Jefferson State Dive Locker


Erica Murphy

Professor P. Cullinan

English 090 – D09

4 May 2004

My Real Fear

            As I lay in a river, under 32 feet of water, I was subject to feelings of empowerment.  I have come to realize that fear is something that can be very real and controlling.  My fear is of the unknowns in all kinds of water.  Everything scares me, from drains, to marine life, to plants, fish and rocks.  But again, as I lay under the water looking up and realizing how far I have come, I have the feeling that I can do anything.

It’s amazing how determination can overcome fear.  I had been afraid of the water for many years.  When I was young, I took years of swimming lessons.  But as I got older, the fear continued to grow.  It grew to the point of not being able to get in a pool or most water at all.  Then, in March of 2002 I had the opportunity to overcome that fear and learn to scuba dive.

            My family has been diving for many years.  I have heard stories about their scuba adventures since I was a little girl.  There were stories of starfish, abalone, bat rays, and sunken boats.  I longed for the opportunity to experience these things for myself.  I wanted to see this amazing new world, which was so different from our own.  First I had to get over my fear of drains and the unknown.

            My mother met a scuba instructor that was willing to help me overcome my fear.  He is a sweet man in his forties named Dan.  Dan is married to a woman named Michelle, who specializes in under water photography.  Together they dedicate their free time to diving and teaching people the joys of diving.  Mom and I met Dan at his office to discuss how I would begin to conquer my fears.  There was talk of counseling, or starting slow and working my way into the pool.  There was also a suggestion that I may never learn to dive.  Of the options we discussed, I finally decided that I needed to just get in the pool and start to overcome my fear.

            One hour later I was sitting on the edge of the pool, dressed in a mask, snorkel, fins, weight belt, BCD (a BCD is a vest that fills with air to keep you afloat) and a full tank of air.  I slowly lowered myself into the pool and looked toward the deep end.  I felt no panic at this point. I thought to myself “hmm, maybe this wasn’t so bad.”  When Dan got into the pool he showed me some basic scuba skills. I learned how to remove my regulator (a mouth piece for getting air underwater), partially fill my mask and clear the water from it, and a few hand signals used for underwater communication.  At this point I was feeling a little nervous.  I kept remembering all the times when I was so scared to be in the pool.  I remembered the bad dreams of snakes, fish and being trapped in an empty pool.  So far so good though, I could handle this much.  I felt safe swimming next to Dan.

            We started swimming in the shallow end, slowly working our way toward the deeper water.  Closer and closer we swam until we were on the edge of the pool where it slopes to the deep end.  Amazingly, I wasn’t scared!  I couldn’t believe it, this wasn’t so bad.  I knew I could do this!  Next thing I knew we were in the deepest part of the water.  As I looked up, I could see children playing on the surface.  Some children had on masks or goggles watching Dan and I, and some were just swimming above us.  All the children seemed fascinated by what we were doing. 

            One week later, I met Dan again and this time I actually swam to the drain and looked in.  I was pretty nervous, but I realized that there was nothing in the drain that was going to hurt or scare me.  As I looked into the pipe, I could see where the drain bent into the ground and the water was filtered out.  It wasn’t a dark scary hole as I thought it was.  When I realized that I wasn’t scared, I decided that I was going to learn to dive in open water and no fear was going to stop me.

            Over the next three weeks I learned all the necessary skills to scuba dive in open water.  I read my manual and watched videos to learn different techniques and problems that could arise while diving.  I practiced skills that would make my dive buddy and I safe while swimming in lakes, rivers and the ocean.  We practiced scenarios that could arise during diving and how to react to lots of situations.  Once the bookwork was done and I had learned all of the skills in the pool, I was ready to dive in the open water.

            A group of people from Dan’s advanced scuba diving class met in Crescent City, California a few weeks later.  The group decided to dive in the Smith River, at a place called Early Hole.  It was a nice dive area.  It started out shallow, and descended to fifty feet deep in some places.  The visibility was fifteen to twenty feet, which is extremely good for open water.  I donned the scuba gear that I wore in the pool, plus a wet suit, gloves, booties, and a hood to keep me warm.  The water at the surface of the river was a chilly sixty-four degrees.

            When I got in the water, I found that I wasn’t nervous at all.  As we began swimming around, I noticed a small fish.  It was camouflaged to blend with the bottom of the river.  When we tried to play with it, it swam away.  Soon Dan swam up to me and had me look at the console on my vest that contained my temperature and depth gauges.  We were in twenty-five feet of water and the temperature was fifty-two degrees!  Dan and I decided to continue deeper until we reached thirty-two feet. With the neoprene wetsuit I wore, I didn’t really notice that the water was so cold.  I was pretty preoccupied looking at the rocks and fish that scattered across the bottom of the river bed.

            When we reached thirty-two feet, Dan signaled to me that time was up and we needed to head for the surface.  As we turned around to head back up the slope to more shallow water I began thinking about the things that I saw.  I saw Periwinkles; they are small seashell shaped creatures that will grow into Crayfish.  There were lots of fish that I later learned were Mottled Sculpin.  When we surfaced, the other divers and my family congratulated me.  They were all so proud of how well I overcame my fear.

            One week later we traveled to Early Hole once again.  I donned my scuba gear and climbed into the water.  I made three dives that weekend.  In those dives I preformed the same tasks that I learned in the pool.  The tasks seemed more important this time.  Maybe because I knew that they were skills that could save my life if I were in a sketchy situation.  Now I was swimming in deep water with fish and rocks and all the unknowns that had scared me so much.  By the end of my third dive that weekend I became a certified “Open Water Scuba Diver.”

            Just six weeks earlier the thought of even getting in a pool sent me into a panic attack.  With a lot of determination and patience on my family and my instructor’s part I overcame that fear.  I realized that I could be in the water and I did not have to be scared anymore.  Overcoming that fear changed my life because it gave me confidence in myself to change my life to meet my expectations.