So I have decided to talk about my love/hate relationship with scuba diving. When people find out that I am a PADI open water diver they assume I must love to dive. Wrong; currently I hate diving although this changes on a daily basis.
Why do I hate scuba diving? The very thought of scuba diving conjures every irrational (but very possible!) thought my brain can think of and brings my anxiety to panic attack levels in seconds. Quite frankly it terrifies me!
Why do I love scuba diving? On a good dive it is the most amazing experience in the world. Strangely enough, on a good dive it is so calming. It makes you feel humble and realise what a small part of this world we occupy.
While I am extremely far from an expert on diving I thought I would share some tips about diving, for people who also share my dive fear.
1. TRUST. Find a Dive master you automatically feel safe with; I cannot stress how important this is. Never book your dives without meeting the dive company first. Go to the dive shop and have a chat with them, this helps me decide straight away if I feel I can trust diving with them.
While there are some amazing dive masters out there, there are also some terrible ones – unfortunately, I have had both.
Tell them you are anxious, if they are a good company they will want to know this. If you do not get a good vibe from them go elsewhere, do not just settle. After all your dive master is going to be the person that keeps you safe when you’re 18 meters under the water for 40 minutes.
2. Try – dive. Before booking your open water course book a try-dive when you are at a good dive location. I think this is where I went wrong. I went straight into my open water course – my first two dives were in an indoor pool in Surrey. It is then incredibly different when you jump off a boat in the middle of the sea and then told to deflate your BCD, I freaked out (luckily this time I did have an amazing Dive master called Bruno from The Adventure Club in Koh Phi Phi).
On a try-dive you are guided step by step by the Dive master and don’t have to worry about mask clearing or any other of the tests from the open water course, you just get to enjoy your surroundings.
3. Think. Scuba diving is dangerous, in so many ways and the more you lose a rational thought process the more dangerous it becomes. If you are under water and you start to panic, just try to think logically – it could save your life.
I have been the person that didn’t think, then decided to inflate my BCD to bring myself to the surface of the water as quickly as possible because I thought I could not breathe after inhaling water through my nose during mask clearing. If I had done that at a depth any deeper than I was, I might have got decompression sickness or I might have died. Where as if I just thought for more than a second, I would have remembered that I had a regulator in my mouth that was attached to a full cylinder of oxygen that was aiding my breathing just fine.
4. Do it! – but also don’t do it. Listen to yourself, while you are going to need to push yourself at times to dive – know your limits. Diving is tiring, but diving for a person with high anxiety levels is knackering. Generally when you are qualified, you will book two dives in a day. Book two dives, but on the day if one is enough then don’t convince yourself into the second one. No one will mind. The last thing you want is to ruin a great dive with an awful second one.
5. Bruce Willis Ruins All Films. Remember your buddy checks and remember your buddy while you are diving. Your buddy is there to help you stay safe, and you the same for them. Refresh yourself on your signals (and other skills) before diving so you know how to alert your buddy that something isn’t right and then what to do. There are also dive clubs in the UK that run social evenings at indoor pools that can be used as refresher sessions, as well as meeting other divers.
Above all, just try to enjoy how incredible diving actually is. While I still haven’t completely worked out how to do this, I am getting there and each time it gets that little bit easier. I was supposed to be going on a diving holiday in Egypt next week but due to the recent horrible circumstances this has been cancelled, and I am actually gutted! Imagine how amazing diving in the Red Sea would be?
I will hopefully do more scuba related posts in the future, with recommendations of schools I have had good experiences with; especially if they have been sensitive to anxious divers.