About four years ago I almost drowned. I was in Hawaii and snorkeling with my brother and the waves picked up and water was going down my snorkel and I started to panic. I started screaming to my brother to help me and he didn’t hear. I screamed and screamed and started really panicking. I had this thought: I’m going to drown. Thankfully, my brother heard me and smirked at my crazy screams and crying, told me to flip over and swim on my back. And as we swam back to shore on our backs, he told me made up stories about his times in ‘Nam. My brother is 21.
A few things happened after this adventure. The first was that Fancyhats commented on the blog post I wrote about this. He was not my boyfriend or my husband, just a guy who sponsored an event that I ran and I had a major crush on him but couldn’t really hang out with him because he was such a hunk and hunky guys wouldn’t ever like me, would they? He said something like, the ocean only gives you one chance. You used yours. Be more careful.
And also I started swimming. I started swimming because I never want to feel that terrified in water again.
I was in the pool today and they’d just done something with the chemicals (it’s a salinated pool, so I tell myself the chemicals aren’t that bad and it’s perfectly okay to immerse myself in them a few hours a week) and the pool was cloudy. I was sharing a lane and I realized that I couldn’t see the oncoming swimmer. And then I started panicking again. Just like that. I started panting and my skin felt cold and I was right there in that moment of freaking out.
Since that time in Hawaii and since I’ve been swimming, I’ve been in lakes and the ocean and even in deep pools and I get that same panicky feeling. Today it occurred to me that I panic because I can’t see the bottom, or the bottom seems so far away. Essentially, my fear of heights kicks in and then it’s all over.
Today it took me at least five minutes of standing at the end of the pool talking to myself about how this is the same exact pool I’m in every single week. And that I’m okay. I’m OKAY! The worst that will happen is the guy I’m sharing the lane with will bop me on the head, and even that wouldn’t be as bad as drowning in Hawaii.
I finally got it together and swam my usual amount and got out and felt better. But ugh. I thought I’d gotten beyond that water panic. I hoped I had. But maybe it’s true. Maybe the water only gives you one chance and it’s okay that my body reminds me to play it safe.