Feel the Fear and Yada Yada Yada…

I have a list of things I would NEVER do. Things like bungee jumping, skydiving, base jumping, etc. And until about three years ago, scuba diving was on that list. I’m pretty sure it was the movie The Abyss that cemented that decision for me. All that heavy breathing. And dark, scary waters. I still get all hyperventilate-y when I think about it.

Nature Boy and I were planning our honeymoon in Jamaica, and he suggested I get my open water diver certification so that we could go scuba diving while we were there. Once I got up off the floor from laughing so hard, he said, “No really, you’d like it.” Then he showed me a video from a diving trip he’d taken many years prior. It looked kind of fun, but the water! The breathing! The sharks!

I thought back to the time when my mother was going through the same experience. She attempted to get certified for a trip, but ended up having a panic attack during the pool training. I’m a lot like my mother, so I thought my fate might be the same. But I’m also pretty damn stubborn, so I decided to face my fear and sign up for the certification classes.

On the first day of class, we spent about half of the day in a classroom learning about pressure and other stuff I can’t remember. (You probably don’t want to be my scuba buddy. I don’t think I’d be good in a crisis). After lunch it was time to get in the pool. The first thing we had to do was swim 10 laps. Holy crap, I thought I was going to die. But I guess that was the purpose, to make sure we didn’t die swimming a measly 10 laps.

Finally, we got all the scuba gear on and proceeded to do all these tests in the pool. We’d go down 10 feet to the bottom of the pool and we’d have to perform whatever task was assigned for that section. Things like having your airway turned off, using someone else’s respirator (Shit, is that even what it’s called? Ventilator? Hell.), taking off your entire tank and putting it back on underwater, etc. We’d be down at the bottom for 30-45 minutes at a time without coming up. This? Freaked me the hell out.

During these exercises, the majority of the time was spent sitting on the bottom of the pool, just waiting for my turn. Waiting and listening to nothing but the sound of my own breath. In and out. In and out. It was the most claustrophobic feeling I’ve ever experienced. I also felt very alone, even with ten people around me. It was just me, my breath and my anxiety-ridden thoughts. It still makes me a bit panicky just to write about it here. I could definitely relate to my mom’s experience. When I was in the water like that, the outside world seemed so far away, and even non-existent. There were several times where I almost had to surface because I was getting so freaked. But each time I’d pull myself through by trying to relax my breathing, telling myself that the surface was a mere 10 feet away.

Surprisingly I actually made it through the two days of pool training with no major issues. I was pretty proud of myself, but I was not looking forward to the next step, the open water dive. We did the open water dive certification in a spring-fed quarry in Mermet Springs, IL. Used only for diving, the quarry is home to many sunken objects such as cars, trucks, motorcycles, school buses, boats, small aircraft and even a Boeing 727.

Like the pool training, we were required to perform certain tasks in order to pass the course. But we also got to browse around the quarry, with supervision, of course. The scary thing about the quarry is that it was pretty murky, so I didn’t have a nice clear view of anything until I got right up on it. I got up close and personal with the giant catfish (some of them albinos) who were thankfully oblivious to my presence.

At the end of the second day we made the journey out to the 727. It took us about 15 minutes just to get out there. Once there, we started at the tail, which sits 15 feet under the surface and worked our way down the top and sides of the massive plane until we reached the nose, whichlies at a depth of 60 feet. In August, the water temperature at the nose was a bone-chilling 50 degrees, so we didn’t stay down there for long. It was a spectacular sight to see, for sure.

All in all, the open water dive was MUCH better than the pool training. I was too distracted by all the cool things to worry that much about being scared. Not that I was completely fearless or anything, because I certainly had my moments of trepidation. But it was official now. I was a certified Open Water Diver.

A month later Nature Boy and I got married and went to Jamaica for our honeymoon. We scheduled our dive mid-week during our stay, and of course I ended up with food poisoning the day before, spending a good portion of the afternoon and evening praying to the porcelain god.

The next morning I still wasn’t feeling 100%, and I almost backed out. But I thought of all the work I’d done to get this far, and decided to go for it. And I’m so glad I did, because it was AMAZING! We went down to about 30 ft. and stayed down for an hour or so. We saw tons of coral (which sadly was pretty dead), lots of gorgeous fish, and even a stingray lying on the bottom of the ocean floor. So cool.

I liked it so much that we went out the next day for a 60-foot dive. I’d never been that deep before, but in the ocean the difference between 30 feet and 50 feet seems like nothing because it’s so clear and there are so many wonderful things to keep you enthralled. We got to explore inside the reefs, not just hover above and around them like the previous day.  Again, so damn cool.

I was and still am very proud of myself for pushing through my fear, because in the end the rewards far outweighed the things I had to overcome to get there.

Sadly, I’ve been forbidden by my doctor to ever scuba dive again. And I’ve got an 8-inch incision in my skull to prove it. But that, my friends, is another story. (Hey, I gotta keep you coming back, right?)

What’s something that you’ve done that you were really afraid of? In what circumstances did you “feel the fear and do it anyway”?

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17 Comments

  1. Posted November 13, 2009 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Great story! I admire you for giving your fears the big what for. I have a serious fear of flying, which really works against my love of traveling. I still fly, though I have to be medicated to do it and even then it’s not pretty.

    • justmeandthevoices
      Posted November 13, 2009 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

      Thanks!! But at least you’re flying, traveling, doing what you love! So what if it takes a bit of medication! 😉

  2. Honeybee
    Posted November 13, 2009 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Awesome, girl! This is so inspiring – and encouraging to me in overcoming things that keep me back. About my only success story is being terrified of snakes but taking Girl Scouts on camping and backpacking trips anyway to give them confidence and, hopefully, teach them to overcome any fears they may have. Maybe one day I’ll share your story with some of them!

    • justmeandthevoices
      Posted November 13, 2009 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

      I’m sure you have plenty of other success stories, my dear. (like dealing with my father on a daily basis) 😉 And you should share YOUR story with them. Let them know you’re afraid of snakes, but that you face your fear every time you take them on trips. Now THAT’S inspiring!

  3. JC
    Posted November 13, 2009 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    I did the swimming pool and paperwork part of certification five years ago but never did the open dive part. Guess I still could. Too expensive though.

    • justmeandthevoices
      Posted November 13, 2009 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

      Yes, it is expensive for sure. But you should TOTALLY do it! You would love it.

  4. Posted November 13, 2009 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    That’s really good. I’m PADI certified too. Just ask me how many times I’ve gone diving since I completed the course in 1994. Go ahead. None. Zippo. Nada. But I keep planning on going. Someday.

    My fear: going to the dentist. Do I face my fear? Hell ya. I fear the denturist a helluva lot more.

    • justmeandthevoices
      Posted November 13, 2009 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

      Yep, I’m PADI certified too! And you MUST go sometime!! Do it for me! So many people are afraid of the dentist, but you’re smart. The denturist totally cracked me up!!

  5. LC
    Posted November 13, 2009 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    Great story except kinda sad that you can never go again. My feel the fear/do it anyway – giving birth and being a mom but look what I have to show for it!

    • justmeandthevoices
      Posted November 13, 2009 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

      Oh yes, that’s a big one! But you’re so right! Look what you have to show for it! A true bundle of joy wrapped up in a boy.

  6. Grammy
    Posted November 16, 2009 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    You rock!! Your momma

    • justmeandthevoices
      Posted November 17, 2009 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      Thanks, Mommy!!

  7. Mel
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    I took scuba diving in college and the worst part was having to swim a lap without fins or a mask and sharing the respirator or whatever with my buddy the whole way. I swear there was a moment when I thought, “really God? This is how I’m gonna die?” brutal! I never did the open water certification either. such a waste!

    • justmeandthevoices
      Posted November 17, 2009 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      See, that’s the thing about all those tests! They’re all these scenarios of what COULD go wrong. That’s what freaked me out the most. And I finally remembered (without even Googling), it’s a REGULATOR, not a respirator. I am such an idiot.

  8. Posted November 21, 2009 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    I can’t think of a single one and I feel really lame… like maybe I should go do something crazy today. I did skydive… but for some reason I wasn’t really scared of it. OOH I KNOW – I have a ridiculous fear of public speaking… and I took speech class and had to give 4 speeches. Does that count? 🙂

  9. ElectraWoman
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Way cool. My terrifying experience? The skydive my darling husband bought for my birthday. I could tell the story, but it’s much funnier when he does.

    • justmeandthevoices
      Posted February 20, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think I’ve ever heard that story! I knew that you’d done it, but I need to hear the story!


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