I overcame my anxiety and climbed Kilimanjaro

I overcame my anxiety and climbed Kilimanjaro

It was three days before my flight to Tanzania.

I had just arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina where I was to spend the next few days filming Erika Bogan, who is disabled, as she prepared for our trek to the top of Kilimanjaro at 19,341 feet above sea level.

After she picked me up at the airport, we filmed for a few hours. Then, before I knew it, it was time for bed.

I dreaded this moment. As the hours wore on that day, I could feel my anxiety taking over. And just as I suspected, practically speaking it into existence, sleep escaped me.

I closed my eyes, praying that my exhaustion from traveling across the county would take hold of my mind, forcing me to sleep. But the anxiety clung to my brain and body like a straitjacket. The questions swirled in my mind like a leaf caught in a whirlpool. Would I have survived this climb? Could I sleep in the mountains? Would I let my team down and not be able to film?

I felt so hopeless.

Just before midnight, I emailed my therapist. I had started seeing her six months earlier to prepare for this frightening adventure.

“It’s my first night out,” I wrote. “Only in North Carolina…and I’m hysterical and can’t sleep. I am so worried and feel like I pushed my limits too much with this climb.”

I tossed and turned until the wee hours of the morning.

This was my reality for the next five days before climbing the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. I worked tirelessly filming all day and spent the nights awake and crying.

It got so bad that I considered abandoning my team and going home twice before starting the climb, once after we arrived in Tanzania. The night before the climb started, my anxiety was the worst it had ever been. I sat in the bathroom for hours and cried hysterically with my mom over FaceTime before finally taking my sleeping meds.

The challenges I have faced are because I have generalized anxiety disorderwhich means that sometimes my anxiety gets so bad that it interferes with my life.

If you ask my mom, I’ve had anxiety ever since I left the womb. But it didn’t start affecting my day to day until I started working in the news industry. It started with my first job as a production assistant at a radio station. There, they “worked me in shifts”: I switched from day shift to night shift to night shift. The inconsistent schedule made it difficult to sleep.

My circadian rhythm it was off, and so was my life.

I started taking anxiety meds, which helped, but even after I quit that job and got on a more consistent schedule, the anxiety continued to haunt me.

Now, 10 years later, it still does. I’ve learned to live with it, but this sleep anxiety occasionally creeps in. Sometimes it happens at home, but it usually happens when I travel and sleep out of my comfort zone.

Knowing that is why I sought therapy earlier this year. I wanted to prepare myself physically and mentally for the most demanding undertaking of my life: climbing to the roof of Africa.

mount kilimanjaro sign

And being well prepared physically and mentally wasn’t just for me. I didn’t want to disappoint Erika. She was paralyzed in a domestic violence incident when she was 20 and spent two decades with suicidal ideation, severe depression and intense anxiety until she began competing in steeplechase.

Through this film, he wanted to show people that despite life’s hardships and turmoil and their anxieties, there is always a reason to move forward.

Erika’s words, actions, perseverance and grit echoed in my head and I remembered the healthy habits I had built over the previous months. Some of these habits included breathing exercises, stretching, and journaling. While I couldn’t use everything I’d learned, breathing and stretching helped me immensely in calming my body and mind.

My therapist has also taught me visualization techniques to ease my anxiety.

During those troubled nights, I used some of those techniques. I imagined a river where I put all my hardships and fears on a boat and watched it drift. I thought about my favorite and most comfortable place in the world: my home, on my comfortable sofa with my loving husband and two playful and playful kittens.

Having all these tools helped me overcome my anxiety attack while climbing Kilimanjaro. Even better, I finally found peace and solace in the adventure. My anxiety melted away. I’ve reached the top.

And now, the most powerful tool in my anxiety toolbox is that I survived climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with generalized anxiety disorder.

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