I wouldn’t call myself a tenured diver, but with almost 38 dives under my weight belt in the last year, I am certainly not a total newbie. Still, I struggle sometimes with panic. It’s one of those things that gets in everyone’s head from time to time, and we all have to find a way to manage it.
It’s particularly important to find a way to deal with it underwater, where running to the exit is not always a great option. The fact that I shouldn’t leave often makes my panic double back on itself and grow stronger as I feel more and more trapped.
Mind games like this are frustrating, but they are, after all, just games, and they can be played from both sides. In the past I’ve tried a few strategies for the fear: I’ve tried talking myself through it. I’ve tried rationing with it. I’ve tried shouting at it. Nothing really worked, though, and I found another level of panic set in when I got scared my diving days were over because I couldn’t get my head around these moments.
This weekend, however, I tried a new thing: when I felt the panic start to creep in, desperate to be heard, I left it behind by giving myself a distraction in the form of a job.
It worked a treat.
I had my camera with me, so I told myself to take one picture, look at it and check all the buttons were working. By the time I was done, I was miles away from where the panic had reared its ugly head.
Getting myself out of my head and into the moment made the panic simply vanish. It was delightful.
With a five week dive holiday coming up (I can’t wait!) and higher level courses on the horizon, I’m sure I’ll have more opportunities to try this trick in the near future. I am also sure that the more times I distract myself from it, the fewer times my panic will throw fits and the more confident I will be as a diver.
It’s been a long, babystep-y process to get myself this far into the ocean. I can honestly say that if you had asked 2012 Noelle if I would be a diver, I would have laughed in your face before slumping down and crying in a corner at the threat of it. But by pushing my limits and challenging my fears in even seemingly insignificant ways, many things that used to give me full-on panic attacks are now so much a part of my life that I don’t even think about them (or sometimes even notice them) any more.
We’re strong, resilient creatures, and our fear is fragile and weak. The next time yours starts acting up, give yourself a job to do and watch how the panic slips away without you even noticing it.