Anxious, introverted, shy - How Climbing Allowed Me to Break Through and Find My Truest Self

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Anxiety - Intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations.

Introvert - Prefers time alone in order to recharge their inner being. Interacting with people and attention to multiple sources of stimuli tends to draw down an introverts energy causing them to eventually withdraw to spend time alone to re- energize

Shy - Being reserved or having or showing nervousness or timidity in the company in the company of other people.

All of the above describe me, Christina. I am also a 39 year old single mother, avid hiker, climber and aspiring mountaineer.

Spring of 2016, I started hiking in hopes that it would help with my anxiety and quickly fell in love with being outside. I had only one friend who would hike with me but as her other priorities took precedence she was unable to escape into the mountains. I was at a loss, so I began using social media as a way to make new hiking friends. Some worked out and some didn't - honestly, it kind of felt like online dating.

February 2017, I learned how to rock climb at a gym with one of my guy friends. It was apparent early on that men and women climb differently. I wanted to climb higher grades but I couldn’t just muscle through like most of my guy friends. I needed to find other women to climb with, to learn from, but I had no idea how to make friends as an adult? Especially, when I suffer from anxiety, shyness and I’m an introvert? The anxiety of making new friends was so overwhelming that I didn’t, I just continued to learn from my guy friends.  

One day they took me to climb outside and I fell in love immediately! In that instant I knew I needed to buy my own gear and find some ladies who loved to climb. But still, that question came about in my head again, how do I make friends?

2018 I set high goals for myself. I was going to make new friends in the outdoor community, I was going to start mountaineering, and I was going to learn how to be a strong rock climber. I had this fire burning inside me and it burned brighter and stronger than what was actually happening in my everyday life - family, friends, work, single mom balance. One day I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw an event for She Moves Mountains’ Rock Climbing and Yoga Retreat. I was on board immediately.  Heck, I've been practicing yoga for 6 years and I fell in love with rock climbing, this clinic had my name written all over it! I asked all of my friends if they would want to join me, but received the "yeah, but it’s too expensive" or "I'm interested" but no follow through. So I said to myself, don't wait for others, this is your dream and your goals... GO AFTER IT. I signed up. Not only for the retreat, but for the Peaks of Life Mt. Rainer all women’s climb, and for the Alpine Ascents all women's 6 day mountaineering course. Go big or Go home right?! I was going to crush goals and make friends.

June 1st 2018, I started my drive to Smith Rock for the She Moves Mountains Rock Climbing and Yoga Retreat. It was my first road trip by myself. I arrived late to the opening campfire where there was an overwhelming number of women. Much to my relief, everyone came on their own. We sat around and introduced ourselves, sharing our occupation, why we signed up for the retreat and what we are hoping to get out of the weekend. Lizzy started us off, sharing about adventures and struggles with depression, rock climbing and its therapeutic nature. So many women with great careers, ER doctors, Nurses, Physician Assistants,  Veterinarians, and more. I started to feel anxious. How could I, Christina, Dental assistant of 17 years have anything in common with all of these wonderful, smart women. I didn’t feel good enough. We all went to bed, and I slept OK. I woke up feeling extremely emotional and I decided to call the guy I was dating after everyone in my room left and cried on the phone. I finally got myself together and went downstairs to have some coffee. I ran into a grumpy morning Lizzy and I learned that I wasn't the only one who needed coffee before interactions with other humans. That small moment helped calm me. We drove to Smith Rock and broke into our groups, I was still the quiet one. I was nervous that the women would get "clickish", leaving me out. The scars of high school bullying causing even more anxiety.

Once we got on the rock my anxiety began to dissipate. We all became equal, we all became each others cheerleaders, most importantly, we all were supporting one another. I quickly fell in love with the climbing at Smith Rock. This place stole my heart on day one. After climbing we all met up for some evening yoga in the grass.

Dinner was fun, we ate, we drank, and we all told stories about our day. I once again became emotional talking about my first day. Geez, I'm such a cry baby!

Finally slept well and the morning was even better, NO CRYING! Second day of climbing was phenomenal.

I met so many wonderful women that weekend. I was inspired by my guides Lizzy and Katie to create a rock climbing group in Washington, so women like me, anxious, shy and introverted, could find climbing partners and make new friendships (belaytionships).

After that retreat I began climbing outside regularly, planning meet ups for women, and pushing my climbing. I came back in the fall to She Moves Mountains’ end of season event with the goal of leading a 10a! My guide Sarah chose the climb and my group cheered me on. I cried at the crux (always crying), in disbelief that I actually made the 5.10 move. I made it to the anchors and asked to be lowered. This time crying because of pure joy.

I've met some of the greatest humans through all of these experience. And I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.

If you want to follow along with Christina’s adventures you can find her on Instagram at @christinawalker24

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