It takes a lot for someone to overcome a fear that they have had for a long time, as we all know, and I, am no exception. A fear that stems from school, has prevented me from learning a lifesaving skill, the ability to swim.
For years, I have been put off from swimming in the pool, for the following reasons, being out of my depth, out of control, and forced to do things, such as learning to swim, but too quickly for my liking. I’d get used to one idea, feel comfortable, then be pushed into another straight away without any build up toward it. The traumatic story that has put me off for years, follows:
A Thursday morning, and we head off to the swimming pool. I thought it would be an ordinary day, but it was far from it. This I did not know yet though. Off we went, into the water. The pool had an adjustable floor, that could be moved to the desired depth, more than one depth if you wished, or just one depth on its own, from about 3 foot, to 6 or 7 feet. Today, it was being moved to 1.6 M. about 5.25 Ft. Although, I was tall, I could not stand in that depth. Wearing inflatable armbands, that support 50Kg in weight, I headed off, doing the best stroke, or type of swimming I could do, round the pool. I was doing widths. Suddenly, my support worker asked me to go over to them. Adjusting my armbands, I knew what they were about to do, and had begun doing. Deflating one of them. I felt the air being released. One armband had no air at all, the other, only half the air capacity. This, was really going to go well. Of course, it didn’t. It went far from well. I began swimming, the encouragement from a fellow member of the public at the side of the pool, spurring me on slightly. Suddenly, my chin started going further and further into the water, my nose touching the top of the water too; I began breathing in water. Screaming, with what breath I could manage, in between coughing and spluttering, swallowing mouth-fulls of water, spitting out some water, as well as trying not to heave, I tried yelling for help. It didn’t work. They just said, “You don’t need it. You’re 3 quarters of the way there” Legs aching, arms aching, I willed myself to keep going. I wanted to stop, but knew if I did, I’d go under, and I could not touch the floor. I would end up having to be rescued. The day could not have got worse. I was then asked, when I eventually reached the side, if I wished to go back in. My response, a categorical no! It was not accepted, but I forced them to accept, that if they did not inflate my armbands immediately, they had no chance of me going in.
Now though, a few years later, I’m trying to overcome that fear. Today I got into the water, and the instructor was trying to teach me to float on my back. Holding onto her I began to do what she asked me. Once in the correct position, legs up in front of me, and floating on my back, with (at the moment) my head on her shoulder, I began to try attempting the tasks I was being set.It came to the one I was most afraid of. Her letting go of me. Eventually, she let go with one hand. Breathing increasing, heart rate increasing, and my anxiety becoming ever more noticeable, as I begin to vocalise when anxious, I gripped her tightly. she then explained, that I have to let her help me. Finally, after a moment of intense anxiety for me, in which I was almost on the verge of tears, I achieved it, floating on my back, with minimal support. I still haven’t started swimming again properly yet, but I’m learning to feel comfortable in the water once more. For me, getting over this fear would mean a lot, not just for me personally, but for my psychology course, and for me as a psychologist to be. I want to understand fear, to understand how trauma of past experiences can put you off retrying them, I wish to help those with fears of what ever it may be, if I know what it’s like myself. If I myself can empathise, then I can, when trained, give them the tools to overcome. I would love to be there, the moment someone achieves something, that makes them anxious, or had previously done so. To feel their emotion, their joy, be proud of them. Just like I’m proud of my small, but huge, for me, steps. I’d also, love to help those really, in any situation, when I eventually become a psychologist. There’s a large need for them on the island. I feel I would be useful. Once I’ve got my qualifications etc. They too, will be stressful, even they will carry tearful moments for me, joyful moments too, but most importantly, will be the audience at the end, the room filled with people, when I get my BSC(Hons), then hopefully, my masters, then hopefully, my PHD. That audience clapping, cheering, me, holding up my certificate and waving it to the crowd, tears flowing down my cheeks, a wide smile on my face. I’d have done it, got there, achieved my goal, the only thing left? would be, what to do with it. 🙂