All I remembered was distant whines of sirens and flashing lights before water was poured into my eyes.
The fear of water in many shapes and forms has been in my family for generations. It all started back in World War Two, when my grandma’s uncles were taken to be soldiers. After the fighting was over, the brothers were on a ship returning home. They had to cross ships onto another, on a thin piece of plywood. One brother watched from the ship as the other was overtaken by the waves, silenced by the sea forever. My grandma was told these stories growing up, and now has an internalized fear and hatred of water.
However, this all is just the tip of the iceberg in family’s battle with water. Rooted in my mother from her mother is the fear of water. To increase this already present issue, she was thrown under the waves while rafting, unable to see or hear anything. She was terrified and convinced she was going to die. To jump to my father’s side of the family, he and his brother were too afraid for their swimming lessons that they didn’t let go of their instructor the entire lesson. “We held onto the swim instructor for dear life; we refused to even touch the water. Their fear of water was inherited from my grandmother, who was born and grew up in Portugal. Strangely enough, though Portugal has many beaches, she was too scared of the water to even attempt to learn to swim.
Now for me. All my family’s past experiences and fears, all piled up in me to make my very own fear. As a kid, I was playing with glowsticks in the back of our car. The liquid from inside somehow escaped through and bled into my eyes. The ambulance was called, and all I can recall was the first sentence in this story. I felt pressure on my chest and I know I cried like crazy, but the rest is now just a story to me.
In later months I started swim lessons. We were told to go under the water. Because of my past experience I refused. In my mother’s words. “I was shocked and scared when I saw the lifeguard push her under.” Young me, terrified of water, getting pushed down under the water was traumatic and something I will never forget. This nonetheless inspired me to become a confident swimmer. Though I still have struggles, such as asthma and anxiety when it comes to swimming, by sixth grade I had made it to the level seven of red cross swimming.
I am proud to say, I am the first member of my family to overcome our fear that spread over generations.
* I chose this cover image as a reference to the peace I have now settled with water. A pink rose in calm waters, representing the generation long fear at rest.