“Facing Stigma” with Tigra H.

“I was a poor kid living in Texas being raised by a single mom. It really pushed me to get out and see the world. I really wanted to go into the military because I had already attained my pilot’s license and had a goal of flying for the military. I was selected to go into the Air Force Academy through a congressional nomination, but I ended up being unable to take my original appointment after getting ill and being put in the hospital for some time. I ended up going into the Active Duty Air Force in 2007 and was assigned a job in weapon systems maintenance for F-15’s. My plan was to take an alternative route from there into flight school, but unfortunately that never happened. While I was in I developed some pretty bad PTSD after a MST (Military Sexual Trauma) experience. Due to some of those psychological stressors I had difficulties moving forward from that experience. I ended up getting a medical discharge and transitioning back into the civilian sector. It was really challenging at the time because I wasn’t able to understand the triggers and the responses I was having. I ended up moving to Colorado once I got out and had some difficulty integrating back into civilian life. I dealt with suicidal thoughts and major depression and didn’t know a single person there. Then one day my neighbor knocked on my door and invited me to go rafting. I went to a white water rafting school, and now I’m going on my 13th year of being a professional white water river guide. While that in itself is therapeutic, I’ve pursued a lot of different therapeutic modalities in my healing process. They’ve really helped me find a sense of peace in my life. I spend half my year in California and Nevada as a guide and the other half of the year in Costa Rica with clients that want to do specialized trips in the jungle. Starting my company, Hydro Handle, became a big part of that as well and my motivation is to make some money and give that profit back to veteran support programs and protecting the environment. I dedicate 90% of my business proceeds toward these programs which also feeds my fire for service. I have a big heart for veterans and always talk about the modalities that worked for me. My hope is that maybe they will turn to a positive way of getting help for the trauma they may have experienced.”