by: Courtney Lynn
As I walk toward the beach at 6am in a shared wetsuit carrying an eight foot long surfboard I can smell the salty air. I still have a bag with me, with my water bottle in it, a snack and some other things- you know, just in case . The past couple of months I’d been away from home. Been all over France at the women’s World Cup with my incredible family, traveling through Portugal with my partner; been on buses and trains and planes and filled to capacity underground subways in 38 degree heat. I feel ridiculous in this skin tight super hero suit and in my head I am thinking ‘how the hell did I get here?’.
Only four years before this I was newly sober, in rehab , experiencing very ill mental health. I went into drug treatment, got clean and everything was supposed to be bright and sunny and exciting but I was broken, naked and weak. I found myself completely absorbed and overwhelmed by intrusive thoughts, obsessions and compulsive routines. I could feel everything. I was awake again - and it reminded me of why I tried to hide from myself, tried to stay asleep for so long. I was afraid of everything. And everything I did or thought related to everything else in the entire world. Every step I took or didn’t take or took or didn’t take or took or didn’t take or TOOK OR DIDN’T TAKE had the weight of the world on it. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, i couldn’t speak, i couldn’t sing. I could hardly breathe. It got worse and worse and I needed help just to leave my flat. Sometimes I would be stuck for days in one spot , filled with terror , chest tight eyes crying , EXHAUSTED and afraid to move in case I caused the death of a friend or family member. Spending all of my time doing all of these things that I knew didn’t make sense but I still HAD to do them. It was the most difficult and frustrating time of my life. Obsessive compulsive disorder had me wondering:
Will I ever be able to go outside? Will I be able to be alone without being terrified? Without getting lost? Will I ever leave this room?
I was nowhere near wondering:
Will I travel? Will I see the ocean?Will I have friends? Be social? Fall in love? Play my music? Be MYSELF?
I had to keep going through it.
I knew it was this journey or no journey at all.
I persevered through rehab taking a year and a half to complete a year long program with immense help from my key worker, my family and friends. I then went straight into intense mental health treatment.
Yes I became very ill but it prompted me to finally have to face my mental illnesses. It has taken years of staying sober, being open, being vulnerable, asking for help and accepting help, trying this medication and that medication and waiting and learning and fighting - years of finally giving myself a chance by taking my time in treatment - hours and hours of exposure therapy and tiny steps to have tiny victories.
I kept going and now I am living a life I NEVER could have dreamt of.
I am someone who wore earmuffs for two years through 30 degree summers. Who wore the same boots for seven years because I was so afraid of change. Who still wears the same black T-shirt’s that my Mum buys me because they help me feel safe.
And now I am at SURF CAMP????
I am scared. I am stressed. I am overwhelmed with what is supposed to take place, but I keep walking.
I even have these bright lime green goggles with me - for safety. The walk was only about ten minutes but I must have said a thousand nervous words about nothing to the already experienced Australian surfer girl who had never met me before and looked at me eyes wide like ‘are you serious right now , it’s 6am’. It felt like so long getting to that beach , the whole time wanting to drop the surfboard and run back to my tiny comfort zone.
I loved the idea of surfing, I didn’t know much about it but it looked cool and I remembered Jack Johnson did it.
So there I was on a beautiful beach in Portugal with a bunch of strangers having a surf lesson. Walking into THE OCEAN . Throwing my goggles aside. Putting my head under the water, ears and all and smiling the whole time.
By the end of the week I never stood up on the board in the water. I was never even close to surfing surfing - but I did catch a couple of waves and rode them to shore like a kid on a slip in slide. The best thing most incredible thing that I realised was that I COULD surf if I wanted to. I could do anything! I could go outside, I could sleep in a tent, I could make friends, I could share a circular food item, I could have fun, I could be in love.
I could be myself again.
It all gave me a sense of connection.
A reminder that I am ALIVE.
A reminder that I am part of this LIFE.
A reminder of the power of waves and tides and storms and that you can ride these things.
You can manage.
It is not all darkness and gloom and overwhelming chaos.
It is bright and alive and beautiful and INTENSE and it IS SOMETHING.
It is everything.
And everything is going to be okay.
“You can’t change the waves but you can learn how to surf.”
So keep surfing.