Climbing mountains

Being ill like I am makes even simple tasks feel like climbing a mountain. With toddlers hanging off my arms and legs. And torrential rain turning the track to mud. Ok the metaphor is getting out of control, but you get the picture.

One of my goals this year was to climb to the Centre of New Zealand, something I’ve done many times throughout the years, but definitely not recently. The geographic centre of New Zealand is technically out in the mudflats in Nelson’s harbour, but in order to capitalise on tourism, someone decided it should be on the top of a hill with a breathtaking view of the city and surrounding mountains. Smart move. I think.

I can see this hill from my house, and every time I’m walking home from town, I gaze up at it with narrowed eyes. It’s existence mocks me, because I can’t conquer it. So I resolved to do so.

Even healthy fit people hate this hill. It’s ok most of the way, but the last few minutes are just the most ridiculous slog. My guess is it’s deliberately designed like that to make you enjoy it even more when you get to the top – and I certainly do. You get the most amazing view of Nelson and the surrounding mountains and it’s often super quiet. A good place to go and contemplate one’s existence.

Last year, for me, was the year of trying every medication possible, even chemotherapy, and discovering nothing worked. I ended up feeling pretty dejected. I can subjected my body to so much and there was no obvious benefit. I could get really upset about that – and sometimes I do – but instead I am trying to focus on a new direction.

I am not pro or anti-medication. I am pro you-doing-whatever-works-for -you. For me, I just haven’t figured out what that is yet.

In order to get some sort of baseline, I am attempting to whittle down my medication. And this is just the least fucking fun thing ever, even worse than the last twenty metres at the top of the mountain. Withdrawals and side effects and the return of some symptoms that were being suppressed – it’s all very messy. I won’t be able to get a clear picture of “me” and “my illness” for a good while yet. And I won’t be able to be completely medication-free.

I’m also doing the very typical new year, new you thing of attempting to eat healthier and exercise more. I already had a pretty good diet out of necessity and I walk every day. But I want to build more strength.

That’s where the Centre of NZ comes in.

A few days ago, I decided to give it a shot. I didn’t figure I’d get anywhere near the top, but I planned to do what I could and turn back when I was tired.

I didn’t turn back. Not because I wasn’t tired – I was completely wrecked – but because I’m stupid and stubborn and I really needed this win, you know?

Long story short – I made it. I’m by no means crossing that off my list, two weeks into the year. What it’s showed me is that I can get up there without hurting myself, and so the aim is just to keep doing so whenever I can.

Chronic illness is a constant battlefield of shifting goalposts buried in mud. Every inch gained is worth celebrating. Even if it’s raining and you can’t even see the view.