October 2nd 2018
Today I faced my fear of deep water. By the way, apparently I have a fear of deep water.
Basically, I really like snorkelling in the sea, but I get freaked out as soon as I snorkel over “the drop” (or where the sea floor suddenly becomes steep to the point it’s un-seeable)
If I’m snorkelling, I want to be able to see what’s underneath me. That’s the point. As soon as you get past the drop all you can see is darkness. And that’s kind of freaky because I know I can’t touch the bottom. And also, you know, sharks.
And yes, I know that that’s a fucking ridiculously irrational fear, but it doesn’t really scare me, it’s just a thought I’d rather not be having at that particular moment but somehow cannot prevent.
We went to Panormos Beach on Skopelos island, and I asked Alice if she thought I could swim to the buoys that were, at a guess, floating about 500 metres out to sea.
She said no, because she knows about the weird thing I have with deep water and the drop.
As it turns out, my desire to prove her wrong was stronger than my fear of whatever lurked below visible sight. And so, I started swimming.
I left the snorkel at the sun bed, grabbed my sea shoes and started breaststroking with my head strictly above my water, swimming like my mum does when she doesn’t want to get her hair wet.
I was trying to avoid getting the salty water in my mouth, and I didn’t want to look down. It was one of the few times where I was glad that my eyesight is bad enough to require glasses, because I couldn’t see anything anyway.
Swimming out was easy. I got a bit tired of breaststroking so tried kicking my legs front-crawl style, but my sea shoes came loose with kicking, so I had to use just my arms most of the way out. That, as it turns out, is a knackering tactic, so when I made it to the buoy I tested its floatation and sat on it for a couple of minutes to regain my breath.
I didn’t want to sit there for too long, though, because the longer I did, the longer I had to contemplate the darkness beneath my paddling feet.
And so, I began to swim back. I was tired. Five hundred (at a guess) metres of arm-only breaststroke had knackered me out. I contemplated just treading water for a bit, but, again, the darkness beneath me prevented that.
And so then I started to panic a little bit.
I could feel my stroke becoming more frantic as my irrational mind considered the possibility that I wouldn’t make it back to the beach.
I won’t lie, I was a bit scared.
The logical part of my brain has always been my favourite, and he reasoned that having a panic attack in the middle of the ocean would not increase my chances of getting back to the shore successfully, so the logical side suppressed the irrational side for a little bit.
I knew that the only way to get back to shore was to put the work in. I couldn’t just float back.
And so, I started kicking. I took off my sea shoes, stuffed them in my sea shorts, and started kicking. I tried a front crawl kick with breaststroke arms for a while, but it was too slow, so I turned over and backstroked.
Backstroke is mainly about the feet, so my logical brain figured it was most energy efficient. And it was right. I just closed my eyes, and kicked. The distance to shore shortened rapidly.
And I made it. Because I said that I would.
Alice didn’t believe that I could do it, so I did it just to prove her wrong. It was both spiteful and stupid, but it helped me, somehow.
First, I learnt that sometimes you need to take a second to breathe, stop overthinking things, and then do the fucking work. And then, I learnt that if you want me to do something, just tell me that I’m incapable of doing it and I’ll apparently prove you wrong. Third, I learnt that my sea shoes, whilst being aesthetically fierce, are impractical for front crawl.
Until tomorrow, I wish I found out number 3 before I got in the sea.