My history with Scuba diving is a complicated one, in fact, it is not that complicated, quite simply I hated it (take note of the past tense), the very thought of it pushed my anxiety into overdrive for days leading up to the dive, by the time I was on the boat I would quite literally be shaking. So many people asked me why I still put myself through it, why I pushed myself so much mentally to qualify as an open water diver, and the reason quite simply is because I love the ocean, I always have, when I was a child everything was about Dolphins and Whales, as I got older I was fixated on other marine life, diving seemed like the next progression. It seems to come so naturally to the people I know who dive, but for me, there was a mental block every time I put on my BCD and fins that I genuinely thought I was going to die. I couldn’t see past the fear, to find the excitement and relaxation that everyone else seemed to mention, but I pushed through it, every single time, in hope that one day I would find it, and I could become friends with the ocean again.
Ten dives down, and I am so happy to say I think it might have happened, or at least the barrier is breaking down.
Everyone told me diving in the Gili Islands was a must, with dive sites named Turtle Heaven, Manta Point, and Shark Point I knew it was going to be something special. As always I researched dive schools thoroughly, simply walking into a dive school is not an option with my nerves, Blue Marlin in Gili Trawangan came out tops with numerous recommendations, and they were brilliant from the moment we walked into the shop. But as always the night before the dive the impending diving doom loomed over and an almost sleepless night was had, all morning my stomach flipped and by the time I was putting on my wetsuit I pretty much couldn’t speak. On the boat to the site , Tim Tam, our dive master, gave the dive briefing, everyone around me was getting excited while I was just getting paler, and before I knew it we arrived at the site and then I froze. My eyes were filling up because of fear and I could feel my heart pounding outside of my chest, Tim Tam was making his way around the board, ensuring everyone had done their buddy checks, when he got to me I told him I wasn’t going in, I had decided 100% I was not getting in that water. Tim Tam simply looked me in the eye and said ‘yes you are’, no arguing about it and no other words, he changed orders around so I would be his buddy and before I knew it I was going backwards off the boat into Sunset point.
During the descent, he stayed close by ( probably to ensure I didn’t do anything stupid in a blind panic, it has happened in the past!), my heart was still racing but my breathing calmed and then I was watching a black tip shark swim by, then floating above a sleeping turtle while hundreds of fish were swimming around us, I was so distracted by the colourful marine life that everything just kind of changed, I was no longer thinking about everything that could potentially go wrong, or constantly trying to calculate how quickly my air would run out. I was just there, enjoying everything I was experiencing in that moment.
Forty-five minutes passed, then back on the boat I was there with everyone else talking in excitement to about everything we had seen, I felt exhausted but this time not through anxiety but excitement. I wanted to do it all over again, so we went straight back to the shop and booked on to the dive at Turbo the following morning, this would never have happened before. I slept well that night and the dive the following morning went just as well as the first.
I am not saying that from now on I will find diving easy, I am sure the fear will always be there ready to rear its ugly head, but I am hoping now I know how to suppress it and move past it. Since I have come home I’ve been looking up the best places to dive around the world to help inspire future trips. I want to dive with the Whale Sharks in the Philippines, swim with the sharks in the Galapagos, rediscover the Red Sea and submerge myself in the Great Barrier Reef.
The funny thing is, before that dive, I said to DJ that it would be my last attempt, and if I didn’t manage a successful dive, I wouldn’t use my qualification again. I think I will forever by grateful to Tim Tam at Blue Marlin Dive for getting me into the water that day, he easily could have taken the simple route and let me sit the dive out, but instead taught me that fear is just a state of mind helped me start to rebuild my love of the ocean.
From the response and messages, I have received from this post I know I am not alone in scuba anxiety and if you are like me, I hope you decide to push past it too because the excitement will come, it may be ten dives down the line, it might even be twenty, but eventually you will have a dive so mesmerizing you will feel that buzz that everyone else mentions.