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Jill Wheatley - Visually impaired, traumatic brain injury survivor. Adventuring in the mountains

Renata Chlumska  - Adventure athlete who became the first Swedish and Czech woman to climb Mount Everest and in 2005 did a circumnavigate of the lower 48 States of the United States by her own power.

“In the blink of an eye, I went from being an active, autonomous athlete to  suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that took 70% of my vision and nearly my life. Now I aim to be mindful in every moment and strive to make every second count while adventuring in mountains around the world.”

Jill in her own words:

“On a day that began like any other in a high school Physical Education class, September 2014 began an expedition of survival. A line drive, a hardball to the head, began a climb testing personal strength and human potential. A medical team, hundreds of hands from 7 hospitals across 3 countries, guided me towards a peak that felt impossible to climb, traumatic brain injury (TBI). While I craved to climb alone, they got me to the summit but my work was just getting started. Now I am traversing an avalanche triggered by the TBI which left me days from death, with 70% vision loss and a life threatening eating disorder.

No mountain can challenge me the way traumatic brain injury has. I chose to adventure in massifs around the world with the intention to adapt to vision loss and acceptance of the trail my life had taken.

From surviving to thriving, I have run, climbed, and skied my way around the world embracing the 30% vision I am fortunate to have. My trails have connected with the Andorra Pyrenees, Italian Dolomites, French and Swiss Alps, Slovenia’s Julian Alps, Iceland, India and Nepal Himalaya, New Zealand, Argentina, Peru, and the American Rockies.

As a traumatic brain injury survivor and visually impaired athlete adventuring in mountains around the world, I have a complex story of resilience to share. Speaking to resilience, head injuries, eating disorders, visual impairments, trauma, or mental health or simply sharing my story, I can make connections through authentic tales of my trails from depths of darkness to adventuring in the highest of the Himalayas.”

CONTENT WARNING - We discuss; Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), eating disorders, anxiety, PTSD and thoughts of suicide.

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Show notes

  • Speaking to us from Nepal

  • Who is Jill in her own words

  • Growing up in a sporty, adventurous family

  • Becoming a teacher and following her passion for travel

  • Teaching in Singapore, Russia, Switzerland and Germany

  • Taking advantage of the opportunity to travel

  • September 2018 and how her life changed in an instant

  • Being hit by a hard ball on the side of her head

  • Going to hospital and being send home

  • Ending up in intensive care with a bleeding and swelling brain

  • Dealing with a Traumatic Brain Injury

  • Finding out she would never see out of her right eye again

  • Losing depth perception

  • The impact the TBI has had on her appetite and relationship with food

  • Seeing multiple specialists and spending a lot of time in hospital

  • Starting to get her independence back while in Colorado

  • Looking out to the mountains

  • Feeling very lost and grieving her past life

  • Needing to go and heal in the mountains

  • Starting to travel again

  • Creating a blueprint and plan for the future

  • Being open to change….

  • Falling in love with Nepal and being inspired to get back into running

  • Not wanting to share her story

  • Being authentic with her feelings and being vulnerable

  • Starting her website and starting to share her story

  • Not wanting to do social media

  • Accepting that her life had changed

  • Testing herself at altitude

  • Getting connected with the running and climbing community in Nepal

  • Dealing with pneumonia

  • Starting to climb higher in the Himalayas

  • Planning to climb mountains over 6,000 metres

  • Dealing with covid in Nepal and being in lockdown for 8 months

  • Trying ice-climbing in early 2020

  • Escaping the lockdown and heading up into the mountains

  • Not being able to run while in rundown and having to try different types of training while indoors

  • Losing her father suddenly and supporting her family from afar

  • Spending time alone in the mountains

  • Training to climb the 8th highest mountain in the worlds - Manasulu

  • Visa’s for Nepal and being on a student visa

  • Managing depth perception while climbing mountains

  • Spending time in the mountains as part of the healing process

  • Acceptance of what’s happened?

  • Dealing with dark days and using different tools to help manage the feelings

  • Why meditation is a significant part of her daily practice

  • Hiding behind her sunglasses and not being comfortable with the way she looks

  • Being a work in progress and being aware of her mindset and thoughts

  • The good wolf and the bad wolf - choosing which one to feed

  • Wanting to build on the good

  • Connecting with Jill


Social Media

Instagram: @mtnsofmymind

Twitter: @mtnsofmymind


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