Paddleboarding for PTSD: Samantha Rutt's World Record Attempt Across the English Channel
Samantha Rutt from Langham in North Norfolk is planning to beat a World Record for crossing the English Channel on a standup paddleboard to help raise awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and fundraise for PTSD UK.
Samantha was diagnosed with Complex PTSD (C-PTSD) 3 years ago, and is set to embark on this historic journey in June 2023. She will take on the challenge of paddling from Dover to France on a paddleboard, with the goal of setting a new world record for the fastest completion of the distance. This feat not only showcases Samantha’s strength and determination, but also serves as a platform to raise awareness and spark crucial conversations surrounding PTSD and C-PTSD.
PTSD is a debilitating condition which some people develop after experiencing a trauma in their life such as a road traffic accident, bereavement, personal assault, natural disaster, miscarriage, traumatic childbirth, being bullied, sexual violence, childhood abuse, domestic abuse or fire. Complex PTSD can arise after experiencing multiple, sustained or repeated traumas such as physical health issues, events experienced in employment where you repeatedly encounter distressing scenes, military service, childhood abuse, domestic abuse and caring for a loved one with a complex medical condition.
It’s estimated that in any given week in the UK, 4 in 100 people have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – this equates to 2,612,000 people in the UK, yet it’s still an incredibly misunderstood, and still relatively unknown condition.
Samantha is not only fundraising for PTSD UK (the only charity in the UK dedicated to supporting everyone affected by PTSD and C-PTSD), but is hoping to raise awareness of the conditions by completing her SUP channel crossing challenge. “After years of living with undiagnosed PTSD, I finally realised that my struggles were a result of past trauma. This realisation was life-changing for me, and I am now on a mission to raise awareness about this condition and offer hope to others who may be struggling. Through my challenge, I hope to inspire people to understand that they are not alone, and that they can get to the ‘other side’ of it. I know that this journey may be filled with moments of needing to wrestle with self-doubt, anxiety, and fear, but I believe that the impact of my message will make it all worth it, even if it simply inspires someone to get out of bed!”
Samantha explains how really understanding her C-PTSD diagnosis helped support her journey to this point, “Originally when I was diagnosed, I didn’t want to believe it, so sought a second opinion, which concluded the same outcome I had C-PTSD.
The main reason for struggling so much to accept that I had it, was due to the fact I had grown up as a military child and then went into a career as a Close Protection Officer so I was surrounded by ex-military, police and paramedics who had witnessed and been through things in life I couldn’t even imagine. I equated PTSD to going to war and witnessing huge atrocities and accepting my diagnosis, as silly as it may sound, I felt disrespectful to people who had been through much worse than me.
It was during my journey to recovery that I realised I had experienced a lot of trauma as a child: divorce, domestic violence, rape, multiple types of abuse and I know I am not alone in that as so many people sadly have also been through it. I’d managed to get through to adulthood and on the outside was functioning well… I had some odd traits like over the top hypervigilance, so I couldn’t go for a run on my own without planning escape routes or what I would pick up to defend myself from an attack. I also had really intense emotions popping up and surprising me and my family as the intensity felt so out of context – I didn’t realise at the time that something had been triggered in me.
I could deal fine with car accidents involving children, perform CPR and fail (even on a close friend), be at the bedside of loved ones whose passing wasn’t too peaceful and deal with it so calmly. I wondered why everyone else was struggling and asking myself “why can’t I just be normal?” Then one day it all caught up with me. Thankfully I fell right into the hands of a great therapist who understood PTSD. The last three years have been a lot of work but I have realised PTSD isn’t about comparing, or thinking ‘my trauma isn’t as bad as that’ it’s about how your body deals with trauma, whatever you’ve experienced.”
Jacqui Suttie, Founder and CEO of PTSD UK added “We’re in awe of all of our supporters and their dedication to the challenges they set themselves – and Samantha’s challenge is incredible! Not only does it help support our mission to support everyone affected by PTSD and C-PTSD, no matter the trauma that caused it, it also lets others with the condition see what is possible, that there is hope and maybe even set themselves a challenge too! We can’t wait to see what she achieves on this incredible journey!”
Not only have Samantha’s friends and family rallied around her to support this challenge, but businesses Waterskills Academy, Paddlelogger, Starboard SUP and Sups Life are supporting her in this challenge.
If you’d like to support Samantha by way of sponsorship, you can do so here: https://www.justgiving.com/page/samantha-rutt-ptsduk
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Treatments for PTSD
It is possible for PTSD to be successfully treated many years after the traumatic event occurred, which means it is never too late to seek help. For some, the first step may be watchful waiting, then exploring therapeutic options such as individual or group therapy – but the main treatment options in the UK are psychological treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Traumatic events can be very difficult to come to terms with, but confronting and understanding your feelings and seeking professional help is often the only way of effectively treating PTSD. You can find out more in the links below, or here.