Courage Is Overcoming My Fear Of The Ocean

Courage Is Overcoming My Fear Of The Ocean

For as long as I can remember, I have been terrified of the ocean. Every summer my family travels to the East Coast to stay with friends in a small beach town. I cannot remember a time when thinking about the ocean did not give me anxiety, beginning many weeks leading up to our trip. My beach routine usually consisted of a half hour period of anxiety preceding the swimming- I would stand on the shore and think about all the bad things that could happen to me if I went swimming. Even when I was back home and away from the water, I would still think about tsunamis hitting inland California, and would be so frightened I could not fall asleep at night. 

My fear hit a tremendous peak when I was about eight years old, in the beach town in New York.

After much deliberation, I decided to go in the water, tightly gripping the hands of my younger sister and father. However, on this particular day a storm was coming, and as soon as I decided to go into the ocean and went up to my chin in the water, numerous gigantic waves started rolling in.

I was terrified and didn't know what to do after the first wave hit. I couldn’t breathe and thought I was going to die, then I finally reached the surface and found that my father had been pushed back onto the shore while my sister and I traveled further into the ocean. I didn't have time to breathe or think before the next huge wave hit- it was an endless and terrifying cycle where I was tossed and thrown around by the ocean to the point where I didn’t know which direction was up. After a while, the waves subsided and I was able to run out of the ocean and lay panting on the shore, where I vowed to never go into the ocean again.

The next day, our families and friends went to the beach again, but I remained sitting on the sand while my friends played and laughed in the water. My sister was able to go into the water again and begged me to join her, but I was too scared.

Instead, I sat on the sidelines and watched my friends have the time of their lives.

After returning home, my parents suggested that I meet with a psychologist, to try to talk about my many fears, the biggest of all being the ocean. I dreaded meeting with her every week, because it was so hard to talk about the things that kept me up at night.

Despite not wanting to think of the ocean and being afraid to do so, some nights I would push on the figurative bruises that were my fears. I would look up videos from horror movies about tsunamis and watch them, crying and scaring myself but choosing to do so.

However, after a year my fears had somewhat subsided. It turns out that forcing myself once a week to talk about the ocean and why it scared me helped me to realize how unlikely it was for a tsunami to hit New York or California out of the blue, and helped me understand how safe I was in the waves.

Ultimately, the thing that helped me to be able to go into the ocean again was remembering the feeling of sitting on the beach, wishing I could be with my friends and watching them having fun while my fears paralyzed me.

Driven by my desire not to miss out on such great experiences, the next summer, I tentatively and slowly was able to swim in the ocean again. This took a lot of time, until I began to feel more comfortable. One particular day that played a large role in helping me to overcome my fear was when my dad was not able to come to the beach, but it was our last day in New York and I did not want to miss out on one last chance to swim in the ocean.

I finally decided to go in, without the protection of my dad and had a ton of fun. After that day, when nothing bad happened to me, it was easier to realize how safe I was. It was super scary and hard to do, but definitely worth it because now, I love the ocean.

Because I was afraid of it for so long, being able to play in the waves now gives me a rush of adrenaline- which, paired with the knowledge that I am safe, makes swimming a blast.

This summer I signed up for a week-long surfing camp in Santa Cruz

I am excited to learn how to control and ride waves after being the weaker force of nature in the relationship for so long.

I’m not saying that I am completely over my fear of the ocean- the idea of surfing scares me, which actually compels me to want to try it to push myself. I still feel anxious before swimming in the ocean, but I end up enjoying myself immensely and am proud to say that I will not be sitting on the sidelines of life.

Courage is admitting that you need help and seeking it, even though it is hard. Courage is trying again. Courage is discovering what you desire in life and being determined to achieve or obtain it. Courage is never giving up.

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