I’ve done a lot of firsts this past couple years and I added one more to the list this past week. I went sailing for the first time ever and even took the helm of the sailboat for quite a ways. What went from being completely uninterested in pursuing this particular hobby in the future turned into a feeling of this isn’t so bad. Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) introduced alumni to the sport of sailing during our Soldier Ride event weekend in Tampa, Florida. We split up in teams of five and each sailed in the Tampa Bay with an instructor from the St. Petersburg Sailing Center in St. Petersburg, Florida.
I had an interesting experience on the sailboat. Initially I had anxiety about this new activity and my fear of getting sea sick because I do in fact get sea sick. But I took some dramamine to stave off that illness. And it worked. I didn’t want to get sick and have it prevent me from enjoying the here and now. We were sailing in the Tampa Bay and it was beautiful. Then it became a fear of feeling out of control. The sailboat would tip quite drastically at times in both directions and feel as if it was going to flip over. I was not having a good time and could feel the panic begin to set it. It was bringing tears to my eyes. I admitted to the group that I was having a hard time because of a loss of control.
Both the instructor and the group of veterans had the best response to my experience. First an Alumni member told me that it was really good that I was aware of what was happening to me and how my Post Traumatic Stress was impacting me. I told him that I was pretty good at self assessment. Then the instructor suggested that I take the helm because it would help me regain the feeling of control. Although I was scared to take the helm, I did it anyway. And it worked. I offered to share the helm with the others so they could have an opportunity but they unselfishly supported me bringing us back to shore. We all witnessed it help alleviate my symptoms. These are the kind of learning experiences that are priceless when you are with others who understand how Post Traumatic Stress manifests itself.
The experiences I have had with fellow WWP Alumni, staff, and contracted instructors has been invaluable. In every instance where I was having a hard time in the situation, I have been supported by loving, understanding, and caring people. It has helped me not feel ashamed because my experiences are validated. People just get it and lovingly help me through it. I can tell by their genuineness that they truly understand what it is like to not be in control of anxiety and panic. Their responses to me help me accept a new normal and together we learn how to cope with it as opposed to let it stop us from enjoying the moment. The activities we do help us work through Post Traumatic Stress and gain confidence in trying new things that may just be the hobby we didn’t know we had a passion for.