Sunday, June 9, 2013

SCUBA day 1, part 2

So we moved to the deep end.

After a number of minor panic attacks (mostly during 'remedial' time- where I was starting to feel a lot of pressure about the fact that I couldn't get it, and that I was disappointing Kevin (he never voiced this, but I'm sure it was true) and that I was getting so far behind the class), deep water is where I had my major panic attack.

Oh wait, I remember the thing I forgot from shallow water- disconnect the BCD hose.  I don't know what they'll write on this skill.  With a TON of effort I did it above water, after the instructor did it first on my hose (does that make it easier). I never could underwater, and even later when we were out of the water and the gear was off, I was only able to do it once someone else did, which I think took some of the pressure off it.  To be honest- if my BCD breaks and the button sticks, I think I'm screwed.  It took me so long, even if I'm able to do it- and my hands just may not be strong enough, partially because I'm weak, and partially because my nerve damage is mostly in my fingers, it takes me so long, I'll be on the surface before I'm able to. Being on the surface is what we are trying to prevent.

Anyhow- the deep end.

First, we swim there underwater practicing equalizing our ears.  My ears don't hurt, but I don't feel that nice pop I do when I do the movements we practice above water.  I guess if they don't hurt, I'm okay.  They we ascend, and this is freakout number one: I cannot kick hard enough to get up.  I know if I inflate my BCD, I fail the class- so I don't.  But I can't get up.  I start kind of 'screaming' underwater, but at this point, it's moot, as no one is still underwater and you can't hear much anyway.  Then I realize I have plenty of air, calm down a bit, but I'm still stuck underwater.  An instructor kind of pushes me up.  I think this is the major factor in why I am so scared for the next thing- I know if I want to get out of the water, I am over-weighted, and cannot.  I am stuck underwater.

So here we are told they are going to turn our tank off so we can feel what out of air feels like.  Then turn it back on.  Then, (with the tank on this time), we are going to tell our buddy we are out of air, grab their octo and breathe on it, just like we did in shallow water.  This is where I start telling Kevin I can't do it.  He, in a somewhat annoyed voice, tells me I'm fine.  The class descends.  I don't.

The instructor who helped me before comes over and I tell him I'm not ready for this.  He told me once I had the confidence I did these things fine in the shallow water.  I'm not buying it.  I did them once.  Let me tell you a story:

In driver's ed, we had to get a 4.0 before we could pass a skill.  The first time I went over 40 mph I cried, I got a 1.0, and had to do it again.  It took me like 10 tries before I fully passed highway driving.  I am now a damn good highway driver.  On the other hand, I parallel parked absolutely perfect the first time I tried. I got a 4.0, we moved on.  I have NEVER successfully parallel parked again.  Never.  Even with someone in the car explaining to me how to do it.  I didn't get sufficient practice, and doing something once does NOT show mastery.  That's what I felt about the shallow water skills.  I had in no way mastered them. I did them once.  And now they wanted me to do them somewhere I can't stand up.

To his credit, the instructor is incredibly patient.  He tells me if I "thumbs up" he can have me on the surface in half a second.  Still, I'm hyperventilating, literally.  In a sport of long, slow, shallow breathes, I am on the surface in need of a bag to breathe into. (I don't actually get one, I'm able to calm my breathing after a few minutes, take a few deep breaths and tell them I'll try.)  He promises me, that if I thumb the dive, I will be on the surface right away.

So we go down, the tank turn off exercise goes well.  I forget to look at my pressure gauge (SPG), but it is handed to me, and I see it go down to zero.  As soon as I see that I want to signal for him to turn it back on, but I am still breathing, so I realize I shouldn't yet. I wait until breathing gets hard, and then signal.  That went okay.  

Then it comes time to do the octo exercise.  (Remember, my regulator is fully functioning at this point).  I signal to Kevin. I grab his octo, I take 3 deep breathes (um, that won't be something I can do if I'm really out), I take my reg out, and try to get his in. I press the purge and I still have water in my mouth, I thumb, and true to his word, the instructor lifts me up to the surface, very quickly.  He asks me what went wrong, I had it.  I did, but again, I couldn't breathe on it.

We go back down again, and this time I think I do it with one try (I don't remember for sure).  But again, he and Kevin signal OK? to me when it is in my mouth, but it takes me a good 3 breaths before I can say OK back.  I just don't trust that I'm breathing.

So next, I think, we did what is called "fin pivot". This is supposed to be an exercise in neutral buoyancy. I totally don't understand what we were supposed to do here.  All I know is I just wiped out a thousand years of coral growth.  Hurricanes have nothing on the level of destruction my buoyancy causes.

Then came our CESA. This is a Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent.  So you do NOT use the inflator on your BCD- you swim to the surface.  The pool is too shallow for this, so we swim horizontally.  You have to swim 30 feet while exhaling.  If the instructor sees you inhale, you don't pass this.  While waiting for my turn, I think about exhaling as slow as possible (i'm a fast breather, even relaxed). I practice the long slow a-hhhh sound.  Then he signals for me to go. I take my last breath (our regulators are still on) and well crap. I'm standing and stuck. I can barely even start swimming before I run out of air.  I take 2 really small breaths over the course of the 30 feet, but decide it is best to keep going, to at least practice swimming.  I get to the end and stand up and tell the instructor "well, I just drowned twice" and he says "what are you talking about? You did it!"  Um, no I didn't? I took breaths. Apparently, they were so small, it didn't count?  I know on a real CESA, you get more exhale power as you go up, and sometimes you get more air in your tank. Maybe I'll be okay?  I mentioned this to the other instructor, and he told me "if he says you did it, you're fine", so I don't feel like I cheated.  But Kevin and I plan to go to the pool and (without scuba on) practice me swimming while exhaling.  Maybe more cardio too.

At some point we also practiced manually inflating our BCDs (while above water), and this was no problem.

The final thing we did was breathe off a free flowing (purging) regulator. This took me three tries, and I wasn't able to breathe well (Kevin said it was 'easy') but three small breathes before I started choking on water. But enough to probably be able to switch to his alternate, and I know it is possible. The third try, the instructor (Kevin?) actually lightly held my head down in the water (no resistance if I pushed up, but just to encourage me to not give up right away) which got a great laugh from the class.

I think that is everything, except we also practiced taking our fins off while holding a ladder and getting out of the water. We were told since our tanks would be almost empty, they would be much lighter. Well maybe a bit, but holy crap- those suckers weigh alot out of water!

So all in all- lots of little panic, 1 major panic attack, and two skills that I don't think I did.

But here is my final problem- I now feel like I have strep throat.  My throat is so dry and scratchy.  I had a lot of mucus in my throat during the diving, and kept coughing, a lot, underwater. I just couldn't swallow to clear it where I felt I could  breathe well. We were probably never underwater for more than 15 minutes, if even that.  How do people stay under for an hour?  Kevin says his throat doesn't hurt at all, so I think it is from all the coughing while breathing such dry air.

And I'm awake at 3:00 in the morning typing this because I am really worried about the water work today. I'm pretty certain we have to do all the mask off skills in the deep water.  And while I did them fine in the shallow water, again, doing something once doesn't mean I'm ready to do it without a safety net of being able to stand up.

I'm really worried that even if I can get out of this pool session, I'm not ready for open water check out. And even if I can pass that- I'm not ready for real life without an instructor.  I feel so bad that I'm not good at this, because I really want to be able to do something with Kevin that he'll really enjoy. And to be honest, except for all the emergency scenarios, I'm way better at this than snorkeling.  I suck at snorkeling.

The only thing I take small solace in, is the instructor told Kevin my freak outs were not even close to the worse he's seen.  Since I was full on hyperventilating, wow.  Kevin says the guy told him he doesn't tell people who freak out that- likely because it doesn't help them and it kind of trivializes how they're feeling, but it would have kind of made me feel better to hear "I know you are feeling like you aren't doing well at this, but this is somewhat normal to freak out like this."  Although I still wish this was a little more time to master a skill, rather than just demonstrate it.

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