Back on Track, Mental Health & What’s Next

I know its been a while. I apologize but as you know I had to really get my shit together since coming back to the UK (and go on another holiday lol).

First thing was first: See a neurologist, a different one, that would actually listen to what I had to say, and he did. He cleared me of the epilepsy label, its gone!! I was feeling annoyed at being mis-diagnosed, feeling like my last 2 years have been put on hold a bit (anxiety u bitch), but why did I need to think that…I just got cleared. The anxiety tears did turn into happy tears, but seriously, look after yourself because the feeling of nearly having your dream taken away is something I can’t explain. But hey ho, learnt my lesson now..

Amsterdam: Not gonna go into this because what happens in Dam stays in Dam but had the best time with my mermaids. Was so sad to say goodbye, but such a needed reunion before we head in different directions again. Here’s us being tourists ft. dive signal (can you guess which one?) cause why not.

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British Divers Marine Life Rescue: Qualified as a Marine Mammal Medic for BDMLR, where the day itself was so much fun & I learnt a lot.

Okay so here comes the more sensitive subject. I feel like mental health will always be apart of you if you’ve ever experienced it, but even though that sounds bad, its not because it can be controlled once you get to the right place and it almost gives you reminders of how far you’ve come because you may react to something fine, or in some cases not react to something, that in the past would of made you feel crap, which to me is a huge acheivement and it should be for you too.

London has been getting to me: Everyone knows I’m not a city girl and especially since the whole fiasco in the Phillipines, my ‘craving’ for diving just got worse because I had to leave. Seeing everyone else there as well & knowing I still could of been there but wasn’t because I was stupid did really get to me the first couple of weeks back, and seeing others jetting off round the world, yet I’m back somewhere I really don’t want to be. The only thing keeping me going is keeping myself busy seeing people.     FYI – Cherish your friends because if they’re anything like mine then don’t let them go.

Yeah long distance sucks: Its hard. But it’s all gonna be worth it. To be honest I never thought I’d be able to do long distance, especially how I was a few years ago, but I’m dealing with it SO much better than I thought, I guess it all just depends on the person, and cheesy but, I don’t care, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been at this point in life & that’s all that matters.

Why haven’t I be feeling sad? I ask myself this a lot because I’m still not used to feeling this okay and happy all the time. Like even when I do get sad on the rare occasion now, it doesn’t last long and it sounds stupid but I don’t always know how that makes me feel because I was so used to one drop of sadness spreading for hours or ruining my whole day, I was used to it I guess. I’ve also been communicating a lot more with my friends and family which is actually really great, highly recommend. Although I am gutted about leaving my pals, first time feeling myself in years but we don’t get to see each other much but cherishing those moments we do get.

Why am I randomly talking about mental health? I was tidying (I know, shock) and I came across one of my old Insomnia diaries from basically the height of the mental health issues. I knew I needed to do another blog but reading what I wrote, I just had an urge to talk about it. Like, I’m nervous posting this and it may be hard to read but I would never wish these feelings on anyone & if it makes just one person talk or think about talking about their mental health then I’m game.

I really from the bottom of my heart urge anyone who has ever felt or still feels like this to talk to someone. Whoever. Overthinking is physically & mentally exhausting and people care more than you think. I know I wrote about them going away but in fact, they weren’t away. I was making myself think that. I hear now from Mum how they still asked after me, asked how I was. Comforting but also made me think because I never asked.. So yeah don’t get me wrong I still blame myself for the years of distance but true people are still with you no matter how many years apart.

Counselling helps (if you can’t talk to a loved one): I know I probably sound like a mum but yeah, it helps. Scary at first, but honestly, I don’t think I’d be where I am today if I didn’t go through it. And I know I’ve admitted anxiety a few times but since I’ve been back the only time I’ve felt anxious was before the doctors; since then it’s almost like its gone.

FRIENDS & FAMILY ARE GREAT! Talk to them, cherish them, respect them, love them and there for them if they need you too.

Whats next you ask? Off again obviously…this time to Mozambique to be with Dolphin Encountours Research Centre & lots of dolphins. It feels so good to finally be able to something more ‘marine biology’ but also where I can finally use my degree <3. It’s been a quick time back. I’m not gonna lie there’s been times where I’ve been so lazy or have just been sleeping the days away to make them go quicker, then suddenly its next week. But I’ve got most things sorted now so it’s all good. It’s going to be tough but amazing 3 months. Then off to Bali in October after coming home for 3 days for Mum to do my washing 🙂 then Philippines from Bali to finally do my dive master!!1! and go back to Moalboal because I think I left my heart there last time so gotta retrieve that. (more on these later in the year).

There will 100% be more posts in the upcoming 3 months cause lets be honest, who doesn’t love photos of dolphins (sorry not sorry for the quantity I post, I’m gonna be one excited Cass).

Until next time ladz🤙🏼

Whale Sharks & Waterfalls

Yesterday was one of the best days ever. We started off by getting up at 3.30am (yes 3.30am) to be picked up for 4, to be taken down to Oslob by our really nice driver called John (it was funny that his name was John because it was like we had all our family back together lol). He managed to get us there in 2 hours and considering a lot of the vehicles didn’t even bother with headlights, we made it there without crashing!

I’m actually glad we got collected to early though because it meant that when it came to our time to snorkel with the Whale Sharks (Rhincodon typus) there wasn’t as many people there as I had been told there would be. Now I’m going to be honest and I know some of you won’t agree with this; they use some chum to attract the whale sharks, although most of them are ‘locals’ (one of their locals called Big Momma actually migrated onto Australia but unfortunately died, due to what they think was old age). I don’t normally agree with this but the fact that I was able to show my parents sharks and get their minds changed about their views on sharks being ‘scary’ and ‘man-eaters’, well thats enough for me. If a snorkel like that can change just a few peoples opinions then I think that’s pretty amazing. So little is known about sharks as well so sometimes the only way they can be studied is with close interactions, I know that’s not always the case but the more we can learn the better. Processed with VSCO with b5 presetProcessed with VSCO with m5 presetProcessed with VSCO with m5 presetProcessed with VSCO with b1 presetProcessed with VSCO with m5 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with p5 preset

Here’s some fun facts about the beautiful whale shark;

1. (probably the most obvious) Whale Sharks are the largest fish on the planet.

2. Whale Sharks have around 3,000 tiny teeth (less than 6mm) but they don’t use them to eat.

3. Whale Sharks are filter feeders meaning they sieve plankton, krill, squid and small fish through their gills for much of their nourishment.

4. Whale Sharks aren’t fast swimmers, reaching speeds no higher than 5kmph. They swim by using their bodies from side to side, unlike other sharks (eg. Great White), who just use their tails.

5. Whale Sharks are in no way related to whales and although they are sharks, they are very docile and pose no threat to humans; in fact, humans are the main threat to them.

The second part of our day involved visiting Kawasan Falls, which was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. It’s a trio of picturesque waterfalls, natural swimming pools and lagoons that are accessible via trails through the jungle, which was also an amazing experience within itself. The water from the Kawasan Falls comes from the Kabukalan Spring and passes through the Matutinao River and Tanon Strait. We went from walking along side the rivers, to over bridges in the jungle, through the river, climbing up and down various parts of nature to access these unbelievable sights. It did make me laugh when we got to the top and dad was like “do we have to go down the same way?! I can’t do it I’m just going to get stuck in the jungle”, but he managed to get down and I’m proud of him for facing his fears :’)

I feel like we were really lucky as well because we had our own private tour guide so it was just him and us, giving us a very one on one, non-busy experience, which I am really grateful for. We were also only one of the few people to be at Kawsan Falls at the time that we arrived, but we definitely noticed a difference in the number of people that were there when we ended out tour at 11.30am.

So Top Tip; If you ever get the chance to visit these beautiful falls, GO EARLY!! It’s a much better experience and also allows you to get the ‘perfect Instagram’ photos without anyone else in the background ;).

I hope you’ve enjoyed a lot more pretty photos (sorry not sorry). Going to end this post, again, going back to the ocean with a short video of our Whale Shark experience. Love.

Snorkelling, Puppies & Exploring of Moalboal

*beware; a lot of photo’s in this post*

Moalboal was the perfect little getaway, especially after the news I got just over a week ago. Like I mentioned before, we had the ocean literally on the back of where we were staying, absolutely full of life, the most beautiful reefs  I’ve ever seen (so far) and TURTLES!! Even though it rained for the first few days and theres not massive amounts to do except for being in the ocean, we made the most of it and it was definitely the best few days.

They do offer a lot of sardine dives, as well as turtle snorkels, but considering we saw all of this (below) just from the shore, we didn’t feel the need to pay for these things. Although they were cheap, may as well make it cheaper and snorkel out there yourself! (which I highly recommend anyone doing if you ever get a chance to go, which I also highly recommend).

I got to see fish I’ve never seen before, from tiny to big. Lee even saw a huge tuna a bit further out so they really do have so much to offer, even Thresher Sharks if you’re really lucky and all you have to do is rent mask, snorkel and fins; I just had to hire fins/booties in which I paid 400 peso for 5 days (that’s around £6). I’m just happy to be able to get in the water with that feeling of weightlessness, taking photo’s and just taking everything in, feeling at peace.

After we finally got a day of no rain we decided to take a little stroll round to see what else the island has to offer…well we took a little stroll to find some baby goats but still. The sights are beautiful. The nature around Moalboal is truly amazing, but at the same time it contrasts quite a bit with how the locals live and is sometimes hard to believe that a whole family live in a small wooden shack with a tin roof. Although all the children seem so happy, riding bikes, laughing, and waving at us every time we walked passed. That’s all that matters and shows that just living life is enough to make you happy.

Speaking of happy, we didn’t find any baby goats, but we did get attacked by 2 puppies that came out of no where (not complaining) and they were sooo cute. That’s all I really have to say about the puppies but here’s some pictures because why not.

And just to end we’re going back to the ocean; here’s a video of the snorkelling in Moalboal 🌊💙

Heartbreak

I dont even know where to begin…bottom line is that after a 4/5 hour journey to Cebu then a 7 hour wait in Cebu hospital to see a neurologist and get her to sign me off in order for me to dive, she couldn’t. This means I am now not allowed to dive or complete any of my courses that were planned. All the work, revision, saving, preparing that I have been doing since July last year has just turned to dust in the space of a 10 minute appointment. Not to mention I also used pretty much all my savings on top of this.

Imagine you’re an artist, youve created a piece of work that is everything to you and then it gets burned; or a musician that has spent years perfecting songs and suddenly theyre all gone and you have to start again. There is no worse feeling than that.

Obviously it hit me like a tonne of bricks at first, I had my big cry and call to my parents (but suprisingly no panic attack), I’m still not 100% sure if its sunk in but this is my dream and I am not giving up; which, for me, is a massive thing to say because if this happened a few years ago I would of completely given up, smoked my feelings away and gone back into a state of anxiety/depression. I don’t want that to happen again, I’ve had enough of anxiety taking control of my life.

I can’t help but blame myself as none of this would of happened if I just looked after myself during university, but you can’t change the past; only do what you can to move onwards and upwards in order to reach your goal.

It’s been a tough and expensive growing up realisation but I’m somewhat thankful as I needed to grow up and take responsibility for my actions and I definitely feel more mature and more myself than I have ever felt, which I guess is a positive considering how shit this whole situation has been.

My tips for anyone experiencing anything similar would be:

1. Look after yourself

2. Make sure you keep on top of your appetite

3. Don’t keep things to yourself; theres people there to support you, whether its a close friend or someone you hardly speak to.

4. Listen to your mum (she is always right no matter what you think)

5. You are stronger than your anxiety

6. There is always a solution for everything, even if it doesn’t seem like it.

7. Never give up on what you want and never let anyone get in the way of what you want, no matter how important they are to you.

Aside from all the bad news, I have basically been accepted onto an internship in Mozambique from July to photo ID/data collection of whales, dolphins and turtles, where I can also use my whale watching guide qualifiation to take small groups out snorkelling with the dolphins which I’m really happy about and if all goes to plan, come back to Malapascua soon after that to complete my Divemaster if all goes well with the neurologist at home.

Now just taking a few days off in Moalboal to relax, do some of the best snorkelling I have ever done, swim with thousands of sardines and hopefully some turtles. I was meant to be doing a freediving course while here, but with the same situation for diving, I couldnt get signed off to do so. But we have the ocean and the most beautiful reefs on the door step of where we are staying and considering everything, I feel happy, content and can’t wait to see my parents in a week, as well as being ready to work my ass off when I get home in order to get back to the ocean.

But hey, at least I can snorkel and mermaid around🌊💙

Back In The Water! (mostly)

Just a quick post to say that I’m finally allowed to dive again after the refresher that finally went to plan! Well mostly…I’ve still got to to go to the hospital in Cebu City to get a note from a neurologist in order to start Divemaster, because silly Cassie got far too excited to come away and forgot to do one of the most important things which was getting an up-to-date doctors note.

*If you plan on diving make sure you’re note is valid within the year or you’ll have issues with the PADI standards*

It got to me a lot at first as you know from my last couple of posts but I’m finally getting back into it slowly and accepting where I went wrong, which is fine, everyone makes mistakes. Unfortunately I’m only allowed to dive with instructors rather than Divemasters which isn’t always possible everyday but its giving me a lot of time to do theory and think about where I want to take my life, while seeing the ocean in basically every direction I look.

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I’ve also come to the huge decision that I will not be partaking in the Instructor course, I will just be doing Divemaster. Again, I think I got to excited for my own good and didn’t think about any logistics like forgetting things (lol) and after speaking to many people here (instructors, divemasters etc), they have sooo many dives compared to me, so much experience; I feel that I need to take things slow, do dive master & build up dives/experience over the next few years before taking part in the Instructor course. It’s also more fun being a divemaster because you can lead but also point out cool things so that definitely sounds better for now. Maybe I can incorporate my photography skills into this as well.

I’m really thankful for all the help and support I have got from some people here and how they were able to help me work around not being able to dive at first. I also did my Nitrox theory today and passed that so another positive even if it meant I had to stay on land! But here are some photos from the last few days in the water 🙂

First Dive Fail

So after not being allowed in the water for a week now because of my stupid ‘epilepsy’ I was finally allowed to do my refresher and I was soooo excited. Had a good sleep, was keen and arrived an hour & a half early, signed things that needed to be signed and got all my equipment together. Sounds good so far right?

Got on the boat (which I also found exciting) and set of to Lapus to find some shallowish water (4/5m) so I could practise some of the skills that I haven’t done in over a year now and get back into the swing of things. But so far my luck on this island hasn’t been the best, although I have been trying to stay positive through it all.

I put my scuba unit on and took a giant stride into the ocean (finally!!), checked my buoyancy, all okay, started descending but kept floating up. I got given an extra kg of weight to help me go down but my pretty much new BCD clearly didn’t want me to do well. The weights kept falling out, it kept inflating on its own, it just was not working and was really getting to me. It also didn’t help that my mask kept fogging up every 2 mins so I couldnt even see what I was doing for the whole 5 minutes I ended up underwater. Yep, 5 fricking minutes. So we had to abort the dive and head back to the boat, where I just sat looking out to sea with quite a few tears rolling down my face as I was so excited to finally be doing what I came here for but nope. Oh, and then my hat blew off into the sea on the way back 😐. It’s almost like the days I feel most positive the most goes wrong.

I know there’s always a solution but I’ve had so many hurdles thrown at me already and it’s only been a week…so it does get to me sometimes, especially when everyone else is going on a dive or 2 or 3 and all I can do it watch, wait and hear about all the cool things they saw. But I guess challenges are what makes you stronger as a person, even though times can be tough. Hopefully the refresher tomorrow will go better than today and I can finally get into the whole scuba things again.

On a lighter note, we did an island/beach clean yesterday which was very successful even though it was shocking at the amount we collected in only an hour, but every little helps and we plan on doing this at least once a week♻️

Malapascua; Settling in and Exploring

Finally on paradise island. Had an interesting drive from the hotel to port Maya, saw so much stuff, but they drive so crazy, not caring about road signs or if we’re heading into oncoming traffic. I honestly thought we were going to run over kids x4, run over animals x6 and crash definitely more than 10 times but made it!

So when I first arrived I was literally fine allll day, met everyone, found my room, sorted equipement etc, but then we all went for dinner and it just hit me. I felt really sick and couldnt eat, upset that anxiety has to creep up when there was no reason for it too, I was perfectly happy. I guess subconciously there was a lot to get used to like the climate, new people, new place etc. I felt quite embarrassed because my first time meeting these people and I randomly start crying in the middle of dinner.

The main thing going through my mind being ‘how can I be a diving instructor if I’m weak or need time out for anxiety reasons’, but I took some deep breaths and told a couple of people how I was feeling which was comforting and they helped me stay positive.

Despite not being able to dive at the moment (more in next post), I have had a couple of days to get used to the island, explore & meet the locals. I am absoloutely gutted that I’m unable to dive but things don’t always go to plan, sometimes you just have to take life at your own pace.

However, this island is too beautiful to not make the most of, so here are some photos, with more blogs to come soon.

Made it, but Anxiety is a Bitch

So you’re probably thinking ‘what the hell is wrong with her, she’s going to do her dream, whats there to be anxious about?’. But that’s the thing, what was there to be anxious about? Nothing really but it still crept in, trying to get in the way.

I felt fine during the lead up, everyones been so supportive, especially my family & boyfriend, I didn’t even cry at the airport (wow), just had jelly legs. I’ve been looking forward to this for ages, hardly felt scared, well as scared as anyone would be and I was proud of myself, but no, anxiety has to show it’s face in situations where theres nothing to be worried about. I’m not afraid to admit I’m scared, I was actually confused like ‘why do I feel okay, this isn’t like me?’, but after being on the 1st flight for a bit and thinking I’ve supressed it, I started getting an uncomfortable feeling in my tummy, almost like being empty from hunger, but it was the anxiety creeping in; Probably didn’t help that I had to move seats on the plane cause a creepy man clearly didn’t understand personal space.

I just had so many unnecessary thoughts going through my head

  • ‘crap I’m so far away from my loved ones’
  • ‘what if I can’t do it’
  • ‘what if I’m not strong enough’
  • ‘what if I don’t get my connected flight’
  • ‘what if I overheat and faint’
  • ‘what if I stress over nothing’ (how ironic)

I’d even be anxious about things that don’t even relate to the situation like ‘Why didn’t I get a better grade in my dissertation’ or ‘Why can’t I just reply to a simple message’. All these ‘what if’s’ that don’t even matter.

I normally go by these steps when I’m encountering situations where anxiety pops up:

  1. Stay Calm
  2. Don’t Rush
  3. Breathe
  4. Eat
  5. Drink
  6. Stay Cool

I feel staying cool is a big one, as when you’re flustered its hard to focus, especially for me anyway. I don’t feel like anxiety is something you can completely cure, but just control (may differ for some of you).

Sorry if this post isn’t all high spirits, but anxiety is all part of travelling/day to day life and needs to be spoken about. Talking/writing actually does help, as much as I used to hate it.

But anyway, I actually teared up (happy tears obvs) when the pilot said ‘we will be arriving in Cebu in 10 mins’. Can’t believe I’m actually here now; here’s a couple of birds eye shots and a pretty swimming pool.

You’re not going to master your whole life in a day, so just relax. Master that day then keep doing that everyday”

Packing for a Dive Trip

So the time is very near and I’m pretty sure I have everything squeezed into my dive bag, but anyway, here is a packing list; For anyone planning a diving trip/travel trip (and for my own peace of mind so I made sure I didn’t forget anything..)

Scuba Gear

  • Mask & Snorkel
  • Wetsuits/(Drysuit)
  • Hood/Gloves
  • Fins, Monofin & Booties
  • BCD
  • Regulator with Gauge
  • De-fog
  • Dive Knife (cutting device)
  • Dive Computer & Tables
  • Dive Light
  • Compass
  • Gear Bag
  • SMB
  • Pocket Mask
  • Slates & Pencil
  • eRDPml
  • Weights/Weight Belt (If not provided)
  • Cylinder (If not provided)
  • Cue Cards (DM, IDC)
  • Log Books
  • Manuals
  • Certification cards

Photography Equipment

  • Camera(s)
  • Lens’
  • Housing (& Housing Cleaner)
  • Spare O-rings
  • Camera Bag
  • Memory Cards
  • Batteries
  • Cables/Chargers
  • Strobes
  • Hardrive

Clothing & Toiletries

  • T-shirts
  • Shorts
  • Underwear
  • Dresses
  • Warm Clothing
  • Rain gear
  • Swimwear
  • Flip Flops
  • Trainers
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Beach & Body Towel
  • Femanine Hygeine
  • Hair Care Products
  • Body Wash
  • Motion Sickness Pills
  • Medications & Pain relievers
  • Bug Spray
  • Suncream (Reef Safe!)
  • Toothbrush/Toothpaste

Miscellaneous

  • Passport/Visas
  • Boarding Passes
  • Identification Documents
  • Purse/Cards/Cash
  • Proof of Dive/Health Insurance
  • Emergency Contact Information
  • Any Tickets or Reservation Information
  • Maps of Area
  • Binoculars
  • Books, Laptop, Camera
  • Diary/Journal
  • Chargers & Adaptors
  • Hangers for Wetsuits
  • Waterproof Bag for Personal Items
  • Waterbottle
  • First Aid Kit

Despite getting everything sorted, I’m starting to feel pretty nervous now. I know I’ve done similar before and this is what I want but that doesnt stop anxiety creeping in or the fact I’m going to miss my family and friends so much. My routines going from getting up at 5.30am to go and sit in an office for 8 hours to getting up at 5.30 to go dive with some sharks and although thats exciting stuff, change still scares me. But anyway, enough feeling sorry for myself, lets do this 💪🏼🙈🦈

I do believe it’s time for another adventure”

Preparation & (a harsh) Realisation

So as you know next month I’ll be travelling to the Phillipines, but as I’ve been trying to prepare and get ready I’ve come across some hurdles and harsh realisations over the past couple of months, the main one was possibly not being physically strong enough to make it through everything, but I’ve been determined to change this, I need too.

Health-wise, the last couple of months haven’t been my best; my weight and appetite dropped, effecting me physically and mentally, as well as getting in the way of work and my social life, such as having to leave wherever I am due to feeling weak. 4 months ago I could swim 30-35 lengths relatively easy, a month ago I was tired after 16 but I am slowly improving and I aim to get back up to 30-40 before I go.

My boyfriend said I can be lazy (which I agree with) and my dad has been worried about my strength, how I’ll need to be strong, and even about if I’ll go or not. Mums had the same worries and sometimes it’s been hard to make them believe me that my heart is in it, although I can see where they’re coming from; I’ll need to be able carry 12-15kg (of tank) on my back, swim 500m, drag people heavier than me, do minimum 2 dives a day and so much more. That’s not even including the 30-35kg of luggage I’ll have as well. So yes, even though it’s hard for me to hear I do understand.

Since this realisation I’ve been working on these things to make a positive change to my body. I know I only have a few weeks left now, but I need to do this for me and I have been. I’ve started swimming more again, whether it’s on a day off or after work, I aim to do a minimum of 50 lengths a week, but I will also keep pushing myself (this did flop last week and a half as I’ve had the flu). I’ve started to use arm weights too, doing a minimum of 30 curls a day with 2.5kg weights,  giving me more lean muscle than bulky. So I’m hoping these things, as well as sorting out my diet, will help me build up strength, weight and stamina by the time I go. I have already noticed a difference but really need to push myself more over the next 2 weeks.

However, it’s not just my health I have to prepare before I go. I’ve never been to the Phillipines so I need to do a lot of research, planning and learning about the area I’ll be staying in and about the dive courses I’ll be taking part in (I have to do exams and I hate exams, may as well get learning early!). Mum has been amazing with helping me plan some adventures, some of which we will be doing together with dad and I cant wait for that. Swimming with sharks (Whale and Thresher), visiting Kawasan Falls and visiting Bohol are definitely going to be highlights and I can’t wait to share other posts and photos with you guys while exploring these beautiful places.

My diving research mostly consists of going over previous course books, (re)learning as much as I can before starting Divemaster. I’ve also been watching a lot of technique videos and doing a lot of research about the courses so I know (mostly) what I’m in for. While researching I’ve noticed that I need to know and remember LOADS of hand signals, so I invested in the Scuba Diving Hand Signals book by Lars Behnke, which is unbelievably helpful. Here are some of my favourite’s I’ve learnt so far:

top left to bottom right: Shark, Hammerhead Shark, Love, Seahorse, Rabbitfish, White Shark.

It has been a tough few months trying to sort myself out and will continue to be physically demanding, but it will all be worth it in the end 🙂

If I can’t scuba then what’s this all been about, What have I been working towards?”  – Creed Bratton