- Adventure Travel
- Travel Misadventures
- All Posts
- Media & PR
Ever since my friends that I studied abroad with got their scuba diving certifications, I’ve wanted to get mine too. Why be relegated to the surface when I could go underwater and explore coral reefs, shipwrecks, and the many other hidden treasures of the ocean? The idea fascinated me, but I kept telling myself that I needed more money before I splashed out on a course.
A year later, I got a chance to do an introductory dive as part of a day cruise to the outer Barrier Reef. I happily signed up for a late morning timeslot with James before jumping into the water to have a bit of a snorkel first. I felt a bit wound up, but blamed it on the fact that my mask kept filling with water no matter how I adjusted it.
It was only once I’d gotten all suited up, tanks and all, and was clinging to the back of the boat with the rest of the intro divers when I realised something was seriously wrong. I was terrified. I didn’t want to put my head under the water anymore. What if I did something wrong? All they’d really done was show us how to clear our masks and breathe through the regulator. Surely there were things I’d missed.
It was the closest I’ve come to a panic attack in recent memory. Eventually, James and the instructor convinced me it would be ok and I managed to put my head in the water to show them I could do it. I ended up having a great time following our instructor around looking at all of the different corals, tropical fish, and giant clams that Paradise Reef had to offer.
That was six years ago, yet the memories were brought back to me full force when I got serious about getting back into shape a few months ago. My physio had recommended swimming to make sure I don’t do too much on my knee too soon so I headed to the pool, only to be disappointed when I struggled to make it across the 50m. I told people later that I knew I was in better shape than that, but that I had a blazing headache and burning legs after 400m. It wasn’t right.
They told me that yes, it wasn’t right — but how was I breathing? Confused, I told them that I breathed in, took 3 strokes, then breathed out and in, which was how I’d always swum. Apparently, that’s absolutely the wrong way to go about it. I needed to breathe out underwater so I could get a full breath in when I came up for air.
It seemed simple enough, so I went back to the pool and tried it without much success. Breathing out underwater, for some reason, made me feel like I was getting rid of precious air that I might not be able to refill. It made me feel like I was drowning…and was almost the exact feeling I had when I was trying to dip my head in to scuba dive. I have a feeling it’s the same feeling my mom had when my brother and I taught her how to snorkel too.
It was a completely irrational feeling, given that I was on the surface of the pool with no shortage of air around me, yet it took me many trips to the pool to conquer it. Even though I now breathe correctly (and can swim much further with no headache in sight!), I still feel it occasionally…and that terrifies me.
If I feel that way on the surface, how will I feel 15m under? A big part of scuba diving is keeping your cool…and can I guarantee that I would? I’d like to hope so, but I don’t want to stake my safety (and my dive partner’s) on a hope. Sure, I was fine once I got going on my previous dive, and I’m perfectly happy to snorkel for hours with not a care in the world…but the fear of scuba diving is a completely irrational one, so I don’t know when it will hit.
So, even though James now has his scuba license and needs a dive buddy, I think I’ll be waiting a bit longer to get mine. I hope I can get over this fear eventually so I can go diving with humpback whales in Tonga or explore the wrecks of Tangalooma, but right now, I just don’t know if I would feel safe trying.
What irrational fears have you experienced? How did you manage to get past them?