I can’t swim. And it’s not because I haven’t tried. It’s because I’m scared of drowning. Scared sh*tless.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been scared of drowning. From a young age, my dad used to take my brother and I to a recreational club where he paid for our membership and swimming lessons. The coaches tried, he tried and other people tried to no avail…teaching me how to swim was a major problem. Ironically, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to learn. It boiled down to that semi-water phobia.
Before I continue, here’s a little BACK STORY
I love water…a lot, for drinking and bathing. But in the context of swimming or any situation where that water might get into my mouth, eyes or nose by hook or crook, I cringe and shy away…because God knows I won’t wait to drown before I scream for my life…lol.
It is so bad that even when I was little and went to the salon to get my hair washed, I struggled at some point. Why? Because some of the salons didn’t have basins for washing hair so they had to improvise. Improvising and innovation is great and I have nothing against them. But you see when it starts bringing my phobia to the fore, we will start experiencing turbulence in my head and chwest. Yah. It’s that bad. They used to improvise by putting a bucket or baff in front of me, sitting me on a stool and wrapping a towel around me. Then they would tell me to bend my head forward so they can wash my hair like that.
Oh my days! Oh my actual freaking days!
From the first time I remember having this experience to date, the whole concept makes me cringe and my heart beats a little faster. Like, once they start putting the shampoo on my hair and pouring water, it’s only a matter of seconds before I start choking and struggling. Somewhere in my head, it always felt like that ‘hair-washing’ experience was simulating drowning, simply because I couldn’t breathe comfortably while they did their thing. At some point, my mum realized how bad it was for me and stopped letting them do me dirty like that. Thank God. It was either I used a proper hair-washing basin or they put the bucket or baff behind the stool instead of in front of it so I got to bend my head backwards for the wash like with a proper basin. It made my neck hurt so bad but at least, I wasn’t choking.
But you see, a lot of my childhood memories still linger in my head, many of them still as clear as day. And I remember one fateful day, my mum and I went to the market as we do occasionally (even till now), she dropped me off at a hairdresser’s to do something with my hair and for one reason or the other, the hair had to be washed. And yes, you guessed right, they had no hair-washing basin. Hei. It finished for me. They started setting their baff and shampoo and sturvz while I just sat there, crying in my head. No mummy to save me, these people were gonna drown me and I was gonna watch them do it. Oh wow. The time to wash the hair came and they started, my worst fear came to pass, my dear, I started choking like a rat in water. I struggled and choked till they had to stop mehn. I feel a little bad for them ‘cuz I think they were legit confused about the whole thing. I just sat down at one corner, happy that I was still alive and waited patiently for my mum to come back. When she got back and heard the story, she now had to explain to them that I couldn’t wash my hair like that because of a fear I had. Yadayadayada. I can’t even remember if I eventually made my hair there or not…but of course, I remember the choking. I remember THAT!
Now back to my swimming lessons…the ones with my dad and brother…yeah those ones. Well, we went there a lot but I always struggled. I could only survive with floaters, swimming boards or someone holding me up. Sometimes my dad would stay at the shallow end with us and offer to throw us into the water gently so we could practice flapping and all that good swimming stuff and my brother was pretty good at it. But you see me right here…I always bailed at the last second before I got thrown in, because…ain’t nobody gonna look drowning in the face and wait. No, not me, definitely not me. So like that, experience by experience, days, weeks, months and years passed and I still held the fear close to my heart. And it’s funny because I love the idea of swimming and I really really want to learn. Oh well, I keep telling myself my husband will teach me, so I’m hoping for the best.
I went to a pool with some of my friends from work recently and they tried teaching me too, and that my dear, is what brought back all these memories. In case you’re thinking I’ve learnt much, I really haven’t, not yet anyways…I’m still as scared as ever. But guess what? I’ll still keep trying to learn because I want it so bad, and even if I never learn, I’ll rather go down trying, than only dreaming about it. And so yes, that’s my phobia experience. I hope you never give up on the things you’ll love to learn or do because of fear. I know I’ll keep trying to overcome my fears and I pray you do too, and come out victorious.
1. What phobia(s) do you have? Would you like to share them? My email is always open.
2. Am I the only one that finds it hard to look people in the eyes? It makes me weirdly uncomfortable and I always feel so vulnerable and bare doing it…lol. it can’t be just me now. Or is it?
Oh well. I guess I’ll never know unless you tell me.
-The Grace Ola @thegraceola Oyinkansola A. Ogunyinka