Sept 27th, 2018
Our first day in Namche was a test of pure will power.
We were meant to trek to the Everest View Hotel at 3962 meters.
Now to any average trekker, this would be a piece of cake (steep cake)
Considering what happened the day before I didn’t have much hope I would make it out of this with my lungs intact.
Let me take you back to the day we left Phakding and started our steeper climb to Namche Bazaar. I was doing quite well carrying my 9kg pack, feeling pretty awkward because all of my trek mates had hired a porter and I cheaped out. The first part of the day went well until we reached a steep back and forth part of the trail that almost went vertically up a mountainside.
Until this point, I had been bringing up the rear, as I thought I would considering I have asthma and that can slow me down. So I stayed at the back, taking breaks but as I later found out, clearly not enough.
I could feel some pressure from the groups to keep up so I did the stupid thing and pushed my body further than I should have. My angel of a guide, realizing what was happening, sent the porters to hike with the rest of the group and stayed back to walk with me. The gesture was much appreciated but it only intensified my feelings of inadequacy and inability. I felt stupid for wanting to carry my own bag and seriously doubted my ability to finish the trek. Every guide, porter, yak, and trekker that passed me brought the tears out.
People started asking me if I was ok, if I had fallen, If my oxygen was ok and all I could choke out was a very teary-eyed “fine”.
I felt like I was unwillingly strapped into a pair of concrete shoes, kicking and screaming. I was just trying to stay afloat against an ocean current pulling me down to where my chest would surely cave under the pressure.
The ever-growing migraine in my right temple was spiraling out of control. By the time I reached the rest stop where everyone was waiting for me, I was beyond exhausted both mentally and physically.
Immediately I was surrounded by my trek mates and everyone who had passed me on the trail, closing in on me in a huge half circle, asking questions that made my head want to explode.
Instead of my head, I let my voice explode instead, and scraped up enough words to yell at the top of my lungs “IM FINE, I NEED SPACE”.
I have never spoken to sweet and genuinely concerned people like that in such a way… ever.
and I immediately felt regret and guilt.
They were only looking out for my best interests, right?
What I didn’t realize then was I was falling down a whirlpool that spiraled into my first full-blown panic attack. I had read about them and heard tales of how disorienting and stressful they can be but I had never experienced it first hand, until now.
It took over my entire body and from that stop on every step I took pushed more tears out, I was stopping every five minutes to hyperventilate and then catch my breath.
I had to defend my mind from deadly intrusive thoughts that were armed with guns and tanks. All I had was a wooden shield.
How could I explain this to everyone?
That this was more of a mental pain, triggered by physical pain than the other way around?
Would they understand this stems from years of crippling insecurity and anxiety?
I decided probably not and kept my mouth shut. Karma continued to walk with me, calming me down by asking weird questions about Canada, and my life… trying to distract me so I could make it to Namche without dying. Soon conversation fell flat and I wasn’t hyperventilating anymore, so we walked along in silence. 40 Minutes felt like years but then I heard yak bells and looked up…
There it was: The stupa that marked the Entrance to Namche Bazaar.
And There it was: Everyone who I had previously yelled at, catching their breath and waiting for me. They all clapped, I kind of wished they would shut up, feeling super embarrassed and down on my luck, not feeling optimistic about the rest of the trek, I just wanted to get to the teahouse.
Which of course was up another fucking hill.
I know this ends on a miserable note, but as you know I had a glorious time in Sagarmatha National park so stay tuned next Thursday for the second half of this post!