Hi all! When I was younger, I was rarely afraid of anything (apart from the irrational fear of touching sand when I was a toddler but we won't talk about that). I would throw myself into a lot of things including going down small rapids in a Canadian canoe or body boarding the waves in the freezing sea in Cornwall. There was rarely anything that I wasn't ready to throw myself into.
This independence that was created from being rather fear-free meant I would put myself forwards to go on Girl Guiding camps and residential camps away from my family for a couple of days. These were the kind of camps where you were pre-booked into activities when you sign up and that is set in stone for the whole camp. On one particular camp that I went on in the new forest, the activities my group and I were given were archery and raft building. I was fine with both these activities and looked forward to them during the camp. Archery was fine and went without issue but once I got to raft building, I didn't feel happy. The raft building was taking part in a small 3/4ft deep pond with a wooden deck going from the edge of the pond into the middle. The banks around the pond were quite steep and overgrown. We started to build the rafts in two teams. My team were second to put on the water. We went down the decking and put the raft on at the end, like instructed, and attempted to get on. Of course, it sank, like most rafts do. I became quite quickly aware that pulling myself out of the water wasn't going to be easy and every single minute I spent in the water, I hated it even more. This moment at this camp messed with me for quite a few years and still does.
I had been a casual kayaker for a lot of my life, going on different adventures with my dad in different forms of boats on different forms of water such as sea, canal and river. This moment made me give all that up. I refused to go near a boat for several years until I decided to go and support a few crews from my dad's school while they took part in a 23 mile race. For some reason, this kicked something inside of me and based on a random decision, I was attempting to get into a kayak with the most intense butterflies in my stomach ever. I was scared but I pushed on and from then on in, I was paddling almost every week. I was still nervous about getting in the boat in the first place and I was still uncomfortable about falling in. It took me a lot to have someone else paddle with me because it meant I lost that sense of control over the balance of the boat. I hated being a boat that I wasn't use to. I always preferred to be in control and that was how I could grab the horns of the bull and wrestle with it.
Kayaking on a canal was completely different from many other forms of kayaking. I still can't paddle in a swimming pool with kayaks that keep you in the boat if you flip over (Panic attacks hold me back in this situation) and I won't go near raft building still (again, I panicked last time I tried and had to sit out) but from something that is probably my greatest fear, water and drowning, it's now something I face every week in my favourite sport to take part in. Anxiety towards certain situations still affect me often and this can mean that I won't go paddling some days because I know it will just end up badly. It holds me back which frustrates me in many situations. Sometimes, I wish I was happy to mess about on the water with my friends but sometimes I enjoy watching from the bank. This is my main fear and although I can handle it most days, it takes some mobility. You may not feel positive every single day but don't take that as a step backwards because in reality it will only be a bad day. Take some time off and come back to it gently.
See ya on the flip side,