This morning, my good friend Catherine and I drove up to the mountains to get a hike in. I had an expectation in my head that we were going to make it all the way to the last lake. Last year, due to altitude sickness, I had to turn around just before the last lake.
This time, I had my doctor prescribe me medicine to help with the altitude. The medicine has side effects that feel like altitude sickness. I get dizzy and have a headache. But usually after the first dose, that doesn’t happen any longer.
Catherine and I started the gentle rolling trail and I was already struggling. I didn’t understand why this easy part of the trail was so difficult. It felt like I couldn’t breathe. And yes, we were high up but not high enough for me to feel like I couldn’t catch my breathe. I kept pushing through and stopping when I needed. I was in my head and already yelling at myself to pull it together and get up the mountain!
The more we climbed, the worse I began to feel. I was fatigued. I had a headache coming on. My heartrate stayed high. All I could think about was forging ahead to get to the last lake. I was determined to make it no matter what. It’s important to note that by this time, Catherine had already mentioned twice that it’s ok to turn around and head back. I refused.
I grew up in a culture of “no pain, no gain”. If I could push past the pain, it made me a better athlete, so I thought. This carried over into my eating disorder and allowed me to be sick for so long. I would dissociate from my body. I felt nothing. I didn’t feel pain while moving my body, I didn’t feel hungry, and I wasn’t aware of the harm I was doing to my body. Over the years, I’ve gotten better at listening to my body. But, movement is still an area where that is tough to do.
Listening to what my body is telling me is hard. Stopping or turning around when I’m hurting or not feeling well, is something I still struggle with today. On our hike, I kept pushing myself, even when the dizziness set in. Eventually, Catherine said, “You need to listen to your body. I don’t care if we turn around.” I started to realize that we were only going to go higher and higher and I wasn’t going to be able to make it due to feeling so lousy.
I decided to trust Catherine’s advice and listen to my body. We turned around.
My body was telling me, based on my symptoms, that today isn’t the day we are hiking all the way to the last lake. I tried to be grateful for the beauty around me that I was able to see. We snapped a few pics and I was able to muster up a smile. In that moment, I was happy we turned around. I ended up with a massive headache and dizziness. I came home and went right to bed. I slept for 2.5 hours and now I’m feeling a bit better.
I’m still learning what it means to listen to my body and back down if I need to. Recovery continues to be a learning and growing process.