‘What did you do when you were scared?’ Georgina asked.
‘I tried to power through it. I told myself that I didn’t want it to stop me. So I kept trying to dive. After what happened on the Rhone.’
She raised an eyebrow. ‘What happened on the Rhone?’
‘It’s a wreck in the British Virgin Islands. Wrecks have always been a bit dicey for me – especially the ones where people died. And people did die on this shipwreck. It went down in a huge hurricane, like the hurricane the BVI had a couple years ago – Hurricane Irma. So, diving on these kind of wrecks, I get an over active imagination. As if I can feel the ghosts there.’
I looked over at Georgina. She nodded and I continued, ‘You go down to about 30m. The wreck lies in two main pieces. The most common way to enter is through the enormous propeller of the ship. We did enter as we’ve done before but this time I couldn’t breathe. I was sucking on my regulator hard and it was loud in my ears. Meanwhile, Jack was doing his usual thing and swimming quite quickly. This time he got far enough, I started to worry I couldn’t catch up with him. Plus we had Nick diving with us from another boat. I felt this enormous pressure to keep up. It all built up. Until suddenly I just didn’t want to be there anymore. It was the surface again.’
‘How do you mean: surface?’ Georgina asked.
‘It seemed so far away. Impossibly far. I started to bolt and kick up. Luckily, Jack noticed. He swam over and managed to grab hold of my flipper. He pulled me down and gave me the hand signal for okay. But I wasn’t okay. I wasn’t. It felt at that moment all those hundreds of dives we did together had fallen apart. What we’d built had gone. He continued to stare at me and hold me down. I knew that I had to calm down and breathe. If I bolted I’d have been at high risk of suffering the bends, so I closed my eyes and breathed. Just doing that took about every ounce of willpower I had. And then of course Nick came to see if I was ok and he’s really nice so that was super embarrassing.
‘Did you go diving again after that?’ Georgina asked.
‘Yeah, Jack took me later that afternoon again – just the two of us. We went really slowly and he held my hand for most of it. It was okay. So, after that I thought every time I got nervous or panicky, I’d just power through it.’
‘But it didn’t work, powering through it?’
I stared out of Georgina‘s window overlooking the bright blue Cardigan Bay. I was right in the centre of Aberystwyth, in the therapy rooms I’ve frequented on and off for the last couple of years. Georgina’s from Germany and living in Wales now. She is one of those unassuming smart people. Like it’s a secret weapon.
‘That’s the thing. I tried but I can’t seem to power through it. When we went back to the Caribbean and sailed to Barbados last year, the diving there was really gentle. Super easy. No current, right next to shore, mostly just right under the boat.
‘And you didn’t feel better?’
I shook my head. ‘I felt worse.’