Taylor Grieger returned home from the military with PTSD. After miraculously failing at an attempt to take his own life, he decided to sail around Cape Horn in an effort to raise awareness about military veterans suffering from PTSD — and to record his healing journey through adventure therapy in a new documentary called Hell or High Seas.
Grieger, director Glenn Holsten, and producer Chayne Gregg spoke about making the documentary on a new episode of the Factual America podcast. You can listen to the episode above, on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, or right here:
“Hell or High Seas is about Taylor Grieger’s adventure — journey, actually — to heal himself, but also raise attention to the troubling fact that many people who return from the military don’t return healthy and then end up taking their lives, dying by suicide,” said Holsten. “Taylor wanted to raise awareness about this fact that exists in America that an unfortunate number of people die every day by suicide — veterans. But he also wanted to challenge himself by taking this adventure and sailing around Cape Horn, which is the bottom tip of the world, and some of the most dangerous waters.”
Grieger said he wanted to make the documentary to show other veterans that even after their darkest moments, it gets better.
“One of the biggest things that happened me whenever I got back was my adrenaline would start running for no reason at all. And I didn’t know why,” Grieger said. “It was weird, and it was really scary, honestly, because I thought that something was really wrong with me. And so the goal of the film and the reason why we made the film was to show my experience so the guys coming out after us didn’t have that same experience I did, but they knew exactly what was going on with their body and they didn’t just go down that PTSD spiral which can just ruin your life.”
The veteran added that he hopes that if other soldiers returning from the military saw what he went through, they would know “that you can heal, and you can get better that they won’t have to go through what I did when I first got back.”
Grieger also likes to hold Q&A sessions after screenings in order to meet other veterans and tell them that it’s possible to recover from PTSD.
“For me, I didn’t want to live in this world anymore. It was just so dark and disgusting, dude, there was no reason to want to stay in this world and be a part of it. And that’s all I saw every single day. We hear it over and over again at these screenings that we do now, veterans from Vietnam, from World War II, come up and say the exact same thing. They say, ‘I’ve been living like this for decades, and nobody has ever told me this.’ And that breaks my freakin’ heart, dude. Those guys have been in pain for 20 years, 30 years. That’s why we made this film to talk about it and say, there is a physical problem here that you can actually heal,” he said. “W talk about that in the film, too, that your hippocampus can regrow whenever you are in environments where your adrenaline’s running, your endorphins running. That’s one of the biggest things we talk about when we do Q&As in the screenings is adventure therapy and how you can heal — you don’t have to live in the darkness anymore.”
Hell or High Seas is available to stream on-demand on YouTube, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, and on more VOD services via the Hell or High Seas website. Here are the timestamps from the Factual America interview:
00:00 – The trailer for Hell or High Seas.
04:04 – What the film is about.
05:24 – Why Taylor Grieger set himself such an extreme challenge.
06:31 – How they got the idea to sail around Cape Horn.
07:40 – How Chayne and Glenn got involved with the production.
11:14 – How Taylor got quality footage without having any prior filming experience.
16:50 – Glenn’s experience in creating films around mental health.
18:59 – What PTSD is and how it affects you on a physiological level.
21:54 – Taylor’s advice for family members of people who suffer from PTSD.
24:45 – The possibility of recovery from PTSD and how this can be achieved.
28:12 – How people have responded to the film’s screenings.
31:22 – The work Britain is doing to help its veterans after combat.
37:19 – How people can help raise awareness about veterans’ struggles with PTSD.
39:51 – The next projects Glenn is working on.
42:15 – What Taylor’s goals are now.
Factual America examines America through the lens of documentary filmmaking. Guests include Academy Award, Emmy and Grammy-winning filmmakers and producers, their subjects, as well as experts on the American experience. We discuss true crime, music, burning social and political topics, history and arts with the creators of the latest and upcoming documentary films in theatres and on the most popular digital platforms. This podcast is produced by Alamo Pictures, a London- and Austin-based production company that makes documentaries about the US from a European perspective for international audiences.
Main Image: A still from Hell or High Seas, courtesy of Factual America.