You already know what altitude sickness feels like

Altitude sickness feels a lot like your worst day

Altitude sickness feels a lot like your worst day

I often get asked what altitude sickness feels like.  After collapsing at 18,000 feet above sea level on the slopes of Kilimanjaro I have a pretty good idea.  But I don’t think you need to go all that way.  I'm betting that you already know what it feels like. The basic symptoms are straightforward enough; nausea, dizziness, headache.  Add on top of that confusion and frustration as your mind struggles to comprehend what's happening.  Still unsure what it feels like or how you might respond?  A recent personal experience reminded me, and it may help you too. A few months ago my best friend David died, and I've been struggling to make sense of it all (confusion).  My chest has been tight (difficulty breathing), my stomach twisted (nauseous), and I've struggled to keep my bearings (dizziness).  Yep, altitude sickness is just like the worst day you’ve ever had; the kind of day that made you feel like you'd been punched in the chest, knocked to the ground, and the air ripped  right out of your lungs.  Ever had a day like that?  Unfortunately, many of us have. So what do you do about it?  So far, the only thing I've uncovered is what I did on Kilimanjaro; you head down for a while.  You recover and when you're ready, you get back on the trail, head back up the hill and try again, one small step at a time. The second thing I'm learning from this experience is to look down every once in a while.  On Kilimanjaro I was upset because I didn’t make it the last 1,000 feet to the summit; so upset that I forgot all about the 5 amazing days I had on the mountain and the 18,000 feet I had already climbed to get there.  I recently stopped out to visit David's family; and if anyone has a right to lie flat on their back right now it's them.  But they weren't down and out, they were getting up.  Sure, they admit to having some pretty rough days after the loss of their father/husband.  But they also reminded me what a gift it was to have spent so much time with him.  While on their backs they were looking down the mountain to remember the wonderful journey that got them to this point.  I was on my back now, way up in the thin air.  But that's only because my friendship journey with David had been so spectacular and taken me so far. When I talk about failure I frequently remind people it's only a failure if you don't get up and learn from it.  But David's family put falling down into a new context for me.   Maybe when we fall down and feel like we're failing we should look back at all the successes that got us as far as they did.   And while my friend is gone, his friendship sure got me to the top of a lot of mountains.  And for that I'll always be grateful.
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  1. By Avoiding Altitude Sickness | Nav Mav Travel Blog on August 16, 2015 at 5:30 pm

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