Climbing the Metaphorical Mountain

Emily Sutton by Emily Sutton Additional Needs

Emily Sutton

Emily Sutton

I was launched into the world of special needs on New Year's Eve 2012, on the birth of my son, Jenson. He is fabulous, sprightly and loving, and ha...

“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” Edmund Hillary

Perhaps you knew the moment your baby was born.  Or perhaps a doctor sat you down one day and gave you The News.  In that very moment your destiny, and destination, changes forever.

In the beginning it is a very emotional affair.  One emotion that almost all parents will feel is DESPAIR.

Where on Earth do I go from here? How on Earth will life go on?

Your search box is filled with text that you didn't know existed last week.  Words with far too many letters; words you can’t even pronounce.

All you can see is a mountain in front of you, so high that you can't see the top.  So steep that you only see a wall.  The ground is rugged, uninhabited, sharp and dangerous. No human would choose to climb this mountain.

But slowly, after what could be days or months, the realisation comes over you that you have no choice.  In order to proceed with life, and for the sake of your family, you must climb this mountain.  You’ve got to climb it with no ropes or devices, no user manual, no training.

You hear distant voices coming from the top of the mountain.  People encouraging you, cheering you on, urging you forward.  They are sending you well wishes and virtual postcards from the summit.

You google 'top of the mountain' but the results are too scary and daunting for you to deal with right now.

You see some distant figures making the climb above you.  You catch sight of some who are clambering effortlessly, while others seem to be slipping down the shingle and making little progress. But all of them are beckoning eagerly, telling you to keep on climbing.

The people at the top are hollering to you that it's great up here.  They are telling you to keep your spirits up and stay positive.  You find it really difficult to believe them.

You challenge them with questions that you aren’t sure you want to hear the answers to.  You desperately want to hear the success stories, the heart-warming tales.  You aren’t ready to listen to tales of those who fell off the mountain.

You want to hear that each and every warrior making that journey reached the top and lived happily ever after.

Finally, finally, after what seems like five hundred years condensed into five minutes, you reach the mountain’s peak.

Words cannot express the euphoria you feel.  You have finally reached a place of acceptance, a feeling of peace and serenity.  You feel like you are home.

Not only does it feel like home, but you cannot even remember your former home.  It’s like you chose this place; this place chose you; and now you would not choose to live elsewhere, even if the choice was presented to you.

Some days the view is amazing.  You still find yourself gasping at the breath-taking little things that you could never really see from back down on the ground.   Some days, there is a rainbow so stunning it catches your breath.

Other days you are exposed to the harsh climate of the mountain top; the relentless rain and the blistering sun. The harsh and cruel storms and destruction that no person should normally be exposed to.

But as those storms pass, you once again see the sparkle of the paradise in which you reside.

You glance down at the rest of the world going about their lives on the ground, most of whom are unaware of the realities of life up here on the mountain top.

You send regular updates to friends and family, and sometimes they even come to visit.  But they don't get to see and truly understand the miracle of this place like you do.  They don't comprehend when you try to explain, the magnitude of the mountain and of the journey you undertook to get here.

Only those who stand alongside you here on this summit will ever truly know how you are feeling, what you have experienced, how you feel fear and how you rejoice in life.

From time to time, you hear a distant voice calling you from down on the ground.  You look down and see yourself, a few months or years ago. That person, and the family stood there around them: that was you.

You shout down the same words of encouragement that were once shouted down to you. The family send you the very same questions that you once sent.

And of course, you answer them with the same patience, understanding and empathy as yours had once been answered.

A little while later, that family comes to join you.  And life goes on.


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