Falling into water.
There are two separate, or combined, theories about why I am afraid of falling into water. The first one is pre-verbal. I wrote about this in a much earlier post about the death of my brother, called The Drowning of Diarmuid. I have no doubt that this affected my twin sister and me on a very deep level as she also has fears around water. We were only about 6 months old when it happened but the trauma of that would have been embedded in our mother's body. sShe was still breast feeding us at the time. How that transfers I don't really understand but there is no doubt in my mind that it did.
The second theory is about something that happened to me when I was about 3 and a half. We were living in Cobh, Co. Cork at the time and one day my older sister and her friend took us to Cuskinny, the beach nearby. There were small waves splashing about and I remember we were near a slip. My sister put me sitting in an inner tube from a car, a great flotation device. A wave came and knocked me over so I was upside down in the water with my bum stuck down in the hole of the inner tube. I breathed in a lot of water and when she finally grabbed me and put me upright, I was filled with water and terror. I hated the sensation of water going up my nose and burning and the horrible choking feeling of it. She comforted me as best she could and I don't remember much of what happened after that. The actual event is etched in my memory and gets re-kindled every time I try to get comfortable in water.
|The Slip at Cuskinny where I fell in|
The funny part is that I love the sea, lakes, rivers, being on boats and anything to do with water. I just can't bear the thought of falling in. When I was younger and we would go to the beach I would have to tell everyone to please not mess with me in the water as I might drown them in a panic if the pushed me under or played around like that. I found that the more time I spent in water, the less afraid I would get but then another year would go by till it was warm enough to swim again and I would have to start all over again.
Being out of my depth terrifies me. I did get to a point, when I lived in Sweden, of being able to swim from the metal ladder pinned on a cliff, out into the open sea for a few yards and back, without panicking. But I would often find that I would be going along fine and then panicky thoughts would start and my breathing would tighten and then I would have to rush to grab something as I was sure I was going to sink immediately.
|This is how I want to feel|
The one time when I finally felt I was getting somewhere with this fear was with a friend who had an indoor pool. She got me to get goggles that covered my nose too and she showed me how to swim with my head in the water. With my nose covered, my fear of the water going up it and choking me went away. I found I was very comfortable under the water, more so than on top of it! In fact, I was so comfortable that I had an almost irresistible urge to breathe under there. I could see the deep end, all 8 feet of it, further down the pool and it looked perfectly benign. Yet, when I had my head above the water, that 8 foot depth seemed terrifying and dangerous. I even learned to duck dive a bit and loved it. If only I had had more than one day there at her house.
I can actually swim, very badly. I would love to find someone with the patience to help me over this fear. I wish so much I could just jump off a boat or a diving board into the water and not be afraid. It would be one of the most liberating things I could imagine.
It's on my list of things to do before I die. Hopefully, I won't leave it too much longer.