Life Stories

Why I’m Scared of Scuba Diving and Why I Keep Doing it

My relationship with scuba diving is one of the weirdest and most ironic I have.

I have a PADI Rescue Dive certification (although I wouldn’t count on myself to rescue anybody) and I have over 70 dives to this day. I have done some amazing dives in New Zealand and in Greece (some links below if you are interested in reading more).

Diving in Satorini : here
Diving at The Poor Knights Islands: here

But what if I told you I’m scared of diving? What if I told you I have at least two anxiety attacks per dive? What one time did I almost bolt out from a 30metter depth? You probably wonder what’s wrong with me, right? But is it a bad thing? Let me tell you my story.

Why I’m Scared of Diving

The reason is quite dark. My brother died in a diving accident. I’ve heard two different stories. The one is that he ran out of air and the other is that he got nitrogen narcosis and took off his equipment and drown. For those of you who don’t know what nitrogen narcosis is, it is can happen when divers go deeper than 30 meters. The increased pressure can alter these gasses and breathing those altered gasses can often make a person act as if they are drunk. And acting drunk underwater can make people do stupid and fatal things.

Based on my knowledge, what I think happened is that he got nitrogen narcosis, and acted carelessly like going deeper while he shouldn’t until he ran out of air and drown.

I was 4, and he was 20 something (I have a big age gap with my siblings) and they never found his body.

I don’t remember him. I never got to meet him, so I never felt the pain. But my parents did. And throughout my childhood, I was often reminded of how my brother died while scuba diving and how scuba diving is a dangerous sport. As you can imagine, I grew terrified of the idea of diving, and I always said I will never dive. Never say never….

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Why I Started Diving

Fast-forward to the summer before my last year of uni. I was looking for a summer job and as I was reading job adverts in a newspaper; I saw this article written in French (I’m living in Greece). The ad said that they were looking for an office assistant for a scuba diving centre, the skills needed were very good French and computer knowledge. I’m French, and I was studying computer science. I think I was more than qualified. However, the scuba diving centre put me off.

Enters my then-boyfriend (now husband) who had done scuba diving once and loved it. I told him about the position and how I was sceptical because of the environment. Of course, he told me I should apply and that I don’t have to dive, so why lose the opportunity? He also jokingly added that it was a great opportunity for him to get his certificate with a discount.

I emailed my CV, and soon I got a call and an interview. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but it was the fastest interview I’ve ever done. And my boss actually told me that I soon she heard that indeed I speak perfect French, the deal was done. However, when she called me to inform me I got the job, she also told me it would be great to spend a day at the diving base (the diving base and administration were in different places) and do a dive, so I have a better understanding of scuba diving and what to tell to clients. I froze. But I have issues, and I really struggle to say the word “no”.

The next day I was at the diving base. After a 30-minute introductory course on how diving works, the dos and don’ts, I was in my wetsuit, tank on my back ready to put my head underwater. Now, the one thing that instructors will stress is that you need to remember to properly exhale when underwater. Otherwise, you keep breathing in, filling your lungs with air but not properly releasing the dioxide which will make your brain distressed, and guess what? Panic.

Me making my way to the water

What was the first thing I did when my head was underwater? Keep breathing in and not out. Panic started to settle and just when I was about to get out of the water, I remembered I needed to breathe out. So I did. I slowly started to calm myself down and breathe “naturally”

To my surprise, I finished the dive and I liked the experience. Wasn’t completely reassured, but I liked the feeling of “floating” and seeing the marine life up close.

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Why I Keep Diving

After that day, I didn’t dive again until the end of the season when my boyfriend and I got our first two certifications. Then the next year, we both worked at the diving base. I was the base manager, and he was a trainee. However, since I was qualified, I also did some diving with clients when one of the other divers was sick. I also got my rescue certificate during the season.

Since then, I’m done some amazing dives and still do. But what about that fear, that panic I felt the first time I put my head underwater and started breathing? It’s still there.

Every time I’m about to go into the water, that panic takes a hold of my stomach. Scenarios of all the ways things can go wrong are flashing in front of me. During the descent, depending on how fast we are going, I usually have an anxiety attack at 15 meters depth and then another at 30 meters.

But I actually believe this is a good thing. Because I know I’m “uncomfortable” I also know exactly my limits, and I’m not willing to cross them. I know I have a hard limit of 28–29 meters and no matter what beautiful fish is there, I will not go. I refuse to dive into areas I’m not familiar with, without a guide or without having done a couple of very shallow dives to get to know the area.

I think, in that case, my fear is a good thing. It protects me from doing something that could be fatal. Even my husband has told me he absolutely trusts me and feels comfortable diving with me because he knows am I over-cautious. He knows he doesn’t have to worry that I’ll do something stupid. So I keep that fear close to me but I don’t let it stop me from having some beautiful experiences.

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