Floating Away From My Fears

Earlier this week, thanks to the encouragement and support from my husband, I did something I haven’t been brave enough to do since 2003. I got into a pool – more specifically, the Endless River in the water park at Waldameer (the local amusement park, if you’re not familiar). 26 inches of water shouldn’t hold much weight, but nothing has ever scared me more.

This is a blog post about facing your fears.

My anxiety about water is something I’ve dealt with my whole life. Long story short… I’m really, really terrified of water. I never learned how to swim. If my childhood friends made me go in a pool with them, I’d cling to a float or the edge until I felt like I was going to throw up from nerves, then I’d awkwardly sit far enough away that no one would be tempted to call me back to the pool, and rejoice when it was time to go home. I don’t get seasick from the motion of a boat, but the churning of my nerves is enough to keep me from them now. Even flying over water sets off flares in my nervous system.

So, how in the world did I find myself agreeing to go to a water park this week?

I asked myself that (over and over) (and over) while we settled in on our lounge chairs. And the voice in my head screamed it when I leaned over to my husband and asked if he wanted to go in the endless river (he had wanted to go down a slide or two if it wasn’t too crowded, but that wasn’t the case). Louder than that voice, though, was my beautiful, perfect, reassuring husband. This guy has damn near worked miracles to help improve my life over the past four (!!) years – why should this be any different?

We took three laps in the river that afternoon. By the middle of the third one, the crowd picked up and people were getting rowdy, so I had definitely had enough and we got out. But in that half hour or so that we spent in the water, something clicked. I laughed with my husband and even almost enjoyed the sensation of floating along – I took a lot of comfort in knowing the bottom of the pool was literally right there, that all I had to do was slightly bend my leg and I could stand up.

That being said… I’m still terrified of water. I still can’t swim, nor do I have any shred of a desire to learn – the idea of going under water makes me want to scream and cry and disappear and claw my skin off (anxiety is fun!!!). The only boat I’ll consider going on is a ferry at the Magic Kingdom (and I would much rather be stuffed onto a busy monorail before that option), and our flight to Miami this fall is going to scare the crap out of me. But… I realized something, huge, that afternoon.

Fear is an important – and necessary – part of the human experience. Obviously, there are situations that are downright scary and those should be avoided at all costs. But for those fears that aren’t really grounded in anything (shh, I know anxiety thrives off this and that’s always going to be my weakness, I know that)… if you have someone by your side, someone to figuratively (or literally) hold your hand and help you experience something new or scary? Sometimes those scary things are worth it.

I’m still trapped by my anxiety triggers – nothing will change that – but now that I know that I can hang onto a pool float and enjoy myself? I feel like a changed woman. I feel a smidge braver, like I could possibly take on something new (like freaking finally starting to learn bass guitar – I finally got myself a beginner book!). If that becomes my main take-away from this experience, I won’t be disappointed – I’m capable of more than I knew just a few days ago.

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