How Do You Conquer a Fear of Drowning? By Facing It Head On.

sailing course new zealand

When I was three and a half, my mother asked a friend to watch over me when she went to the washroom at our local swimming pool.  I promptly fell into the deep end and almost drowned.

Given my age at the time, I have only hazy memories of panic and being overwhelmed by water, and then of the eyes of the lifeguard on duty. I don’t remember what he looked like, but I do recall that his name was Bram.

My mother did the sensible thing given the circumstances: she put me into swimming lessons immediately. I learned how to do breast stroke and butterfly, and though I consistently crashed into the lane dividers during backstroke, I could stay afloat on my own. My family breathed a sigh of relief; I might not be an Olympic athlete, but at least I could swim.

Fear programmed at such a young age tends to linger, and in my case it made me deeply afraid of drowning. By extension, of water-based catastrophes. I forced myself to take boat trips occasionally — my rocky last-minute Galapagos trip in 2008, and more recently the long repositioning cruise from Vancouver to Tokyo, among others. The repositioning trip was a fifteen day extravaganza with 9 other friends on a huge ship. As that post suggests, it was filled with friends and business masterminds and great food. But for most of our time in the Bering Sea, I was lying on the floor in my room, waiting for the boat to sink and the sharks to eat us.

This sounds amusing in retrospect, but during our Bering crossing I was breathless and weary, tired of the tightness in my chest and the infinite loops of ‘what ifs’ in my mind.

From fear to phobia: is it human to be afraid?

Fear is a strange and crazy thing, especially when your system learns to trace its contours with such graceless familiarity.

In a Pacific Standard magazine piece from 2012, Tom Jacobs talks about the neurobiology of fear, noting that like fire, it is our friend when it isn’t raging out of control. That is, awareness of a threat activates the fight or flight impulse we require to respond, often in ways that could save our lives.

For most people, as soon as they realize that there is no actual threat, their bodies relax and their pulse slows down. For those with deeper phobias, the reaction can remain, causing ongoing anxiety issues. In a 2017 paper on the neurobiology of fear, René Garcia, notes that

“[s]pecific phobias are extreme and persistent fears of certain objects, situations, or activities, or persons. Additionally, people who suffer from specific phobias work hard to avoid their phobia stimuli even though they know there is no threat or danger, but they feel powerless to stop their irrational fear.”

Garcia notes that an experiential fear becomes a phobia in two stages. First, pairing of a neutral stimulus (in my case water, which is not de facto scary) and an aversive event (almost drowning) leads to a conditioned fear response to that neutral stimulus. Then, learning that fear responses to the now-conditioned-to-be-scary stimulus can be reduced by avoiding this stimulus.

Recently, NPR’s Invisibilia podcast discussed fear in the modern world, and how we often shape our lives in ways that throw our instincts into hyperdrive. Interestingly they also profiled a woman with no fear at all, which might sound like relief to some but actually exposes you to life-threatening dangers — you do not realize you need to avoid them.

Of course, we ought to be scared of scary things. Being afraid is our evolutionary saviour. But when fear gets out of control – either in a phobic sense, or a central nervous system that runs on a hair trigger – it can wreak havoc on our health.

Indeed, a study about fear and the “defense cascade”, warns that while animals can generally restore to “normal” quickly once danger has passed, humans often are not. Thus, “they may find themselves locked into the same, recurring pattern of response tied in with the original danger or trauma.” That patterned response of traumatic arousal is not great for our bodies.

neurobiology of fear and conquering a fear of drowning by learning to sail
Boats at rest. Panic comes separately.

My fear of drowning did not manifest as a disorder or a worry that interfered with my day-to-day life. As the years went on, however, it swelled into something more ungainly than simple dread. It stopped being purely about drowning. I started to worry about anchors coming undone at night when the boat was still. About sharks. Falling off the side of the boat. How to prepare for the inevitable disaster that would befall me.

Knowing that it was acceptable to be afraid of unruly seas did not help me. Why? Because that fear bled into so many other compartments of my life. I became increasingly frustrated as I watched the fear broaden and grow, and begin to interfere with aspects of my life that I wanted to enjoy.

When friends suggested water-based activities, I made excuses as to why it was not possible to join. When I travelled to countries with beautiful islands, I rarely went near them. Yes, I preferred mountains generally (and the smell of pine trees), but I also remained terrified of what could befall me if I strayed too close to the sea. I began to feel panicked when I thought of being forced to swim, my breath quickening and heart beating, breaking out into a sweaty mess.

Intellectually, I knew that the mathematical likelihood of my fears being realized was astoundingly low. But panic doesn’t care about intellectual logic. I was ashamed at my steadfast aversion to activities that seemed to please so many of my friends. I desperately wished that I could find liberation in the sea, instead of dread.

And this all came to a head in New Zealand, a country surrounded by water. The night before it was set to begin, a water-loving Kiwi named Doug asked me to join him on a multi-day learn to sail course. With only a half an hour to make my decision, I agreed to this last-minute version of exposure therapy.

My friends told me I was crazy, but I hoped that the lessons would teach me to fear water less.

I stayed awake all night, overcome with nausea.

Conquering my fear of drowning by taking a sailing course in New Zealand: smart, or stupid?

The howling started in earnest at 2am, with our 25ft sailboat rocking to and fro and the wind coming off the peninsula and into my panicked ears. We chose what was recommended as a sheltered anchorage for North and Easterly winds, but at some point during the night the winds shifted. We were thrown about with the new winds.

It was the first night on our own and day three of the course. Unbeknownst to me — probably a good thing — this sailing course comprised two days of instruction and then a swift expulsion from the nest in the form of  solo days of adventure. Had I realized what that meant when I signed up, I would have likely bolted.

I really wanted to be brave on this course. Part of me realized that I was setting myself up for failure to expect years and years of deeply buried fear to come loose and float away the minute I learned how a sailboat worked. Uncharacteristically I suspended logic and thought, “I will just be like all the normal people when I get on that boat, since the course will teach me how sails work and then I can just use them.”

Predictably, this wasn’t remotely what happened.

I spent most of the first day white-faced and clinging to the rails of the boat, seasick and miserable. While trying to pay attention to my patient instructor, Johnny, my mind kept taunting me. “You’re not going to make it. You were so stupid to think you would be fine. You’re not fine. You can’t even look up at the sails without falling over.”

learning to sail course in new zealand
Trying to stay calm as Johnny explained the mechanics of sailing.

That first night, I did not sleep at all — again. I paced from window to window while Doug slept, trying to calm my breath and just feel the fear and sensations and accept them. “Release the fear, Jodi,” I told myself again and again.

But I could not.

I went to bed in many layers I was so cold, but as the panic sweated through my clothes, I peeled off my fleece and down vest and finally sat in a t-shirt and sweatpants, jumping at every new noise the boat made.

By day two at dawn I was exhausted and defeated. Battling seasickness in addition to panic took a quick toll. Darren, the owner of our sailing school took one look at me in the morning and suggested I head to Paihia to pick up the Paihia Bomb, a cocktail of medicine from the pharmacy that staves off even the most aggressive of seasickness.

While I never got a full explanation of what was in the medicine, following the instructions – taking a blue pill and then a half an hour later a white one – worked.

I did this every subsequent morning and did not get seasick again.

Miracle seasickness cure. Ingredients: unclear
The Paihia Bomb — blue pill, 30 mins, white pill, get on the water. Magic.

As time dragged on during day two, all I could think about was that we were going to be off on our own as of that night.

Doug grew up comfortable on water, but never took sailing lessons before. He was not seasick, nor was he panicked. Previously, he sailed with friends across the Cook Straight in far worse conditions than we were facing in the Bay of Islands.

To the instructors, this – and his performance during the two days of instruction – was sufficient to entrust us with the boat despite the fact that I was a mess.

As we were about to set off alone on day three, the boat loaded with non-perishable groceries and snacks, Darren kneeled down beside me to give me a much-needed pep talk.

You’re going to be fine. I’ve been doing this for years and nothing has ever gone horribly wrong on these solo days. You have good weather coming your way, you have a partner who knows how to live on water, and you just need time to get over your fears. Do the best you can, and try not to beat yourself up for being afraid.”

This was, of course, my biggest problem. I braided pure white anger into the physical manifestation of my panic, mostly at my inability to chill out and learn what I could. Every time the boat heeled, I cried. When other sailboats edged toward us, I was unable to logically gauge distance, certain that we were going to crash into them.

We did not, of course. Nor did we fall off the boat, or lose our anchor, or forget to attach the halyard at night and then wake up to the realization that we couldn’t hoist the main sail. None of that occurred, but its lack of occurring didn’t appease my worries whatsoever.

At night, I went to bed with my stomach in tangles, waiting to be awoken by the foreign sounds of a boat in repose. The rudder smashing into its casing came first, then the creaking as the boat spun on its anchor, then the howling wind as it came over the ridge of trees that surrounded our nighttime cove. I got in a few restless hours of light sleep before waking up and realizing where I was, immediately awash in dread at the coming day.

I pushed myself so far into a cycle of panic that I finally gave up on trying to control it. I had to help work the boat for the coming day, and I would just have to do so within the maelstrom of my self-defeat. And so I got up and hoisted the sails, tears pouring down my face, adjusting for wind and trying to ignore the screaming voice in my head.

Sailing in Bay of Islands, New Zealand
A beautiful view in Russell, the place that Darwin called “the hellhole of the Pacific“. Looks lovely nowadays!

On our last day, we emerged from the shelter of Opunga Cove to rocky seas, the waves crashing into the side of the boat as rain began to fall in earnest. I clawed my way up to the front of the boat to fix the jib, hugging the boom of the mainsail upon my return in an attempt to stay upright. We decided to use only the jib for our last leg of the journey, opting to turn on the motor and keep it on a low throttle, helping us move toward Opua once again.

As we approached Tapeka Point, visibility was extremely poor from the haze of rain and wind that blinded our view. We also realized that the waves were so high that they swamped our dinghy, filling it with water. And that its oars were gone. It was at this moment, when the wind was raging furiously and the boat thrown around in high waves, that a pair of dolphins came up to the left of our sailboat, playfully following us as we bobbed awkwardly toward Tapeka Point.

I whipped my head back at Doug, in awe with my eyes wide, and smiled. It was the first time I felt relief since we left Opua two days earlier.

Though the dolphins marked both a metaphorical and literal turning point, there were other wonderful moments that tucked themselves into the nooks and crannies of my fear.

Making my morning coffee and staring into the mist as the sun rose over the water. Waving at all the other boat owners, and rowing over to them to let them know it was our first time ‘in the wild’ and could they just tell us if they thought we had anchored too close? Trying to read the topography of the maps onboard while not falling off the boat. Watching motoring fleets of ducks whizz by at dusk. Shaking my head at the seagulls hitching a ride on our dinghy, cawing into the air as we hit wave after wave.

Cooking chicken laksa with mien noodles, a comfort food that brought me back to Asia while I was completely outside my comfort zone.

chicken laksa
Boat cooking FTW.

And the sunsets. The absolutely glorious New Zealand sunsets.

my fear of drowning didn't stop me from appreciating this sunset
Sunset from our first night alone, anchored in Paradise Bay.
bay of islands
Lightshow on water.

If we think of our fears as more than just fears but as stories, we should think of ourselves as the authors of those stories. But just as importantly, we need to think of ourselves as the readers of our fears, and how we choose to read our fears can have a profound effect on our lives.”

Karen Thompson’s TED talk on what fear can teach us.

All in all we made it back to Opua in one piece.

I owe Doug an immense debt of gratitude for not only keeping calm in the midst of my unrelenting panic, but for also trying to calm me with words while trying to steer a boat. With the benefit of hindsight, I realize that my expectations for this course that were set too high. I wanted to be brave, to not cry, to emerge out of a chrysalis of fear as a more functional, water-loving human.

Instead, I shed tears and a disturbing amount of hair as I powered through the three solo days, frantically trying to keep some of the worry at bay.

The net result is positive, despite all this pain.

I realize that fear is often an issue of imagination conditioned to run rampant, where the most vivid and catastrophic worries are the ones that blot out the rest. There are plenty of metaphors here about actual control versus an illusion, and of life itself being something we cannot always predict or direct.

When asked about solo female travel I often reply that I can only travel in the body I’ve been given. I chose to lead an unconventional life, despite my size and the fact that many tell me it is dangerous. Why is this an easier choice than going on water? Ultimately this sailing course was about showing me that I can only regain some semblance of balance by forging ahead despite my fears.

I’ve learned this in other aspects of my life, but the visceral nature of this phobia meant that I pushed aside my usual strategies to overcome it.

And I’m not alone.

According to a study about exposure therapy, neuroscience demonstrates that extinction, or disappearance of phobias, is not due to an unlearning of the fear, or a complete “conquering” of the phobia. Instead, it is because of new neural pathways, ones that compete with the learned fear to overwrite it. And avoiding that fear too much can also prevent us from re-wiring our brains to sufficiently overwrite it.

René Garcia’s paper concludes with a warning note that “strong avoidance causes resistance to extinction of classical fear conditioning.” That is, it’s easier for a deep fear to become pathological if we stringently avoid it. My years of declining water-based activities and sailing trips worked to deepen the phobia I had of drowning.

I doubt I will ever be a carefree soul on water, but by scraping past the outposts of what I deemed sane, I took some of the power away from my fear. People have been asking if I would do it again. Yes, I would absolutely get on a sailboat again. In doing so, however, I realize that I will possibly shed many tears.

Perhaps in time my panic will dissipate fully, but at least I now know that I took one small step toward being a person I want to be, one that doesn’t turn away from what’s difficult even when her stomach is in knots and the wind is on her face.



Fear and the Defense Cascade: Clinical Implications and Management
Kasia Kozlowska, Peter Walker, Loyola McLean, Pascal Carrive
Harv Rev Psychiatry. 2015 Jul; 23(4): 263–287. Published online 2015 Jul 8. doi: 10.1097
Neurobiology of fear and specific phobias
René Garcia, 10.1101/lm.044115.116 Learn. Mem. 2017. 24: 462-471
More reading about trauma and the fear response:

38 thoughts on “How Do You Conquer a Fear of Drowning? By Facing It Head On.”

  1. Well written. Well done. This explains everything. Congratulations. PS. Would never, ever go down in a submarine of any type. Sailing however, that’s a wrap

  2. I think you are brave in facing your fears because it is the hard thing to do. I have a phobia of flying and as a traveller it is something that I have to do. I have coping mechanisms but the fear begins days before my flight, envisioning plane crashes and almost certain that I will be one of the unlucky few. I know I am being irrational but I can’t reason with my fear. I also have a fear of boats, but nowhere near as bad, and since I have been taking the ferry to work every day here in Sydney my fear has rapidly decreased which I am very happy about. It gets pretty rough crossing the harbour mouth sometimes and I used to be terrified but to my astonishment, I actually kind of enjoy when it is rough now and see it as a fun ride. I think from constantly exposing myself to the thing that scared me I have actually managed to overcome that fear. Now to work on the flying phobia

  3. Over coming fear makes the end to the means that more rewarding. Beautifully written, and the sunset a beautiful backdrop!

  4. This is so similar to my own story (childhood water trauma – check, fear of deep water – check, putting myself in water-related situations I’m uncomfortable in – check!). After a month of boat trips in the Philippines I’m starting to wonder whether exposure really does help. But you just can’t beat that feeling of “I DID IT” when you come out the other side. Thank you for sharing, and well done!

    1. Yes, I wonder the same. I’ve read that it can actually do more harm than good if you’re not rewarding the exposure with some sort of comfort, but who knows. This was a personal challenge but in no way did I ‘get over’ the fear — it was just about facing it, and I know conquering it comes a long time later. It’s fair to be afraid of water, though. It IS scary –even if you know how to swim there are so many variables that can mess things up for you. But I guess my frustration was that I can push fears of that nature aside for other things but couldn’t/can’t for water. At least we are trying, right? :)

      1. First, congrats. Second, when I’m not daydreaming of travel part of my job is working with combat veterans suffering from PTSD. Prolonged Exposure continues to be supported by data as an effective therapy though it can obviously be very painful. I suspect as you continue to integrate this experience you will find your anxiety further diminished.

        1. Thanks Randy! It’s definitely something I would do again (get on a sailboat, hopefully not sobbing as much this time), and I appreciate your input especially as it’s your line of work. I’m glad I stuck it out, but it wasn’t easy! :)

  5. Jodi, what beautiful storytelling and what potent experiences you’ve shared here. Fear has, as you said, such a “visceral nature”, something so deeply settled within us that all attempts to reign in its apparent rule over us often evade any serious effect.

    Childhood experiences can set such a strong standard for the rest of our adult lives, but what better way to face those fears than to challenge them! Thank you so much for sharing this. You’ve given me much to ponder and much inspiration to face fears in my own life.

  6. Very well written post, Jodi. It is always difficult to overcome our fears, especially those ingrained in us at such a young age. The best feeling is when our feet are back on the ground, and we greeted with a feeling of – well, that wasn’t so bad after all!

  7. Life is all about stepping off into the proverbial ‘deep-end’ and hoping you bob back up to the top. Looks like you float after all (had to use some sort of water reference…sorry).

    Sailing can truly be a lot of fun!

    Happy Travels!

  8. Beautiful piece, Jodiface. I love the defiance in the face of all that fear. “I now know that I have taken one small step toward being a person I want to be.” That’s really kicking ass.

    I too have a fear related to water. When I was a youngster in Cyprus I half-drowned: “half” as in, I remember looking up at the surface of the water, ten+ feet away, as I went down. After I blacked out a diver pulled me to safety, but depths still freak me out beyond all rational belief (a possible root to my nervousness of flying). These things are not easy. So my challenge is deep open water and nothing but my backstroke to keep me up. Once I can do that without wanting to shriek, I’ll have levelled myself up, like you have here.

  9. Hi Jodi,

    Your post comes just at the right moment for me. This morning, I’m going to see whales sharks. I sooo want to swim with them, but I’m so scared! What if a real shark comes for me from the depth of the sea like in the Jaws poster? What if, what if, what if! I will try to face my fears and not let my imagination run wild with catastrophes while accepting that I’m scared.
    Thanks for your post and congrats on facing your fears.

  10. I happen to be scared of water to because of similar reasons, so went I started my travel last year, I decided I’d face my fear, so I started doing as many water activities as possible, incluiding surfing, snorkeling, kayaking and even scuba diving.

    After almost 7 months, now I’m proud to say that not only I feel awesome when in the water, but now I’m able to even save other people, since I got certified as a Rescue Diver. One of the proudest moments I’ve had!

    So keep on being awesome and fighting your fears!

  11. Very good read. We all have our fears. Mine is claustrophobia, and sometimes I can overcome it but many times…like that time in Cheops pyramid where I scared all the Japanese tourists…I just cannot. Kudos to you for trying so hard and taking the good moments from your experience.

  12. I actually can’t relate entirely to quite that level of fear. That said, for years I was afraid of heights but burned that fear to cinders by rock climbing and realizing that my sense of balance is just as good in dangerous “you might fall” situations as it is otherwise. So now I’m not afraid of heights – just careful not to fall. Water’s not high on my list but several near-death experiences whitewater kayaking in my 20s inspired me to stop doing that. It’s a fun sport, but demands you go into more and more danger for excitement. I had reached the peak of my skills and they were *not* going to keep me alive if I kept trying for more adrenaline. Although that’s mostly an intellectual response. The adrenaline rush of near-death (afterwards!) is pretty amazing. It’s easy to see how soldiers can become addicted to war.

    All that said – good on ya for stepping outside your comfort zone. Keep doing it and eventually they’ll burn up like my fear of heights did, and only the fun will remain.

    Perhaps. Panic is a counter-survival reaction. It’s an excellent reaction from the perspective of a predator when they can induce it in prey, but not so good for the prey. And not at all useful when one is in a situation that requires action and clear thinking. But it’s part of our evolutionary baggage, unfortunately.

    I’m wondering if this might not be one of those rare situations where a psychologist might be able to help with some sort of exercise, mental or physical, to get control of the panic. I suspect that panic, much like anger, is something that one can embrace, control and channel into more positive emotions.

  13. Hi there.

    Nice blog! I am Kris and I live in Spain but I always wanted to visit New Zealand! Your blog and this article is amazing! And the photos make me wanna go tomorrow :) I must organize myself and visit New Zealand maybe next year.

  14. Hi Jodi –

    I was introduced to your blog by a Canadian friend who I met while travelling in Ladakh, India in January of this year. She sent me a link to your blog, as I am a lawyer who’s been on sabbatical since April 2014 and have spent the last 11 months mostly travelling. It’s so inspiring to see another woman lawyer who’s had the gumption to give it up and travel solo. Kudos!

    It is somehow “prophetic” (dramatic, I know!) for me to be reading this particular blog-post first, as I am beyond terrified of water. I never did learn how to swim, despite trying 4 times. I once refused to go snorkelling in calm seas, because the water was 10′ deep. Maybe I’ll shrug off this fear with time. Thank you!

    Cheers and Happy Travelling!

  15. I am very crazy about travel and always try to visit new new places. But WHENEVER I have no time to visit then I try to read new posts on travels. So today when I was searching over the the Google got your blog. After reading your articles I feel so relaxed. Just want to say thanks about your post

  16. Well done you. I am in awe. “fear is often an issue of imagination run rampant”, so true. I can conjure up any excuse or reason to avoid anything to do with heights ..unless it is a gondola or a chair lift over the snow. Guess that makes me a little odd or hypocritical. You did face your fears and did so well. Did you get over the fears? It doesn’t matter, because you did it.

  17. This is a lovely and thoughtful piece; thank you for sharing something so personal. I applaud your bravery, and it’s so inspirational to me.

  18. Hi Jodi,

    Just finished reading your story. Respect for taking a tough decision like that, facing your fear and accomplish!
    A big high-five from us!

    Safe travels,

    Mads & Camilla

  19. Sounds like pure torture! Talk about really getting out of your comfort zone. Hope the boy was cute and therefore worth the pain! :)

  20. Congratulations on getting through the course! This was beautifully written and very thought-provoking. While I don’t share your issues with the ocean and water and would LOVE to do a course like this, you really made me think of ways to challenge myself and grow. So, thanks for the inspiration!

  21. I adore this post. And I’m so proud of you! I’ve been meaning to read this for a while, but have had so little free time these last few months. But here I am, newly “retired”, and floating around on our sailboat in the Virgin Islands. And this morning I thought of you on that sailboat in NZ and remembered you’d written a post about it.

    I’m blown away by your bravery in this endeavor. You didn’t just take a small step towards your fears, you took a WWF flying elbow leap at it! I mean, when Ryan told me he wanted to buy a boat and learn to sail 7 years ago, I spent the first 6 months screaming with terror every time the boat heeled beyond 15 degrees. The fact that your first experience was a course that included a 3-day solo journey just blows my mind! You did an amazing thing and should be incredibly proud of your accomplishment.

    And now, just maybe, you can come sailing with me and Ryan one day! We’ll be picking up our new boat – a catamaran (they don’t heel – you’ll love that) – in La Rochelle, France, this summer. And I extend an invite to you and Doug to come sailing with us any time :-)

    Again, so proud of you!

  22. Wow, that was rough. Having unreasonable fears is not fun, and while I can’t say that I’ve experienced anything like what you describe, I can still say well done on finishing the course! Great writing on this post.

  23. hi Jodi. Have been encouraged by your courage in many things such as intentionally facing your fear and overcoming your fear of public speaking. Like you before, I have an overwhelming fear of public speaking or even a simple presentation and i got anxiety or panic attack during the presentation which render me speechless or go blank in the head which is greatly embarrassing when its in front of your colleagues and boss. How do you overcome your fear besides keep doing it? Do you memorise a script?

    1. Hi Ruby, I plan to write a post about this as you are not the only one asking! I have read many books about public speaking and developed a system that has worked for me – no more barfing yay! – and I’m happy to share it with readers. I hope to have this up later this year.

  24. Thank you Jodi, for this honest and beautifully written post. I share each and every one of the fears that you describe though I have sailed numerous times with my husband on his various boats and capsized in sharks waters and been smashed by an accidental jibe cracked my spine, and gradually developed a complete aversion to sailing. All the while my husband moves toward his dream of some long ocean voyage. I have thought that there is no reason why I should try to overcome fears and, as it has eventuated, disinterest. To forge on, I feel I would be doing it for him, not me. That is worthy and noble to be sure, and a good approach to confirming one’s commitment to a partner. But coupled with my utter dread, is a sense of claustrophobia on the boat. I am like a trapped rat, and have yet to experience this amazing sense of freedom, even though I have been thrilled and delighted to witness dolphins, dugongs and turtles. I am so torn about this thing. I have pretty much resigned myself to distancing myself from the whole thing – why go after something that incites such unpleasant feelings when there other things draw on my strengths and give me great joy. e.g. cycling. Your post was compelling and I very likely would have given this unhappy situation no further thought had I not read it from start to finish. If I pursue this challenge, it would be for my husband’s sake; but we have such utterly different experiences when sailing, it is almost like not being together at all.

    1. Thank you so much for this wonderful comment. There’s no right or wrong when facing fear. There were consequences for my doing this as well, in the form of an over-activated nervous system and panic attacks I never had before. I learned to manage them but with every courageous decision comes an opportunity cost, and you don’t need to justify to anyone whether you want to face that fear of water or not <3

  25. Ms. Jodi, It is 12:45 a.m. and I must get some shut eye, but want to comment on your truth. It so helps others who suffer. Thank you. I have a fear of snakes…yet, reside five to six months a year with my husband in South Italy in the countryside. Lots of black snakes, leopard snakes, and colubrida…Though non venomous, still snakes…. And the panic ensues…I scream, shake, sweat, cry, remain motionless(my legs literally do not move)…Regardless of our friend(veterinarian) assuring me that the indigenous snakes of Apulia are non-venomous, I still battle the fear. I keep thinking that maybe one may be a viper. I used to look under the bed before sleeping to make sure one had not slithered underneath. My strategy? We have a dog that must be walked. So, I take a wooden cane, and tap the ground to alert the snakes that I am approaching so they hopefully slither away. *Afterthought: I recall a gift from my sister-in-law. A beautifully wrapped gift box held a coiled snake belt. Initially, I was quite pissed off..then changed my perspective and realized she was maybe trying to help me?…I still have the belt…and wear it sometimes…but not often.
    Second, is….simple anxiety…. I am a 62 year old African American female who has resided in Europe since 1992…I have had a fair share of racial discrimination and racial profiling from border police yet, have remained diplomatically outspoken to defend myself each time. Each episode left traces of insecurity, doubt, mistrust of police officers, anger, fear, and frustration. Strategy? File a complaint with the police department. When no response is received within a specific time frame, contact the press. Legal intervention(However, sometimes the lawyers are intimidated by the police force and suddenly, without warning, decide to drop your case). Contact with people who have experienced the same, Anti-Racism organisations. I educate myself concerning police protocol within specific country(What questions are an officer allowed to ask? how long may I be detained? May I ask why they ask to see my passport, why do they need to open the trunk of my car? (I have neither drug, nor criminal record)???? This supremacist mentality causes a lot of anxiety, but “they” do not often expect their victims to be educated, acknowledged, diplomatic and opinonated.

    **And I am very hesitant to sail too long on a boat with my husband.
    He loves the sea. And he has a new boat. But I am putting me first and deciding when I get on the boat, how long I decide to sail, and whether I sleep on the boat. No pressure is going to change that.

    Thank you again for sharing your truth.
    I just realise that I am understanding more about my phobias. It is cause and effect.

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