An unanticipated crack of a baseball bat in Flagstaff was nothing any therapy had prepared me for.

Mindfulness, being completely present, is a rare occasion. Running in mountains is where I am able to connect with myself more than anywhere else; where I am in my story rather than contemplating it. All too often my monkey-brain is bouncing from one thought to another, ruminating, planing, doubting and questioning. Meditation, in the form of movement or in stillness, creates an opportunity to attentively listen to my anxiety. Alone in the mountains, I clear my brain fog, listen to what anxiety has to say with a calm, open- mind and release it into the fresh alpine air.

Today’s run weaved through a scenic wonderland combining deep alpine forest blending pine and aspen amongst remnants of the fiery center of one of Arizona’s most explosive volcanoes. As the intense midday sun began to peak, I found an urban trail to lead me back to town. Striding and smiling, mindfully thankful for my first morning in the Coconino National Forest, the crack came out of nowhere. An explosion that took me from the solitude of the wilderness to my knees on a damp morning in September, 2014. With the crack of a bat, my breath was taken away. From sunny, wind blown Flagstaff to breathless panic with the swing of a bat.

Nestled in suburbia greenery, hundreds of youngsters were welcoming the weekend with their version of Spring training. I heard the crack; the aluminum connect with the leather, long before I spotted the little league park. A bat colliding with a ball connected a switch in my traumatized brain. A brain forever scarred; a brain that has moved on with resilience yet too ingrained to forget a split second sound. From the calm relief of sending my anxiety on its merry way to instantaneous breathless anxiety. The adolescents honing their athletic skills without a worry in the world will never know the impact of their activity nor why the runner darted, breathless and teary, creating distance with lightning speed only PTSD knows.

When I am running trails, that which troubles my spirit is faced, accepted and sorted. When in a personal safe space such as the San Francisco Peaks, I can offer my anxiety reassurance and gently send it on its way. A textbook trigger, ball and bat, was not so gentle nor easy to move on from. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder knows no boundaries. Though my clinical recovery lasted more than 2 years, exposure therapy did not include baseball diamonds nor the violent impact between bat and ball. Helicopters and ambulance sirens a many, having taken my recovery to the mountains, today was my first auditory trigger that fired hard and landed with finite accuracy. As the sun now sets, the sound continues on repeat, not the welcomed whistle of ready tea or a favourite playlist yet I am finding strength in the repetition. With each crack, a reminder that I have survived; I beat the odds. Despite visual limitations, I am alive and able to hear the sounds of children playing baseball, the sound of the wind whistling through the aspens, the voice of  a concerned friend, the curiosity of intrigued strangers, the calming songs of birds in the forest and marmots guarding their territory.

Being in mountains fosters my relative state of calm. The healthier my emotional well-being the more I utilize the skills learned through months of therapy necessary to nourish and thrive in any terrain. Time does not stand still, the crack will fade, the hurt will ease. When I feel like shattering, I accept that this is part of healing, part of my trail, part of the mountains of my mind.

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  1. Drew Alexander says:

    Beautifully written … thanks for sharing another insight! Is it time to take on the mountain trails in Alaska?

    • mountainsofmymind says:

      Thank you Drew! Humbling and grateful that you are following my trails. I, in fact had my ‘eye’ on Alaska though, with hopes of avoiding snow, seems my timing was too early for this time around; that said, my trail has no end and look very much forward to when it weaves throughout the land of the midnight sun.

  2. Tom Stevens says:

    Stunning, compelling. As an author, I’m envious of Jill’s ability to paint a picture of her life. The mountains of her mind are conquered and documented by a bestseller or two. This lady is a writer.