Thursday, September 26, 2013

Coming up for air

I almost drowned once, when I was 13.

My class had gone to the pool, a fun afternoon booked by our teacher, and my classmates were trying to see how close they could come to breaking the pool rules before they got yelled at. 

I sat on the edge of the pool, watching them, hoping nobody got too close because ... well, because it was a miracle I was even there. I was terrified of the water. 

Not the water at the beach where you could touch bottom. Not the shallow end of the pool. No, I was scared spitless of the place I was sitting - right in the middle. Even dangling my feet in the water was too much for me. 

I hugged my knees tighter. They were getting more rowdy. 

From behind, a guy rushed past me - and in so doing he brushed past me. I lost my balance, over-corrected and landed on my back in the water. 

I panicked!! Thrashing around, I could not tell where the bottom was. I didn't know where UP was!! I tried gasping for air when I felt my face break the surface at one point. But then I went down again and couldn't seem to figure out how to get back to the side! 

Photo "Sinking In To Water" courtesy of
koratmember at

Arms reached into the water. Hands tried to grab my wrists to pull me up. I felt their touch. My first thought was, "They're pushing me down! I'm going to die here!" I struggled to get away from them. The water, by this time, was full of bubbles from all the activity. I was past thinking. I needed OUT. Without knowing it, in my own confused mind, up was now down, and down was up.

I dove; it got darker. My lungs were bursting. I had to get away.

Suddenly, someone grabbed my swim suit by the shoulder strap, and pulled. Hard. I couldn't escape .... and then I felt the back of my head break the surface of the water.

Knowing instinctively that I was in the grip of forces beyond my resistance, I stopped struggling, and was vaguely aware of muffled shouts getting louder through the water in my ears. More people grabbed my arms and someone lifted me up to the side again, coughing and spewing pool water from my mouth and nose. The expressions of concern and fright were lost on me. I could have died.

In those thirty to forty seconds under the water, I was extremely vulnerable. I could not save myself; all my efforts only had the opposite effect from the one I wanted. 

When I stopped struggling - those trying to help me easily got me out of trouble. 

I don't remember who brushed past me. I don't remember who pulled me out. All I have are sensory memories - sights, sounds, touches - and my interpretation of them, skewed by abject fear. 

Since that time, there have been times when I have been in situations where I have felt as though someone bumped me back under the water again. Panic sets in, and I wonder if I'll ever get out. And I have to remind myself - again - that it's best in this situation if I just stop struggling and let myself be helped, whether by someone I can see ... or not.

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