The sun is beaming down on me on Delos as I sit with Alex and Brady on the back. I’m feeling very much at peace today, and relieved.
It’s a new day.
“Here you go, mate,” Brady says, clicking another button on his laptop. “There’s some good meditation on your phone now.”
I take my phone gratefully and nod. “Thanks buddy.” I glanced at the paddle board strapped to the side of Delos and tilted my head in thought.
Maybe today is a good day to learn…
I feel like I’ve turned a corner. And it took hitting rock bottom to get to where I am.
But maybe I should explain where this anxiety came from in the first place.
My nightmares had been getting worse. It was making me anxious about sleeping and I was exhausted in the day.
If you were to ask me why I was anxious, I would say that I have no reason.
But maybe it is the aftereffects of the recent things that have happened. Maybe everything had been catching up on me.
Maybe, maybe, maybe.
When I came on this journey, there was always the chance that I wasn’t going to be able to join the crew. I came to Cape Town to spend time with the Delos peeps, waiting for them to talk about whether I could come aboard or not.
They went to France for a week and I stayed in a hostel, waiting, hoping, my anxiety growing, my self belief diminishing. I tried to distract myself with some intense partying with some new friends and some amazing nights out in Long Street. It worked for a time. I was to return to Delos when Brady, Karin and Brian came back and would continue to stay there when the next two crew members arrived. One had won a competition and the other was a film maker who was going to help edit and shoot.
I felt like there was no reason really why they should invite me.
I felt like if they did, then it would be out of guilt for getting me to fly over in the first place. It didn’t occur to me that they may want me to come because they actually liked me. For some reason the worst feeling about myself came to the forefront.
So this grew and grew until the day they returned from France.
“So, we’ve talked and we would like you to come to Namibia with us,” Brady said, “But I don’t think we can take you further, mate…”
I nodded, not knowing how I felt. Worried? Relieved? Hopeful? The relief hit me but still I hoped for the opportunity to come to Brazil. Maybe I was selfish. I don’t know. But Mr Brady and I had spoken about it previously, so I couldn’t help but hope. I knew Alex was going all of the way and I desperately wanted to join as well. But I was beginning to feel like a burden and I couldn’t snap out of it.
Time went on and the rest of the crew joined. They had a rightful place to be here. I spent my time trying to be as helpful as possible. I needed to earn my place. I needed to help. But at night time I couldn’t help but retreat to the docks and sadly smoke a cigarette, unable to stop my train of thoughts.
Brady called me into his room one day to talk about Brazil.
“I just wanted to let you know that Lisa is coming Brazil now as well,” he said, sitting cross legged across from me.
I nodded, waiting.
“We need to see how you sail, but there may be a chance you can come too. But there’s six people on this boat now, Elizabeth. So you need to know if it feels too crammed, you’ll be the first to go.”
My stomach twisted in dread, my heart starting to beat erratically.
You’ll be the first to go…
“So there is a chance, but we need to see how you sail. And how we all get along.” He paused. “But I know you’re going to worry about this. I know it’s going to be on your mind. So is it better just to say and plan for you to get off in Namibia?”
I took a breath, telling myself to wait a few seconds before I spoke. “Mate, if that is the cost of having a chance to go to Brazil, then that’s the cost I will pay. If you plan for something, it will happen. I don’t want to plan for Namibia when it’s not where I want to get off. I understand about everything. I do. And I’ll try my best. To be honest- yes, of course I want to go to Brazil. Who wouldn’t? But you do what you’ve got to do.”
“Well, take it that the end is Namibia, ok? But we’ll see how you go.”
I nodded again. I gave him a hug and retreated, trusting in the universe.
I had to go to Brazil.
I had to go to Brazil.
So I decided that I wouldn’t worry. I would be good and trust in the world.
I showered the next day, thinking over and over how little space I could take up. Mr Brady and I shared a room. I decided that I would give him as much space as possible. I would make tea for everyone. I would leave the table if it became too crowded. I would live harmoniously. I wouldn’t bicker. I would take whatever anyone threw at me.
You’ll be the first to go…
I had to go to Brazil.
I would be positive and happy and-
The next day, my friend died.
Things didn’t make sense and everything I had been feeling got dragged back up to the surface. I could not stop crying. Days would pass of me throwing myself into my work, determined not to affect anyone, determined to not take up too much room, too much space. I just wanted to work, contribute the best parts of me and retreat if things felt too crowded.
But now my friend’s death had brought up such raw emotions I didn’t know how to deal with them. I lay in my bunk, the curtain drawn and sobbed into my pillow. I would walk down to the docks and spill my tears into the water. At night I would sit at the back of the boat and let it all out. Because I didn’t want anyone to see. I didn’t want anyone to be affected.
Because you see, I was trying to cause as little impact as possible.
Because I wanted Brazil so much.
I struggled with knowing Alex and Lisa had definitely gotten a place. I felt like I had to fight each day to earn my way on the boat. There was a terrible fear rising up in me, my self worth was crumbling away I couldn’t talk to anyone how I felt.
This was the price you knew you had to pay, I told myself. You knew.
I was afraid if I spoke my thoughts, I would be dropped off in Namibia. So I swallowed down my fears and shoved them further than I ever had before. I didn’t want to speak to anyone about my worries. I didn’t want to give energy to them. I was fearful if I did, it would give them power, and power would make them a reality.
You’ll be the first to go…
Brian caught me sobbing on the backstep of Delos in Luderitz on the night of my friend’s funeral. I had thought everyone had gone to bed. I had thought I was alone. But arms caught me in a surprise hug and squeezed hard.
I told him everything.
“Of course you’re coming to Brazil,” he said, squeezing me tighter. “Of course you are, Lizbef! We love you!”
Brian is the big brother I never had. I have a deep sense of security when he is around and a deep sense of comfort. I drew strength from him in that moment, needing that shoulder, needing that strength and reassurance.
I needed his words and most of all that big bear hug that came out of nowhere.
And I do feel loved. But the aftereffects of not knowing for the past two months have gotten to me. My friend’s death had gotten to me. My anxiety had risen. And all of a sudden I was back where I had started, afraid of telling people about this dark wrenching feeling in my chest in case they didn’t want me to stay.
I was trying to deal with it as best as I could.
And then the bad dreams started.
I spent four days without any sleep, tossing and turning, nightmares raging my head of constantly being hunted. I had suffered throughout my entire life with nightmares- they’re the price to pay for having an over active imagination. Why do you think I became a writer?
It seems to be my only outlet.
We were on passage when it happened. My watch was coming up in four hours and I was keen to get some good kip.
But I fell into one bad dream after another.
I was dreaming that we were all trapped in a ship with no sails. We rolled, the wood within old and mouldy. There was a storm and we crashed. The thing had been chasing me and I couldn’t run any more. I dreamt that my crew were being dragged into a hole and I into another, my hands clawing at the sand as it poured over my head.
They were shouting my name over and over.
I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t breathe.
Hands were around my shoulders, shaking me. Darkness surrounded me and I panicked.
Was I out, was I out?
I wrenched my arms away, terrified again.
The thing had gotten me- the thing had-
A weight came over me and held me in place with a hard hug.
“Liz! It’s all right, mate. You’ve had a bad dream.”
I couldn’t move and I was forced to look around my surroundings. I was in the cabin. Mr Brady looked down at me and gave me a smile.
“Mate, it was a bad dream.”
I nodded and pulled away, my body starting to shake uncontrollably. “Ok mate,” I mumbled. “Sorry…”
I lay back in the bed and wrapped myself in covers, waiting to ride out the shaking, waiting for the fear to drip away piece by piece.
It wasn’t moving and I was frozen.
I heard something rustle and my eyes darted to the door in fear. Alex stared down at me in concern and sat down beside me.
“Hey sweetie,” she said, her soft Californian voice soothing me. “Are you ok?”
But I couldn’t stop trembling, my limbs locking together in a huddle. I nodded, clutching my covers, waiting for it to pass.
She stayed with me for a while and stroked the hair from my face.
I found my voice somehow and told her. I spilled out my fear for sleep. I spilled out my fear of the shadows. How I couldn’t get to them in my dream. How I was exhausted but too scared to go back to sleep. And then a deep fear started to settle in me on how I would be perceived.
I was at my utter most vulnerable. I was at my most exposed. Forget being naked in the desert, forget puking in a shiny catamaran’s brand new toilet- this was my fear sprawled out into the night for these people to see.
But all I had was love in return.
She offered me everything. A movie. Food. A drink. Did I want to sit in the lounge? Did I want a book? Did I want to sit with her?
I accepted and drink and she sat with me for a while, swapping over with Brady who then changed with Lisa.
Lisa is a very special person on the boat. As I lay on the bed, she held my hand and said a little prayer for me. I was touched by that. I was surrounded by love, and despite feeling embarrassed that as a twenty eight year old I was still suffering from night terrors, I knew I was protected.
Brady will never know how grateful I am for being pulled out of that nightmare. To have someone recognise when it’s happening and drag you out of it is one of the greatest things. And of course I told him I appreciated it, but I don’t think he knows how deeply grateful I am. No one besides from my mother when I was a child could feel when I was lost in a night terror.
So, if you’re reading or hearing this, my friend, thank you.
Soon I was left alone. I was terrified about going back to sleep. Everything took on a menacing aura and shape. The covers moved over my shoulders and I yelped, convinced a hand had come down on me. But there was no one there.
Later I got up for my watch, exhausted and fearful about returning to my cabin.
The watch came and went and soon it was Alex’s turn.
“Mate, take this,” she said, passing me a piece of brownie.
I took it questioningly, knowing that it was from our “special” batch.
“Hopefully that should knock you straight out,” she said.
“Dr Blue’s Medicine, hey?” I nodded gratefully and ate it down greedily. I turned and saw Mr Brady setting up his bed in the lounge to prepare for his night watch later on.
“Are you staying here?” I asked.
I bit my lip and didn’t say anything else. I didn’t want to admit that I was terrified about going to bed that night. That I was terrified at the idea that no one would be there to wake me up. That the idea of going to sleep alone made my stomach twist and my heart beat hard in my chest.
I stepped into the bathroom and stared at my expression for a while.
“You have got to stop this, Elizabeth,” I said sternly. “You are worth so much more than this.”
I wanted to feel happy within myself. I wanted to find peace. I wanted that acidic ball of acidity in my chest to dissipate. I wanted to love myself.
Returning to my bunk, I waited for the brownie to take effect. Prayed for it. Hoped for it. Begged for it.
“Please, please, please,” I murmured, closing my eyes, imagining myself to be the best version I could be. Imagined stripping away those layers of negativity and leaving them with the night.
“No more now, Elizabeth,” I murmured to myself. “You will love yourself now.”
The boat was rocking me peacefully and the covers were wrapped around my body warmly. The malicious sensation was gone, the shadows were normal shadows and the sounds were normal Delos sounds.
There was nothing there to hurt me.
“You will love yourself.”
I took a deep breath and fell into sleep.
No dreams haunted me. Just an abyss to fall into to repair my exhausted mind.
Time has gone on since then and we have arrived in Walvis Bay.
We’ve been here for just over a week and I’m so excited to share with you our adventures- and to share with you the amazing inner transformation that I feel is taking root. Whether it’s peace, clarity or just the kick up the arse that I needed, I feel very different.
I’ve had time to process everything and fully appreciate where I am and what I am doing- realising that I am contributing, that I am helping and that I am worthy of this journey. I still want to prove myself of course, but I know I am wanted, loved and appreciated here.
Why on earth it took me so long to realise that, I don’t know. But with everything I suppose it takes time. And maybe it’s because of you, the Delos Tribe, that I feel good.
I feel a lot more confident in my own ability and my own self worth.
Sleep is easier and I’m much less afraid of the nightmares. I go to bed each time in a good place spiritually and I am so so excited for my future. A lot of good things are happening right now and I really am having the time of my life. I’m so grateful to my crewmates. So grateful. They’ve helped me grow so much. They’ve helped me heal so much.
I know there’s still a journey ahead for my heart and mind, but I’m ready for it.
But for now, I’m pulling on Mr Brady’s wetsuit and he’s unhooking the paddle board for me. There’s been a lot of learning about myself on this journey- I think it’s a good day to learn one more thing.
See you out there!
Read more from Elizabeth here! www.earlewrites.com
For more sailing adventures check out svdelos.com