“The sea is emotion incarnate. It loves, hates, and weeps. It defies all attempts to capture it with words and rejects all shackles. No matter what you say about it, there is always that which you can’t.”― Christopher Paolini, Eragon
The ocean is moving. Do you feel it? Everything. All the time. Dimensions we can’t even see. Everything is evolving. What draws us to it? What power do we derive from her? More importantly, why is something so powerful and healing the very thing that we really cannot explore to the extent that we truly need to?
My own battle with debilitating anxiety and depression has ripped me apart, one fiber at a time. I am a firm believer that the ocean is what saved me from taking my own life. On a day when everything was against me, I found opened arms and vindication from a lifelong chemical imbalance within my own body. So now what do I with this gift? The only answer is to give back.
Our bodies are a wonder of engineering. Our body and mind, however, depend on each other for support. Like any symbiotic relationship, when one part falters, the other picks up the slack. This rarely produces a favorable result. Our brain relies on the chemicals that our body tells us to use. Without these chemicals, a person would simply cease to exist. Is it fair for an existence to be based upon the failed uptake of the vital balance that we can achieve and deserve? I refuse to believe that this global epidemic – one that takes more military lives than combat and more civilian lives than coronary heart disease, cancer, and HIV/AIDS – should be shrouded in silence.
I asked myself how I would get this message across. I set out to explore the world and create new, exciting adventures that I could document and distribute to all who needed to hear me. My road is the flow of the current and my vehicle is a glassed stick of foam. These days, I do not paddle for self promotion, nor do I focus the intent on my own personal struggle. Instead, I use it to garner a platform to speak and an audience to listen. If you are, in fact, reading this right now, then it is working. If you end up sharing, then you have made a conscious effort to join in my fight to overcome the silence and the stigma that accompanies traumatic mental illness.
Between 80 percent and 90 percent of people with depression respond positively to treatment. I came across a great article recently that showed how surfing is being used to treat children’s mental health issues in South Africa. Studies have also shown that sea salt, which has natural buffers in the form of essential minerals, nourishes the body with vital electrolytes that are stolen. Even more interesting is the use of vibro-acoustic therapy. Simply exposing patients to rhythmic oceanic sounds has shown to slow the heart rate and release endorphins. What is the correlation between our own mental health and this mix of scientific and spiritual remedies that the ocean provides? My school of thought does not come so much from a religious or existential standpoint, but more so a realist’s view of the world. Perhaps the answer lies within the ocean’s mystery. I believe that the respect and admiration that we have for these great bodies of water is our draw to it. In turn, it allows our own bodies, made mostly of water, to repair and replenish. I’ve concluded that if we no longer look in awe at the overwhelming construct that is our Mother Ocean, what can we take from it that will feed our own soul? I, personally, will be visiting often!
To get involved, visit www.AreYouInspiredYet.com to keep up on recent events, articles, videos, fundraisers, and inspiration. Will Schmidt is currently raising funds to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project through crowd funding following a successful solo stand up paddle of the West Coast of the United States from Canada to Mexico. Future expeditions are currently in the planning stages.