If you have anxiety attacks, constant low-grade anxiety and/or bouts of panic attacks (with mine I usually either feel like I am going to lose absolutely lose control and go crazy or die) then you can probably guess that scuba diving may not be the best choice of sports for someone like us to partake in, especially since shooting up to the top after a deep dive of 60 feet or more for 45 minutes or so would definitely cause your lungs to pop.
Well, I love scuba diving so much that I have been determined to find a way to be able to dive in spite of anxiety. My panic attacks and anxiety began years ago after a weekend of heavy partying when the recreational drug I’d been doing decided to rip through my brain and disarm any defense mechanisms, doubts, worries and fears I was harboring. The good thing about it, was that I got scared enough about losing my mind that I got my butt into therapy. The bad news about it was the endless days, weeks and months of anxiety and panic attacks. When I began having them it was at a time that medicine and therapy did not have much to offer unless you were psychotic or needed intense levels of valium of which I was neither.
Fast forward a couple of decades, log a bunch of therapy, getting sober, learning meditation techniques, all kinds of healing and Reiki treatments and I was able to enjoy long expanses–even years–of no anxiety or panic attacks. In 2000, my husband and I got certified in scuba diving and began going on regular diving trips almost immediately. I loved the feeling of freedom that I got from swimming in the ocean. The fish, coral, sponges and marine life were hypnotizing. I was hooked. Then a series of things happened while on diving trips from 9/11 to my best little Cairn Terrier friend dying when we were away on a trip and out of nowhere my old friend the Panic Attack came out of nowhere. In fact, I was on a dive at the Palancar Reefs in Cozumel about 75 feet under water when the first panic attack hit me. It was so not fun. Pretty soon thereafter, every other dive would end up with me having a panic attack.
Again, I went back to therapy and healings and have been on a very healthy eating program that involves no flour, sugar, caffeine or nicotine. All of this has been good for me, but I would still have the edge. You’d have to be a diver to understand why I’ve been willing to put myself through the uncomfortableness of diving with a good chance of experiencing a panic attack. Finally through working out my anti-depression medication (Effexor XR 37.5MG 3x/day) and 0.5 Xanax 2 times a day when diving, I’ve been able to enjoy already 6 dives with no anxiety or panic. I’ve also been humming a Bahai saying, “Yabaha allah u abha” when I swim which immediately makes every dive almost a form of worship and I also think the fish enjoy hearing it too.
Last night we went on a night dive with a Master Diver who is not one of our favorites. We chose the Paradise Reef because we’d heard about all the sea life (including 8 seahorses) that our other dive friends had seen that day. The Master Diver did say there would be fast moving current so we needed to stick together but a.) we had no idea it would be so fast moving and b.) we didn’t realize there was a big ole cruise ship docked at the nearby harbor. On a night dive, I prefer not to have a really fast current because there is so much sea life to witness (like the little purple octopus changing to blue) that you really want to just hang around awhile and observe to see who comes out and what is going on. It was a good dive in spite of all of us divers rolling on top of each other sometimes like a pile of puppies because of the strong current. We’d been told that because the dive was shallow, we’d probably go as long as an hour but all of a sudden 37 minutes into the dive, the Master Diver was clanking on his tank and moving his flashlights for us to surface. I saw big bright lights up above so I assumed the full moon had broken through the clouds.
We were soon to find out; however, that the fast moving currents had taken us about 5-10 feet from a big ole huge Carnival Cruise Line. And through all of this I did not have any anxiety or panic attacks and was so looking forward to the dives this morning.
I’m outing myself about the medication that I am taking and how it is helping me because if there is another diver out there (or anyone who is experiencing anxiety or panic) I hope my experience/information can help you. This is definitely NOT something to do without the help of a trained doctor (psychiatrist) and I have over 175 dives under my belt as well so I know all about safety and paying attention with diving. Please don’t try to figure this out for yourself, do ask for help.
And may you enjoy diving as much as I do. Today, I saw little tiny trunk fish that were about as long as half of my pinky. So worth the effort you put in so that you can get the most out of life!
reefs of Cozumel