Mount Kilimanjaro calls (Part 2)

If you missed Part 1, you can view it here.

So, there I was feeling alive, brave, inspired, strong and capable. Then my Mt. Kilimanjaro welcome pack arrived and I crumpled.

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I’ve always been the type of person (usually needing a bit of persuasion or a glass of wine!) to spontaneously agree or sign up for something fun and challenging then worry about how I’m actually going to achieve it later.

If I know too much, my brain will automatically focus on all of the reasons why I shouldn’t do it. Fear will kick in and suddenly all my insecurities burst into life, take control and tell me not to do it. I’ve learned over the years that the only way to do things that push me out of my comfort zone is to simply be oblivious! I had chosen not to read much about Kilimanjaro until I’d signed up and committed to it. All I needed to know was that it can and has been done and that was good enough for me!

The meltdown

Rosie was asleep, Iain was cooking dinner and I was reading through my welcome pack.

The first couple of pages were inspiring and fun; a welcome letter, what each day would bring and general information about Tanzania. Then slowly, page-by-page, it got serious.

  • AMS – Acute Mountain Sickness
  • Chronic Mountain Sickness
  • Hypoxia
  • HAPE – High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema
  • HACE – High Altitude Cerebral Oedema
  • HARH – High Altitude Retinal Haemorrhage
  • Hypothermia

I read each one slowly and carefully, which included the symptoms, necessary treatment and worst case scenarios. I started researching and discovered that about 10 people a year die attempting the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. I then stumbled across websites naming celebrities who’d tried but failed to reach the top including tennis legend Martina Navratilova and footballer Robbie Savage among many others.

If people at their physical peak are unable to get to the top, I would have no chance, I thought. Of course there were many stories of success including the nine celebrities who’d inspired me to do it in the first place but I went into a downward spiral and the negative speak took hold.

I sat on the floor in our lounge, put my hands over my face and cried uncontrollably. Iain came in, and with mascara bleeding down my face I told him I didn’t want to do it after all. We chatted for a while and he was really supportive, but he knew I just needed to let rip and cry for as long as I needed, so he left me to it.

The irrational thoughts:

The more I thought about things, the more I read, the more I researched, it just filled my head with ‘what ifs’…

  • What if I get eaten by a lion? I leave Rosie without a mum, Iain without a wife and a hole in the family. What a selfish thing I’m doing right now when my family, especially Rosie needs me
  • What if I can’t do it and friends and family have kindly donated some of their hard earned cash and I’ll have let them down? Plus I’ll have spent thousands of my own money to get me there which could have been a holiday or experience for Rosie.
  • What if Rosie gets ill when I’m away and something horrible happens and I’m not there, I will never forgive myself (…OK so that one is more justified)
  • What if I fall off the side of the mountain in the middle of the night or there’s an avalanche and I get crushed to death by falling rock boulders (as was the case in 2006)?
  • I’ve never been properly camping in a tent that wasn’t in a friend’s back garden when I was a kid. How will I survive without any proper facilities for days?
  • What if I fall down the long drop toilet?
  • OMG I have to use a long drop toilet!
  • And, my best one by far … what happens if I get a dicky tummy and s**t myself half way up the mountain? – this sent me over the edge!

The brick wall

As I sat crying on the floor, I realised I’d not cried for over a year since that dreaded news in September 2015 that Rosie would soon die. As I wailed at my failure at the first Kilimanjaro hurdle, and all the horrible things that could happen to me and the impact that would have for those left behind, more thoughts entered my head; my grandpa passing away and his funeral just before Christmas in 2015 then that Christmas spent alone as coughs and colds prevented play with all the family, the relief in discovering that Rosie didn’t have complex 1 deficiency after all, and a year of just getting through it – emotionally, physically and mentally.

I realised I was exhausted. I took myself off to bed and hoped I’d wake up feeling positive, fresh and new.

I didn’t.

The next morning I was unable to get out of bed, I had a stinking cold and felt terrible. I slept until midday, needed time off work for the first time in years and felt like my melt down had literally been a release of months of pent up emotion.

It took almost a week before I began to feel brighter again and I was able to make more sense of my life. I felt I had healed situations in 2015/16 that needed to be cried over and the big brick wall I’d built around my heart started to crumble away. I realised that day how void of emotion I had become. It hadn’t been intentional, but clearly it had been my coping mechanism to deal with life with Rosie and it had just been busted! Once those walls came down, I came alive.

Strength from Rosie

I spent some time pondering if I should just take the easy way out. Forget I ever wanted to do it, quit now and walk away from the dream I’d been holding for almost eight years.

Then I changed my thinking to Rosie.

Rosie doesn’t get the chance to ask for her money back and say ‘it’s not quite what she expected‘, ‘she’s scared‘ and ‘she’s not up for it anymore‘. She doesn’t get to back out of her situation. Yes, I was scared, but I was lucky that I even had a choice.

I thought, What if having a choice wasn’t an option? What if I had to do this? Just like Rosie has to when she wakes up every single day and struggles to function her perfect little body that wasn’t designed for muscular inability.

As she gets older and understands more about her condition and what that means for her future, attitude will be everything. It will be our responsibility to teach her that nothing is impossible because of a disability and that we will always try and find a solution, together. The way we view and talk about the world will influence Rosie’s thoughts and actions. The things we do will show her that you can achieve anything you set your mind to and that all we can do is our best, but if it doesn’t quite work out as planned at least you tried.

My mind started shifting once more back to courage, exhilaration, bravery, adventure, new friends and challenges as I realised all I needed to do is simply give it a go.

My goal is to reach the top, but for whatever reason (most likely altitude sickness!) I don’t make it, at least I tried. My goal is to get to that summit, but coming home in one piece to be a mother and wife and provide for my family is far more important.

All I can do is give it my best shot, so that’s just what I’ll do with my little family in my thoughts every step of the way.

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