All my life, I had a dreadful fear of water. Deep water ... water over my head. Even the THOUGHT of being in water over my head would bring on fear – the heart pounding, shallow breathing type of fear. This was all due to a near drowning when I was 2 years old.
This fear was a significant part of my life. When I was a kid, I dreaded pool parties, and always found a way to not go to the beach with my friends. I just couldn’t trust that someone wouldn’t try to throw me in the deep end. I did not want to let on that I was petrified, and I did everything I could to avoid the panic attack that I knew was just below the surface (although I didn’t know that consciously … I just knew there was something to be avoided at all cost!).
As an adult, I did everything I could think of to try to overcome this fear.
I took swimming lessons, and was told that I was a strong swimmer. Which was fine as long as I didn't try to actually breathe while I was swimming! As long as I could hold my breath, I could swim. But once I put my face in the water … no breath, panic!
I white water rafted, thinking this would help me "make friends" with the water! Of course, the absolute GOAL was to NOT fall out of the boat at all cost!
I even interviewed to be a white water river guide, going on a 3 day trip on the Colorado River in Utah as an assistant, and was about to be offered a job. One of the men who worked for the rafting company said to me "I know a river rat when I see one." But … I found out that part of the training involved going into the rapids and intentionally flipping the boats to practice river rescue! That did it! I declined the position, telling them I had a fear of water and didn't think I was a good risk for them to train me.
I was, and will always be, regretful about that, as I think I would have LOVED being a river guide. But the fear stopped me, and I know that it was the right decision at the time.
The thing with longstanding fear (or any other big emotion) like this is that you don't even fully consciously realize just how much you're carrying, and how it is affecting your life in so many ways.
And the kicker is ... I am a bodyworker! I specialize in helping people understand and release the emotions that are held in their bodies! But this one had me in its grip.
Flash forward a bunch of years to this year, 2019. I was scheduled to go on retreat in St. Lucia with the amazing Anne Rose Hart, a phenomenal business coach whom I've been working with for a couple of years. One of the activities during the retreat was ... snorkeling!
So I went to St. Lucia with fear in my heart, knowing I would have to deal with this issue in some way while I was there. In addition, as I prepared to go, I read on the website of the place I would be staying: "one of the unfortunate st lucia facts is that in recent years, crime and income inequality has been increasing. Visitors should use common sense and caution. It is always best to travel in a group, keep an eye out for suspicious characters and places, and avoid carrying or showing off valuables and cash, leaving your room or car unlocked, or leaving bags unattended. As a female, you will probably attract some attention, and should be prepared to experience some harassment."
So, my fear meter was on pretty high alert when I arrived there. In fact (and you can't make this stuff up!) the key we were given actually had a panic button on it! So FEAR was very alive in me.
I had the realization then of the baseline level of fear that I carried with me, day in and day out. I could feel it in my body.
So I started talking about this with Anne and the other retreat participants, including my partner Mary Beth. Rather than hiding my fear, from myself and from the others as I had done for all these years, I openly talked about it. And miracles happened.
It "turned out" that another of the participants, Ina Lukas, was not only a powerful shamanic healer but also literally a Certified Rescue Diver! And she was 100% on board with working with me on this issue. And, my naming my "baseline fear" helped her recognize that she operates from a place of baseline safety! What a wonderful teacher I had!
When the day of snorkeling arrived, I was really nervous but because I had been talking about it, and because I was held in a beautiful container of love and support by Anne and the other participants, and because I had Ina by my side, I was ready and willing to go fully into this experience.
Ina and the others helped me get my mask and snorkel set up, literally put flippers on my feet for me, and stood by while I tried to get used to putting my face in the water and tried swimming back and forth in the shallow water. Anne, Mary Beth and Ina were my support crew as I worked through this. Then I felt ready to try swimming out deeper.
And that's when it hit ... a full blown panic attack. I just remember coming up gasping for air, and Ina was right there by my side being her Badass healer self, helping me be with it and breath through it and helping release this intense stuck fear energy from my body. And Mary Beth and Anne were also right there, witnessing and holding space for this powerful healing. Because I was held in such a safe container I was able to allow my body to shake and release all that it could release, and feel those deep feelings I had been unable to move through up til then. This process lasted approximately 3-5 minutes.
Then … I went on to snorkel for a full hour in about 20 feet of water. No life jacket. No panic attacks. Just sheer WONDER at all I was getting to see under the water. Anne and Mary Beth and Ina were coming over to show me amazing stuff, and I felt like a 3 year old seeing the world for the first time. At one point, I had to pull up to yell how awesome it was and to do many fist pumps!
I could have stayed out there for hours!
And when I got home from St. Lucia, all my go-to numbing behaviors ... overeating, my sugar addiction, watching TV ... they were all GONE. I had spent years and countless hours judging myself for not having the will power to manage those things. Little did I know they were actually coping strategies to try to manage the intense level of fear in my body! Now that the fear was released, they were simply gone! I have lost 20 pounds and counting since then ... effortlessly.
So what's with Babs? Ina dubbed me "Bad Ass Baseline Safety" in St. Lucia, and it stuck! Babs is post water fear Barbara, the Barbara that no longer lives from a place of baseline fear, but a place of trusting life and KNOWING that anything is possible. Her energy is very different than the Barbara that arrived in St. Lucia, full of fear. When I hear someone call me Babs now, I instantly connect with the Badass part of me that walked through that water fear, manifested an amazing support crew, and went on to have a truly wondrous, awe-some experience. A new life has been born!