Fear Conquering & Scuba Diving

Fear ConqueringNow Okay, not exactly fearlessness, but I’m finding that I’m more drawn to crazy antics than I used to be. that the chicks are out of the nest I’m nurturing a new side effect – fearlessness.

Perhaps this effect is common in empty nesters – or at least with the baby boomer ones. Were we not the VW bus driving, world-changing, stickin’ it to the man, try-anything generation?

There must be some latent drive lurking beneath my ex-helicopter mommy exterior – and dammit – it’s getting my attention.

Learning to scuba dive has been a long dormant dream of mine. I’m a water person, a good swimmer and love to snorkel. Scuba seemed the next logical step.

So I crammed my not-so-perky butt into a wet suit, strapped 16 pounds of weight around my waist (apparently I’m very buoyant) and jumped in. And immediately FREAKED OUT.

There I was in the ocean, treading water like a madwomen, embarrassed and humbled. What happened? I had aced the pre-ocean part of the lesson. In the swimming pool I was amazing – a scuba diving machine if there ever was one. I was practically one of those Discovery Channel shark chasers.

My mind frantically tried to grasp where things went terribly awry…

On the boat I was excited. I even had built-in inspiration. A couple in their freaking 70s taking on a 100 foot dive with three generations of their family. My new heroes – maybe I could be one of their kids for the day. I was in awe.

We dropped anchor and the septuagenarians headed down (with their REAL children – the heartless brats) leaving us newbies behind. The strapping on of the paraphernalia got underway. Before long, I stood there with an air tank on my back (air is WAY heavier than one would think), a weight belt and an extremely binding vest with fifty bazillion tubes hanging off of it.
Overwhelmed, the meaning of the tubes started to escape me.

As I was led to the edge of the boat in flippers, with little peripheral vision because of the mask I was wearing, I began to unravel. This was not cool.
I switched on my panic mantra (people do this everyday and do not die, people do this everyday and do not die…) and jumped in.

My instructor, Shelly, was waiting for me at the safety rope. Sensing my discomfort, she gave me some extra encouragement before we headed down together. It was the sound of my Darth Vader breathing that sent me over the top, it completely filled my head and blocked out all of my senses. What I had envisioned as a lovely, free, beautiful dream became a claustrophobic nightmare.

I made it about five feet before giving the distress signal (the only thing I remembered from the swimming pool) and was hoisted back onto the boat like a defeated whale. Not my finest moment.

The kindly boat captain and I became fast friends as we sat alone for forty-five minutes while everyone else was having the time of their lives. I was angry, jealous and resolute. Luckily, this was a two-tank drive. I had another chance and I wasn’t going to blow it.

The elderly couple (I now disliked them with every fiber of my being) climbed out of the sea like Jacques Cousteau and started talking (with my husband, no less) about all the fabulous creatures they saw. Now I was REALLY angry, jealous and resolute. Apparently, this was the very mind set I needed to be in.

I jumped in again and down I went along the safety rope. Shelly stayed right in my face. I was petrified, but I was determined (people do this everyday and do not die…) terror would not win this time. Reaching the end, I clung to the bottom of the rope like it was my job.

At this critical point I realized that my main fear was that I was sinking when I normally would be floating. Being a control freak, this wasn’t sitting well with me at all.
My brain was telling me that if I let go of the rope I would continue to descend slowly until I was pinned forever on the ocean floor. I had forgotten that I had fins, strong legs and a capable instructor.

I let go.

Shelly took my hand and lead me to a sting ray hiding in the sand. Kneeling close by this strange and beautiful creature, the Darth Vader noise transcended into a calming yoga-like hum. The ray, deciding it wanted nothing more to do with us, got up and “flew” away. I gave chase. I hadn’t even realized that my fear was gone. I was simply one with the ocean.

Next step, certification. And, just maybe, I’ll have my own Discovery Channel shark chasing show.

All I have to do is punch the mean ones in their noses, right?

Veronica, GypsyNester.com

YOUR TURN: Have you attempted scuba diving? Would you? What would be your biggest fear to conquer? Do you have one that you’d want to send me out on?

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39 thoughts on “Fear Conquering & Scuba Diving”

  1. This site looks better and better every time I visit it. What have you done with this place to make it so amazing?!

  2. I really can’t believe how great this site is. Keep up the good work. I’m going to tell all my friends about this place.

  3. I know this is an old post, but I follow you on Facebook and I was happy to find it in my google search for “I hate SCUBA.” I think I was scared during the pool (well, hell…when I put the claustrophobic mask on while on land!), but now I am just pissed…and very angry at how much I hate SCUBA. The problem…? I’m a newlywed, empty-nester whose kind, sweet, understanding husband is a divemaster and can’t WAIT to show me how much I will love seeing the beautiful underwater world with him. My new tactic is to convince myself (although NOT at ALL true) that he will divorce me if I don’t do this…so far it’s barely motivating me and I love that man like crazy. He has already booked us a flight to Bonaire this fall…I just have to get certified first…in a lake…in Virginia. I used to have an irrational fear of sharks in the shadows of my suburban above ground swimming pool…I’m almost past the shark fear now. I just despise the gear with every fiber of my being…and the breathing under water part…and the potential to burst an eardrum or get pressurized air under a filling and crack a tooth…or disappointing my awesome husband…I’m sorry…I think I’m just venting here. I’m going to do it…in less than 2 weeks. I’m just so irrationally angry about it, not at my husband, but just at SCUBA in general and can’t figure it out. Am I psycho…or does anyone else understand what I am feeling and have some platitudes that will make me feel better? 😉 Thank you for this post!!!

    1. Well Dawn, there is always my fear conquering mantra…”people do it every day and don’t die, people do it every day and don’t die, people do it every day and don’t die…”

      Don’t know if it will help, but it does for me. Hopefully once you are down there you will be able to relax just enough to enjoy the beautiful reef life. Let us know how it goes.

    2. Dawn, did you do it? I am pretty much in your EXACT predicament. Even in Virginia! My husband wants the three of us (Him, our daughter, and me) to get certified because he wants to do some real spear fishing during our vacations in the summer. The problem is, both he and our daughter are amazing, strong, fearless swimmers. I am not. I am probably going to sign up for swimming lessons at the community college, and that should help. I did actually take one scuba trip years ago in the Bahamas. I remember thinking while we were in the pool that there was no way they’d allow me to go – I kept popping up terrified. I have a legit fear of being under water too long. A phobia, regretfully. But they let me go, and I did it. I remember being so scared the entire time, but it was an amazing experience. I keep trying to push myself to do it now because I hate to see my family experiencing these things without me and tend to let my imagination run wild with it thanks to some particularly heavy baggage.

      I hope you were able to make it happen! I hope you get this reply so you can tell me all about it and somehow assuage my own fears.

  4. This was just what I needed to read. Learning to dive has been on my bucket list for years–decades!–but I don’t ever seem to actually DO IT. And I have to reluctantly admit it is because of fear. And there are few things in life I hate more than FEAR. So… thanks to your honesty and adventure, the next chance I get to learn, I am going to grab it and run. At pushing 70, how many more chances am I going to get??? Thanks, Veronica

  5. Congratulations! Awesome story! I have no desire to scuba dive because I had asthma as a kid and dislike being in environments where I cannot breathe without equipment – but I’m glad you got to experience it!

  6. OMG..I just tried scuba diving for the first time yesterday. I am new to living in Florida and I previously lived all my life in Canada.

    The way you described your first time in the water is exactly like mine but I didn’t have the option of a rope. I panicked when I came to the surface after about 4 feet under.

    I too was the expert in the pool but one of the hardest part about this for me is the salt water. OMG .I can’t get over the taste. I know that I will have to if I want to purse this. But YUCK gross!!!
    I also felt like I was lowering myself in to the abyss..
    After reading this I think I may have the courage to try again.
    Again .. thanks!!!!!!

  7. You’re just a wonderful writer, Veronica — had to stop by and say that. I’ve visited your blog a couple of times, but not sure whether I ever expressed how much I enjoy your writing and stories. Being a control freak myself, I identify with you a lot. In fact, when I first tried scuba, I also freaked out. But like you, I reminded myself it was OK and that I just needed to breathe calmly and enjoy the ride. It worked.

    In fact, I just had an anxiety attack or two today…one of those days struggling with my depression. Don’ know why, but stumbling upon your blog again reminded me of what I need to do to calm down and regain control of myself again. Its been a rough day, but thanks for reminding me to just let go and breathe. I’ll sleep better tonight now. Thanks again…

    (sorry this was so long)

  8. Yay for overcoming your fear!! Kali got his diving certification in Thailand last month (he just wrote about it, actually!) and really loved it, but I didn’t even try to take the class. First of all, I never would have passed the swim test, but mostly I’m really terrified of breathing underwater. I really hope I can overcome that fear someday, though – I’d love to be able to dive!

  9. Loved your post…my post-retirement challenge was to go snorkeling. With a life-long fear of water (as in I didn’t put my face in the water in the shower), I decided to to go on a sailing trip with friends…six people on a catamaran and daily opportunities to snorkel. Fortunately I had another friend who had taught swimming to many people with special needs…this persistent person got me off the edge of the swimming pool and into the water. Ultimately I got comfortable enough to “swim” with my inflatable vest and snorkel gear and to actually enjoy the view of the world under the water.

  10. The ocean doesn’t call to me. The sky does.

    I’d love to try zip lines on mountains. Right now I’m too plus sized to do it safely but I’m working on it.

    Or hang gliding. Or learning to fly an air plane… I want control over my flight, I’m not interested in free galling (aka sky diving or bungee jumping.)

    1. Those are all on my bucket list, saw some hang gliders in Switzerland and was SO close to trying it – but had time constraints. Zip lining looks like a blast, I hear there are places to do it in canopies where monkeys chase you – waiting for that moment! I’m all for sky diving – I just have to goad David into doing it with me. He’s on your side of the fence on that one. -Veronica

  11. I had the same experience — only with just snorkeling! I’m a good swimmer, but I felt very claustrophobic with a snorkeling mask. Your experience has given me the courage to give it another try—except our next trips are to Chicago, Ireland, Copenhagen, Helsinki and London—so, I’m thinking there will not be a lot of snorkeling opportunities. Maybe I can find a swimming pool “down tha’ shore” this summer–(Southern New Jersey beaches to Philadelphians).

  12. Thank you for sharing your experience. I am quite claustrophobic and suspect I would experience Part A and surrender on Part B. But I LOVE your description and determination! You rock!

    1. I was amazed at how claustrophobic I could feel in the middle of a huge ocean! All that equipment. We need gills. Seriously, though, once I just let the equipment do its job, it was fantastic! -Veronica

  13. I sit before the computer screen in awe!!! Wow. Even reading about your dive had me hyperventilating – extreme fear of deep water in me. You are a Powerful Woman!

  14. Kate: The edge I had on you, was watching a group come out of the water every Wed after school. They dove and did the post-dive discussion in front of me. I was SICK with jealousy before my first effort.

    If you’re in the Islands for Christmas, do a few dives. The more you do, the more you get that yoga-breathing thing down. It’s like the best meditation ever.

    Never take it for granted – we (my husband/buddy) practice our skills a couple of times a year. It’s a dangerous sport.

  15. Congratulations! I think I’d enjoy traveling with you guys very much. I just spend an hour and a half talking to someone from California (where I lived for 15 years before 3 in Fl and had to move to CT) – she was trying to sell me something, but we ended up talking forever. OH HOW I MISS THAT OPENNESS. So different in New England. Happy trails!

  16. I enjoyed reading about your adventure. I live in Austin TX, and we have an abundance of outdoor activity. Last year after watching people kayak in Town Lake I decided I wanted to also. My son and daughter -in-law and Irented a three person kayak. We started off up stream and I was really enjoying it, however I thought we were moving awfully slow for three people. Then my son realized that I was dragging my legs in the water. It was rather refreshing to me. However I was the dead weight, so at his suggestion I put my legs on top and off we went. I loved it we were cruising along very quickly. And then when we heading back we were really moving. At the end I was exhausted but exhilarated. The following weekend I rented a kayak for myself. I rented it for an hour. I headed off full of confidence and headed down stream, i was determined to get as far as I could in a half hour and then return. So off I went I made it to my destination in just the right time, I turned the kayak around and headed back. Much to my dismay the current heading upstream was very strong. My kayak kept trying to go the other direction. I was starting to reach the panic mode. I paddled with all my might , streams of sweat running down my face my arms cramping. Finally I reached the dock. I had no energy to dock the kayak and I ran right into the dock up over it and back into the water. An amused young man helped me to dock and drag myself out. I was pretty deflated. However I still loved it and plan on kayaking often this summer. My grand daughter wants to go along as well, however this grandma needs to build up more muscles before i dare take her.

  17. I sooo love this story! I thought I was the only one who “got in over my head” (so to speak) in new projects and experiences, lol. You go girlfriend! };->

  18. Congratulations Gypsy! Your reaction was not that unusual for a first-timer….and besides you overcame your fear!! So now you’ve proved that you can beat that inner beast (panic). I was a Master Diver for many years and helped lead many trips of newbies…I’ve seen just about every reaction you can think of.

    Unfortunately, I burst an eardrum several years ago (on a dive)..I got it fixed enough that I can still swim, but it ended my diving career….it was a great pastime for my wife and children and I still miss it. I hope you continue and get your certification! Good luck to you.

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