My own journey of self-discovery started in 2019 when a relationship broke down and I did not remember the identity of myself without him. I had been the type of person that likes to have everything planned and a very busy diary schedule. We were about to go to Bali, and I had everything organised and a timetable for our trip. He broke it off with me because he felt I looked happier without him; I had given my all to the relationship at the determent of myself. A very special friend of mine suggested to me that I go to see a therapist and with my negative mindset I shot her down for even recommending this. Anyhow as I have a very curious mind and I could see no other way out I did exactly as she said.
The first appointment I made was someone I found online, and he cancelled on me right at the very last moment, then I remembered what my friend had advised me. “Do not just take the first therapist that you come across, make sure that they are the correct compatibility for you.” I suddenly remembered that back in 2010 I worked with a wonderful lady that had her own registered business as a Life Change Therapist, qualified in EFT. I contacted her and explained my situation and asked for her immediate availability. From that moment forward she has changed my life.
In April 2019, I returned onboard my vessel, where my ex was, and we rekindled the relationship. Whilst it was fresh it was very good, we started to appreciate each other again. However, there was another pressing issue I had being experiencing a pain in the lower left side of my stomach this has become the worry I was faced not knowing what was wrong with me. I had started to feel blocked, not being able to use the toilet and bloated and uncomfortable being sat on my chair.
I had lost my appetite and regular sleep. I asked the captain to send me ashore for external advice when we were in Greece. The doctor diagnosed me with constipation and gave me medications to resolve this. This seemed to ease the problems, so I became at peace. In June we finally came to the shipyard in Trieste, I had been outside on the quayside smoking with a colleague when I felt extremely lightheaded and dragged myself back to the cabin whereI had to rip my clothes off as I was overheating, I felt like I was about to faint and didn’t know which bodily fluids would release first.
I called my partner, as he was home on leave, I told him what was happening and said I will be okay I will just calm down and put myself to bed once calm. It was with his clear instruction that I contacted the captain and the medical team onboard. I was assessed onboard, and the medical officer took me to the local A&E. We were in there from 23:00 until 04:00. I had become like skin and bone, my colleagues begging me to stop losing weight. The following day Captain told me to come in by midday.
When I returned to work, I was exhausted having spent all night in the hospital only to be told that all my statistics are normal and there is nothing wrong with me. The pressure at work then came straight back on because I was physically normal. However, the pain was still a strong feature in the lower left side of my stomach so everyday alongside my Purser job I took myself to the hospital and underwent a series of tests. I had a colonoscopy, endoscopy, CT scan of the colon, sigmoidoscopy.
I was on a strict diet of boiled chicken, fish, and vegetables to allow me to have each procedure. My only result was a lazy colon. I could not understand this as in 31 years I had never experienced this pain. Due to the pressures of my job and the counterproductive leadership my relationship broke down for a second time and this time I did not have any fight left to resolve it, nor did I want to. When I returned home to the UK in November, the NHS took me in for further testing and again they found nothing.
We have a history of endometriosis in the family and since I had exhausted all options with the gastroenterologist, I decided this was the next step of the investigation. I had been placed on a 10 week waitlist and by the time my appointment was allocated I was back on the yacht. My dad had managed to move the consultation to May when I would be back in the UK but of course in March 2020 the covid pandemic impacted the whole world. My contract that should have been 10 weeks turned into 7.5 months without stepping foot on dry land. My relief was unable to fly due to the South African travel restrictions and my yacht manager asked if I would stay.
I did not know in my current physical state if this was possible but my parents, in particular my mother had encouraged me to stay onboard if I could both physically and mentally. Everything that I had known from my old life before did not exist anymore. Using my brother’s platform https://muvelive.com/ , my therapist and my reiki teacher I made several appointments for yoga, psychotherapy, and reiki sessions to keep me focused, positive and balanced.
This is particularly important when there is no crew shore leave due to quarantine periods and keeping the vessel covid free. If I could keep myself motivated and happy, I would be stronger for my crew and despite how I, sometimes, felt on the inside I always left my cabin with an infectious smile. The time onboard was a steep learning curve and I have had both of my contracts extended due to the pandemic but none the less I kept the crew motivated by arranging quiz nights, master chef competitions and murder mysteries. This was our home away from home and we had to look after each other and ensure each of us were more than “okay”. I started to develop back, neck, shoulder and legs pains and found myself unable to sit down for long periods of time without wanting to lie down or ask a colleague to massage some Deepblue rub into me.
I left the vessel in September 2020; I had lost all my confidence and I was scared to be mixed back into the real world and everyone wearing masks and without any social contact. I wanted to get back into my comfort zone “the boat” and hide away. In France it was illegal to walk down the street without wearing your mask, it was only permissible to remove it when you were sat at a table. The first day I spent all day in the hotel room and fed off a tin of sardines too ashamed and exhausted to go outside. As the hunger kicked in the following day, I plucked up the courage to take myself to a restaurant but felt all eyes were on me, look at her alone. When I returned home to the UK, I was a mere shell of my former self.
No socialising skills left within me. I now had 5 months’ vacation and barely left my bedroom. I did not want to waste the time watching Netflix etc, so I chose to study Advanced Leadership with The Crew Academy and Superyacht Refit and Newbuilding diploma with Maritime Training Academy. I also qualified as a “Mental Health First Aider” which has allowed me to not only identify mental health challenges which I faced myself but could also identify them within my fellow crew and was able to offer them a non- judgemental ear or to point them in the right direction to seek professional help.
My appointment came through for the gynaecologist, I am attending the consultation and she did not see any areas of concern, but I was adamant that I wanted to undergo the surgery of Laparoscopy to determine if I had endometriosis or not. I was advised that there is 2 years waiting list due to the backlog from the pandemic. I had decided that I would ask the yacht if I could go privately and be covered by the insurance. Luckily for me the appointment from the NHS came through within a week and I was scheduled for the procedure in October 2020.
When I woke up on the ward in outpatient recovery and my dad came to collect me, I was in a lot of pain. I had 3 small incisions in my belly button and two on my left-hand side. I could hardly move on and off the bed a few weeks after this I started injecting my body with additional hormones to increase the size of my ovaries so that I can freeze my eggs so that I can have children later in life without the pressures of the ticking time bomb. The results from the laparoscopy were clear and again I still had no answers to my pains. I started socialising indoors more with my bubble and drinking to mask the emotions and forget how I was feeling.
This was a short-term release and once the hangover wore off, I was back to square one. In December I was introduced to doTERRA essential oils, I was advised to order the Emotional Therapy Set and some additional oils for the inflammation of my back, neck, and shoulders. I took lavender, frankincense, peppermint, and oregano in veggie capsules for 5 days, 3 times a day. My pain disappeared. In the evenings I was listening to Blue Marine Travel and Yachting International Radio podcast about crew travel religiously each week trying to keep up to date with the forever changing rules for travel for 18 different nationalities, I wanted to be still on top of my game when returning onboard after 5 months’ vacation. I was very hard on myself to succeed and not to fail.
Boris Johnson changed UK rules numerous times and I wanted to understand each international government’s guidelines so that I could help get my crew on and off the yacht safely. I had already set myself up for failure. My father said I had become a nightmare to live with, very short tempered and on edge all the time. To his happiness I returned onboard in February 2021. Crew shore leave was short-lived and in March we had a full crew PCR testing and then set sail for our next destination. There were large pressures due to the owner wanting to use the vessel after being in the yard for over 6 months.
Regardless of the demand for the boat and crew to be fully operational and on a quick turnaround I do not condone the unfair treatment of people. Leaders should also be self-aware of how their actions effect those whom they lead. The first effect was that I started to lose sleep, my diet if you could even call it that was non-existent and one day, I remember being sat in the captain’s office and telling him I am about to faint. This was my cry for help. The doctor had passed by the office to collect some stationary and instead he was greeted by my case.
I was taken to the medical centre onboard, he checked me over and gave me some diazepam to aid me with lack of sleep. I managed to recoup some lost sleep and I was good again for another 6 days until another episode left me in the same situation only this time doctor prescribed something lighter for me. But little did anyone know how exhausted I was as I started to fall asleep on the desk. I got up and took myself to the elevator, my mind had been told to sleep and I was still walking so with the body’s natural reaction I vomited all over the elevator. For me, the remainder of the night was a blur until my great friend retold me the story.
The crew believed I had food poisoning, but everyone else was fine. For the prior 25 days, I had been spoken to in a negative light and without the help of my friends onboard I would have had a nervous breakdown. In 2021 I wrote and was ready to hand in my notice 3 times before the end of April came. Due to the operational area of the vessel and the travel restrictions from South Africa my contract was extended again, and I sailed back to Europe with the yacht helping to source the covid vaccination programme for all crew onboard.
On 1st June I tendered my resignation. I walked away from my €10k longevity bonus for the sake of my physical and mental health. I had become scared of my own shadow and nervous to leave the house without my father. I took an 8-month career gap to focus on and rebuild myself. A friend of mine introduced me to Kyle Haskins an Emotional Code Coach and I had regular weekly sessions for 6 months solid and then additional sessions as and when I needed them after this. We are like an onion, and I began the process of removing the layers of trapped emotions that I had stored over 33 years of life.
I felt free, light and without worry and burden. I wanted to purchase another house, so I decided that the time was right to return to sea and find myself an ideal yacht. Although money was the initial driving factor, I did not pitch this at interview as it wasn’t the most important. I wanted to work with a happy, supportive crew and captains. With great mentorship and areas of growth. I wanted the atmosphere to be positive, nutritional “food” to be great and a rotational role. I was not sure if this was possible to receive but I took the risk and asked.
In February this year I joined the dream boat. The universe had given me more than I could ever imagined, and I flourished and regained my confidence again. Unfortunately, due to circumstances out of my control, I have resigned from this position. I believe that I am in a stronger position to help “the crew” at this present time from ashore, where I can protect my mental well-being and those of my fellow crew. I am excited for this new journey ahead in my own business venture, with “the crew” at the heart of my business. Watch this space.
I would like to focus on the positive impact that I can make rather than to be trapped inside the trauma. With the help of Doterra Essential oils I have been able to raise my emotional vibrations and be more aligned with my purpose, alongside therapy and coaching I am now able to move forward with my life more freely.
The crew, to me, are the most important aspect of any vessel. If the crew are well taken care of and are both happy and feel safe on their home away from home this can have a massive positive impact on the successful running of the yacht, it’s operations and the cruise experience given to our guests. If you would like any more information with regards to anything that you have read today, please feel free to get in touch with me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to help support and assist you.
Samantha Morris | Purser | Co-Founder of DoCreation Essential Balance Crew Positive Mental Health