It was my first open water dive and it went something like this. It an April day in beautiful San Diego, California. The air was chilly, and the water was even colder. The prescription mask that I special ordered didn’t arrive on-time. That lead me to borrow a mask with a prescription that was close to mine.
My dive buddy, our instructor, and I were suited in 7mm suits, hood, gloves, the whole nine. On surface my mask would not defog but, I figured once we went under it would be okay.
We went over the dive plan, descended, and the visibility was awful, I’m talking maybe five feet at best. As I exhaled, I could immediately feel my heart start to race and I became hyper aware that every inch of my body was covered in neoprene. At the time, the only thing I could see was our instructor’s neon yellow fins. Thankfully, I was close enough to reach out, tug on her fin, and signal that I needed to surface.
All three of us surfaced. Sure, I might have looked calm on the outside but, on the inside, I was having a slight anxiety attack. Something I have very little personal experience with but, from working in Emergency Medicine I knew that I needed to focus my attention to my breathing. We stayed on the surface for a solid 20 minutes.
Our dive instructor was magnificent. Never yelled, tried to talk me down, or complained about the cold water. She only spoke every few minutes and was calm and patient. During this entire time, I kept looking at my dive buddy, thinking about how we flew half-way across the country, collectively spent thousands of dollars on this, and that I did not want to let her down.
So, I switched my thoughts to ‘I am doing this” “we are doing this” “it’s going to be okay” “you can do anything for one hour”. With that positive mentality I was able to override my fears and successfully continue our dives.
After our dives, our instructor shared with us that she herself had scuba diving anxiety in the past and assured us that diver’s anxiety is common and that overcoming challenges and obstacles can and will always make you a better diver.
Have scuba diving anxiety of your own? Click here to read up on a few preventative steps you can take on land & a few tips on how to deal with anxiety when it hits underwater.
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