Feeling: LIKE DEATH
Yesterday I honestly thought I was going to die.
Melodramatic? Perhaps. But when you’re up in altitude it can do funny things to you.
I’d been on top of the world before lunch. Absolutely ecstatic, singing and dancing and bantering with the guide boys. Then after our hour-or-so stop, I just hit the wall.
It was only a max two hour trek to our night’s lodgings so I tried to soldier through without making a fuss. I had my IPod in and just concentrated on going forward foot by foot. Halfway through, I had a massive dizzy spell and felt extremely under the weather. Thirty minutes out, my stomach gurgled and my bowels busted out. (Behind a big rock at the top of a hill; as Sarah said, someone had to be first!).
Josh also wasn’t in a good way, headachy and fatigued. Everyone rallied around us, Sarah holding my arm and aiding me onwards. But the panic had set in and my mind was a mess.
You’re walking your last steps. You’re going to die here. The lump on your head is going to burst and bleed in your brain. This is your last breath.
I don’t know where it was coming from, it was just coming hard and fast. My heart was going a million miles a second, let alone minute. I was absolutely terrified. (Here just be aware that sometimes this has occurred when I have par taken in certain substances in the past; when I am extremely exhausted and am just not with it; also occasionally when driving or on a plane. A small, very slight part of me tried to remind myself that this was not a first occurrence of such dire dismality).
We finally got to the hotel and I paced for a while before Ram made me sit down. Then it was like I switched into survival mode: YOU NEED FOOD.
I strode to the shelf of edible items in the lounge and was in despair at the options. Pringles, Twix, Bounty, fizzy drinks, beer or biscuits. (Fuck a beer would’ve gone down a treat). But for once ED didn’t even attempt to speak up. I grabbed a snack pack of coconut biscuits and demolished them.
All I wanted was to sleep. My eyes kept blinking slower and slower. But Ram said not to nap; staying awake was what was best, getting as warm as possible and getting hot beverages into me.
My tummy was AWOL. All went straight through. Sarah helped me get changed and afterwards I lay on her lap and made her promise if anything happened, to make sure my suitcase of presents and my phone got back to my mum. She had to upload all the posts waiting to be blogged, and download my photos.
After a fair few hours, I slowly came back. Not completely all there, but I could smile and not be in terror about “seeing the light”. I felt like the movie Inception, unsure of what was real. It was truly a trance-like, slightly delusional state. (Actually rather funny: we were all in the lounge – me in three pairs of leggings, two thermals, my down jacket, my insulated jacket, so many socks and my sleeping bag – and “Chuck” was being all hard man, saying about how risking the ice is fun and all sorts of bullshit. In my out-of-myself zone, I piped up, “Mate, you’re a bloody idiot. Lying here listening makes me just think you’re a tosser”. All the others burst out in pearls of laughter and later in privacy high fived me. They assured me he was absolutely asking for it. I later did apologise to him, whereupon he responded tautly, “Nothing can offend me”. Righty-o).
Later I sat with Ram and talked my meltdown over with him. I explained how I think I had a slight onslaught of altitude symptoms, and I flew into hectic mind mode. He told me, “You’re here. Enjoy your holiday. Don’t think about home or panic about being sick.” So I didn’t.
But when I went to bed, I worked myself into a tizz. What if I died in my sleep? Like the boy from my primary school in Wellington who the Pohutakawa tree was named after? What if this was it?
I went and stood outside under the velvet starry sky. I prayed my heart out. To Nanna, Bampga, Max Pop, Jarrod, each and all at once. I suddenly thought of Hunny Bunny, my lop-eared rabbit when I was thirteen. Was this how she felt in her last moments?
(I need to embed here: I’m one hundred per cent aware of how ridiculous I sound. Right now writing this, I feel like a nitwit).
I went back to bed and wrote the PopYarns password in my diary for Deb, should the need arise (always so organised). Then I got into bed.
I awoke at 9pm (we are all conking out at 8 at latest here) sweaty in my zillion layered cocoon and bursting for the bathroom. I stripped off, relieved myself then slept.
I woke up this morning at 6am. I’d love to say I was all carefree, jolly and bounded out of bed but alas; my old friend anxiety had settled in.
An acclimitaisation day, all on the agenda was a three hour haul up the hill to hit 4700m. My mind was frantic and my breathing shallow. I was panicked and on edge.
It suddenly struck me. This was how I was every single morning before I went to India. Every single fucking day! But because it was normality I didn’t note just how frenzied I was.
I looked up at the sun, took deep belly breaths, then climbed repeating over and over:
“I’m so happy, healthy and here.”
And slowly, it worked. The panic subsided. The joy stirred and rose up. UltraPop appeared.
And now, hours on? I’m full of life. Mate, there’s no way I’m heading to the light yet. I’ve got to light up this world yet!
I’m happy. I’m healthy. I’m here.