Watching the news two weeks ago I suddenly realized in the middle of all of this chronic illness confusion there was a major hurricane barreling towards my home. Instead of battening down the hatches, we decided to take a trip up to Asheville, North Carolina in the Blue Ridge Mountains to visit with some of my family. I honestly wasn’t really feeling well enough to go on a trip, or to sit in a car for twelve plus hours, but we had no choice. The next day we packed up the car and necessary belongings and off we went hoping and praying Irma would leave our home unscathed.
Traveling to the mountains brings up some pretty rough feelings for me. I originally moved to the mountains out in Colorado a little over a year ago, in order to get away from the fast-paced, busy, hectic, and often overwhelming environment I had been living in in New York. That environment just wasn’t for me and I was excited to start medical school in a place that my spirit resonated with. I was accepted to two medical schools (one in NYC and one in Denver), and I chose to leave everything and everyone behind and make a leap of faith in the hopes of starting a new more peaceful life out in Colorado. Unfortunately, when I got to Denver my Lyme symptoms came on full force and I was faced with the toughest year of my life.
Although I wasn’t traveling back to Colorado, I couldn’t help but feel this sense of unease heading into a new mountain range. Altitude and I don’t seem to get along, but I really was determined not to let fear rule my life.
Fear was never a part of my life before Lyme. I lived every day to the fullest and loved going on adventures. I was always up for anything and I loved that about myself.
I truly think in order to heal I need to start practicing leaving fear behind. When we first arrived in Asheville I remembered why I loved the mountains so much. You can really feel the beauty of Mother Nature when you look out at these mountain ranges. You respect this lovely planet we get to call home, and remember how insignificant all of the buzz is of everyday life. This connection to nature grounds us.
One of the incorrect diagnosis I received in Colorado was that I had an intolerance to altitude. Now, maybe I’m crazy, but I had to prove this wrong, or at least test the waters on this one when we got to Asheville. On our second day, I decided even though I haven’t hiked since long before my Lyme diagnosis I would give it a go and we were going to take a trip to the summit at Craggy Gardens. The elevation is around 6,000ft at the top. I wasn’t sure if my body or my mind were ready for this but I wanted to overcome this fear and prove to myself that I have made progress in my healing.
When we arrived at the base of the hike, the wind was chilly and invigorating and I felt that old familiar rush of adrenaline. I knew I was going to climb that mountain. The hike was short, but very steep. To be honest, these legs aren’t what they used to be, but I have been building up my strength walking my dog about a mile every day for the past few months. I guess there’s no better place to test these legs out then at this mountain. I might have asked more than once if we were close to the top, but when we finally made it I was so proud of myself. And to top it all off – I felt good.
I stayed at the top of that mountain for twenty minutes and I soaked in that view, that mountain air, that altitude, the beauty of nature, and all of the obstacles I have overcome so far in my healing journey. I’ve realized fear is not welcome here anymore and I won’t let it dictate my life.
Chronic illness has a way of instilling fear in our hearts and, rightfully so – we’ve been through hell and back and realized how much we have to lose when we are healthy! It’s not fun to feel like you got hit by a bus every day and we have every reason to have a fear of that feeling. It’s easy to be afraid of trying things when we are recovering because we don’t want to disappoint ourselves or others. But, as cliche as this may sound the old saying has it right. The only thing to fear is fear itself. And in the end, I think letting go of that fear – piece by piece, day by day – is an extremely important part of healing.
When I put my fear out of my mind I can do much more than I ever could have imagined I’m capable of. And you know what, the next day my legs weren’t even sore!
We’re all healing on so many levels – physically, emotionally, and spiritually and I think when all of these pieces come together, well, that’s when your new life begins.