War Story: Classes Help Vet Emerge from Depression

Susan Skalbeck was struggling. She had just returned from Afghanistan after many years of service as a Navy cook, only to be confronted with depression, anxiety and rapid weight gain. “I had PTSD and didn’t even know it.” she said. “I knew I had to do something to change all that.”

Remembering exercise classes she had enjoyed as she prepared to have children, Susan decided to look through Willamalane’s recreation guide to learn about exercise classes for adults. “I started with Active Exercise a little over two years ago,” Susan said. “I cannot tell you how it’s changed my life for the better. I’ve lost inches, I’ve lost weight, and the depression has gotten much better.”

Susan has experimented with other fitness classes. Stability Balls, she says, is “great for stretching muscles in a sore back.” She appreciates the workout class Better Bones and Balance as a cooldown from Active Exercise, and has also enjoyed Zumba Gold and Yoga for Health.

“In each class, the instructors are the best,” Susan says. “They care about us so much. It’s not just exercising: It’s doing it correctly, having good form, and giving us information to improve our lives.”

Susan also volunteers for Willamalane in her free time. “Since I’m not quite retired yet, I want to continue being around food,” she said. She likes to work with other volunteers at events that involve food preparation, since it lets her give back to a community she feels has helped her through a tough time.

“I truly believe that Willamalane saved my life after I got home from Afghanistan,” Susan says. “I didn’t have a lot to look forward to, and now I look forward to every day.”