I know I’ve been living with anxiety for as long as I can remember, but I just had a flashback to the time I almost drowned in a swimming pool and the cause might have been my first anxiety attack.
I used to be a good swimmer when I was a young girl. Probably not the fastest, but I had good stamina. I could swim forever. We used to have free access to a swimming pool in one of the largest hotels in Jakarta at the time where I took swimming lessons from a swimming instructor.
Once I became confident enough with my swimming, I enjoyed swimming laps at the deep end of the pool (as in swimming the width of the pool back and forth) because it was always less crowded than the shallow end. It was an Olympic size pool with lines on the tiles to indicate lanes but no physical lane dividers.
I think I was 9 at the time and was in the middle of swimming a lap when, all of a sudden, I thought about how deep the pool was (it was in fact 3 meters deep) and how I could die easily if I drowned. That did me in. Dread overtook me and suddenly I just couldn’t breathe and I forgot how to swim. I tried to stay afloat but that didn’t work very well in my panic. Luckily, the lifeguard wasn’t slacking in his job. He jumped in, saved me, and brought me to safety, to the loving arms of my worried mother.
I lost a chunk of confidence in my swimming that day. It took me a while before I was swimming the deep end of the pool again, and even then, I had to make sure that my mother was nearby and watching.
I’m not a confident swimmer at all now. I’m too afraid to swim in open water or to swim the deep end of the pool (when I do have access to a proper swimming pool, usually when we’re travelling) because I really can’t control my anxiety, and I just don’t want to drown myself to death.27