7,136 feet above the rest of the world I panicked. I was insecure, scared, and in a country that I had barely read about 16 weeks prior. I was shaking and struggling to forms words. My body refused to walk up the remaining stairs of the Peaceful Cottage in Bhaktapur, Nepal. Ten more steps meant nothing to logic but everything to emotion. Little did I know this was to be the start of the greatest journey of healing.
When you live life with anxiety and fear, each day becomes an unwanted obsession. After a while, you begin to see life in two phases; periods of anxiety and periods waiting for the next attack of anxiety. The process repeats and you feel sapped. But there is hope and it only takes a single act of reaching out.
One Important Life Lesson From Climbing in Himalayas
When you have acrophobia (fear of heights), The Himalayas do not make for the most promising and secure vacation. However, I decided in 2011 to test my being and enrolled in a study abroad experience while in graduate school. I had never left the continent except for excursions to England, Belgium, and France. While foreign, I navigated these developed countries with ease. When I landed in Kathmandu, my entire personal bubble was fractured to the point that I briefly considered faking an extreme illness to leave.
After several days with the support of well-traveled classmates, we were given a break for vacation. An all-expense paid trip to a hotel for relaxation. After leaving the city I soon noticed we were driving upwards, further and further, until I realized we were heading up a mountain. All my fears coalesced and I panicked. At the peak, the hotel scraped the sky. I promised myself a challenge but I did not feel able to accept.
As I sat frozen, an angel’s voice asked me the simplest of questions. “Dan, are you OK?” I replied that I was not to which she asked, “how can I help?” I felt foolish at 32 years old asking if a friend would hold my hand but with gentleness and immediacy, her fingers locked into mine. A moment later, the impossible climb felt effortless and before I knew it we were sipping coffee and tea and ordering the most amazing goat cheese pizza.
That night I laid my head on a pillow and thought about this entire experience and how friends helped me not only survive but experience and enjoy something that terrified me to the core.
People often forget the importance of community. We are individuals in need of support and guidance. The community can come from family, partners, friends, professionals, and coworkers. The community can take the form of guidance or a little push. It can be caring and empowering. Most of all, community means we are not alone. No matter how great or small the obstacle, the community is available to assist. All we need to do is ask.
Community comes in multiple forms including friends, family, professional, and medical. There are support groups for most any concern or tragedy. You can strengthen your support system today by acting.
- Ask a friend/family member/coworker for help – Make sure that you find a trustworthy source
- Search your local library or religious institution – Either of these buildings will typically have a bulletin board with daily, weekly, and monthly groups
- Call a local hospital or medical center and ask for social work – This is a terrific method of locating the hard to find additions to your support system
- Use an online search – A search function with the concern and the word “support” or “support group” can help you find local, national, and international groups. For example, you can search “support group for mothers of special needs children”
- Start or maintain a hobby with others
I know this is a difficult journey just like the final stairs of my mountain but nothing is insurmountable. If you are ready to move an inch you are ready to move a thousand miles.
Whether you believe in divinity, karma, or coincidence, my story ended with the greatest of rewards. The following day I was woken at 5:00 AM and asked to come to the roof. By now I had become used to the height and relying on my friend. As we sat and sipped coffee, the innkeeper pointed to the Himalayas beyond us and as the clouds cleared, the sun came up directly behind the peak of Mt. Everest.
The entire group could not speak or breathe while we watched the distant star split by the tallest peak in the world. At 1.5 miles in the air, I felt on top of the world.
At 5.5 miles to peak, Mt. Everest reminded me I still had a long way to travel. I knew that with the community and my support group it was only a matter of time before I scaled my own Everest and you are just as capable!