Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 19 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I panicked! Tuesday night, I swam in open water for the first time with about 15 other newbies. Despite being a strong swimmer in the pool, I couldn't keep up with others whose strokes looked no better than mine. In fact, on our last drill, an actual swim in deep water around some buoys, I panicked and had to stop. Needless to say, I've been bitterly disappointed and a bit distraught since then.

I was working on "sighting." That's where you lift your head out of the water to see where you're going. It's quite difficult. It goes against everything I've been taught about proper swim technique, and it's very inefficient. About one quarter of the way through, I lifted my head and took in a big gulp of water. Unfortunately, the water didn't go to my stomach, it went directly down my windpipe, and I couldn't breathe. I tread water and gasped, loudly, for air. Finally after multiple loud, squealing gasps, I caught my breath. But it was too late, panic had set in. I tried to swim again, but I couldn't. I had to flip over onto my back and slowly cut across the course to shore. I was done.

The instructors all said nice things. The other swimmers who initially came to rescue me--that's how desperate my gasping was--said nice things. I think they were worried I was embarrassed. But I wasn't really embarrassed. I was disappointed and scared! How was I going to do this long triathlon for which I had trained so hard? In those few seconds of distress, my fear of deep water was reinforced ten fold! Now I can't get the scene out of my head.

I've spoken to my therapist about it. Like you, she's been following my progress toward this goal, and she's a swimmer. She's helped me re-frame the situation a little bit, but I'm still so, so disappointed and anxious. I'm afraid I've bitten off more than I can chew. I'm having dreams about drowning. It's terrible.

I have a 30 minute swim scheduled today, and I'm going back to the scene of the drama to try again. For now, I think I'll stay in water which is not over my head. But the triathlon course goes out into the middle of this very deep lake--twice! I'm going to have to get over this, or I won't be able to cross triathlon off my bucket list. Any suggestions...I'm all ears!


Anonymous said...

I have more trouble in lake water, etc., too, than a pool. When I was growing up, we belonged to a pool. But lake's are just kind of scary. Sturgeon can bite your toes! Maybe you just need to hang out in the lake without really "training" to get used to it? And lake water tastes a lot worse than pool water!


Mohican said...

"It goes against everything I've been taught about proper swim technique, and it's very inefficient."

Don't do it. Work out a way that you are comfortable with. After coming this far, you can't let this get in your way.

Gail said...

Sighting is essential for the lead pack. Those coming behind need only follow the crowd. This works for the most part. The occasional check is a good idea but it is not necessary to sight as frequently (every 3/5/7 strokes)as you would do in training. As for the panic: Happened to me a few years ago. Combination of going out too hard and having my air supply cut off by the wetsuit. I am totally comfortable in water. That doesn't matter when you can't breathe. I rolled over on my back as you did and got control of my breathing, let some water down the neck of my wetsuit and considered waving down a kayak. Started swimming again instead. Was this one of your first wet suit swims of the season? To train friends with concerns similar to yours we often take them out in a pack accompanied by a kayak. Then we swim all over them. LOL The key for you is to know this happened once and will likely never happen again. A warm up is also really important. I hope you get back in the deep water and confirm for yourself that you can do it. Being a very competent swimmer I am sure it would be difficult for you to stop swimming during a race. But, if you feel nervous stop and get your breath. Have a look around at the kayakers and know they are watching out for you. If necessary you can wave a kayak to come closer and hold on while you collect yourself. You may even convince the kayaker to paddle along with you if the course is well monitored. I have done this for people in the past and knowing someone is with you will help ALOT! Best of luck!