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The Mountains We Climb in Life With Chronic Illness

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We are all climbing mountains. Sometimes the scenery is beautiful, the climb feels tolerable, and it’s easier to breathe. Other times, the climb is treacherous, rocky, steep, and scary. But on we climb.

Why is it that we don’t talk about the mountains we climb? Why is it such a secret? We are all climbing mountains, so often invisible to the outside world.

I know that society sets it up that way — creates this expectation that we should always appreciate the view. We should only look towards the moments when we can breathe easier. We should pretend that the climb is pleasant. Or, we should be grateful that our climb isn’t worse. There is no room for pain. There’s only room for pleasant.

And it’s not that pleasant doesn’t exist. It does. But can we also make room for the scarier parts? Can we be honest about how hard it is sometimes?

I’ve been in this season of heavy climbing. Even in the midst of some beautiful views, it has been heavy. So many times along the way, I’ve felt weighed down, blindsided by falling debris. During the worst of it, I felt like it was more acceptable for me to be quiet about it, even though the only thing I wanted to do was scream.

It’s no secret that I’m not necessarily afraid to speak about the mountain I’m climbing — whether it’s pleasant or painful. Oftentimes, that’s been met with disdain, discomfort, and judgment. It’s taken me a long time to realize that those reactions don’t say anything about me, though I can’t say they don’t hurt. The reality is that I will always, always be too much for some people. I desire to live and breathe my truth— even the ugly parts, even the painful climbs. Especially those. Ironically, those parts have given me the most access to joy and contentedness.

It’s the pretending that makes you sick.

So whatever climb you’re on — pretty, painful, or somewhere in between — just know that your truth deserves to be heard. You don’t have to shout it out to the world. But your climb matters. You don’t have to pretend it’s something it’s not. You don’t have to find meaning in every bad thing that has happened to you. You can just be sad that it did happen to you. When you grant yourself permission to enter into your own painful experience, you gain access to the full breadth of your joy. Trust me on that.

Getty image by Alex Brylov.

Originally published: August 3, 2022
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