People who have followed my blog know that I really try to avoid using clichés. It's very tempting to fall back on them, especially when writing about climbing. But there’s a concept that perfectly describes how to tackle a challenge that at first may seem insurmountable: break it down into smaller goals and take them on one at a time. That’s the way to climbing Mount Everest. I believe that’s also the way to start overcoming depression.
A two month-long expedition to climb the highest mountain in the world involves a lot of variables, many that are out of our control such as the weather, route conditions, rock fall, icefall collapses, crevasses, etc. No wonder it can seem at first like an impossible goal. It’s so easy to feel discouraged. For me the first step is to break down that huge challenge into smaller goals. Make each one clear and attainable. When I reach a goal, I call it a “Little Victory”. The goal for one day may be reaching camp 1 for the first time. During summit day I may have several goals every hour. Keep breathing... Keep moving your hands and feet to avoid frostbite. One of the goals I had for these last few days was arriving in Kathmandu without having any of my luggage lost by the airline (last year none of my 3 duffle bags arrived in Kathmandu with me and I only got all of them back 3 weeks into the expedition). Fortunately this time I had my Little Victory.
Another thing that I do is to identify which variables are completely outside of my control, like the weather, so I don’t stress over something I can’t change.
With depression you may feel that you are in a deep, dark emotional hole and making your way out is a hopeless task. Perhaps you feel you don’t even have the energy to start moving into the light. That you are too deep in it to get out. The key is also to break it down into smaller goals. In some extreme cases the goal may be to get through a whole day without crying or feeling worthless. That would be a Little Victory. For someone it may be to get out of bed and go for a walk. Another Little Victory. It’s also important to understand that with mood disorders, although at first it may not feel that way, things will eventually get better. Especially with support from family and friends, and the proper treatment. The Live Love Laugh Foundation's website has some essential information about understanding depression and how to begin your recovery.
So getting back to clichés: how to climb Mount Everest? One step at a time. Want to build the Great Wall of China? One brick at a time. Want to get over depression? One day at a time. A Little Victory.
For the last two days I’ve been in Pokhara, Nepal for some final training hikes and a few paragliding flights. Today I’m traveling back to Kathmandu to receive our Everest climbing permit from the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation. Then it’s off to Lukla and the Himalayas, and the highest mountain in the world. I’m looking forward to those Little Victories.