Is there something that completely paralyzes you or has you doubled over with agonizing stomach pains? FEAR, who knew a four letter word could have so much POWER.
I'm not really sure where my fear of water comes from. I used to swim on a team when I was younger and LOVED being in the water. When I think back, it was around junior high age that I can remember that I stopped wanting to go in the water. I don't remember anything traumatic happening, but I am also aware of how strong and powerful our subconscious mind is. It is very good at completely erasing a memory from our recollection.
“At the time I didn't realize how much I was tearing up my feet and legs from the sharp reef and rocks. I was focused on not dying. Not drowning in fear, figuratively and literally.”
My fear was confirmed during my senior trip to Cancun, Mexico. We went on a snorkeling trip with two options - we could ride on a boat to see a beautiful reef with more colorful fish in deeper water OR we could walk out to a smaller reef from the shore. Clearly I chose to walk from the shore. I thought the gradual increase of depth would be okay. I was so wrong!
When Panic Strikes
As the water got deeper and started to pass my hips (my comfort zone), I could feel the pressure build up from the water pressing on my torso. It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I was walking in a line, so there wasn't really an option to stop, so I walked out a little deeper. The water was now up to my chest and I was beginning to feel very anxious. Fortunately the reef opened up a bit and people could walk around me, so I pretended to stop and take pictures with my underwater camera. Keep in mind this was 1997, so it is a film camera. Instead of going completely underwater with my body and taking pictures of the fish and reef, I held the camera underwater and hoped for the best.
But in a few short minutes, with the anxiety building and more people coming into the reef area, I started to panic. I just wanted OUT of the water as fast as I could, but the trail of people were coming in the reef towards me, so I couldn't walk against them to get back to shore. My only way was up. I began to climb up the reef and rocks. At the time I didn't realize how much I was tearing up my feet and legs from the sharp reef and rocks. I was focused on not dying. Not drowning in fear, figuratively and literally.
I was finally able to ask for help and had to get someone to clear the way and help me get back to shore. I was fatigued mentally and physically, embarrassed and extremely emotional.
A Mom of Two Water Babies
Once I became a mom, it was very clear that our daughter took after her father and was a water baby. She loved being in the water! So I decided to venture out into the water again. Swimming pools and VERY clear beaches were the only places I would attempt to go in. Only to hip height, but mostly up to my knees is where I felt ok. On two occasions I stood at hip height water and ducked down in the water to be at our daughter's level in the water. But the water pressure wasn't scaring me because I knew I could stand and the water would only be at my hips or below.
I never wanted her to know I was terrified of deeper water, but around age 5 or 6 she started to notice I didn't get in the water like everyone else. So I kept my mouth shut and got in the water to my hips at every opportunity I could around her.
Then we had our son, who at age two had no fear of the water and was jumping into the lake (with a life vest on) holding a pool noodle and then swimming to the stairs to climb out and jump off the dock again. It was around this time that our daughter, now 7, started to ask why I didn't get in the water. I was honest and told her I didn't mind the pool or clear beaches as much, but I was not comfortable being in water deeper than my hips or in water I couldn't see in.
Time To Face My Fears
We got a new neighbor next door who happened to be a swim instructor. I took this as my sign, it was time to face these fears. I was tired of having to stay on the boat while my family enjoyed the water while we are on family vacations. I was tired of having to tell our kids they can't play in the water right now since dad was there. I want my kids to see me be strong and face my fears so they know it's okay to be scared and at the same time to be brave and try to overcome your fears.