I went away this weekend to do a trail run. 55km – so for the Americans that’s 34.17 miles! It was intense, full of inclines and rocky pathways. At one point we had to wade thigh high through water to cross a small creek! I went with a friend – JS – a fellow survivor- and she was a machine. This woman completely undersold herself leading up to the event. Not only was she faster and more energetic than me, but she just had a terrific attitude. Mentally I found it incredibly tough. Don’t get me wrong at some points there were waves of ecstasy and elation, but then plummets of pain and mental and physical torture. I had recently done a virtual marathon, on the road, but trail runs are something else. It was fascinating how depleted my body got of energy and so I learnt to nibble on energy food (protein balls, caffeine sticks, little vegemite sandwiches), and drink water and basically do whatever I needed to, to get through. JS was motivating me the whole time and it was remarkable, although sometimes emotional. I felt like I was letting her down, I wasn’t good enough, I was too weak etc etc and she just gently pushed me. “Long power strides uphill”, she would say. “Little shuffle run steps when you can”, “keep going, you’re doing good, you’re a champion.” The scenery was incredible. So diverse and luscious. It kept changing. We ran over sand, the beach, water, mud, steep gravel hills, rocks and grass. We just kept running and nibbling and sipping water for just under ten hours. I tried so many strategies to keep focused/ 100 things I was grateful for, a mantra about God being love, power, strength and sound mind, that I kept repeating over and over again. And JS just pushed me and made me not give up. It was so hard. In the last 2km we got lost and I nearly burst into tears, I felt like I had let JS down for taking so long. We ended up running 57km (35 or so miles!) and added about half hour to our time. It was so emotional and draining. But we found the finish line in just under ten hours and crossed it and got awarded medals! My body ached and cramped and I have been hobbling since but I’ve been on a high as it was an incredible achievement. JS has taught me so much, about resilience and kindness. I hope one day I can be as kind and strong as her.
Survivors are so complex and full of contradiction. Like me this woman suffers suicidal ideation and depression. The programming is very intense for her and I am a few years ahead in a recovery journey, so sometimes the effects of the abuse can be more profound for JS in terms of where she’s at right now. But yesterday she just took charge and showed me how strong and capable she truly is. Yet I know her daily life contradicts her true strength and that it can be so hard to live. The dichotomies of self are hard to navigate, to accept and to harmonize. It is humbling to see this tension within my self and to see it played out so clearly by another survivor friend.