Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Anxiety Underwater: SCUBA is not for the Faint of Heart

I began a SCUBA certification class last weekend.

If there was such a thing as "living crap," it has been scared out of me (see my previous post of other examples of scaredy-cat Libby) . There is something so unnatural about breathing out of a moutpiece attached to a heavy tank attached to a vest that blows up attached to your back. While looking through goggles and swimming with fins. Nope, not natural at all. Not to mention, each classroom lessons starts and ends with, "if you do ____, you will die. If you do ____, you will die. If ____ happens, you will die." Hmm, I'm not sure why, but that doesn't exactly sound super positive to me.

Saturday's class consisted of a swim test with various feats, a basic lesson on setting up your gear, and getting used to the gear underwater. All of this at 4 feet down isn't so bad... it was moving down to the 12 foot deep end that started giving me the heebie jeebies. It took a few tries and a panic-ridden almost-drowned why-the-hell-cant-I-get-to-the-top (is it normal that its not second nature yet to INFLATE the foreign object strapped to my back!?) trip to the surface, but I eventually accomplished the skills at hand. I felt okay and tried to focus on one thing: Bermuda. Bermuda. Bermuda with my new Hubby. Headed home,  I knew I would be back at it the next morning and tried not to let the fact that I wasn't "a natural" get me down.

My first time trying out SCUBA
Sunday morning came and I geared up, jumped in, and began the lessons set before me. When it came time to redo all of the tests from the day before, this time at 12 feet, I took a deep breath and attempted my descent. I watched the other three pupils go through their skills with ease, all the while a little twinge of unsettledness creeping up on me. I wanted to open my mouth and breath. I knew I shouldn't look up to the top of the water but I couldn't stop myself. I was trying to think of Bermuda but instead of images of coral reefs and fish, I saw only blueish concrete pool walls closing in on me. My brain was flooded with the thought that in Bermuda, I will have to be under much deeper water than this for 30 minutes. 30 minutes?! That was just too much for me to handle. I don't think I had even made it to 3 minutes at this point when my chest started heaving and I montioned to the instructor that I was OUT OF THERE. Thankfully, I remembered to inflate and I got to the top and breathed (okay, more like gasped just for the beauty of it) that sweet, precious, natural, God-given air. And immediately, I started to cry. Ugh, crying in goggles is not pretty. While the class and the instructor were down 12 feet, I removed my goggles and swam at the shallow end trying to get myself together. I still don't know whether I was crying out of panic or because I was upset at myself for not being able to do this thing that so many people can't get enough of. That I wanted to do. I couldn't control my mind and quite honestly, it pissed me off.

I wanted to say I hated SCUBA but I couldn't. That wasn't the case. I wanted to say I was done and that SCUBA wasn't for me but I couldn't say that either. I was pretty certain this specific day was over for me, but I was almost prepared to say that I would try again another day.

Something crazy happened after that episode. I was drained, tired, feeling quite defeated, but I was suddenly overcome with the feeling that I wanted to rise above this. I may not be the best at SCUBA, and I may not do it every weekend or even call myself a Diver but I want to at least accomplish this class and get certified. It scares me to death but I want to know what it feels like to go through something so terrifying and come out on the other side victorious and in control.

I was faced with a choice of either being a quitter or being a gladiator (Scandal reference, for my other fans out there!). I thought that if I couldn't do everything perfectly during that class, that I would have failed and I couldn't go on. I learned though that you have to trust your gut, not compare yourself to those around you, learn (slowly) to control your thoughts, and that some days, it just isn't going to happen. I gain nothing if I beat myself up and let the obstacle defeat me. What I want to be defined by is that I have the ability to face something head on, pick myself up after a stumble, and fight. I want to have that quiet strength that says "today may not be the day, but I will try again tomorrow."

I will keep you posted on my progress. Pretty soon, instead of Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, SCUBA will stand for Scared Crapless but Undefeated Bad Ass.

That's my hope, anyway!