I never thought I'd be looking back on my sophomore year in high school bearing so much new growth and knowledge. If you were to ask me if I thought I'd ever overcome this dark chapter in my life, full of unbearable anxiety and no motivation to do anything, let alone sit in a classroom from eight to three, I would have said no way.
I felt a significant amount of stigma surrounding mental health and going to therapy in the past. I hid it all under a smile and the go-to line was always, "I'm fine." There was an underlying fear that I would be judged for attending therapy and I hoped that no one would find out. A giant weight seemed to make its home on my shoulders and held me down under its dark cloud. I felt helpless. Therapy seemed to help during the hour each week after school, but when I left, everything I gained from the session seemed to go in one ear and out the other.
In late January of 2019, just when it seemed like nothing could get any worse, something finally went right. I met Asha for the first time, and it is because of her, I got back into the water.
I caught my first wave when I was in 4th grade. I was hooked for two years and I stopped although looking back it's hard to remember why. I used to go every day after school with my soft blue top in one arm and an enormous smile on my face from cheek to cheek. My friends and I would spend all afternoon jumping off the wall catching knee high waves until we were shriveled up like raisins. I think back to these memories and I wonder why I ever stopped. Life was so good.
I remembered I started feeling judged when I started middle school—a big deal at my local school. I spent a lot of time wondering what other people thought of me and I began to notice male dominance in the water. They were all my friends, but I still picked myself apart and eventually started watching from the shore instead of joining them in the water.
The day Asha proposed the idea of us going surfing on a sunny afternoon, I had a devil and angel sitting on my shoulder. One side told me to stay on shore, and the other told me to just paddle out. I knew I should, but surfing felt foreign to me, I hadn’t surfed in years. Somehow, I decided to give it a go and paddle out.
The first few paddles out to the lineup, my arms felt like noodles. But I listened to the angel and caught my first wave. I felt the anxiety leave my body and the weight on my shoulders felt like it had never been there in the first place. Now, it’s a feeling I am aware of every time I catch a wave, even when I wipeout or nosedive.
Although I still experience anxiety, surfing has become my form of therapy. During quarantine, I was in therapy on my phone with a therapist and in the ocean. I began taking longer breaks between each therapy session. Even though quarantine brought a lot of anxiety battles, surfing was always there. It changed my life forever and for the better.
Photo credit @estellafilmye
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