My journey to Mountainside begins much like yours. It’s a story of trauma, agonizing guilt, fear, anxiety, and pain. I say this not to compare my story to yours, but to remind you that you are not alone.
When Mountainside’s Alumni Team asked me to share my story, I was flooded with thoughts of what to say about my time at Mountainside. There was so much to write about, and I could not find the best place to start until I uncovered the box I kept from my time in treatment. It contained a letter from 30 days after my treatment that struck a chord with me. It was long and thoughtful yet simple, “Keep loving yourself, Michele, you are worth the work.” It made me remember my Mountainside camping trip, and the lessons I learned atop ‘The Magic Mountain.’
When we began the mountain hike, I was excited to watch the sunset, and felt thankful to experience the wonders of nature that I had taken for granted for years. However, I was also very out of shape and worried that I would die before I reached the top! I turned to our counsellor and said, “I can’t do it! I can’t take one more step!” She calmly replied, “That means everyone will have to come back down and miss the sunset.” At the time, I didn’t care. After all, I was dying.
Then she asked, “What are you going to do in your recovery when things get tough – quit and take everyone down with you?”
At that moment, she made me stop to examine my intentions. She was asking me to think of others’ wants, needs, and desires, even though my thoughts were filling me with doubt and dread.
Suffice to say, I begrudgingly gathered my wits and silently resumed the hike. I was greeted by reassuring smiles, laughter, and joy. Nature welcomed us into its arms to see its wonders, and each of us found a piece of rock to call their own. For the first time in years, I was proud of myself. I set a goal and achieved it. I listened to others without becoming defensive or lashing out. I thought of how my actions impact the happiness of others. At that moment, I became a new Me – I found hope, pride, a smile on my face, and warmth in my heart.
I reflect on that time in my life often and the lessons of self-love that I learned. I learned that blaming, shaming, and complaining will keep you paralyzed by fear of the unknown. I learned to embrace the unknown and not fear the height of the Mountain. When you stop staring at how high the peak of the Mountain goes, it’s easier to navigate the journey and climb up from the base.