MOST THINGS WE FEAR WON’T ACTUALLY HAPPEN
I like being near water. I enjoy strolls along the beach, dipping my feet in, being on the water in a boat, or a kayak, and just watching the water from the shore. However, I don’t really like being in the water very long, especially if it’s not a pool or a hot tub. The reason being I am actually a little scared of what could be in the water. It’s mostly when the water isn’t clear and I can’t see what’s happening under me. Swimming or even walking into an ocean makes me nervous. I am secretly worried something will bite me. Not a shark, but smaller things, little fish, crap, I don’t even know. I’m just paranoid, but I swear I feel something brushing up on my legs whenever I’m in the water which only supports my theories. I have visited many places with beaches so not enjoying the water as much as I’d like dampens the experiences.
I recently visited Thailand, and while I was there I took an opportunity which presented itself and faced my fear. My friend and I had originally booked a snorkeling tour at one of the islands, but were told we would have to reschedule it due to choppy waters. The instructor then started telling us about their guided scuba diving tours and wondered if we would be interested in that instead. Wait a minute. So you’re asking me if instead of floating safely on top of the water with a lifejacket I would like to strap on an oxygen tank and dive a few meters down into the ocean and hang out there for an hour? No thank you!!!
I was about to say I’m ok thanks, I’ll just go for the snorkeling. Then the instructors started telling us how beautiful the reefs are and how Thailand is one of the best places IN THE WORLD for scuba diving and they always see beautiful turtles and other marine life. As I’m listening to this, my fierce inner voice the one that fears nothing and takes no prisoners, jumps in and says “Woman! This is a GREAT OPPORTUNITY! DO IT! You’ll be FINEEEEE!!!!” I admit, sometimes that fierce inner voice gets a little ambitious, but nevertheless I decided maybe she is right. I made my decision; I will go diving. I’m signing up for up to dive to up to 12 meters apparently, goggles, flippers, a wetsuit, a heavy oxygen tank on my back and 2 one-hour sessions. What could possibly go wrong?
I was feeling quite confident about my decision, like a badass even. I am going to deal with this fear of deep waters and I’m gonna do it with a view. But come the morning that inflated confidence was falling flat. I was very nervous, scared even. I have signed up for an hours worth of water time, what if I freak out? What if I don’t like it and I want to get out of the water? I didn’t want to be that person that ruins it for everyone and has to stop everything so I can get out.
As we are heading out into the ocean to the diving sites we are given our gear to put on. Even though it was +30C outside, I was shaking cold putting my wetsuit on and trying to fit my goggles on. The tanks were heavy, very heavy, and the flippers were hard to walk in. I was scared. Once in the water, I was getting even more uncomfortable. My girlfriend and I were paired with one instructor who would hang on to our oxygen tanks while we were under the water and guide us. Think of those backpacks little kids wear that have leashes. It makes the kids feel like they are independent but ensures they don’t venture off too far from the parents. Like we are doing it on our own, but safely. We had to do some basic exercises to show that we knew how to clear our mask of water, and how to find our oxygen if our mouthpiece falls out.
I was so nervous I could not coordinate the breathing with the mouthpiece insertion and took a big gulp of seawater and started coughing like crazy. We were off to a bad start…Once I finally got that straightened out, we started descending into the deep water. I was uncomfortable with the oxygen mask, breathing solely through my mouth I felt like I wasn’t getting enough air in. A few minutes into it I was not feeling comfortable with the breathing, I have pressure in my ears, and I wasn’t seeing anything of interest down there. I was already over it. What did I do?
This was a mistake. What was I thinking? How am I supposed to last another hour? I am quietly freaking out, trying to come up with some kind of game plan while I am deep underwater, with very limited choices. My inner voice popped in again. “ENOUGH!!! CALM DOWN!!!! You’re here now, you have at least an hour till you get out. You can do this, stay in the moment and BREATHE. Everything is fine.” And I started taking deeper breaths. I needed to relax. After a few of those I finally felt like I figured out this breathing thing, I just had to keep taking very deep breaths and slow breaths. What a relief. One thing down. Alright…stay in the moment… let’s start looking around and seeing what is actually down here. As I relaxed and leisurely swam I finally noticed beautiful colored fish, coral, starfish, sea urchin, and they were all so close. This was getting fun. Then out of nowhere, this huge school of yellow fish crossed our path. There were so many of them, all swimming in the same direction and we were right in the middle of it. Whichever direction I looked I was surrounded by fish. I have never seen anything so beautiful up close. I was so excited, I was squealing under my mask and reaching out as far as I could to try and touch them but they would just go around me. We even saw a big turtle swimming around and eating coral. I was LIVING. The diving turned out to be one of the best, if not THE best adventure of our trip.
Going into this trip, I had no intention of scuba diving, nor was this something at the forefront of my brain at all. Things just unexpectedly developed like that and it turned out to be an amazing experience. I went into the unknown and put myself in an uncomfortable position, voluntarily, with the hopes of overcoming a perceived fear. I say perceived because although the fear of something like being in the water was definitely real, seeing how far down you really have to go to see anything alive that could bite at all, the fear was more embellished in my head. Also, as long as you leave the marine life alone they won’t bother you. Once we were done with the diving I felt so empowered and I then ventured out and did more unexpected and fun things. We have all heard the phrase, most things we fear won’t actually happen, and with a bit of exploring we often find this to be exactly the case.
By Ivana Anusic