Climbing the Highest Mountain

10 Jul

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.

L to R: Hamilton Mountain, Table Mountain, Mt. Adams

Upper McCord Creek Falls Hike – Columbia River Gorge, OR
(L to R: Hamilton Mountain, Table Mountain, Mt. Adams)

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.

94 Responses to “Climbing the Highest Mountain”

  1. Rohan 7 Things 07/15/2013 at 4:40 am #

    Wishing you all the best Jen! Do shop around for a therapist, and don’t settle for one that makes you feel weird or forces cocktails of drugs on you. If you want my personal recommendation I’d suggest finding a Somatic Experiencing practitioner. Mostly people with trauma seek their help, however it’s been my experience that many, if not most emotional, behavioral and psychological issues have their roots in trauma. It was certainly the case for me and a number of others I know. Even if you don’t feel that you’ve experienced a particularly traumatic event it’s still well worth a shot!

    Other than that a good psychotherapist trained in Rogerian talk therapy can be great just for someone to talk to and help you reframe things.

    It’s a brave step Jen, and absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, the very best of us need help from time to time. Good luck finding a supportive and healing professional 🙂

    You have the support of the blogging community!


    • Jen and Tonic 07/23/2013 at 9:37 pm #

      I’m lucky because I hit the jackpot on the first therapist. It probably helps that I did a ton of research beforehand. I definitely don’t want drugs because I’m not in a position to need them; luckily, all of my problems are issues that can be changed with behavior modification. I’ve already started some of the things, and I can’t believe the sense of relief I feel already. It isn’t a quick fix, but having this kind of control over myself has lightened my emotional burden.

      I’m so happy to have everyone on my side!

  2. persephone2013 07/14/2013 at 4:50 pm #

    Great for you! For me, after dieting and dieting (beginning at age 12 or 13) and getting heavier and heavier, it finally occurred to me that I needed to tackle why I was eating all of my emotions. My journey has been amazing and tons of healing has happened. For me, after doing a little bit of counseling, I opted for the alternative side of therapy and healing. I hope you find the way that is the best fit for you, and that you make great progress!!

    • Jen and Tonic 07/23/2013 at 9:35 pm #

      I can completely relate to that! A lot of my behaviors stem from a deep unhappiness inside of me, a void I’ve been trying to fill. Luckily, I see that very clearly. And while my behaviors won’t change overnight, being aware and actively working on them has made me feel a lot better already.

  3. girlseule 07/14/2013 at 5:04 am #

    I related to this post, having taken quite a few hikes up Mt. Dysfunctional myself. Actually I think I’m still on it somewhere. Good on you for getting help. The road to happiness and peace has ups and downs.

    • Jen and Tonic 07/23/2013 at 9:34 pm #

      Maybe I’ll meet you on the way up, and we’ll go the rest of the way together 😉

  4. Elyse 07/13/2013 at 7:01 am #

    Counseling works best when you’re ready for it, ready to give it what it needs and take away from it what you need. It sounds like you are at that point.

    I wish you luck with this hike. Just don’t wear flip-flops and you will be fine!

    • Jen and Tonic 07/23/2013 at 9:34 pm #

      I’m definitely at that point, and I’m more empowered than ever.

  5. Ned's Blog 07/11/2013 at 12:38 pm #

    The fact that you recognize the need for help is a huge step. And it sounds like you’re on the cusp of realizing you deserve happiness in life — which is the next step. So call it a step-and-skip, but either way you are climbing the mountain. Eventually you’ll become less winded thinking about reaching the summit, and more about what you’ll do when you get there.

    • Jen and Tonic 07/23/2013 at 9:34 pm #

      The recognition and my willingness are huge in this process. I don’t think anything good can come from lying to yourself, pretending that things are okay. Pretending was a lot more exhausting than the work I need to do.

      • Ned's Blog 07/23/2013 at 9:36 pm #

        You’re absolutely right, yet a lot of people still don’t get it. Glad you do 😉

  6. The Hook 07/11/2013 at 12:25 pm #

    We love you.
    What more needs to be said?
    The Hook.

    • Jen and Tonic 07/23/2013 at 9:31 pm #

      I’ve been so overwhelmed with the amount of support I’ve received. I’m humbled by this experience to say the least.

  7. Madame Weebles 07/11/2013 at 9:37 am #

    Motherfucking word, sister. You and I have already chatted about this stuff, so of course you I feel you. It really is surprising to see how many of us are going through similar things, isn’t it? Good for you for going to therapy. It really does help. If you’re anything like me, there will be sessions with nothing but sobbing, but what the fuck, it’s only mascara. Holler when you need help on the mountain, because I’m there too.

    • Jen and Tonic 07/23/2013 at 9:30 pm #

      I am constantly surprised by the amount of people who have written me, or who I’ve read, that are in the same boat. I’m surprised at a lot of the stuff WE’VE talked about. I think if everyone realized we all have crosses to bear, we’d be a lot happier. I felt like a freak for feeling this way, but now I realize I’m not alone at all.

  8. writerwendyreid 07/11/2013 at 7:04 am #

    Believe it or not Jen, I know exactly how you feel. I NEED to find “something to look forward to” on a daily basis so I don’t feel indifferent about whether I live or die. It’s a terrible way to live and extremely depressing and frustrating when you can’t find that “hope”. I have been seeing a therapist for over a year now and even though I haven’t completely changed my way of thinking, it HAS helped me deal with individual events in my life that would otherwise cause me to crumble onto the floor like dirty laundry. If you ever want to talk to someone who’s been there (and still is to a point), you know how to reach me. You are doing the right thing. Best of luck. Love you. xo

    • Jen and Tonic 07/23/2013 at 9:29 pm #

      I can totally relate to wanting something so I’m not indifferent about my existence. I’m happy to say that my first session went REALLY well, and I’m hopeful about my future. Thanks for the offer to talk, I just may take you up on that. XO.

      • writerwendyreid 07/28/2013 at 3:44 pm #

        I would love if you did and I’m really glad that your first session went so well. xo

  9. Monk Monkey 07/11/2013 at 4:26 am #

    Jen, so wish I had the guts to write something personal like you. I don’t have an outlet. I am so effed up with no end in sight but am so glad for you taking steps forward.
    I think youre wonderful. good luck. Let us know how the counselling goes!

    • Jen and Tonic 07/23/2013 at 9:28 pm #

      I’ve been wondering where you’ve been. Have things been tough for you lately? My inbox is always open.

  10. List of X 07/10/2013 at 10:41 pm #

    It’s was a good idea to get help. The hike is usually easier when you do it together with someone else.

    • Jen and Tonic 07/11/2013 at 12:18 am #

      Absolutely, and apparently I’ve got a group of people already ready to help me haul my ass on to bigger and better things.

  11. sistasertraline 07/10/2013 at 5:20 pm #

    Welcome to the Leather Couch club my lovely.

    It ain’t always a barrel of laughs, it’s frequently uncomfortable, you’ll find it hard to keep going, but even harder to stop; that couch is hard, the refreshments are shit, the payback takes time and you don’t even get a fucking loyalty card, but one day you’ll be oh so glad you came.

    I’ll save you a seat, OK 😉

    • Jen and Tonic 07/11/2013 at 12:18 am #

      Do they at least serve coffee and cookies?!

      • sistasertraline 07/11/2013 at 2:27 am #

        You might get tea and a jammy dodger if you’re lucky?

        But don’t lose heart, we can always go to the pub afterwards…. 😉

  12. Ashley Austrew 07/10/2013 at 5:12 pm #

    I am so glad you’re seeing someone. It really can be exactly what you need sometimes. I relate to this post so much as someone who has struggled with depression, anxiety, etc. (and who probably always will on some level, no matter how healthy I get). Lots of love and hugs and support.

    • Jen and Tonic 07/11/2013 at 12:17 am #

      It always surprises me when I find out someone struggled with similar things, and I wouldn’t have expected it. Everyone has a story to tell, I guess.

      I’m realistic as well, perhaps I will always be doing maintenance work, but it will require a lot less emotional energy than what I’m expending now.


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