Five years ago, Nick Allen was in a wheelchair with limited mobility. Now, he’s climbing peaks in the Himalayas and redefining what it means to live with multiple sclerosis.
Wilderness caught up with Allen, one of our Outdoor Heroes profiled in January 2016, to hear about his upcoming book, To the Summit, and how his story is serving as an inspiration to others who live with MS.
What’s the book about?
It’s about my journey with MS; when problems started, getting diagnosed, and then getting better. The book is framed in my trip to India and Nepal last year, where I climbed two 6000m peaks.
What did you learn from your experience climbing in the Himalayas?
The first peak I climbed, I was really focused on the summit as the destination. When food poisoning kept me from making it to the summit, I was so disappointed. But on the second peak, I was focused on just having a good time. It was a far more enjoyable experience, whereas putting the summit as the destination put pressure on, psychologically and mentally. That was the big takeaway; learning to enjoy the journey, rather than focusing on the destination.
What were some of the challenges of writing this book?
Confronting emotion. I realised how much I hadn’t dealt with properly, and so it was one of the tougher things – dealing with all these crazy emotions and re-living some of those hard moments. It was actually quite good, because rather than just shoving it under the carpet, it allows you to empathise with people more.
How have you adventures inspired others living with MS?
I get a lot of emails from people.There’s a woman emailing me who is 25 and has just been diagnosed. She writes about a sense of hopelessness and frustration. My advice to her is to not give up hope – that’s a big thing for me. And, to look outside the conventional medical model, because while the neurologist is brilliant at diagnosing you and giving you medication, past that they don’t interact with you much. So looking outside that – lifestyle management for example – is really key.
The other thing is to have goals to work towards, because the whole process of trying to manage your lifestyle and going to the gym is long, it’s hard, it’s discouraging – but to have a goal brings a lot of meaning to the hard stuff.