I survived.

*surfaces and gasps for air*

Gosh, that was a long dive wasn’t it?

Well, I wasn’t actually underwater that whole time but I am happy to say we achieved the desired underwater wedding anniversary celebrations.

And no, that’s not Grace Jones circa 1977, that’s my husband.

After the first diving debacle (which I’m really not going to go into detail about because it’ s boring and choc full of negativity and I’m over it in a big fat way but if you want a brief recap you can find it in my last post) my extraodinarily thoughtful husband surprised me by arranging for another instructor in Port Douglas to go through a dive lesson with me in a deep swimming pool.

Andrew knew my confidence had taken a BIG hit and wanted me to see for myself that it was the other nasty instructor’s fault and not something I had done wrong. To my relief, he was right.

It turns out the nasty dive instructor (let’s call him Herald, because that was his name) simply hadn’t put enough weights on my belt. His colleagues on the day suspected that was the case but he was convinced he had weighed me down more than sufficiently, to a dangerous extent even. Well, it turns out I am freakishly buoyant. And no, I am not prepared to attribute that solely to body fat percentage. Hope floats people, okay?

In keeping with theme I’m punctuating this post with water-related photos.

Long story short, my new lovely dive instructor (let’s call him Paul Nelson from the Dive Shop in Macrossan Street, Port Douglas) sorted out my buoyancy and confidence issues in the pool and we decided to go out again with him to see if we could weigh hope down.

But it wasn’t just a split second decision to go back out. It took me days to decide to do it. Having had one panic attack underwater I was pretty sure it might be tough not to have another. These things tend to be sticky like that. But I had to get back on the horse.

Getting back on the horse is something I love and loathe about myself. Love it because I have done some really exciting things in my life. Loathe it because I have spent lots of my life in nervous/anxious anticipation. But ultimately, my mantra that you have to embrace every opportunity to enrich your experience always outweighs anything else. Although sometimes there seems a fine line between enriching and foolhardy. To wit, white water rafting on Class 5 rapids in West Virginia, USA.

But getting back on the horse also meant I spent the next week of my holiday, the week I was supposed to be doing nothing more than floating in the pool and sipping iced tea, doing deep breathing exercises and visualising myself not panicking underwater. UNDER FECKING WATER.

Meanwhile, the littlest Bettys got on with doing lots of this.

Yep, this is the short version, by the way.

Anywaaaaaaay, I did it. It was VERY hard and I spent at least half the time I was under water working very hard on not panicking. This is a synopsis of what ran through my head during my first 40 minute dive: “Shit shit shit, oh my God I’m doing it, oh shit I’m having trouble breathing, my air has run out, NO my air has NOT has not run out, breathe slowly and evenly, WOOOOHOOOOOOO I am ecstatic, I’m having a heart attack, I’m NOT having a heart attack, breathe normally and evenly, oh my God it’s Nemo…

…my lungs are getting crushed by the pressure, no they’re not, wow look at that coral, I can’t do this, I’m having a panic attack, I’m going to have to surface, I am NOT letting that panic surge take me to the surface, I have given birth twice for God’s sake, oh my God this is life-changingly amazing, holy shit I’m underwater, I’m deep underwater, I’m having a panic attack, I am MEANT to be enjoying this, I’m a mermaid, the COLOURS…

…uh- oh I feel panicky, Andrew’s hair looks funny, is that a lion fish, when will this end, I never want this to end, I DID it.”

And then we did a second dive. Only that time I enjoyed every minute.

Paul claims descendance from Admiral Nelson and that struck me as having a lovely, appropriate watery-ness about it all. Here he is exhibiting the Nelson Touch and leading us fearlessly forward through the coral gorges. That’s me in the middle and Andrew faffing around with his regulator in the background.

So folks, I’m here to tell you that even if you think you can’t do it (whatever “it” may be) , you can. If I can swim around at 12 metres under water for 40 minutes and stave off anxiety that really threatened to overwhelm me at any moment, you can do it. You can totally do it. You just need to keep breathing.

PS: I promise I’m not going all breatharian on you. I’m just cutting out trans fats and shitty dive instructors

All underwater photos courtesy of the lovely Dutch photographer onboard HABA that day. EDITED TO ADD: By the way, I just wanted to clarify that it wasn’t HABA that I had the bad experience with. It was another company. Which shall remain nameless. Because apart from that one bad egg, all the other people on board were pretty good and I don’t think it would be fair to tar the whole boat with the same brush. HABA were great.