It was supposed to be an easy assignment; learn to swim in two to three lessons. As a woman, close to her 30s, I decided it was time to do more than dip my feet in the shallow end of a pool. For years, I avoided activities that involved water. I never knew how to swim and really didn't possess the desire to learn. However, as I aged, I realized, it was a basic skill that could save mine or someone else's life.
With kids' birthday pool parties, fishing, cruises, wouldn't it be embarrassing if I was the only one who didn't know how to swim? Worst case scenario, what if I was the only other person around when someone else started to drown?
Debbie Green, a long time Acadiana swim instructor said, "You could never live with yourself if you knew someone was drowning and you couldn't save their life."
So, after a little insistence from my news director and co-workers, I decided to learn how to swim. Which was easier said than done.
The first time I stepped foot in Green's pool, I began to shake uncontrollably. What was wrong with me? It's just water. It can't bite. Deep down inside, however, lay an intense fear, I didn't even know I possessed.
Green said most adults on the first day are swimming across the water. I, on the other hand, barely seemed to be able to put my head under the water.
"I almost had to reinvent the way I teach adults with you because you just have this certain area that I had to concentrate on because you are so scared," my instructor told me with a light laugh.
I spent the first three classes blowing bubbles in the pool to learn how and when to breathe while swimming, and floating with her assistance and a flotation device in the shallow end. Swimming, yet? No, and let's not even speak about the deep end of the pool.
As I entered my fourth class, the stress and fear began to get the best of me. I was physically and mentally exhausted. I was starting to think I would never be a dolphin or the Little Mermaid. At this point, I would settle for being a dead fish. At least then I would be able to float on my own.
Frustrated, I told Delhomme, "I knew I was scared of the water, but I thought it was because I didn't know how to swim. But now that I am actually trying to swim I didn't know how scared I actually was of the water."
She kindly looked at me and said, "I have never seen it before, but I think you have a swim phobia. I think you are scared of water."
Great. A phobia. That's what I needed to hear. I was now officially frustrated but still determined. So, I tried, tried and tried again but there always seemed to be an issue to moving to the next lesson.
"At first, it was putting my face in the water and then after that it was lifting my legs off the ground and then it was letting go and having absolutely nothing to hold onto," I shamefully told Delhomme
"With you, we just have to take it one step at a time," she responded.
Thank goodness for her patience and good intentions because I was one stroke for giving up and walking away from a pool forever. Until, she shared a scary story.
"There was an accident several years ago in Monroe. There were a bunch of Boy Scouts and they were swimming and the parents went out. They were in a body of water in Louisiana and they started drowning. Well, they looked at each other and the parents asked, 'who knows how to swim?' Nobody knew how to swim."
Phobia or not, I was going to learn how to swim. If not for myself, then for someone who never had the chance. By class number 7, I was a long way from becoming an Olympic swim team member, but I was finally letting go and moving myself halfway across the shallow end.
"Today, you didn't want me to help you at all, " said Delhomme "and before you were just 'hold onto me, hold onto me,' the very first day. So, you have come a very long way and I'm very proud of you. I didn't know if we would make it."
How glad was I that she kept that last part to herself. Truth be told, I didn't think I was going to make it either.
"A lot of adults hold it inside, they are very embarrassed. It's something that is passed down generation to generation and it has to stop at one point," Green shared.
Class number 8. It took almost two months, but with a little courage and a lot of determination, I swam across the pool.
“I kept telling you believe in yourself. Cause when you are learning and you are in water you have to get over that phobia and release it and you have to believe in yourself and that's what you are doing," said Green.
I'm now what can be considered a ‘weak swimmer,' but either way, swimmer is a title I possess. I'll take more classes until I'm relaxed and can enjoy the water.
It was supposed to be an easy assignment. Turns out, it was one of the hardest, but at the same time, one of the most rewarding.
Special thanks to Debbie Green with Delhomme Swim School for offering the course to Hope Ford free of charge. To learn more about Debbie's courses, visit www.delhommeswimschool.com.
1808 Eraste Landry Rd, PO Box 90665,
Lafayette LA 70509