Inspiration Thursday – Blood in the Water

Celebrate Small VictoriesOk, it’s actually inspiration Friday – I just wanted to give my trolls something to say I was lying about right off the bat.  (This just in, Ragen said it was Thursday, but it was actually Friday. Her middle school paper said that once she thought it was Sunday but it was Monday and she missed school. IT’S A PATTERN! Read all about it.)

Anyway, when I took my open water swim class my coach told me that the freakiest thing she had seen in IRONMAN swims was an empty wet suit just floating around, because it meant that someone had become so freaked out that they stopped and took their wetsuit off (a difficult enough task) and then abandoned it. I told her I could not imagine doing that.

Yesterday I had my first panic attack in open water.  I got to the beach later than I had intended (LA traffic!)  and as I started swimming the sun was going down fast.  It was pretty dark, I couldn’t see anything in the water and, though this is typically a crowded beach, I was literally the only person there.  I started to think maybe everybody knew something I didn’t, and I had just watched a show that said sharks attack at dusk so as I swam along I was already a bit anxious. Then I turned my head to breathe and less than two feet from my face a giant bird swooped down and dive-bombed a fish that it pulled out of the ocean in its mouth.

I. Lost. It.  In that moment I could one hundred percent imagine ripping my wetsuit off.  I realized that I had at some point swallowed a bunch of water, and I tried to keep swimming but couldn’t control my breathing at all.  I got myself upright and was treading water and trying to self-talk myself into staying in the water until the panic subsided.  I had a friend in college who was prone to panic attacks and so I was doing everything they used to tell him to do.  Count to 10, remember that physiologically this can only last for a short time, remember that your fears are irrational (except THEY ARE NOT because GIANT FUCKING BIRD!) Ok, stop thinking about the bird just relax.

I pulled myself together and started swimming a few strokes when a boat with a couple lifeguards pulled up. I assumed they had seen everything and had come to save me, but it turns out that the beach closes at sunset and they were kicking me out of the ocean.

Why is this my Inspiration Thursday (Friday!) post?  Because I stayed in the water.  This is a long, difficult journey and sometimes it’s about celebrating the smallest of victories.  I did not swim for shore and run screaming for my car, even though that was exactly what everything in me said to do. I stayed in the water and cycled through it and started swimming again.

I had a doctor in Austin who was training for a triathlon and told me this story: She had a massive fear of open water swimming. She went for her last swim before her tri, got to the buoy to turn around and just freaked out for no reason.  She had a complete panic attack meltdown and had to dog paddle back to shore.  She grabbed her phone from her bag and called her coach and told her what had happened, finishing by saying “I can’t do it!”  Her coach said “I don’t understand, are you calling from the water?”  My doctor said no and the coach continued “So what you are telling me is that the worst case scenario happened and you completed the swim and are back onshore?  Sounds like you’re ready to me!”

I reflected on the story as I peeled off my wetsuit and showered off the sand. The worst case scenario happened and I stayed in the water, and got back to my swimming (and I have no doubt I would have finished had I not been kicked out of the ocean!)

The moral:  sometimes inspiration can be found in the teeny tiniest of victories.

Song of the Week

The Fat Activism Conference Is Back!  

This is a virtual conference so you can listen to the talks by phone and/or computer wherever you are. Whether you are looking for support in your personal life with family, friends, healthcare providers etc. or you’re interested in being more public with your activism with blogging, petitions, protest, projects, online activism, or something else, this conference will give you tools and perspectives to support you  and your work, and to help you make that work intentionally intersectional and inclusive, so that nobody gets left behind.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff!

IRONMAN Sale:  I’m having a sale on my books and DVDs and downloads to help pay for my IM – you get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! To check it out, you can go to No money?  No problem!  If you feel like it, you can leave a comment or send me an e-mail ( saying something encouraging, that’s incredibly helpful as well!

If you have questions about my IRONMAN journey  the FAQ might help!

If you’re looking for a place to talk about fitness from a weight neutral perspective, check out the Fit Fatties Forum. and the Fit Fatties Facebook page.

Book Me!  I’m a professional speaker and I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

Buy my book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details

About danceswithfat

Hi, I’m Ragen Chastain. Speaker, Writer, Dancer, Choreographer, Marathoner, Soon to be IRONMAN, Activist, Fat Person.
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5 Responses to Inspiration Thursday – Blood in the Water

  1. lsstrout says:

    Hooray for conquering the panic! *HUGS* for the GIANT FUCKING BIRD! At least at the tri you will have folks to scare off the birds.

    I’ve swum in lakes, but never the ocean. I’ve never tried the full length of a tri swim either.

    I now present “What the F Was That?” from Evil Dead The Musical. It seems appropriate.


  2. jwassists says:

    You inspire me every single day. ❤


  3. Your post made me giggle only because I can relate. The swim is my best event and over the past few races I’ve had, it’s become the primary locus of my anxiety. I need to work on my mental game. Yay for staying in the water ’til you got kicked outta the ocean (I didn’t know there was such a thing!) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve learned that I will inevitably have a panic attack in the water, but somehow it’s easier to handle just knowing it will happen and letting it just wash over me.


  5. Suspending Disbelief says:

    “I don’t understand, are you calling from the water?”

    I love this so much.

    I’ve had a series of setbacks in my own training this past year, and reading about your journey is humbling, thought-provoking, exciting, and inspiring.

    Go Ragen!


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