When I was six years old, I was pushed into a pool before I knew how to swim. As anyone would do, I fought to keep my head above water, swallowing a lot of it into my lungs. As I slowly sank to the bottom, I felt someone’s arms pulling me back to the surface. Luckily, in a very crowded pool, a life guard had seen me sink and jumped in to save me.
This was a memory that I suppressed while growing up. However, it became more vivid as I got older. To this day I panic when water hits my face in the shower. I immediately grab for a towel to get it off. I’m even very careful when using a wash cloth to clean my face.
Needless to say, I lost my desire to ever be in deep water. When I saw snorkeling on the agenda during my trip to Belize, I knew it would be my biggest challenge yet. I made up my mind that I would conquer this challenge.
As I prepared to snorkel for the first time, I remained relatively calm until they handed me my goggles and my fins. I began to shake as my heart started to pound. This was suddenly real. Triumphant Trish and Trouble Maker Todd saw my struggle and sent much needed encouragement my way.
The boat ride was a little bumpier than my headache cared for, however, when we saw a pod of dolphins chasing us; I momentarily forgot the enormous challenge ahead of me.
The guides tied a life vest around my waist. Uncontrollable tears streamed down my face. Everyone around me empathized, and began comforting me. I couldn’t explain how hard this was for me. No one knew the origins or the depth of this fear.
Triumphant Trish and Trouble Maker Todd took the lead and came to my rescue. Both got me physically into the water. When I was finally in the water, the darkness that I knew too well came at me from all sides. It surrounded my head, making me feel blind. My heart was in my throat. I began gasping for air. What the heck was I thinking?! Six year old Stormi was sinking before my eyes! As tears exploded down my face, I shook my head violently, screaming out “I can’t do this!” I was so beside myself that I couldn’t even function.
Thankfully, Bold Brad came to save the day. He held my hand while everyone went ahead. I felt awful. Once again, I was keeping this man from enjoying himself. He told me repeatedly it was his job and was no big deal. But it was a big deal to me.
Brad helped initiate me to snorkeling gradually. The first lesson was to get my face in the water and learn to breathe calmly. Ha! Brad told me to stick my head into the water without the mouth piece. “Have you lost your dang mind?!” I thought. “If I could breathe under water, I wouldn’t be having this issue!” The mere thought caused my heart to race anew, and my head started to fill with darkness.
The rational side of my brain kicked in reminding me that this man had never put me into harm’s way. “I don’t think he’s going to let you drown in the middle of the ocean. It wouldn’t be good for business….” said my sarcastic side. A small laugh of relief escaped my lips.
I took a deep breath and cautiously put my face into the water. We practiced this several times while floating, then added the mouthpiece to the mix. I told myself, “You’ve got this.” I decided I was ready to go. However, the panic returned the second we took our first dive.
“Yoga Breathe!” I echoed to myself. I began to relax. The life vest and hand holding were also lifesavers. Although the waves plugged my ears, increasing my panic, we pushed on.
Soon Brad said, “Let’s go out further where it’s clearer.” SERIOUSLY?! I quickly decided that I had come this far, what was a little more? With each passing minute, the fear reseeded a little more.
But when I couldn’t feel his hand or see his arms move across my sight, I instinctively jerked my head out of the water. My heart jumped into my throat while scenes from movies like Deep Blue, The Perfect Storm, and Coast Guard started flashing before my eyes. Did I go too far? Had I gotten separated from EVERYONE?! Then I would see the top of Brad’s head again, and all was calm. Every time I began to panic, he would surface to ask if I was okay. Technically I was my usual hot mess on overdrive at the moment, but I couldn’t exactly dog paddle and explain my “specialness” in the middle of the reef. So I gave a thumb up instead while trying to look super cool, took a breath, and dived into the water yet again.
Ultimately, I got my own guided tour. We saw really cool things like a shark, a Dora fish, barracudas, and a ton more! Before I knew it, I could see the bottom of our boats. Had I really made it all around the edge of the island? Yes, I had!
I had assistance removing my fins and goggles and then waited for my sea legs to stabilize. Everyone asked me how I felt. I was so exhausted from swimming against the current; all I could do was smile and nod. I rested and waited to return to homeland.
This was definitely my biggest challenge thus far. Would I do it again? Probably. With a life vest and a little hand holding, six year old Stormi won’t be drowning anytime soon. I may even let my face get wet in the shower. But there’s no need to get TOO crazy…
A girl just trying to find her way, stepping outside of her comfort zone, trying new things, and making new friends along the way!