My body was on death’s doorstep such a short time ago. Now, being kind to it seems so straightforward yet through rocky terrain I struggle.

I sheepishly entered my first Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) group therapy session with my head hung low, weighted down by feelings of resent and loneliness. PTSD was not me. Yet another label I could not fathom; I was not a victim of war or violence. Voices stirred viciously in my head, surrounded by others yet so alone in my struggle desperate to find a way out.

Nearly 2 years post accident, occasions when I  spoke about it were few and far between. Never would I have predicted how quickly a ball changed my life. Never  would I have predicted how Trauma  Group became so meaningful and integral in my recovery. Despite such a drastic range of stories, what bound those in the room was a common sense of feeling detached from the world around us as the result of a life altering experience.

At times stoic, I feel numbness with mention or thoughts of September 3. Detachment and personal avoidance symptoms occur seemingly naturally, without malice or even awareness, include avoiding people, places and topics I associate with the time of trauma. Intense anxiety, being easily startled,  trouble sleeping and questioning my self-worth, all textbook PTSD arousal symptoms.

From  the hours which turned to days following the trauma, alone and listless, detached from the world around me, when nausea then vomiting set in, I have had a horrific relationship with food. Fruits in season, typical meals and favorite snacks, thoughts of any food associated with that time, instantly became repulsive. An aversion to all foods connected with that time, along with the damage to my brain which resulted in a complete loss of appetite and hunger cues, led me to the brink of death. Forcing myself to eat was more extreme than any mountain trail. In addition to PTSD, I was diagnosed with Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID).

Dependent on electrolyte infusions, feeding tubes, months of intensive treatment, exposure therapy to reintroduce foods, life saving medical stabilization, and weight restoration, my collective medical team in Colorado got me safely back on my feet; however back on my feet does not equate to a consistently solid stance. My eating disorder, who I have named Rocky, is strong and resilient. Rocky had the power to lead me to within days of dying; I could not fight him alone. He has left physical scars and continues to challenge my everyday. If he had his way, Rocky would run hours on trails and up mountains without consuming and go days without fueling. He believes that he has the power to get my fitness and features as they were before the accident. His monotonous and demeaning voice habitually strives to convince me that I am worthless and weak.  

Rocky, combining forces with my limited eyesight, and cognitive battles with focus and memory, results in grocery store paralysis. Background music, hordes of people rushing and explosive visual stimuli, sensory overload is cruel, debilitating, and escalates when I am physically and emotionally drained. Hours upon hours I have stood frozen and overwhelmed paralyzed by the overstimulation combined with Rocky’s voice. Aimlessly and sad, I stare at store shelves with an appetite for absolutely nothing while Rocky shouts fiercely his opinion of what groceries I really need. With the chaos around me and chaos in my brain, simple decisions feel mountainous.

My body was on death’s doorstep such a short time ago. Now, being kind to it by ensuring it is getting the fuel that it needs to efficiently power me through the mountains, physical and mental, seems so straightforward and simple yet through this rocky terrain I resiliently struggle.

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  1. Peter Wilsn says:

    Fantastic analysis Jill. From a distance it looks as though you must be feeling strong to go back over the trauma. Hope all is going well in South America, a whole new challenge, is that how you relax?
    Pete x

    • mountainsofmymind says:

      Thank you so much for your affirmation, for reading and following my trails from Aus Peter.
      New mountains and new challenges certainly inspire me. Reflecting upon where I have have come from assures me in times of darkness or doubt. I am learning, growing and embracing new challenges here in South America. In days of transition between mountain ranges (e.g. in a big city like Buenos Aires yesterday and Lima today) I am learning and appreciating how much more relaxed and at ease I am in the mountains. #gratitude x

    • mountainsofmymind says:

      I think so too Shannon; Rocky is a multifaceted name no matter what angle I choose to see it from.
      Went the distance, now I’m not gonna stop…Risin’ up to the challenge.
      Coincidence that it is simply the “eye” of the tiger ?? 😉
      Thanks so much for your company and cheers along my Rocky trails. x