For as long as I can remember I’ve had a phobia of water. Well large expanses of water that is. I mean I can drink the stuff and have a shower without freaking out, but anything bigger than that and I’m scared shitless.
Having just looked up the word for fear of water, aquaphobia, I’m actually a little disappointed that it isn’t more difficult to say and is not as interesting as I’d hoped. Due to this phobia I had never learnt to swim, which actually just made the fear worse. I thought that if I did get in water I was just going to sink and die.
This is about as close as I could venture to water without becoming terror stricken
I call it a phobia as opposed to a fear because it’s more than a simple fear. I’d organise my life around avoiding water. Even the thought of coming into contact with water made me anxious and caused me to break out into a big sweaty panic. On one occasion I was riding a bike and the route took us past a canal. Instead of cycling on like any normal person would, I had to get off and walk because I thought the wind might blow me in.
In Khoa Sok National Park, Thailand, we could use kayaks to go off and explore the beautiful calm lake we were staying next to. Just for me to actually get in the kayak Rob had to use his entire body as a bridge for me to climb over! I finally managed this after about an hour of panicking and trying to hold back the tears. Thankfully Rob is a patient person, but to save on the trauma of getting me back out of the kayak he dragged me about 10 metres onto land just to be sure there was no repeat when I disembarked.
Finally in the kayak after an hour of fear and tears!
I hated what the phobia had caused me to become and detested how it prevented me from doing so many fun, simple things.
Through my work as a psychologist I have met many people with phobias, so I know they can be successfully treated and cured with desensitisation and exposure to the fear. Which basically meant I had to man up and face it head on! But knowing this is one thing, overcoming it is another.
Health and safety? To me this is scarier than anything Indiana Jones faced…
The kayak incident in Thailand was the last straw. I missed out on so much during that holiday I decided something had to be done. When I got back to Scotland I booked myself some 1:1 swimming lessons with Mandian Swimming School. Within a week I had the time and date of my first lesson.
The first trauma to face was buying a swimming costume. I soon came to the conclusion that none of them were flattering and perhaps buying a costume was what I had been avoiding all along???!
No words have been invented to describe how anxious I was driving to the lesson. When I arrived at the swimming pool everything about it scared me; the noise, the smell and all that water. But I’d come this far and I’m not a quitter.
At the start of my lesson Ian, my teacher, asked me to get in the pool, to which I politely declined his offer. So we sat on the side looking at the water. My whole body was shaking and tears welled in my eyes. I didn’t even get in the pool on that first day, I was almost paralysed with fear. The poor guy must have wondered what he’d left himself in for. But the next week I went back, and the week after that and soon the weeks became months.
This was 17 months ago and in that time progress has been slow, sometimes even going in reverse but I’ve stuck with it. Then 6 weeks ago I had a breakthrough! I finally let go, trusting myself in the water and for the first time in my life I swam! ON MY OWN!!
I am now a swimmer! I’m still learning the technique and strokes, but I know that when I get to Mexico I’ll be able to swim in the sea for the very first time in my life. I can’t wait!
I can now appreciate the scenery rather than thinking I’m going to drown and die…
From my ordeal I have realised that being scared is ok, but ultimately facing your fears or phobias makes you a stronger person. I’m proud to know that I have conquered my aquaphobia. It took a long time and lot of hard work but I’ve done it.
I think it’s the same determination that makes travelling possible for me and confirms that you can do anything when you put your mind to it. Even quitting your job, selling everything you own and disappearing into a life unknown. Life may be scary sometimes but at least it’s exciting! Don’t let fear hold you back.