I’ve been so very privileged to meet inspirational people and hear many stories of great human resilience throughout my career as an occupational therapist. One theme occurs over and over; the importance of holding on to hope in that journey from a dark and lonely place.
For me a recent journey, both in reality and metaphorically, undertaken by Joshua Ploetz encapsulated the struggle to overcome the nightmare of post-traumatic stress (PTS). I’ve talked about the ‘Blue Gym’ and extreme challenges in previous blogs and Josh brought all this together when he paddled, mainly alone, down the mighty Mississippi in a canoe. Between May 19th and July 28th he navigated the whole Mississippi River from Lake Itasca, MN to the Gulf of Mexico.
Josh is a former US Marine who lives with post-traumatic stress after two tours of Afghanistan where he was injured by a roadside bomb and where he saw his friends die. He found civilian life very difficult and had an overwhelming feeling of being ‘lost.’ During his paddle, which took 69 days, he faced the full force of the weather and the river. Fully immersed in this battle of man versus the elements, Josh found himself through doing a challenging and deeply meaningful activity.
Hope and inspiration for Josh came from a baton which he carried with him throughout the journey. This baton is made from the handle of a stretcher once used at Camp Bastion and carried by bloodied hands at times of great courage and bravery. The Baton charity, set up in the UK, has the primary mission to raise and maintain awareness within the British public and our Allies about the reality of life for service personnel and their families in the Armed Forces. It exists to ensure that they are given the level of support that they are rightfully due and that their sacrifice is honoured.
I’ve said before that recovery is about so much more than the physical and psychological challenges. It also has a spiritual dimension. Josh feels that the Baton has special powers. And why not? It was carried at times of huge human emotion and it now brings together a family of people who care deeply about a common cause. It gives Josh hope that, although he still struggles at times with PTS, there are people who care and he can still make progress. His story, in turn, will inspire others who are finding it hard to face the future.
Read more about Josh’s adventure (source for the pictures below):
Josh’s story can be found on his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/719048058145681/
The Baton website:
Read more about deep occupation and spiritual transformation:
Collins M (2014), The Unselfish Spirit. Permanent Publications, Hampshire.