6.14.2016

Vacation Recap and Why Snorkeling Sends Me Into a Panic Attack

Last week my wife and I got back from a much needed vacation. We have been married 10 years now and so we took it upon ourselves to get away from the kids, from all the pressures of life for a bit, and just relax...

Actually, my wife took it upon ourselves. She arranged for the whole trip and got a great deal on Groupon. We went to the Bahamas. I do not have any real desire to go to tropical places. There really is not really any for me. However, a place to relax is a place to relax.

The only relevant part of my trip for this blog is the reading I got done there.


I was able to finish 3 books:
The Man Who Was Thursday a novel by G.K. Chesterton

I was also able to knock out a sizable chunk of T.H. White's The Once and Future King (which I have never read before) and several chapters in the book of Acts.

Reading is fun!

(Also, I managed to watch Baz Luhrman's The Great Gatsby, part of the first Hobbit film, and several French Open matches.)

On our way to the Bahamas I kept relaying to my wife my fear of the ocean, of these great vast bodies of water of unfathomable depth. I talked to her about how vulnerable islands are, how fragile they look from the plane, how one wave could swallow them whole and they'd be gone forever along with any speck of a person who happened to be walking along the islands surface. As you can tell, I am a little afraid of water...

Before we got married my wife taught me to swim. I was a 22/23 year old man before I realize I could float in water. I seriously did not believe a human could actually float. I thought everyone was making it up. But she taught me to believe and she taught me to swim as best I could and I was ready for our honeymoon where we swam in the ocean off the coast of Belize. We took a kayak out once, which I didn't like very much because I could not see the bottom of the ocean. It seemed to want to suck me into its dark chasm. We also went snorkeling on an excursion far out beyond the mainland, swimming amongst the coral reefs spread about a string of tiny little islands. It was magical and wonderful, even if I did get relatively sea-sick from the boat ride out.

On our recent trip to the Bahamas my wife went out snorkeling one day while I stayed in, read, and took a nap. She texted me trying to get me to come out with her but I did not even see she tried to reach me. Naps are wonderful. She convinced me to come out with her the next day though. I said "Stuff it!" to my fear of the ocean and decided to get my gear on and get in. I did not last long however. I became very uncomfortable in the water. Lists started forming in my head as to why I should get out! NOW! I tried to be calm several times. Eventually I gave up and headed back to the shore.

Afterward I told my wife all the reasons I started getting nervous and uncomfortable, how these thoughts came pouring in all at once and I could not take it anymore. She told me that is exactly what happens to her when she has a panic attack (she suffers from anxiety and is prone to panic attacks in high-stress situations). Looking back, I suppose I was essentially having my own little panic attack. 

I thought it would be funny to write down every panic-stricken irrational thought I was having while in the water. In my mind every single one of these thoughts is justified but at the same I know I am a cowardly fool. Still, my mind and body did not allow me to stay in that water for long. In the end it was a terrifying and harrowing experience. I am SO BRAVE. Here's the list.

Reasons snorkeling sends me into a panic attack.
1. I hope I don't get any saltwater in my mouth. I do not like the tast of salt water. It disgusts me. It makes me cringe.
2. What if I drink too much salt water and get dehydrated? I could die from dehydration.
3. Even if I don't get dehydrated, it's kind of making me nauseous. What if I throw up?
4. Is this water safe to be in? Are there chemicals in it? What if people peed or pooped in here? The animals live in here. It's like we're swimming in their pee and poop water.
5. Ok. Calm down. Just put your equipment on...I hate these rubbery flipper things! I can't walk. They make me fall over. I'm bending them right off and probably ruining them. Each step is this labored, bending, duck-walk.
6. Ok. Just get down belly first in the water...I hate the life jacket I have to wear. I'm a tall fat man and the thing only goes halfway down my pathetically pale torso. I just know everyone back on the beach is looking at me going "Look at that lanky, pale, fat man frantically thrashing around the water pretending to "snorkel". Why doesn't he just get out and put on a shirt?!"
7. Alright. Just put your head down and start making your way out a bit. It's too shallow here. AARAGGHAHACK (cough cough). Oh no! I just swallowed sea water through my snorkel as soon as a put my head down into the water. Does this thing even work? Do I have it on right?
8. Ok. Just lay here and breathe calmly with your head down in the water. Get used to the rhythm. Oh no, no matter how long I've been swimming I still can't get used to the sound of water entering and enveloping my ear holes. I hate feeling submerged. I hate the "pang, pang" sound. I hate feeling like I'm taking on water and I'm becoming a sinking vessel.
9. And the waves...they just keep on coming. Why don't they stop? They are so cruel with their unending bashing of my head, trying to topple over me and drown me. Alright...just get the rhythm of your breath and lay here...
10. Oh man, I really have to clench down hard on the mouth piece. I bet my jaw is going to get sore. All that tension. It'll probably give me a headache. I didn't come on vacation to get a headache.
11. Ugh. Please, just breathe through your mouth. Why is my nose trying to breathe too!? I'm telling him to NOT breathe. He is not obeying. 
12. Oh no, has saltwater gotten underneath the rubber part covering my nose? Oh no! I'm breathing in saltwater through my nose. Please nose. Stop breathing nose! Stop!
13. Ok, reset. Take the mask off, shake it off. Start again. We're floating out farther now, breathing just through the mouth with a clenched jaw. There's the coral reef with the fishes and whatnot. It's beautiful...and also really gross. It all looks so gross. It's like bugs crawling everywhere. If it were just a picture it would look beautiful but now that it's right here in front of me where I can touch it....it's all creepy crawlies...I don't want to touch anything!
14. Ok, just swim around the perimeter of the reefs. If I swim over the reefs I could get stuck on them. What if I have to stand up when I'm in the middle of a reef? What if I get stuck out here? What if I'm never able to get back? Oh no, the saltwater has gotten into my nose piece again!
15. Ok. Swimming around the reefs. Do NOT touch anything. Everyone knows coral reefs are dying all over the world. I did not come to the Bahamas to contribute to this horrible global epidemic. I should not even be in this water. I do not belong here. I need to get out so I don't ruin everything.
16. Uhh....I hope I don't see anything. What if something down there sees me and looks at me?
17. My goggles keep fogging up. It's hot and I can't see.
18.  And seriously, even though I naturally float in this saltwater and I have a life jacket on, I just know I'm going to sink right to the bottom...I have got to get out of here. The ocean is so enormous, a giant void, waiting to devour me...

From the breathing to the saltwater to the icky things to the impending sinking I cannot take anymore.

I get out, stumbling the whole way, trying not to touch anything gross. I take my gear off, walk back up to our chair on the beach, and look out guiltily, hoping my wife stays out as long as she wants to be. Please hun, do not come back in on account of me. Feel no obligation, for I am a fool.

About 7 minutes later she comes rushing back to shore. She had just seen a 6 foot barracuda smile at her with a mouth full of teeth. She decided it was time to high-tail it out of there. She had just had a real adventure. I returned our equipment and got back to the make-believe adventures in my King Arthur book. 

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Related Posts:
The 15 Stages of Superbowl Grief
Realization: My Kids Will Never Become Professional Athletes
Aching For the Promised Land (England, that is)—reflections on tennis and Wimbledon

4 comments:

sBh said...

This would be a great Buzzfeed video. I know it was an uncomfortable situation for you, but this was funny!

Chris Marchand said...

No, that's definitely ok. I WANT people to laugh at me.

Brian Marchand said...

Interesting, I don't like swimming or the heat either so I do not think I would want to try it.

Chris Marchand said...

Brian, yeah I didn't think you knew how to swim.