HIKING, HEALING AND MENTAL HEALTH: (a broken heart & broken bones)

This photo was taken of me exactly 20 years ago on 28/03/2001. A few days after my 12th Birthday. It was also my mum and dad’s wedding anniversary. up until this point, the month of March was one I looked forward to. I remember as a kid, beginning the countdown to my birthday immediately after new year celebrations. March is my birthday month, was a happy month for me… until March 2001. 

On the 23rd of March 2001, my mum passed away. We put her to rest on the 28th of March. In the photo (above) I was actually getting ready for her funeral service. This was a very painful experience for a 12-year-old boy as you can imagine. On the very next day, my young nephew and I were hit and run over by a mini-bus. After being rushed to the hospital I remember laying on a bed for hours waiting to be attended to because the doctor was in a meeting. I laid there just waiting, hoping that my mum would walk through the door and give me a warm big hug. The one person who would know what to do at that moment to comfort me, and make me feel better was no longer there. In the end, It was discovered that I had a broken right leg and deep cuts on my left leg foot that required stitches.  

Within the space of a week I had experienced the most painful experiences of my life, I had experienced both physical and emotional trauma in such a short space of time. In the following years I experienced, low self-esteem, being bullied, the death of a sibling, deteriorating mental health and so much more. My faith at the time was almost non-existent and so I received no healing there. From the tender age of 13, I began experimenting with alcohol and drugs, socially at first. but then I realized that these substances I used to intoxicate myself with provided more than I good time, they numbed the emotional and phycological pain I was feeling, well at least temporarily. And that’s all I needed, to numb myself from the realities of life. In trying to block out my pain rather than confronting it I created sets of deadly, & unhealthy patterns, habits, and life choices. By the time I7 I was heavily dependent on these substances and on the very dangerous downward spiral to self-destruction.

Over the years I have learned that life is a journey and not a destination and the road to recovery is a very long, painful, and sometimes lonely road. But it’s not an impossible one. I had, and still have many mountains in my mind, some that appear naturally, others that I create for myself. After many years of hiking and climbing “physical mountains”, I would like to share a few lessons that I have learned that helped me conquer some of the mountains in my mind. Everything written here is a personal account. These recommendations are based on what worked for me, (but may not work for everyone). Please note that I am not a professional. Seek professional help asap if you need to.

  1. Ask for help- Wherever you are on your journey, always remember that there are people who have been on that road, they may not know exactly how you feel or where you have been, but they might be able to help point you into the right direction. You don’t have to journey alone. Reach out and seek help.
  2. Different day same mountain- Sometimes you might keep finding yourself back at the same mountain over and over again. You may have tried and failed 1000 times. Try something else, ask yourself what is it that I’m missing, try a different route, and if you have tried all known routes up the mountain, you might have to create a new one and try something that has never been done before. No matter what never give up!
  3. Find a hiking buddy (or buddies)– “If you want to walk fast walk alone if you want to walk far, walk together”- African Proverb. Shared journeys are shortened journeys. Do not go through it alone. Confide in friends and family no matter how difficult it is sometimes you need a shoulder to lean on and the support of loved ones.
  4. Always pack the right equipment- Before going on an expedition I always make sure I equip myself with the right equipment. Sometimes this takes some research and financial investment. Research on what tools are available to you, and what you need to “equip” yourself with as you embark on your journey to recovery. 
  5. Never Never Never Give up- No matter how scary, how steep, how dark, how cold, how hot, how, hungry, how thirsty, how tired you get. Never, Never, Never Give Up! The harder the challenge the greater the reward & sense of achievement and prouder (is that a word?) you will be of yourself.  

And what about me? How does my story end? Did I heal? Have I recovered form all that I went through? To be honest I am not sure. I am just thankful to God that I may not be where I want to be, but I am not where I used to be. Everyday I have I have constant reminders of the emotional and physical scars. When I put on my socks in the morning I see the scars on my feet and remember the pain. I thank God that I remember, it but don’t feel it. Healing, like life is a process and a journey not a destination.

I wish you all the best on your journey.

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