I’ve reached a fork in the road, and need someone with a map to show me which way to go.
I, like Le Clown, have decided to enlist the help of a professional.
I need someone to show me that all who wander truly aren’t lost. I need someone to show me that I’m deserving of happiness. I need someone to show me that I won’t end up totally alone. Mostly, I need someone to show me that the view at the top will make this all worth it.
I know I won’t regret it.
ETA: Please take the time to read Mr. Mary’s response to this which explores his own battle, and how he has come out on the other side.