Ok, 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
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