Posted by Pattie on 8/27/2004 01:27:00 PM

Diving In

Melanie (in the comments for my previous post) mentioned ignoring fear.

It reminded me of the first really practical piece of advice I was ever offered from a mental health professional.

At the end of my freshman year at Stetson University in 1976 I was terribly depressed. College was not working out for me as planned. I finally went to a school counselor to discuss why I was having trouble adjusting (there are many answers to that question, but I will save them for another time).

Instead of telling me what to do about all these various problems with school I described, the counselor asked me if there was anything of a physical nature of which I was afraid. I responded that I had nearly drowned when I was nine years old after stepping into a hole off a beach into water over my head. I was afraid of the deep end of the pool and had not really learned how to swim because of that.

So the counselor assigned me the task of going to the pool every day for a month and diving into the deep end at least one time, head first. When I returned a month later I was no longer afraid of water and had learned to tread water and swim reasonably well. It was scary and for years after I still hesitated before taking the first dive of the season. What I noticed after that experience was that I take a deep breath and hold my body in the same position when I prepare for something that I don't want to do or am afraid to do.

I don't remember the specific complaints I had brought to the counselor. By the month's end, I had forgotten them. It wasn't a perfect summer, life didn't get better (in fact, it got much worse over the years), but I did learn one thing.

Sometimes just diving in works.