Everyone experiences self-doubt at times in their life, but one of the consequences of depression is that the demon of self-doubt can be crippling and overwhelming. Back in June this year, self-doubt ruled my life. I thought I was worthless, pathetic, unnecessary and for a few horrible weeks, believed that the world would be better off without me. Less than six months later, I climbed a mountain in the Indian Himalayas, stood at 3000m and shed a single tear for the progress I’ve made. I’ve climbed from the darkest, deepest pit of depression to the top of the world.
The scariest thing I’ve ever done
Sat on the train from Nottingham to London, I stopped to consider what I was about to do. I had packed the bag, pulled on the walking boots and the journey to the Himalayas had started. Exciting? Terrifying for someone who had barely trained and struggled to run a 5K. I was about to trek through the mountains in Northern India with a group of strangers – about as far out of my comfort zone as I could get. I considered getting off the train at Milton Keynes, but instead picked up my stone engraved with the words ‘guardian angel’ and whispered “I’m scared, mum”.
Signing up to go to India with Charity Challenge was the scariest thing I’ve ever done, but I knew that I needed to break out of my bubble of safety and security and challenge myself with the unknown. Grief can be completely crippling, and the self-doubt demon’s voice can be scarily loud, but I didn’t want to let my fears win. In 10 days, I walked nearly 200km, climbing to 3000m, scrambling down mountains, jumping across rivers and trekking through forests. I fought through the crowds in Delhi, got very little sleep on the sleeper train and survived driving along the terrifying Indian roads. I was sick, I was weak, I was exhausted, I missed home. India was the toughest, craziest challenge of my life.
The best thing I’ve ever done
I was petrified as I sat on the tube to Heathrow, but now back safely in Nottingham, it is fair to say that going trekking in India was the best thing I’ve ever done. 200km in 10 days. Surviving the madness of Delhi. Not letting sickness stop me reaching 3000m. Proving to myself that I am stronger than I ever believed I was. Standing on top of the world.
India is a brilliant country, full of wonderful people, and the mountains are astonishingly beautiful. It was a privilege to trek through many remote parts of the Himalayas and all my fears about my physical ability vanished when I realised that I was more than capable to climb, scramble and sometimes crawl up the mountains. I met a completely fantastic group of people and made friends for life.
She never leaves me
All through it all, my mum never left my side. She was there when I was sad, when I was scared and when I really missed her. She was there when I was laughing, singing songs round the campfire, and celebrating the end of the trek. I flew halfway around the world to a completely new place, and I have never felt closer to mum than I did at 3000m. It was almost like I could reach out and touch her.
I pictured myself back in June, calling out to mum, asking her where she was, as I was slumped outside on the grass in the rain at 2am, weeping. It is hard to comprehend how far I’ve come since then, but standing on top of the world (or at least, on top of a very high mountain), it was obvious to me where mum was – always, always with me.
At one point, a beautiful butterfly landed on my hand. I posed for a photo and started to walk on, but it refused to leave me. It stayed on my hand as I walked along for what seemed like a lifetime, and something stirred in my heart. I knew it was mum. She had always loved butterflies, and I knew it was a sign from her that she was with me.
What I know now
It seems I needed to go halfway across the globe to realise what people have been telling me for years: I am much stronger than I think. I’ve learned that I’m a better hiker than I thought I was, but more than that, I know now that I can overcome challenges that seem impossible. And even when she seems far away, my mum is always with me, always encouraging me and willing me on. And that puts a giddy smile on my face and spurs me on to grab life with both hands and live it to it’s fullest.
If I can survive losing my mum, win my life back from the demons trying to steal it from me and climb to 3000m in the Himalayas, what can’t I do? Bring it on, life.
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