Anxiety in the mountains and learning to overcome – part 2

This is part 2 of my story of being in the mountains with anxiety. You can read part 1 to get the context.

As the morning of my pacing duties approached (Sunday) things got a little bit better, despite a few moments of panic. I started to feel more acclimated to where I was, and simply looking around at the big hills didn’t evoke anxiety the moment I saw a huge peak. I still didn’t feel perfect, but I felt good enough to start.

PC: Julie

Julie arrived at the Spooner aid station and got herself ready to go, and we were back on the road around 11am. This aid station is at 7200 ft and immediately climbs to the highest point of our segment at 9100 ft. I buckled in and we started making our way up the mountain.

We moved steadily through the trees, and were lucky to have a segment of trail that was completely buffed out. As we climbed I took a moment every now and then to look around. Maybe it was the adrenaline rush of the race, getting to hang out with Julie again, or the fact that my mantra was starting to actually work, but I felt fine. We climbed higher and higher, and the ground became more and more distant, but started to feel exhilaration rather than panic.

PC: Julie

Eventually the trees grew thin and we approached the top of the climb. For about a mile we would be hiking along a ridge line, just under the summit. We were exposed, and there was nothing stopping us from seeing everything. I looked over my left shoulder and there before us was almost the entirety of Lake Tahoe. It was amazing.

As we progressed, the view just got better and better, and once we were past the peak we got treated to an amazing meadow that allowed us to look around and soak up the view. As I looked around I realized where I was… and felt fine. I looked down at my feet and saw them planted firmly on dry, dusty, dirt. To my left and right was more ground. It was no different than what I was standing on, or the ground that I was standing on in the morning.

My brain finally realized, there was no reason to be anxious.

We continued on our way, up and down various peaks, and I never thought again about feeling anxious. There was one climb later in the night that I was glad was in the dark (damn powerline section), but otherwise I never struggled again.

This isn’t a report on Julie’s race, as that’s her story to tell. What I want to do with this blog was to share how I dealt with my anxiety and overcame it. One of the key hallmarks of anxiety is a complete sense of hopelessness. As I laid in my tent having an anxiety attack I felt nothing but hopelessness. My anxiety told me that I wasn’t good enough to do any of this. I was better of sitting at home and never challenging myself.

Anxiety is a jerk, and a liar. As I stood on top of Snow Valley Peak, at an elevation over 9000 ft, I found the truth. I’m capable of a lot more than I think I am, and anxiety doesn’t need to win. It came down to facing the lie that anxiety was telling me, seeing it for the lie it is, and finding the truth. I’m so grateful that I didn’t let anxiety win.

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