I like skinny-dipping. This recent self-discovery is startling in view of the fact that I’m someone who has always been timid around water and the idea of me skinny-dipping was as remote as, well…, me diving off a dock. How did I come by this revelation? This summer I decided to take a stand and tackle some of my age-old fears.
First on the list (yes, there is a list) was to master the art of swimming (or not drowning). I’m not a strong swimmer despite mandatory childhood lessons with my father at the local community swimming pool. Unlike my siblings who took to water like ducks, I dreaded each weekly outing. The reason why remains unclear to me. Perhaps there was some long forgotten trauma buried in my psyche or simply the fact that the smell of chlorine and the knowledge that kids peed freely (it was a public pool after all) nauseated me.
My newfound determination to improve my swimming skills was kick-started by two recent events; increased opportunities to visit my husband’s family cottage and an unusually hot and humid summer. In my mind, it was now or never. It helped that my husband was a competitive swimmer in high school and was more than qualified to keep my head above water.
I’m happy to report that my swimming lessons are progressing well. I’m having fun and feeling more relaxed with it all; so relaxed in fact, that I skinny-dipped for the first time…in broad daylight. I highly recommend this wonderful and freeing experience. However, watch out for the kayakers and canoeists who quietly and abruptly appear out of nowhere. Timing is everything.
Long story short, I am practicing what Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) describes as exposure habituation – planned, structured, gradual and repeated exposure to the fear stimulus (in my case, water and swimming) to reduce anxiety. The whole experience has been empowering. What’s next on my list of fears to tackle? Spiders.
Are you ready to take a stand of your own?