“I hope I don’t get sick. I don’t want to get sick.”
Little did I know that those two sentences were a warning. I mean, no one wants to get sick, but when you are going on your first deep-sea fishing trip for 6 hours, it is a common thing to say or hear during your excitement heading to the pier. It’s not one of those in-your-face warnings.
After weeks of planning, and months of being forced to stay at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, I booked a fishing trip for my nephews and I and invited a couple of friends along. One of my buddies couldn’t make it, but he let his daughter come out for her first trip out into the ocean. I’ve known her since she was 18 months old, and usually causing chaos for her parents when we’re together. She’s now almost a teenager, but we’re still close and I call her my daughter.
But even after over 10 years, I wasn’t aware of her problem with anxiety. Why should I be? I’m not actually her parent, and that’s not exactly something that comes up in casual conversations. But I would soon be aware, and I’d be thankful that I was brought on board IFHP as I have learned A LOT about other mental health problems in my researching for the company; and even more so, ways to help people cope through a bout.
Everything was going great on the fishing trip. We were about four hours into the six hour trip, reeling in fish as if we were pros. However, during a fight with a kingfish, I think the excitement and physicality of it caused me to lose my lunch, but I wasn’t going to lose the fish. I fought it and got the sucker in the boat. In the meantime, I at first did not notice what was happening behind me. My daughter began having an anxiety attack, brought on by her thinking that because I just got sick that she was going to get sick, the one thing that she didn’t want happening, that she had warned of earlier.
After confirming with her the situation, I took what I had learned and started putting it to use. First, asking if there was a medication she needed (no, she didn’t take any) and then asking how she best copes with these attacks. First and foremost, she needed to talk to her mom, but 20 miles out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico isn’t exactly prime signal location. In meantime, I sat her in my lap and just held her as she requested and began breathing techniques I knew to slow her breathing. Soon her breathing was more in rhythm and she could now speak more clearly. For the next hour as the captain turned the boat back to shore, I’d try to control her thinking by bringing up topics that I knew she had a strong passion about, like drama class or her doing things for church and charities.
Finally, she passed out in the cabin on my shoulder. It wasn’t a very comfortable position I was in. We were in two separate patio type chairs that had about a 2-foot gap between and I was leaning towards her so she could rest her head on my shoulder. But there wasn’t any way I was moving until we were back at dock, regardless how much my back was hurting me. For two hours I held the position. Her health was the most important thing. As soon as we were within signal range, I woke her and handed her phone to her so she could call her mom.
You never know when you will be tested. I’m sad I was tested by my daughter, but I am glad I was there and had recently read up on dealing with anxiety and panic attacks during my research for us here at IFHP. And now knowing her struggles with anxiety makes this mission for me all that more important.