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Altitude Training Throwback 🏔 (CBT)

2 years ago to this day I was in the French Alps for altitude training. I embarked on a journey to follow my childhood dream, to stand and the foot of Mt Everest, 15 days of trekking to get to Everest Base Camp. Without my family’s support it would not have happened. They climbed the Alps with me for endurance and it was amazing to have them with me on my journey all te way.

I knew that at some point I would have to say goodbye for 21 days and get on a plane to complete a whole year’s commitment to training and complete this ultimate challenge on my bucket list. There was A LOT of mental health preparation. Some evenings I suffer from anxiety attacks so I had a year to prep and get my mind ready. I never had anxiety attacks when I was younger, but somehow it started 4 years ago. The preparation process wasn't easy but I envisioned myself away from my family. I created a routine that felt comfortable. I slept with the inflatable pillow I would be sleeping with on my trek as well as sleeping in my sleeping bag 3 months prior to departure, knowing I would not have my bed, pillow, family, or anxiety medication (most anxiety medication/drugs are banned in Nepal); comfort items that makes it easier when my anxiety spikes, around me. Add the fact that with my EDS I knew I could dislocate any joint in my body at any time, with evacuation points not that close while on the trek during the day.

If you struggle with anxiety you would know that the mere thought of not having the things around you that bring some comfort in the middle of an attack is enough to set off an anxiety attack. It was 'mind over matter' I had to train myself. My CBT therapist introduced me to box-breathing, a time-honored stress-reducing breathing technique endorsed by the US Navy SEALs. A technique to stay calm and focused amid chaos. It helped me ever since. Because of my hypermobility I have constant muscle tension and an endless need to stretch. When my anciety spikes I do my breathing technique and I have also learned to mindfully stretch every part of my body while lying in bed to release tension. I say “mindfully” because if you are hypermobile and reading this, stretching is the worst thing for hypermobility if you overstretch.

When I feel that an anxiety attack is creeping up on me and my heart is already jumping out of my chest, I turn to meditation on my headphones (in order not to wake everyone else). I have several App’s I turn to and it all comes down to personal preference as there are many. I choose to fall asleep with worship music (Bethal, Hillsong…there are loads) or use Abide or Breath with white or brown noise. This being said, when my attack reaches a certain point, not even meditation will make me comfortable so I try to catch it early.

There are medication for anxiety attacks prescribed by a GP but many of them are highly addictive so I try to stay clear, but some nights are worse than others and I do take my meds otherwise I would not be able to sleep at all - and no sleep with EDS is like pouring fuel on a fire.

For me it was important to prepare well in advance, physically but surely mentally as well. By August 13th, 2019 when I did my altitude training, I’ve already been training for 10 months and I was less than 2 months away from standing at Base Camp. I knew how to breath at altitude and how vital it was to meticulously place my poles step by step. Constantly focus on how to walk and not to walk in order to keep my joints protected and used my now well trained muscles. One step closer to my dream.

I love the mountains, not only does it bring calm but it is my go-to place.

If you struggle with anxiety, mental health or trauma/PTSD, please see your GP or a CBT therapist. It is very important to get the help you need - tools to help you find what works for you as everyone with mental health’s experience is different and REAL.

Your life matters!!!

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