Last April, Chris and I decided to try scuba diving despite my deep-seated fears of ocean creatures. We took a local scuba class in a pool so we could get the feel of the equipment before taking the plunge in Grand Cayman. I had a blast in the Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) class, and took to breathing underwater…well, like a fish! We signed up for a second class in Grand Cayman and although I was still nervous about diving amongst all the scary bits of the sea (jellyfish, eels, barracuda, sharks, etc.), I think I was ready to try. Sadly, Chris was ill on the day of our dive and we had to cancel. I’m not sure if I was disappointed or relieved. Maybe a mixture of both.
Our next dive opportunity presented itself on our recent trip to Belize, and I have to confess: I nearly chickened out. I got into my head and just spent too much time thinking about it. We were minutes away from leaving the villa to head to the dive shop when I wondered aloud, “Has anyone ever died in a beginner scuba class?” Chris Googled it, and sure enough there were quite a few accidents even in DSD classes. So…that didn’t help.
I just kept thinking about all of the things that could happen, mostly related to ocean creatures. My imagination ran wild with things biting me or stinging me, which would absolutely cause me to panic several meters under the surface. There are even certain corals that are harmful to humans, so scuba diving just seemed completely unnatural to me and I’m pretty sure it’s one of the few things I swore I’d never do. I only just recently started to enjoy snorkeling after all. But as someone who loves to stretch the boundaries of her comfort zone, I decided to face my fish fears and give diving a try. I realized I’d be disappointed and regretful if I didn’t at least get on the dive boat, so forced myself out the door and into the Scuba School Belize dive shop where we met Ruben, the most calm, patient, and kind diving instructor I could have hoped for. He instantly made me feel at ease, reassuring me that nerves are part of the experience for everyone.
After watching a short video at the shop, we spent some time on the boat getting familiar with the equipment we’d be using. The detailed overview of how everything works and even taking some of the gear apart so we could see the inner workings helped to relax me even more. We stopped at a dive site called Tuffy Canyons, and I
made requested Chris get in the water first.
Geared up, I did a backwards roll off of the boat into the water where it took a few minutes for me to get comfortable. Since Chris and I were the only two in the class, I was able to take my time before descending. I wasn’t panicking, but I did have a little trouble getting used to the regulator this time. It performed a little differently than the one I used in the pool. Still, I willed myself to relax and trust the equipment, I let the air out of my BCD and began my descent.
The experience turned out to be much more peaceful than I expected. After correcting a few equipment issues (my regulator was actually leaking a little water so Ruben and I calmly made adjustments), I enjoyed the quiet of being underwater and relaxed into the slow movements of diving, so the time went by quickly. I think we were down for 30 minutes or so. We saw beautiful fish and coral, and even a rather large barracuda that made my heart beat a little faster. I didn’t take a ton of fish photos simply because I wanted to focus on my gear and my surroundings, but Chris did grab this photo of a cute filefish amongst some gorgeous fan corals. I think he took a video of the barracuda – I still need to go through all of the footage. But most importantly, nothing caused me to completely freak out, nothing bit me or stung me, and I surfaced after the dive without a scratch. Well, actually I did scrape my knee on some rocks, but it didn’t hurt until after I surfaced.
Now that I’m back home in one piece and reflecting on my experience, I can say that I’m incredibly proud of myself for facing this fear. And believe it or not, I enjoyed it enough that I might even go ahead with that open water certification. Maybe.
So what’s something you’re afraid of trying? Can you push your fears aside and just see if you can get a little closer to that fear? Maybe there are baby steps you can take that won’t feel too awful. Let me know if you try something new and scary!