If I'd known just how hard doing a dive course would be I would never have started!! Here was me thinking "How bad can it be? Sure I'll be underwater but they teach you to breathe! All the floating about... It'll be great!".
Oh dear, how wrong was I?
Tonight was our second night in the pool... and I was still terrified! I had so underestimated the power of our inbuilt survival mechanism.... Instinct.
I had thought I was really relaxed tonight when we were setting up our gear and getting ready to get in the pool. In fact I was quite looking forward to it, after all what were the chances I'd have again have so many unexpected things happen that seemed so frightening my first time in the pool? And anyway I now knew what it felt like to be breathing below the surface... it was no longer completely new and so the fear of the unknown would be gone.
We'd talked through all the theory, discussed the homework and completed the test for the session. Even getting the wetsuit on did not seem to be such a struggle tonight... this was going to be a piece of cake! We assembled all the gear and practised the buddy pre-dive check then learnt to back roll over the edge of the pool... my entry was a bit inelegant but otherwise it was all good. We snorkled around the pool to warm up... That's when it began... About half way around the pool... I don't know if it's the water over my ears, having the mask on, or the "darth vader" sound effects breathing through a snorkle or regulator, or maybe I was still subconciously scared shitless... but the terror started creeping in. Whatever it was that triggered it, it started very quietly and insidiously - undermining my newfound confidence at an alarming rate... and I was not even doing something I considered "scary".
There was no logic to it, we were in a controlled environment with a trained instructor supervising our every move... even if something did go wrong it could hardly go dangerously wrong!! I think my fear was compounded by the fact I just hadn’t expected to be so scared again... I was scared that I was scared!! Jeez – how illogical is that? What a wuss!!
Anyways... I'd worked myself into such a state that when it was my turn to remove my mask for a minute under water I shook my head and gave the "trouble" signal. The next person took their turn while I contemplated standing up and just getting out, never to return... yeah... I could do that... and then the instructor came back and signalled to me that it was my turn... Feck... I figured I didn't want to make a scene so ripped my mask off and fought down the waves of panic. One minute under with your eyes closed (because of my contacts lenses) is a looooonnnnng time!! I got the tap on my arm that signalled I could put my mask back on and then we all surfaced... Crap... How could I run away after getting through that... I’ll wait until I get home then tell Tom I can’t do this anymore and then never go back!! Yeah... that's a better plan! Then I'll not have to deal with disappointing the class and the instructor, I'd never have to face them again... yeah... that's what I'll do... assuming I survive this lesson that is
The rest of the night was a roller coaster of dread with each new manouvre we were told to try, panic when it was my turn to execute the move and elation when I got through it to find I'd survived one more ordeal.
By the end of the night we were in the bottom of the pool and I was trying to use the time to get myself more relaxed... I was finally able to stop swimming in circles like a demented goldfish and I sat at the bottom for a bit looking up at the surface watching the bubbles. It's quite an amazing thing to be looking at the surface of the water from underneath... very different from the view topside. The colours and the light give it all quite a magical quality. I suddenly realised that my jaw was no longer clenched down on the regulator mouthpiece and was surprised by a quiet wee thought that popped into my head "Hmmmm... Yeah... I can see there’s a certain attraction in this".
...That’s when I knew I would be going back for the next lesson.
(...Still cried like a baby when I got home though. Excitement, terror, elation, tension, relief... After such an emotional roller coaster I think I was entitled to releasing my stress valve!!)