Withstanding The Storm

What a fitting time to talk about the metaphor of a storm, as I sit here cocooned inside watching the fierce ocean slam against the cliffs. A rather anticipated storm brews at sea off the East Coast of Australia, bringing with it huge amounts of rain and wind.

I was recently in the Pacific, on an island in Fiji, when a similar storm unfolded. As tranquil and picturesque as this place is, there were times this couldn’t be further from the case. There were reports of an XL swell expected to hit Cloudbreak, so we knew it was going to be pretty wild. But nothing would prepare us for what would happen on Monday 23rd May 2016. It was a pretty horrific sequence of events, stormy conditions with around 15ft waves. Hawaiian surfer Aaron Gold wiped out on the first wave of the day, and didn’t resurface for 3 waves. He was rescued by a jetski and pulled from the water unconscious, where he was then resuscitated. After receiving CPR for 5 minutes, he regained consciousness, was rushed to shore, then hospital, where he made a full recovery. A very lucky result, in a life and death situation.

What did I learn that day? Regardless of how prepared one might seem, never underestimate the power of the ocean. Always respect mother nature and be prepared for the worst. In this instance, it was thanks to some quick thinking and immense skill, that got him to safety in the imperfect storm.

Alex Gray, WSL were broadcasting live from Cloudbreak for the stike mission. Photo: Beau Pilgrim

For those experiencing mental health issues, it’s often referred to as a storm. We can feel hopeless at times, being tossed around in a sea of inner turmoil. The dark clouds can represent conflict and feelings of depression or despair, as if we are being drowned out by the squalling rain. I’m a big fan of metaphors, and I particularly like the analogy of the lighthouse in the storm to represent mental health, as it powerfully conveys the emotional challenges that can be experienced.

When dealing with the blows that life can throw at us, it’s easy to get sucked into the storm and focus on surviving the rough seas. But in fact, adopting the position of the lighthouse can often act as a stabilising factor. Rather than allowing ourselves to be influenced by what happens around us, stepping back and acting as the lighthouse, allows us to be an observer from a distance, providing stability and direction, instead of getting emotionally drained by reacting in the moment. The lighthouse remains constant in all weather, continuously glowing and guiding regardless of the conditions.

Might I add, it’s easier said than done. I’m guilty as charged at times, as it’s easy to get too close and caught in the middle of chaos, rather than objectively watching it pass you by. Whether it’s relationships with family and friends, a conflict at work, or a situational crisis, maintaining perspective is key. This metaphor is used in a form of clinical therapy called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which helps to clarify values through the power of the juxtaposition. We are all susceptible to the storm, but for someone experiencing a diagnosed mental health condition, it can be even harder to differentiate. There’s a big stigma surrounding asking for help, but speaking with a professional, and surrounding yourself with people who are honest and you can trust, can make all the difference.

6 6 2016 Photo: Beau Pilgrim www.beaupilgrim.com
A shot of me from yesterday. Photo: Beau Pilgrim http://www.beaupilgrim.com

I hope this little blurb can help you take a step back and be a beacon of reflect on your own situation. In the meantime, change your lantern and let your lighthouse shine bright!

Joel x

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