On Sunday, I decided to take the plunge–almost literally–since diving isn’t allowed in the gym pool. It took me a while to get started. I had to buy even more accessories: the goggles and a swim cap. Then I had to shake out the sand from my slippers, which was textured, so it took a while to get the sand out of the grooves.
I finally got to wear the bikini I bought to wear to a beach party in Santa Cruz the previous week (it ended up being too cold that day).
What’s up with the pool being a hangout for older people? I felt out of place.
It had been years since I had tried to swim… at least over two years, since that was how long I had my dislocated shoulder. I didn’t want my shoulder to dislocate while I was in the water. I was really anxious because I had had a terrible experience a few years ago…When I was a sophomore in college, I took beginner swimming, which was the very first time I learned to swim. I almost drowned in that class. I was trying to swim from the deep end to the shallow end. One of my classmates was coming toward me from the shallow end toward the deep end, and fearing a collision, I panicked. Then I lost it. I looked down, and thought I could kick myself up to the surface. However, the problem with water is that it creates optical illusions, so the pool floor was actually further away than I thought. So I was actually forcing myself deeper and deeper than I wanted.
I was so afraid that the lifeguard would not rescue me because she might have thought that I was practicing, since we do practice keeping our heads under water in class. While I was submerged, I kept swallowing water, and I think that was what saved or helped me. I don’t know if I knew this at the time, or learned it afterward, but when we swallow, it suppresses the urge to breathe.
Finally, after probably 10-15 seconds, the lifeguard pulled me out of the water. Fortunately, things weren’t so bad that I needed CPR.
As soon as I was physically recovered, the instructor gently urged me to get back into the water. The reason was that the more time passed before the next time I tried to swim, my mind would develop a greater fear of water. I was able to get into the water before the end of the class.
Although I never fully developed my swimming abilities, and could not breathe while swimming, I did continue swimming in pools. I even helped teach my little brother to swim.
Because it had been so long since I last swam, it made me so afraid to swim again because I feared that I had lost my skills, though little were they anyway. As I got into the water, I felt the anxiety that people afraid of heights would feel as they went upward to a high place. Once I was in the water, I couldn’t get myself to swim because I was terrified to get my face in the water. I guess I didn’t trust the goggles to keep water out. The memory of the near-drowning also replayed in my head.
Since I had spent so much time preparing, I didn’t want to quit so easily. In a standing position, I would gradually put more and more of my body under water. This was in the 3 1/2 feet end of the pool, and I was already feeling panicky about letting the water go over my neck. When I let the water finally go up to my chin, the fear was like that of an acrophobic starting to peer over a cliff. At last, I had my entire head underwater, but my eyes were squeezed shut. Finally, feeling confident that the goggles were keeping the water out, I opened my eyes. Whew!
With that being the hardest part–psychologically–I was able to start swimming, though not very gracefully. At first, I would only go as far as the part of the pool that was 4 1/2 feet deep, because I could stand there and still be above water. I can’t breathe while swimming, so I didn’t want to have to come up for water at a point where I couldn’t stand up above the water. The more I swam, the further I was able to go, until I was able to go pass the 5 1/2 feet point to get to the 4 1/2 point on the other side of the pool. I couldn’t go the entire length of the pool because I couldn’t hold my breath long enough.
It was such a relief, and accomplishment, to be able to swim again. Hopefully I can develop my skills enough so that I can join in water activities. I had to forgo going on a rafting trip because I couldn’t handle a class V level because it required swimming ability.