By Desiree Jenkins
Previously, I created a space for the discussion of anxiety when first becoming a diver. One of my core beliefs is that these spaces need to be created for the normalization of these conversations. Not everyone who scuba dives feels fully confident. I want people to realize, as I do so myself, that this activity does not come with expectations. With the recent accomplishment of earning my advanced adventure certification, I have had many more diving experiences. During every single dive, learning experiences are always encountered. You are constantly achieving better buoyancy, running into different situations, and learning to control your breathing even better.
My father and I took our advanced adventure certification class together. He is my lifelong dive buddy, but we have different views on certain types of dives. This was my first time diving with a big group (6 students, 2 divemasters, and our instructor). One thing I learned during my class was the idea that IT IS OKAY to feel uncomfortable and call off the dive. Never continue a dive when you feel uneasy or the dive will become more dangerous and unenjoyable. A real-life example of how dangerous panicking is: During a portion of my class, a classmate was on the opposite side of the platform from their dive buddy. She panicked because she was not next to her dive buddy and started rushing through the group formation. As she was rushing past me, she unknowingly grabbed my regulator hose. Luckily Nicole, our attending divemaster, noticed and mitigated the situation quickly before my regulator was ripped out of my mouth. When a diver panic’s, they are not only putting themself in danger, but also everyone else that is around them.
Night dives aren’t for everyone
During my night dive, I immediately realized that this was not a diving environment I enjoyed. When these feelings are brought to a diver’s attention, they should NEVER PANIC. A calm reaction is necessary. No matter what negative feelings are experienced during a dive, the logical and necessary solution is to calmly communicate with your dive buddy/instructor/guide that you feel the need to end the dive or ascend until the feelings are settled. It is ALWAYS OKAY to call off a dive if the negative feelings cannot be tamed. My night dive and deep dive portions of my classes were the hardest for me. I convinced myself I would be perfectly fine on the night dive, but I wasn’t. I made it to the training platform, but as the whole class reached the platform, I became anxious and felt an anxiety attack coming to light. I calmly alerted a divemaster that was part of my group that I needed to surface and weigh my options. The divemaster, Nicole, was very thoughtful and assured me that my reaction is normal for some. We descended and met back up with the group. I finished my dive and discussed my feelings with my father. I felt like I had failed as a scuba diver because I wasn’t comfortable with night dives. But those feelings are false. Knowing our deep dive was first thing in the morning, I discussed these issues with my instructor Mike. Always let your dive team know your challenges so they can accommodate.
My class was being taught at our local quarry. For those of you who are not familiar with quarry diving, the deep dive is dark and cold!! I told Mike night diving was not for me and I was concerned about the deep dive due to the lack of light and simulating another night dive. Mike assured me that I could do it and then did something I wasn’t expecting. Mike told me he would open the quarry early for me and my dad to do the deep dive with just him and Nicole and not the rest of the class. We were in the water by 0730 and I was a little panicky. We went down extremely slowly and I was able to calm myself during a few short pauses on the way down. We followed the wall down to about 70 feet and I realized cold water isn’t much fun, although my dad seemed to enjoy it. Mike said I was all smiles during our safety stop. I told him I was happy to be back in warmer water.
I revisited Bluestone Dive Resort for the annual scavenger hunt. There were so many people in the water, but I refused to let that hold me back. My father and I explored deeper areas than in the past and I truly enjoyed it. Safely face your fears and you may discover you actually enjoy the experience! I was recently accepted into my dream school, UNC Wilmington, I cannot stop swimming forward towards my dreams! I hope this article will help some who may be too shy to express their feelings. Please share your experiences below, I would love to hear them!