Denise Galasso-Liedlich

White Water Rafting

“I don’t know if I want to go on this trip.” I’m moaning to Steve while he’s in the kitchen packing lunch. I’m stuffing dry clothes into a back pack that we will put on after the festivities are over. I’m still not over my last visit to the hospital. That was in November and it’s March already but I’m still struggling with going to places for a certain length of time.

“If I really think that I’m better than I can go on an adventure, right?” I’m seriously trying to figure out in my head how to tell Steve that I am too afraid to go white water rafting. He did all this work to set up the trip for us.

“OH Sweeetie. You’ll do great. We’ll be fine. Trust me.” Steve hugs me and I try to squirm away which is what I do when I’m confused or not sure of something. “This is a beginner class babe, nothing can go wrong.” Steve’s been on three rafting trips. All were in


and on much faster rivers so I’m sure it will be fine. I just get scared.

My mind is starting to talk…”This is too scary, don’t do it. People die doing this stuff all of the time. Not only that…it’s too cold. I don’t want to be cold.” See? Manic depression controls you.

I’m totally reluctant getting in the car and it takes six hugs from Steve and about 3 more reassurances that we are going to have a good day and it is going to be fine.

Just to be sure I write out a positive plan for the day: “Today will be a great and safe day. We will meet and enjoy people in nature and we will be safe…and did I mention a safe day blessed by God and safe…..” I do this to make myself feel better but my anxiety which should have a name by now is tough and it has a voice.

It’s been about an hour of driving and I need to stop. My stomach is nauseous. Steve pulls over by this little store with big signs that say “GAS. FOOD. WETSUITS.”

We get some snacks and get back to the car. I’m sort of shaking. “I’m really scared. What if something happens. What if I’m not ready for this?” Steve hugs me again. “Honey, trust me, we’re going to have a great day. Look at the sun. It’s gorgeous.” I cry because I know that I always have a bad time. I don’t know how to have fun. My brain begins to spin with bad thoughts and I can’t make them stop. I guess I’m at a panic. Steve holds my hand. He’s been through these anxiety attacks hundreds of times and I still can’t believe he married me like this. “I’m not going to let anything happen to you.” Steve starts to sing the Grateful dead and rubs my hand. “It’s your song…sugar mags.”

We pull into a grassy parking area and we see a tent next to a van with a few people beneath it preparing sandwiches. “That must be the company. No one is here yet. Are you ready babe?” I’m not ready. Not at all. My mind has completely decided to not do this. I just haven’t told Steve yet. I look at myself in the mirror. My face is all red and my make-up in smeared. Oh my god, their going to think I’m such a princess because I have make-up on a rafting trip. I wipe is off as much as I can. I didn’t eat much and I’m thinking were going to need some energy to power through the day. I’m still nauseous from the car ride and now just both nauseous and hungry. My fibromaylgia kicked in half way and my knees feel like their burning. I took all my meds so I feel oozy and not straight which is average everyday for me. Food is included on this trip. What if I get nauseous in the raft and need to throw up. There’s that fear again. Why would that even happen? It’s not like you can just stop the boat. By God, you are out in nature.

Steve stops before he gets out introducing us and he reminds me of things to remember…”remember you baseball cap, are both socks on, keep your dry clothes here and I’ll carry your water bottle.” Sometimes I swear I’m his kid. It makes sense. I’m usually whining and or crying.

I walk up to where new friends are lined up and I smile. “Oh we can't let HER on the raft.” An older couple is looking me up and over. “And her Yankees hat!.” All the people bust out laughing. I forgot….I wear my Yankees hat in


and it really pisses the Mariner fans off. I just don’t get into that and I forget that it’s this big thing. I love baseball but only because my father and grandfather and my uncles loved it. And they were all Yankee fans so the game and team are special to me but to just make off set remarks is just so rude. It’s not my fault that your team sucks. Oh wait, I’ll correct myself. Mariner games are awesome. Mariner games are my favorite place to meditate!  Steve just says “Oh, she’s my Italian princess.” I decide to walk back to the car to finish getting my three level layer of outfit now….two pair of socks, insulated undees, undees, thin pair of yoga pants under my jeans then sports bra, (like I’m so sporty I actually own one.)t-shirt, long shirt, t shirt again, hoodie and of course hat. 

“Hon, they didn’t really have anything vegetarian…We ordered two vegetarian plates so I just tore apart this meat wrap for you and saved the veggies.” I know…he’s amazing right? I take the plate and pout. “I’m allergic to peppers.”  “Okay.  so don’t eat em.” I'm pushing him. 

“I’m sorry. I’m just scared and these people are assholes.” I’m eating pieces of rolled up pita with mayonnaise. I’m eating sparingly b/c I don’t want any food in my stomach in case I feel sick so I’m glad they forgot our plates.

“Why don’t you just come over and meet some people? Tell them a story. They’ll love you.” Steve is putting on all his garb now. “ They were just teasing you. Forget about it. Roll it off. We have the right to be proud of our favorite team. “

I’m still shaking as I walk over to the bigger crowd. I just look down. I don’t feel confident to make friends. I just want to know how safe this activity is, how long and how do I feel when it’s over.  “Okay, folks, this is a 4 hour tour, so hope you’ve gone to the bathroom.” The leader announces like he just read my mind. We all just put on our wetsuits and now we have to take them off and go to the bathroom. We wait in line for the port a potty which is the only real changing room other than our cars. I’m so not outdoorsy.

I come out of the porty and walk over to Steve and the much larger crowed now. I take a big breath. ”Okay, I’m going to have fun. I can have fun.” From a completely different women, older again and with female companion, “EWE We’re not letting her in. YANKEES, eh?” “Eh? Oh yeah, I sometimes forget that we live an hour from


. I just want to laugh. 

“REALLY?” I dart my eyes at her like I’m going to take her right before our happy gay little rafting trip and I’m going to beat her in my wet suit! I start walking away.

Steve comes after me. “I can’t do this. I can’t go on this trip. I’m scared. I’m scared I can’t handle it. Please don’t make me go…Please.”

“Honey, we have special arrangements with the representatives of this organization. We really need to go. I promised Mike I’d do a blog post about it.”

I wipe my tears and boogers on the wetsuit. “But we don’t know the company…They don’t seem that nice.”

Steve looks at his cell phone for the time and thinks for a bit. “Remind me to put this in the car. There are about 10 minutes before they call us over for orientation.” Then he pulls me close to him. “Look, if you decide at the last minute that you just can’t do it then I’ll give you the keys. You take the car and go relax in town and I’ll go on the trip and you just pick me back up in four hours, Okay honey?”  I’m so relieved and never thought he would say that just let him go alone after it’s been two months that we’ve been planning it. He doesn’t want to go alone. I don’t want to go.

I’m going to beat this fucking anxiety/depression mental disorder. I’m going to plow over this scary wimpy mind and decide that I want to live my life and have fun! I put a smile on my face. “I’m proud of you.” Steve takes my hand and we go back over to the crowed.

We shake hands and I don’t remember anyone’s name. I take a look at the light around them all (a different story) and look at their auras (something I do when I am adjusting to an experience or atmosphere.) I smile but most of them do not smile back. I guess they are just really serious rafters.

Now in a fast paced manner the team that are suited up in the same colors start talking fast and giving orders. They're all on walkie talkies. There are 4 boat drivers and 2 emergency boat vehicles plus an intern and the owner of the group. They all seem smug to me. Their all joking with each other but with none of the guests. None of them ever ask if we are new. They are all busy doing their little rafting preparation jobs.

One of the drivers begins the seriously non-material like safety class. “GRAB A BUEY BAG IF SOMEONE IS OUT OF THE BOAT. BUT WHAT DOESN’T HAPPEN HERE CLASS?” The class yells “NO ONE GETS OUT OF THE BOAT.” Captain YELL yells again. “WE WILL HAVE MUCH MORE FUN IF EVERYONE STAYS IN THE BOAT. WHERE DOES EVERYONE STAY? Everyone yells “EVERYONE STAYS IN THE BOAT.” So I've got it. No one gets out of the boat and I’ve got send out a buoy bag if someone does? How can that be all we need to know? I guess I can ask questions as they come.

They repeat the TEAM issue that we and each boat is a TEAM which means we row together. Rowing apart means that we are not a team so we must row together. When he says row…we row…when he says stop, we stop. Somehow I feel like none of this information is going to save our lives.

The first task on hand is to pick up our raft from land and drag it into the water. It takes 8 people to do this because that sucker is heavy and if you are shorter than everyone else you can’t hold on to the damn thing and it’s wet so…I’m frustrated already. None of us are really walking in unison and the ropes are burning my palms as I try to hold on. I keep dropping the raft.I slip and fall into the water. It’s in March in friekin’



. I try not to cry. No one is paying attention.

We get in the raft. Oh look. It’s the first lady that said the snotty remark about my hat. I think to myself. “I hope SHE doesn’t fall in.” She is really close to her 70’s and I think how cool that she and her husband are going on this adventure. The crew instruct us to sit on the side of the raft which is very bumpy. It feels like I’m going to slip backwards any second. We are allowed to push our feet under the next seat in front of us. Steve and I are in the last seat while the driver is behind us. He answers our questions with short quips and he seems snappy. Steve tries to lighten the mood and starts conversation with people.  We begin to move. I take a deep breath…”Okay, this is pretty.” I look at the rows and rows of greenery on the sides of the riverbank. It feels so bumpy. I try to push my butt more on the raft but I get corrected by the instructor. “YOU want to stay on the side. And paddle.” It takes my whole body to paddle to the point where I can get the paddle all of the way into the water. I'm practically standing to do it. I’m 5’1 and I notice the women in front is bending over pretty much all the way to get hers into the water. I’m concerned if we are doing this right. “Are we doing this right?” “Your fine just keep paddling and stop when I tell you.” I concentrate on his instruction.

I hear a rushing and I’m not recognizing what that sound is until I see the rushing wather ahead of us. I want to get in the raft but the instructor is screaming at us to paddle harder, paddle harder. His heart is pounding. He seems more nervous than I am. I can totally see his weariness and work he’s putting on steering this boat. All I can feel is fear. There are rocks ahead of us and the water is rushing in huge amounts. This fear that I should have listened to maybe is not depression but inhibition. I look at Steve. He is looking very serious. He reaches out and puts his finger through a loop in my jeans to keep me in the boat. How he did that the entire time and paddled is beyond me.

BOOM! We wash over a rock again and I take a breath and water just crashes into my face and all over me. BOOM! It HAPPENS AGAIN. I’m trying to breath and every time I inhale water comes into my mouth. The instructor screams at me. “PADDLE, PADDLE.” My head is so close to the water, my foot is jammed under the seat. THIS SUCKS. My eyes are burning. The next bump hits and I try to keep paddling. It's so jarring.There is so much rocking I can barely tell what is happening but at the corner of my eye I see a paddle go flying and then the body that held onto it. My Mariner opponent is thrown out of the raft. 

I look at the instructor. He is screaming for me to get the buoy bag. I go to reach for it and can't find it and my foot is jammed under the seat. I try to move it but it's completely stuck. He grabs the bag and throws it out. I remember the training; I put out my paddle do  Mrs Marinerladyfan vsn swim to it.

“PULL HER IN…PULL HER IN.” This asshole is still screaming. I look down and there is a body face down in the water. I do everything in my power to grab her and pull her out. Here I am a 117Iib depressed women that barely ate, having muscles spasms and pain and I’m trying to pull a 180Ilb cold wet lady out of the water? I’m trying…I’m trying so hard and I’m wishing I was so much stronger. So much better of a person. So much better at a human being. Another girl on the other side tries to help me. The two of us both can't pull her out of the water.  The commotion is mind boggling. Three people fell out of our raft. Three fell out of another. Two from another. There are bodies just out there in the rapids waving and waiting for help.

Steve and another guy pull the lady in and they lay her on top of my leg that is stuck under the seat. The force is moving my ankle in a different direction than my foot. I can feel my ankle begin to slowly dislocate itself. I don’t want to say anything. MrsMarinerladyfan  almost died on my legs. I put my hand on her head and ask her if she is okay. She said that she was scared and dizzy. She says she doesn't feel any injuries and it appears like she doesn't have any. I take her hand and tell her that she is safe now. She needs time to catch her breath. She is okay and begins to talk to us about her experience. I flush a bunch of love from my heart to her and pray for her. She is shaken and in shock but she is so glad to be alive. They finally help her up and I can tell my ankle is sprained. Why even bring it up now?

Everything stops and quiets down. The teacher pulls us over so that we can all take a rest. I want to get the hell off this raft. I’m shaking and crying to myself but not so that anyone notices. I wasn’t ready for this. Everyone is soaked so no one notices my wet face. I don’t want to be the weak one. I don’t want to be the one that gets voted off the raft. I think that’s irrelevant now. I’m mad at Steve and don’t want to talk to him. He told me everything would be fine. He told me to trust him. He is my husband and I trust him. He looks really concerned right now. He is still holding onto my belt loop.

There is nothing I can do. We continue on. More rapids and more of the same. More YELLING, more people falling out. More saving lives with no experience whatsoever in emergency training. It’s just a trip to get home now. Everyone tries to stay lighthearted in the raft. We are more bonded now. We are a true team now. The instructor is still an asshole. We all sit more in the raft and closer to the inside. We paddle when we can and not when we are on the verge of falling out. I know this experience is a love for some people. I know this adventure is normal to some but to me it is scary. I bet if we had a difference group, it might be a little different.

We are towards the end. I am so ready for this to be over that I suddenly get a happy feeling. I’m present. I  enjoy the trees and the sun and the water. Actually I’m cold as hell and I’ve seen and drank enough water. I brought my water bottle with me and it is still rolling at the bottom of the raft. It looks so funny. I carry a bottle of water and I was almost completely engulfed by a raging waterfall. We are floating and I begin to gaze in the water. I am that water. I feel myself let go. We go over a little bump. It’s okay.

We stop for one more rest on this little island of pollywogs. Steve hugs me and asks if I’m okay. I’m limping. We are allowed to walk the rest of the way because there is one more set of 5 rapids. Steve assumes I want to walk. I decide that I’m going with the raft. Just we and another couple take the rapids. I feel that I want to beat what I’m afraid of. I can do it now because it’s over.

We take those rapids and everyone stays in the raft. Then I see the van with the owner. I am super happy. I jump out and happily do whatever I am supposed to do. I thank everyone and tell them I had a good time. I lied. I just want to get the hell out of here. They don’t even respond in a nice way. These people suck.

Our fellow travelers seem to feel the way we do. They look at us and smile. “You did a good job” A few of the others wink at me. They know I beat my fear.


All rights belong to its author. It was published on by demand of Denise Galasso-Liedlich.
Published on on 02/25/2011.


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