I realized that I had a long weekend coming up for July 4th, but yet, hadn’t made any special plans. It sure would have been a waste of precious time off to not get out of Medellín and get to know a new side of Colombia.

Crunched for time, I decided on making a trip to San Andrés Island, a 2 hour plan ride from Medellín. All I had to do was look at a few images and I was sold! 

I like piña coladas, on beaches
I like coconut cocktails, on beaches

I really want to get SCUBA certified? Can I do it without freaking out?

I quickly learned that San Andrés Island is primetime scuba diving territory! Given that over 70% of the world is water, can I really call myself a world traveler without exploring the underwater world? Getting my open water certification was an exhilarating thought. One of those ideas that I know I want and that I would be so proud of myself for doing, but one I was terribly scared of. 

Diving with Anxiety

When I started emailing dive centers, I didn’t really think anyone would be willing to dive with me on my timeline. I needed to get it done Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, and it was also a holiday weekend in Colombia…. what are the odds? Luck was on my side but interestingly enough, when I arrived for my first pool training session, I was already thinking I couldn’t do it. I am a confident swimmer and love the pool, but even doing the four laps with the snorkel (no coming up) scared me. My heart was racing the whole time while in a tiny, shallow pool. How was I going to be in open water? This was not a great start but I promised myself I could make it through the pool laps and took it one step at a time. 

What am I scared of, anyway?

On day two, I tried to pin point exactly what fear I had. Some might worry that the air won’t work, or even that they’ll see a shark…. so what was my fear? I had full confidence in my gear and identified that I was scared of me. I thought I wouldn’t be able to control my breathing and possibly get a full-blown panic attack under water.

Luckily, this fear is something I have control over; just breathe

Once I thought about it a bit longer, I built confidence I could do this. All I needed was to breathe in and breath out at a relaxed pace. Do-able. 

Even the other examples are things you can work around. For example, you test your gear; you know it works as you inspect it several times before going out and so does your buddy! You also practice tons of “what if” scenarios, and while this made me even more worried, to learn about every little thing that could go wrong, I was prepared for the unexpected! If you see a shark; wow, that’s rare; stay calm and enjoy the view. 

Diving is quite therapeutic

Once I got the swing of things, I felt at peace, enjoying the beautiful underwater scenery. I felt like an uninvited guest but I was thankful because the sea creatures didn’t mind my being there! 

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Think about the source of anxiety. What can you do about it? Is it the reward worth the trouble?

Once I thought through the fear, I focused my efforts on what I needed to do… breath in and out and relax. Plus, the beauty of the ocean really helped.

In my case, my heart was set on becoming a scuba diver and the risk was small enough to be worth it. Now, does that mean you are going to find me bungie jumping and conquering my fear of heights? No way, not interested in that one! Am I going to go off and start scuba diving with a buddy or two? No, not that one either. Even though I’m now qualified to open water dive with another fellow certified diver, I’ll be sticking to dives with a scuba trainer or dive master that I can trust until I have a lot more dives under my belt. I will probably even tell the instructor something along the lines of:

I just did my certification but just so you know, I am anxiety prone. Can you pay special attention to me in case I get worried underwater?

I know my limits and will stay within them but I’m thrilled to have pushed past a fear for something I really wanted! You might find me planning a lot of diving focused trips!