For the last 6 weeks I have been training for my Outward Bound course in September. It is a backpacking course in the Rookies, so I have been walking around with a loaded pack and slowly increasing the weight. I am now walking 9-12 km with a 30 lb pack a few times a week. I have a route I take through the town, it involves a few hills and some inclines, as well as flat ground and at the end of each walk I finish with a 2-3 km walk through some wooded trails that runs along a creek out to the ocean. This trail also has ups and downs and stairs. I cannot walk as fast in this terrain and it is wooded and cooler, so it is a nice way to cool off and end the walk.
A couple of weeks ago I was walking through this trail and a memory surfaced from a hike way back in my youth.
I had not done any hiking as a kid but I did love nature. In grade 10, the school I was in formed a hiking club and I joined it. We had done after school hikes, and a weekend hike in the local mountains. The year-end hike was going to be doing part of the famous West Coast Trail, on the South west side of Vancouver Island. It was built in 1907 to facilitate the rescue of survivors of shipwrecks along the coast, which is part of the treacherous Graveyard of the pacific.
There were only space for 14 students to go and since this was a big club I figured I had no chance of getting picked, but I was wrong and was thrilled. We would have 3 days on the trail, walk in the 1st day, 2nd day we spend there and back out on the 3rd.
Back then, -were talking about 1975-, the pack I had was an aluminum frame with the pack and straps attached to it by a pins and “O-rings. A few hours into the first day, as I was trekking up a hill on a shaded path, through some huge pines and western cedars the O-ring that held my left shoulder strap to the frame broke. I could not believe it; I had 8 more hours of hiking to do and it was going to be a struggle. So what do I do? Do I ask for help from one of the teachers, let them know this had happened? No. I do what I had always done..put my head down and keep going, holding one side of my pack up with my left hand and keep trekking. It was not until we had a break that one of the teachers noticed what had happened and asked me “why didn’t you tell me.” He then pulls out a repair kit which consisted of a bunch of these pins and O-rings, it seems this sort of thing happened all the time. In a few minutes my shoulder strapped was once more attached to the pack and we were off.
So why didn’t I tell him? I would have loved to have told him the truth, but back then I didn’t even really know the answer. All I knew was that life had showed me to trust no one, even this teacher who understood to some extent what my life was like. I had been trained that if anything went wrong it was my fault, I was dumb, stupid, and besides, I had learned very early on, that even if I did tell, no one would do anything, or, things would get worse for me, so I learned early on that asking for help was not an option . I know many people can relate to this.
As I was thinking about this during my walk, I thought of the rest of that weekend and how amazing it was to be able to be there. The challenge was something I thought I could never do and the scenery was breathtaking. Standing on the west coast of Vancouver Island and realizing there is nothing between you and Japan but the Pacific Ocean really does give you a new perspective. It really was an experience of a life time.
As I was thinking of that time , I thought of how different it is now. During my Outward Bound course I know I will have setbacks and be challenged but I also know it’s safe and asking for help is an option and it is safe to do so.
While I have been doing my training this past 6 weeks, I have also been getting more and more tired. I have a problem with low iron causing anemia, thus being tired. Last October I had 3 iron infusions- via IV-and life was great. I had lots of energy, slept well and it was great. My feriton ( iron stores) were good, but over time the levels have dropped and have continue to drop. My Dr. is concerned about this and is trying to figure out why my body is not absorbing iron. My levels are down again and I talked to my Dr. about my concern that my levels will be way down again when I go on my course. before I got my infusion last year my levels were at 6, it should be at least 50. My Dr. agrees that I should not have to wait until my levels get that low before I get another infusion and we have been keeping an eye on the level and he said because my levels keep dropping he will get me a top up before I go on the course.
Three weeks ago, I saw my Dr. signed the papers for the infusion and waited for the call. Two weeks later I phone the hospital and they have not gotten the request, so I phone the Dr’s office, he is away for a week, I talk to the Locum, he faxes the papers and I get a call the next day and the times are set up. I was really looking forward to feeling better. The day before the procedure, the hospital phones and the pharmacist at the hospital has cancelled it. The hospital phoned the Locum, he phoned me and says that I need to wait until my own Dr comes back to talk to him. Needless to say I was not a happy camper, I was mad as hell and sure as not, some of the old thoughts and beliefs and triggers came back.
To make a long story short, I saw my Dr. on Tuesday, he was not told of any of this, and had no idea why it was cancelled. I told him what happened and I had my blood work done a couple of days before. My feriton level has gone from 34, four weeks ago, to 18, two days ago. He said he will talk to the hospital and see what the issue is and will send off the required papers again, and yesterday I got a call to reschedule the infusions. Hopefully it will happen and I will be feeling better.
Sure I was mad, pissed off, upset that the infusions were cancelled, and especially as no one was really explaining to me what the reason was. I was so looking forward to getting this done and feeling better and being able to once again enjoy the things I do. I have worked very hard over the last ten years on my therapy and issues, I have not gone to drugs or alcohol to try to hide from them, I have met them head on and worked unbelievably hard, to get the supports I have and to get where I am now. At a place where I meet with my therapist once a month to touch base and work on any issues that may have come up.
So yes, I was pissed off that someone would deny me my chance to feel better to get on with my life. Then I noticed the old though patterns and triggers kick in, but that is progress because I noticed them, and I did not dissociate I was able to “get back on track” in the present. To remind myself, this is a trigger from all the broken promises as a kid, that I can trust my Dr. etc.
But, unlike when I was on the West Coast trail, I knew I was safe to ask for help. I knew I would be seeing my Dr. in a few days, and I could talk to him about it and I knew that he would advocate for me and do what he can. I have a great friend who asked me over for tea and let me talk about how pissed off and upset I was and she totally understood why, and understood why it would be a trigger for me. It took a couple of days for me to relax, but I did relax, did not dissociate and that is a huge thing. I allowed myself to be mad, and upset, and I was ok with that. Pushing emotions down does no one any good.
And, when I saw my Dr. on Tuesday I let him know what’s going on and he did his job. My Dr., therapist, friends, family and support systems are my version of the West coast trail, they are there to help facilitate this survivor during my travel and I do not have to do it alone! However, unlike during that hike, I know I can ask for help, it is safe, often wise and no one will think less of me because of it.
Like those sailors who survived because the trail was there, I am very grateful to my supports and I know help is there.
I am looking forward to going “Outward Bound “even though I am nervous I know I will be safe, and help is there if I need it. That in itself is life changing.
Those are my thoughts for today.
May you all have safe travels.
Cheers and be well