What inspires me and gets my blood pumping, minus the neuroanatomy & physiology lesson…

I was just watching some ice climbing, rock climbing, and skiing videos on YouTube and it got me so psyched!!!  Something in those videos inspires me.  It’s the unknown.  It’s the adventure.  It’s the hard work.  It’s the rare moment of stillness realized in the midst of chaos and the possibility of death that makes me more alive than at any other time.  It’s both the camaraderie and the solitude of the action.  There are lots of things that get me psyched when I watch these videos, because I feel how much sweat, effort, strength, exhaustion, doubt, confidence, emotion, hope, tears, uncertainty, and danger goes into it.  And then to conquer something deep within yourself, to progress and grow as a human being regardless of how the dream turns out…  I know that full well from other experiences in my life.  I’m a novice at climbing, yes, but just from my experiences climbing outdoors, I have some idea of how my wartime experiences as a machine-gunner in the Middle East translate into the experiences at the crag.  It’s interesting, as a matter of fact, how similar the two are.  You battle against yourself in both.  That’s the bottom line.  I much prefer climbing over killing under orders, but at the root of it all, there are some common threads.  You gamble with your life.  Your survival instincts kick in and you have to control your responses under intense pressure and danger to yourself and possibly others.  You have to keep thinking rationally, making critical decisions, and continue moving to stay alive – there is no stopping.  There is no room for error or panic.  Decisiveness and razor-sharp focus, coupled with every bit of physical strength and skill you’ve got are what save you in a crisis.  Others share your experiences through their own and through watching you, but only you know deep inside what really happened.  Those feelings are at your core, the emotions raw, whether good or bad…  I find all of that in climbing.

I have PTSD from serving in the military, and climbing is giving me my life back.  Climbing is a healthy outlet where I can let go of the trauma and just be in the moment and do something I love.  I thrive on climbing, and I have friends who want to see me succeed, and I them.  The adventure of it, the challenge of it, the absolute joy I feel while I’m doing it…climbing holds all of that for me.  It is a Godsend for me – my lifeblood.  The intensity of the focus and the technical physical components help me to shove all of the negative past experiences away and I gain freedom and joy for a time.  The psych lasts for a period of time after the climb, too, which further frees me from the horrors of the past that constantly plague my mind.  I used to think that there was no way back for my soul from where I had ended up after the military.  I wanted to go back to the Middle East and have an eternal deployment there where I could pay for the torment or have it ended by a well-placed bullet.  I was convinced that the torment would never end, even if I did manage to get killed.  Now, with climbing, I’m never so alive as when I feel the most uncertain.  My limbic system processes fear differently than it did all those years ago.  My system thrives on danger, uncertainty, and the unknown once I’m in it.  Through climbing, I can place myself there and, instead of feeling horror, terror, nausea, guilt, and shame, I can feel life, happiness, and freedom!  I can feel joy!  I can feel again!  Climbing has saved my life, and all I want now is more of both – life and climbing, climbing and life – for as long as possible to reach my full potential in both!!!  I believe in redemption for the first time in my life…

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