I leaned to scuba dive for a few reasons: I wanted to swim with sharks, also when I swim, I usually spend most of the time underwater, so I figured I might as well learn how to breathe while I was under.
But the main reason for getting my open water scuba qualification was to confront and overcome my claustrophobia.
I remember the first time I learned to snorkel. It took me 15 minutes to put my head in the water with the mask and snorkel on, and that was while I was standing in waist deep, calm water!
The panic and anxiety that overwhelmed me was ridiculous! Illogical nonsense gripped me in paralyzing fear. I only had two options: take the snorkel out and give up, or stick my head into my terror and learn to breath through it.
As I said, it took 15 minutes of solid proposed calming myself to put my face in the water.
You see, breathing apparatus’, be it snorkel or a scuba breather, causes a feeling of resistance. When you breath in through these, your lungs need to work a little harder to get the oxygen to your mouth and then into your lungs. When you’re not used to this, it feels weird. In fact the “drag” or resistance of the air feels a little like you’re not getting enough air (like suffocation). But that’s just a feeling. The fact is you’re getting all the oxygen you need, your lungs are just working a tiny bit harder to do so.
The key is to relax and breathe calmly. When you do that, you suddenly notice the world you are in! OMG- the underwater world is like going into space and seeing a completely foreign world, full of wonders and miracles, unimaginable!!! And all it takes is a mask to see. You really should try it if you can.
That claustrophobia of mine, in all its silliness, still tries to come diving with me. Every. Time.
As I descend deeper, I would feel that familiar panic rising and my instinct would be to kick out and speed back to the surface, ripping out my breather and gasping for the air I was used to. But when you’re 10-20 feet below the surface, that could kill you. It’s all about the pressure of air, compressed in your lungs the deeper you go, and the sudden expansion of that compressed air when you speed to the surface… could explode your lungs like a balloon with too much air in it.
So, giving in to fear instinct is not advisable.
Yet, I feel it. Just keep breathing. Just keep swimming. Dory (the fish) has sound advice.
I cannot express the triumph one feels when you continue, calmly, in your place of terror. Breathe slowly in. Relax your muscles. Breathe slowly out. Float in the water. Breathe slowly in. Look around you!
Continuing through fear and not letting it dictate your actions, but rather mastering such so that you may pay attention to where you are, suddenly opens up a whole new world.
This fear and panic, when I breathe through it, only lasted 5 minutes, AND THEN I spend the rest of my time, (35 minutes) swimming, pointing, liking, playing, exploring!!!!!! What a fantastic adventure.
I encourage you friends, let not your fears dictate your living. Take note of the fear and be aware of the dangers about you, but do not let such control you. Let not the petty terrors and frightening feelings of our senses deceive you so that you miss experiencing the wonder of the new place you are in. All change feels different. Breathe through the anxiety and open your eyes to look for the beauty around you. That beauty will draw you in and extinguish your fears.
“Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming!” -Dory (Finding Nemo, Disney movie.)