Jenny’s Journey Part 9 – A hill to climb

Written by Jonathan Kattenberg on November 11, 2020
Est. Reading: 6 minutes

Is this your stairway to freedom?

This time last year I was fresh out of detox still struggling to walk to the corner shop on my own, still violently shaking and still struggling to even open a bottle of juice. 

Fast forward to today (30th October 2020) and I am off to climb Pen-Y-Ghent.

Is there hope when working against the perceived odds?

It was my mum that brought this to my attention, what a difference a year can make (and hard graft). Me and "big Jonathan" (that's what my son named him. There is logic behind this title - his Uncle is called Jonny, too) are off up a mountain. This made me realise that I need to reflect and be proud of how far I've come. To learn from my mistakes and that it is dangerous to be complacent.

Was I ready to progress my journey of recovery to a whole new level?

There is reasoning behind Jonathan and myself going up this big old hill. It is to "take my recovery to a new level". A level that I have previously not been ready for or strong enough (mentally or physically) for. Dreading is the wrong word, but I was quite apprehensive, and my anxiety was itching to tag along. What will we dig up/talk about?

In the car on the way there, even when my mind tried to prevent him, Jonathan (as always) got into my mind without me fearing his questions and asked "What was your earliest memory of binge/purging/bulimia". My reply...."I remember the exact moment I first did it. I even remember what I was wearing.  Now I'm thinking about it; I can feel the same feeling and I have the same thoughts as I did back then". It was weird and I'd never actually spoken about it before.

Understanding my history.

Here's the scene …

I had started my healthy eating regime and I had gone to my friend’s house before the stables. Her mum made the most amazing cakes. We all had some, then we all had some more. Not only did I feel sick, but I felt so guilty for ruining my new regime, the guilt wouldn't leave my thoughts. We arrived at the stables and I made myself sick into a bucket (I have never admitted this). I was about 13 years old and my young naive mind thought I had discovered something magical ... I could still eat cake and not worry about putting on weight. Or as I was told as a child at parties "don't eat anymore, Jen, you'll end up like a certain celebrity" (I’ve excluded the name out of respect to the celebrity), I could still eat cake and release that horrible full/guilty feeling. 

My mum did suss out something one day, although I don't think she realised the severity of my new issue, she took me to the doctor who clearly didn't know what to do and I was given a book about counting calories. Useful!!!

Sorry ... I’ve gone off the subject but just wanted to provide some background. Jonathan then asked, "how did you know how to do it"? I wasn't too sure at first, but I do remember someone doing it at school, after eating just an apple. I thought it was a bit odd, and just assumed it was attention she was after. Jonathan asked if it may have been attention I was wanting. For me, it was the opposite, my little secret. I didn't want anyone to know because if anyone found out, I’d be made to stop and I’d lose my release.

Preparing for the potential storm ahead.

We parked up in Horton-in-Ribblesdale. The weather wasn't too cracking, it was quite damp with low clouds, but apparently it was ideal weather for what we were doing today. "But I can't see how savage the hill is or what’s behind those clouds" I moaned. But Jonathan (like he always does) put a positive spin on the situation. "How do you know it's going to be savage, it might be easy, beyond the clouds could be something amazing". When faced with the unknown why do I always assume the unknown to be a negative experience? Can anyone relate?

Up ahead was a long winding path ascending into low clouds, with gates at various intervals. This was going to be my journey and along the way we were going to deal with the "doors" to my past; some horrendous experiences, and finally close them. Whilst they are still open they are contributing to my negative coping behaviour, as I used them back then to cope at the time.

How I learned to energise both my mind and body.

This was the start of a significant journey, looking up at the cloudy path ahead I had to walk tall, confident, looking ahead, noticing what was ahead, as though I was heading for a battle. Paying attention to my breath was important, too, not only as I was struggling with my asthma (nothing to do with the fact I’ve still not quit smoking) but to "breath in the energy around me". Jonathan explains that there is energy all around us and to concentrate on the negative feelings and where they are and to exhale them, and to fill yourself with the positive energy, strength, through your breathing. Jonathan will be able to explain this much better than I can.  You may have heard before that if you omit positive vibes you attract positive energy back, two-fold. It's worth trying, however be careful of "mood hoovers"(people who are attracted by your positive nature but subconsciously hoover it out of you and bring you down, especially as they deplete your energy).

Breaking things down into manageable amounts

Approaching the first gate I had to think of the things from the past that could still be influencing me today. There were a few situations that I thought I’d buried, but in honesty I have never dealt with or spoken about them. I was about to face the battle and when I touched the gate to go through, my battle commenced. I had a song in my head ‘It's time by Imagine Dragons’, very apt for the moment. When I touched the gate it was time to start my journey, I had to think and deal with the first issue from the past up until we get to a pile of stones ahead, the "check point". It was at the check point where I would leave this issue for good and "close the door on it". Deep breathing to release it. This continued as we ascended the hill until I actually had to stop as my backside was hurting. I thought I was quite fit; I run, do weights, I felt a bit deflated. 

So, we stopped, paused, took some deep breaths and as I exhaled the pain went away. Jonathan brought it to my attention that this pausing can be used in everyday life when you are having a difficult moment/situation or life is busy or your head is sad/hurting ... pause, give yourself time to assess the situation, try to gain some logic in the moment. That is all it is, a moment, I (and you) have the ability to influence a change in our thinking, sometimes I just need reminding as it's all too easy to go into autopilot mode.

We kept climbing and at various stages closed a few more doors. Then we reached a flight of steps (not sure if "a flight of steps" is the correct terminology halfway up a mountain, let’s just go with it). "Have you ever heard of the phrase, stairway to heaven" Jonathan asked. "Well this is your stairway to freedom, free of your past. A new start, a new chapter".

Maintaining a natural sense of excitement

I can honestly say that I was excited to climb these steps. May I add there were more steps than at Whitby Abbey, I’m sure. The feeling in my stomach was no longer heavy, I felt light and genuinely felt like I was leaving the past behind. I worked out I’d been carrying around those horrendous experiences from the past for over 15 years. After a couple of pauses whilst climbing the stairs, (I had done circuit training the night before and my legs were reminding me of this) we reached the top. Couldn't see anything but I felt like I had won the battle. The descent was going to be "all downhill from now" (pun intended).

Is life like climbing a mountain?

On the way down, I reflected on what I had achieved today. Life is like climbing a mountain, it's a journey of ups and downs (and savage steps).The ascend to the top is often a struggle, a battle, the hard work. But once you get to the top there's the vista, you have achieved something worthwhile. You've made it, won the battle then you can enjoy the downhill bit. 

Living proof you can go onto to experience an amazing life

When life gets hard it is definitely worth the battle. I am living proof of this. I can't even begin to explain how hard my recovery has been and if I’m honest, I’m surprised I had it in me. To get through and survive what I have. I have been so lucky to have the support of my parents and Jonathan along the way. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here now. Sober and enjoying life more than I ever have.

Wishing you all an amazing journey

Jen x

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