Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Surviving claustrophobia

Last week I discovered I may have claustrophobia.

It was during a dive. I was in Perhentian for a holiday and we visited this famous dive site called Sugar Wreck, some 20 minutes from Perhentian Kecil.

Sugar Wreck is a 90m long cargo ship that sank in 2001. It now lies on its side some 20m below the sea.

During pre-dive briefing, our dive master informed that the plan was to swim through the ship.

Which means I was aware of what was going to happen.

But I absolutely didn't anticipate getting a panic attack.

We started by exploring the outer part of the ship -- looking at sharks hiding under the mast and things like that.

Visibility wasn't very good.

I saw a pair of yellow fins starting to swim into the ship's belly which I thought was my dive master. Turned out it wasn't him. That diver was part of another group.

Sure enough, that group swam away and I soon found myself alone in the dark.

I looked up and saw a ceiling above me!

Not too far ahead, I saw an opening with blue light and for some reasons, it reminded me of the infamous Turtle Cave.

Turtle Cave, if you don't already know, is an underwater cave in Sipadan where turtles are said to go to die.

Not just turtles. Humans too. In 1997, story has it that two Japanese divers went into the cave and never came out.

Since then, divers have reported seeing two mysterious divers swimming from the open sea -- but without bubbles coming out of them. Malaysia's very own underwater ghost story.

Back to Sugar Wreck. I found myself alone, and inexplicably began to panic.

I began to hyperventilate and had trouble maintaining my buoyancy. My eyes became wide and I had a blank stare.

Surrounded by water, I could hear very clearly my heart beating faster and faster.

Actually, if I just swam towards my left, I would have gotten out of the ship again.

Instead, in my panicky state, I could only see the blue light in front and kept thinking to myself, oh no this is how I'm going to go. This is how I'm going to go. It was irrational.

But -- and this was where I did something right -- I told myself to get a grip of myself, calm down and breathe -- two golden rules I learnt early on in diving. So I just stopped all activities and lied motionless. I felt my body beginning to float. Soon I heard a thud on my back -- the sound of my tank hitting the wreck's ceiling.

Little did I realise all the while that my group had yet to enter the wreck.

When they finally did, from up at the ceiling where I was glued, I could see them down there looking for me but because I was still unstable, I just let them be.

After a while, they saw me at the ceiling but because I didn't look like I was struggling, they too let me be.

It felt like forever but I finally managed to get my breathing back in order. Only then was I able to descend, swim through the opening with the blue light and rejoin my group.

A little embarrassed by the whole thing. But I was thankful to God that I was able to deal with the problem by myself.

Will I ever do wrecks again? Yes. If I ever go to Sugar Wreck again, or any wreck for that matter, I will not run away. I will face it. It's the only way to deal with a phobia.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Syakir's swimming lesson

There was a big surprise today.

This morning, I went to the UKM pool to fetch my kids. My eldest son and niece started their swimming lesson today with an instructor.

I got to the pool when they were already done with their lesson. I saw a couple of kids jumping into the water at the deep end of the pool. Jumped in, climbed back up, jumped back in again. They looked like they were having fun.

One of the kids looked familiar from afar.

After a while, I realised it was Syakir my son. Nurin my niece was also there.

My son. My flesh and blood. And he wasn't afraid of the water like I was when I was his age. It was a happy moment indeed.