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We are a 30-something married couple who decided to leave behind our home, careers and comfortable Silicon Valley lifestyle to try a new course. Join us as we travel the world to learn about other cultures, lifestyles and ways to generate income beyond the traditional 9-5.

Ocean woes

In keeping with this week’s theme of overcoming fears

Dangerous currents at Laupahoehoe Point Park on the Big Island of Hawaii. No swimming allowed!

The beach has always been one of my favorite places.  I find a deep relaxation laying along the shore in 90-degree temperatures with a hint of breeze occasionally teasing my skin.  I love listening to the caws of seagulls and the sound of waves crashing.  And, for many years, I enjoyed a cool swim just beyond the breakers whenever the sun became too hot and the breezes too few.  Unfortunately, in recent years, my desire to swim has faded.

I haven’t done more than dip a toe in the ocean in five years.  During Brian’s and my honeymoon, one of my internal circuits must have flipped and swimming=good became swimming=bad.  At the time, we were attempting to snorkel at a South Kona beach.  Well, I attempted while Brian succeeded.  The moment I jumped from the lava rocks into the swirling waters of the Pacific, my breath caught, my heart fluttered and I was positive that the ocean was going to shove me into the rocks and cut me to pieces.  Brian tried to coax me further into the bay and away from the rocks, but I just couldn’t do it.  I panicked, dog-paddled back to shore, clawed my way out of the water and returned to the safety of our towels for the duration of the afternoon.

When we arrived on Kaua’i a few days later, I could only make myself enter the ocean at Baby Beach in Po’ipu, known for its child-friendly, reef-protected swimming area.  Bucking up my courage, I went waist deep. Nevertheless, I still had moments of panic as I saw the waves coming at me, before they crashed into the reef and diminished a safe distance from me.

My fear of the ocean seems to have caught hold suddenly after many years and a series of incidents involving the wake of a giant navy ship, the pull of long-shore currents and a growing feeling of powerlessness against the strength of such a large body of water.  It has been a tremendous surprise.  After all, the most dangerous ocean encounter I’ve had occurred twenty years ago, and it had no immediate effect on my swimming habits.  Over time, these experiences have apparently coalesced in my mind into something larger and life-altering.

So, what do I do?  We’ve been on the Big Island of Hawaii for two months and we haven’t yet donned our swimsuits.  But we have two more months, and I’m going to do it.  I think it’s time to break the cycle of fear where it began, don’t you?

Having had no experience with overcoming phobias or irrational fears, however, I have no idea where to begin.  I’ve looked into swimming beaches around Kona and have found several.  I guess the next step is to put on my swimsuit and go scope them out.  I’ll let you know how it goes…

Until then,

P.S. If you know any tricks for overcoming fears or phobias, I’d love to hear them!

  • Meghan

    I would recommend doing something to help you get relaxed prior to facing your phobia. Visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga or something similar. If you consider your fight or flight response to be a threshold, the more relaxed you are, the more you can take before you reach that threshold!

  • Jody Yarborough

    Yep, I agree with Meghan. Doing some relaxation techniques prior to. Plus, thought of using a life jacket at first? That way you know if you get tipped, or the water comes up too quick, you'll be boued, and safe. Once you get used to the water you can take the jacket off. You can do it! Keep us posted. Hugs, Jody

  • http://simplyfearless.com/ Coach Cassandra Rae

    You've inspired me. Today I posted my first video in months and I talk about facing my own fears while cave rappelling. Do let me know what you think.

  • http://simplyfearless.com/ Coach Cassandra Rae
  • http://watsons-unleashed.com Kate

    That sounds like a great idea, Meghan! We learned that allergic reactions are based on thresholds in a healthy eating class, and it makes sense that fight or flight would work that way, too.

  • http://watsons-unleashed.com Kate

    Jody, you just want funny pictures of me for FB, don't you? I think I'll hold off on the life jacket until I've given it a few attempts, but thanks for the thought. :-)

  • http://watsons-unleashed.com Kate

    Yay! It was an awesome video and I felt like you were telling the story directly to Brian and me via Skype. Loved it.

  • Mary

    I don't like swimming in the ocean either. It must be the Jaws syndrome kicking in when I am more than ankle deep in water that is not crystal clear. I just don't want to be bitten by a shark or any other sea creature I cannot see coming! I will swim in the Caribbean with stingrays, however, because the water is so beautifully clear and I am able to see everything down to the ocean floor. The fear I have of heights is much greater than any other….and, I have no desire to conquer it! So, that said, I think that the simple fact that you have the desire to overcome your fear of ocean swimming tells me that you CAN and WILL succeed. Meghan has the right idea!

  • http://watsons-unleashed.com Kate

    Thanks, Mary! Yeah, I have a thing about being “strong.” I always want to overcome fears, I prefer to be independent, etc. I like how comfortable you are with yourself, just as you are. That in itself is inspiring. :-)

  • Mary

    Thank you, Kate! I appreciate the kind words very much. Although, I must admit, I am not as comfortable as it may seem. I also have a so-called “thing” about being strong, or at the least appearing so. However, there are certain weaknesses I don't mind allowing be known. You too, should be comfortable with yourself. You are intelligent, beautiful, and more fearless than most people I know. Just look at the life you have, that in itself is pretty bold! ;)

  • http://watsons-unleashed.com Kate

    Aww, thanks, Mary! I'm adding this to my nice notes folder. *hugs*

  • http://katewatson.net/follow-up-ocean-woes/ Follow-up: Ocean woes » KateWatson.net

    [...] Back in June, I wrote about my newly discovered fear of ocean swimming and I resolved to delve deeper while we were in Hawaii.  Mission accomplished!  Before we left Hawaii, I floated and drifted — swam is too strong a word — first at Waikiki Beach on Oahu and then later at Kikaua Beach on the Big Island.  Of the two, I definitely prefer Kikaua. [...]