Grateful for my friends

For the past week I’ve walked the Cape to Cape Trek in Western Australia. A 135km trek along the south-western most corner of Australia, along the Indian Ocean.

I walked the Cape to Cape to raise awareness and much needed funds for The Gidget Foundation. The money raised by me and the small team of people who walked the track with me will help fund psychiatric sessions for new parents who are finding it hard to adjust. If you read My Mental Health Journey, you’ll know this a cause near and dear to my own heart.

There were eight of us on my trek and eight this week’s too. Together between the 16 of us, we’ve raised $26,000 so far for The Gidget Foundation’s ‘Start Talking’ service.

Over the week I learned a lot about myself and my fellow trekkers. We are all on different life journeys, each facing our own obstacles, our own challenges. But for one short week, we were thrown together to learn from each other and to support each other.

As the week progressed, we talked. We talked at camp, we talked out on the track. We talked while sitting high above the cliffs, watching whales cavort in the ocean beneath us. We talked and learned more about each other and our lives. We became friends.

I loved walking the track and talking with the others. I also loved the scenery each day – the landscapes, the ocean views, the forests, the cliffs, the wildflowers in bloom. Each day was different.

Day 5 was one of my favourite.

We began the day in Prevally, just south of Margaret River and walked a few kilometres in to Boodjidup Brook. The brook itself is a sacred women’s area for the local aboriginal people. It’s where they traditionally would have come to give birth and it seemed only fitting that our group visit it. It is such a peaceful place. Quiet and calm, with beautiful softly flowing waters over a sandy bed. Tall trees providing shade and guarding the site.

Our guide for the day, Heather, spoke a bit of Noongar, the local Aboriginal language and as we entered the space she called out to the spirits to let us pass peacefully. She explained that we were all good mothers and that we meant no harm. As we all stood and soaked up the atmosphere I wished I could have given birth to my children somewhere as beautiful and calm and serene in the hands of women older than me who would have guided the process. All of the plants in the area are known for their medicinal properties. And the peppermint trees in the area were used to make all kinds of womens’ tools.

From there we pushed on to the coast, each of us in our thoughts about what we’d seen and learned.

Hiking in a group can be challenging. Everyone hikes at different speeds and want to get different things out of their hike. Our group had a rule where if you didn’t want to talk, if you needed space or some time alone, you put headphones on while you were hiking. Whether you listened to anything on them or not was your choice but the rest of the group knew to not bother you and to leave you be.

I shoved my headphones in and started thinking about my body. I came to realise that for the first time in a very long time, I’m at peace with my body.

Not only am I at peace, I really love it.

For years I tried to ignore my body. As a teenager I was very body conscious and of course was teased and tormented by boys at school. Then I started being hit on by men who thought I was older than I was. As the years progressed, I allowed my body to be an external object, to be judged by others.

But now I am much more aware of my body, what it is capable of doing for me and what it isn’t. Being diagnosed with coeliac disease seven years ago helped a lot. When I first had the diagnosis, I was relieved. For almost a year before I had the diagnosis, I had myself convinced that I either had stomach or bowel cancer and I wasn’t going to have treatment. I hated my body, my life, I hated me.

Eating gluten free has meant that my body now absorbs the nutrients it needs from the food I eat. For years, I had iron injections weekly and B12 injections fortnightly. I haven’t had an injection in seven years. The mind fog I had lived my life in (without even realising it) lifted. My moods evened out. I stopped contemplating ways to end my life. I stopped taking anti-depressants.

And once the brain fog was gone I was able to look at my life differently. Make choices that served me rather than serving everyone else in my life and draining me. I had the courage to take one leap of faith after another. I returned to who I remember I was when I was a kid.

Now that I work with my body, feeding it well, nourishing it with fresh air and exercise that I love, like walks with Reg, I realise how amazing it really is.

It’s taken me around the world more times than I can count. It’s gestated and birthed and fed two gorgeous human beings. And this week it took me on a completely different adventure. It held up well with only a bit of knee trouble from the soft sand hiking and one gigantic blister on my little toe.

I’m so grateful my body did this hike.

I have a friend back home who followed my progress on Facebook. She was one of the most active people I know but is no longer able to walk due to a life limiting illness that is affecting her entire body. Before I left Canberra she asked me to think of her and hike one day of the track for her. On Sunday night, I shared a bit of her story with my team members and they all decided that we would walk in honour of her on Monday. Monday ended up being the shortest distance day, but the most difficult for most of us emotionally and mentally. It was wonderful to have thoughts of my friend in our heads, mentally propelling us forward. When we stopped for lunch, we took a team photo just for her. One of my team members was struggling even more than the rest of us, but she kept on, saying that she was doing it for my friend.

I was thinking of this same friend as I finished day 5 and how she would have loved to do this track. My body can do amazing things. I’m glad I’ve made peace with it at last. And while I can, I’m taking as many adventures as possible.

I’ve thought of so many of my friends as I’ve traversed the track. I’ve reflected on how grateful I am that they are in my life and help and support me on my journey. So many people love me and help me each day in numerous ways.

On the track, we had each other’s backs. Each one of us was struggling by the end. But we were determined that we would finish as a team. One team member was suffering terribly from tendonitis in her knee. Her dad carried her day pack for her all day strapped to the front of him, while carrying his own on his back. We made a moving handrail for her out of a tree branch and she used it to have something to hold on to as she had to climb over rocks. Each of us helped her at different times during the day – keeping her spirits up and carrying her with us.

That’s what friends do. They lift you up, they have your back, they tell you the hard truths when you need to hear them, they hold space for you when you need that. So many of my friends from all over the world followed my track on Facebook and Instagram, sending me messages of support. I felt loved and supported all around.

Without my friends on the track my journey this week would have been very different. Without my friends around the world my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual journey through this lifetime would be very different.

This journey was one I needed to make for me. I’m proud I finished. I’m grateful for the experience and the support I received. I’m excited about what I’ve learned about myself. And I’m happy I’ve been able to help others. All in all, it’s been an amazing week and a wonderful adventure.

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