Breathe. Breathe. Please let me take a good, full breath. That’s the extent of my thoughts during my summit push of Island Peak on an early morning – I’m talking 2:00 am – in the middle of the Himalayas. Not to mention it was around -30 degrees Fahrenheit with wind chill. The last time I remember feeling anyway like this was on Kilimanjaro back in 2012, and this peak was a wopping 1,000’ higher… “Wow, what have I done?” I asked myself. But I had set out for a mission. This was no ordinary climb for me, as I had dedicated this climb to promoting mental health awareness and was raising money for that and suicide prevention for The Jed Foundation.
So, I kept trying to remind myself of this. This wasn’t just about me, and I have had many eyes on me for the past 7 months while training for this. And what I can say is that I’m a fighter… a super stubborn one at that. So, despite my freezing toes and fingers and lack of breath, I kept deciding to continue on. And though it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I was more exhausted that I’ve ever been, it was worth it. Standing at 20,305’ looking around me at the highest mountains in the world, I’ve never seen such a sight. I had done it again. I pushed myself past my impossible, and it was once again accompanied by feelings the of accomplishment, awe, amazement, and a bit of disbelief.
You see, I see the outdoors as an incredible gift. Since I was 14 it blessed me, and for me God blessed me, with experiencing the incredible healing powers of adventure and challenge. There’s something about that breath in the middle of nowhere, those incredible sights of what seems unachievable never cease to amaze me. And it’s sometimes my escape for the pain of mental health.
Since I was 14 I have struggled with depression and some suicidal ideations, and as of 2 and a half years ago I was re-diagnosed with bipolar disorder. And it’s so scary to share that, but I’ve found that sharing our stories begins to put a crack in the stigma. Sharing stories connects us to the people around us to make life bearable. And being listened to saves lives. WE are responsible for loving those around us. WE are responsible for making sure they know we care because sometimes we are the ones that make those mistakes. And that’s okay, it’s always okay. But I want to challenge you to make those connections with those around you.
For me, it’s the outdoors that remind me to put my pack down and share it with others. But you get to decide what that is. And remember we can fight for others when they aren’ts able to. Whether it’s mental health or the pains of everyday life. Love can change your neighbor’s day and maybe even save a life. There’s enough that works against in this world, anyways, right?
Hi, my name is Heather Benton. I’m raising money for The Jed Foundation, which is a national organization that works to protect the emotional health and prevent suicide for teens and young adults. I’d be honored if you considered donating. You can visit my website to do so – mountainsformentalhealth.org. Thanks in advance! Instagram @mountainsformentalhealth