Sometimes, for whatever reason, life throws us misfortunes and hardships, and we are called upon to dig deep, to get through them.

These misfortunes could be serious health issues, relationship problems, financial crises… or all three.  They could be depression, or anxiety… having a child with a disability, a job you despise, addiction, or the loss of someone dear.  We all have issues.

I think of life as a series of mountains and valleys.  When we are climbing the mountains, we feel exhausted.  We are challenged to our very limits.  We sometimes question our faith, and our own abilities… do we have what it will take to get to the top of this particular mountain?  The fear and doubt add weight to our already heavy burden.

When life is going well, when we have reached the other side of our mountain, and are comfortably sitting in our valley, we try hard to forget about the mountain we have climbed… for it has left us with profound sadness, and maybe even guilt, shame, blame, and regret.

Here’s the thing, though.  We can take steps to make room for those emotions that don’t serve us, so they don’t ruin our lives. Guilt has its purpose… don’t get me wrong. It might be useful, for example, if you are a serial killer. But most of us are doing the best we can, with what we know, and these feelings only serve to beat us down, and steal our joy.

We can learn to take the wisdom we earned from our journey up that mountain… the empathy we gained, the strengths we built… we can take all of that, and use it to help others, who are climbing up similar mountains. Or we can use it to create a better version of US… our BEST selves… and we can choose to let go of the rest.  We can.  We don’t need to carry those other burdens for the rest of our lives.

The best way I know to recover from climbing a steep mountain is to use the pain we endured to help others in some way.  There are always people climbing mountains who think they are the only ones climbing them. Joining with those people, “seeing” them, may seem like a simple act, but can mean the world to someone who feels profoundly alone in their suffering. Sharing that you survived… how you survived… is equally powerful.

And here’s another thing. When we get to the top of whatever mountain we are climbing… we can stop for a moment, and celebrate. We can reflect on what it took for us to get there, and give ourselves some credit for our endurance, our strength, our courage, our authenticity… whatever it took for us to get there.  We will need that reserve of satisfaction, of inner-peace, of self-worth, when we are called upon to climb another mountain.

I am climbing a mountain, of sorts, right now.  My mountain is teaching me that I can live and enjoy a very simple life. The “things” that were once important to me, have become virtually meaningless.  I can live, quite joyfully, with a mattress on the floor, and a folding table and chair.  I am grateful that I also have coffee, and food to eat, and some art supplies to play with.  But what truly matters to me are the relationships I have with my family, and my dear friends, and my pets.

My mountain is also strengthening my belief that joy comes from within.  On the most challenging of days, I can choose to find tiny sparkles of joy.  Sometimes I have to look very hard to find them, and sometimes I have to create them, myself.  But I never fail to find them.

If you are tired of feeling tired… if you’ve been living with the burdens of guilt and shame and blame and regret… if you don’t believe that you deserve to live a joyful life, or just can’t seem to get there… let’s talk.  I’d love to share my mountain wisdom with you. ~ Kat

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About the Author: Katherine Cosimano
I have a Master of Clinical Social Work, currently licensed as an ACSW, LCSW in both Florida and North Carolina. I am also a Certified Art Healer. In addition to treating clients in a private practice setting for nearly ten years, I worked for many years in a nonprofit setting, and as an elementary school counselor. I have worked at a Hospice Children's Program, at an inpatient psychiatric hospital, and as an Emergency Room Patient Advocate at The Cleveland Clinic in Stuart, FL. I served as an individual therapist to students and teachers directly affected by the mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, and I am currently working with students and teachers affected by the school mass shooting in Uvalde, TX. I am a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). I volunteer teaching art therapy to residents of Transformation Village of Buncombe County, I manage a Question and Answer Page at a nonprofit organization called Arms Around Autism Spectrum Disorder. For many years I was a member of the International Critical Incident Stress Management Team, which provides trauma and crisis intervention to first responders following disasters and other traumatic events. I have been a Disaster First Responder, was part of the Disaster Action Team, and a Shelter Manager for the American Red Cross for over ten years.

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