fear of water Archives | Sheryl Steines

Category Archives for fear of water

Battered and Bruised by the Water – Leads to Fear

The high cliff overlooks a river that snakes through the countryside. It’s nestled into the valley, covered in trees and the water, it beats roughly against the rocky coast. I stand on the highest hill, a silent observer to the water as it splashes and swirls before dropping several feet into that whirlpool at the bottom of the waterfall.

The water churns, and undulates, alive with pain, anger, love and loss. Each harsh wave erodes the rocks, removing a piece forever. Mom she’s gone. I hear myself say that over and over again in my head, on a loop that I can’t shut off. My voice lacks all feeling, a reflection of my true self, because it was one more piece of news than I can’t absorb, interpret or accept. 

WIP 2016, Sheryl Steines



I've been afraid of deep water, (I'm 5'3″ so it doesn't take much), since I was six years old. Before six, I had no issue with the water, stick me in a blow up ring and let me float on by. At six, I took swim lessons, in a lake. I will never forget the day we jumped from the floating dock into the water, water that was definitely deeper than the top of my head.

Not the first one in; I watched others jump in; it seemed that the others before me, were immediately lifted out of the water to sun dry on the wooden dock. When it was my turn, I jumped and stared up and through the greenish, cloudy lake water, I could see the sun in the sky and I remember thinking, “When am I going to be lifted out of the water?” I panicked, the panic seeped inside and from that time, water was the enemy.

I've taken swim lessons at an adult, trying to allay those fears, not wanting to pass them to my children, but the fear and anxiety is so deep within me, I've given up hope that I will ever enjoy the water.

I've been writing poetry and essays of late, writing my memoirs in a way that's pure emotion as I discuss the life I've led so far and why it might be important to another person. My theme for the bad times seems to be the churning water. How it pulses, undulates and suffocates, much like I feel when I'm in a large body of water.

Using Fear for the Good

JK Rowling wrote about her depression in Harry Potter through the dementors, the life sucking creatures that ate your souls and left you as merely a shell, much like depression does in real life. She didn't write a literal interpretation, choosing instead to give you the image, in a beautiful, grotesque way.

Water, for me, is the perfect representation for the emotions that envelope me through several past life experiences. It swirls and comes alive and batters me against the edge of the lake.

Eventually the water will flow down river into a quiet pond, but right now, it undulates, rumbles and terrorizes.

I work on my autobiography because I hope, someday, somewhere, someone will read it and gain perspective and a sense that in the end, it will get better. The river eventually ends.

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The Water Churns, and Undulates, Alive with Pain, Anger, Love and Loss

I'm writing my memoir, sort of. It's not an exact retelling of my life and the low, very low experiences that have eventually brought me to this point. It's a lot of poetry, a lot of essays and a lot of imagery.

That's not so remarkable. JK Rowling wrote about her depression. She made it a character in her books. Remember the dementors? They were an embodiment of the depression she experienced after her divorce. Mine is an image, its water. Water, something that I bathe in everyday, that I drink all day and use to prepare meals. And yet, since I was about six years old, I've been terrified of the water.

I learned to swim in a lake. Dark and dirty, I couldn't see the bottom. I had a loss of control during one class, the day we jumped off the dock and the instructors kept us under water for what seemed like an eternity. I can still see the sun through the greenish water, a dull ball in the sky. I remember the panic waiting for the teacher to lift me out of the water. From that day on, I never liked being in the water.

I tried to learn over the years. I took the classes in high school, but my fear was so gripping that my teacher, while holding me in the deep end, told me, you are too afraid, I can't teach you here.” She proceeded to swim me to the shallow end, where I spent the rest of the two-week unit, walking. As if that's not a waste of time.

As I write about my life, about the death of my daughter, I find myself using water as a representation of that horrible time.

“it beats roughly against the rocky coast.”

“The water churns, and undulates, alive with pain, anger, love and loss. Each harsh wave erodes the rocks, removing a piece forever.”

“I can no longer breathe as the water pummels me, suppresses me, I try to scream but my voice can no longer be heard amidst the roar.”

I found myself writing the second entry and the images waters contained my sorrow, my heart-felt apologies, my fear and anger.

The water doesn't just scare me. It terrifies me. White knuckle terror. When I took swimming lessons after the birth of my second child, I remember swimming in the deep end of pool. I climbed out still wearing my life jacket and stood above the pool. My teacher told me to jump in. My head understood the command, but my legs were grounded to the pool deck. I couldn't move. I was paralyzed.

This is the imagery that describes the ups and downs. The white water rapids that describe my life. the way I can deliver my message and have others understand how I view my life.

Water terrifies.

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What I’m Afraid Of

I've carried with me since childhood, a fear of water. Since I was six years old when I took swim lessons in Lake Zurich. I will never forget sitting on those wood docks, so old splinters would stick in your rear. They had us jump in. I felt nothing as I waited my turn, as others jumped in and were immediatly plucked from the water and returned to the dock.

When my turn came, I obliged my swim instructor, jumped in and waited, what seemed to be a lengthy time under the water. I still remember being completely submerged, staring at the ball of sun through the cloudy water wondering when they were going to pull me out. It was that one simple perceived inaction that left me terrified, frightened and still wakes me from sleep.

I managed to live with the fear as I grew up only sometimes being forced to deal with it. My PE teacher attempted to teach me to swim. She floated me to the deep end where I started to shake. Uncontrollable shakes and she gave up, before we even began, advising me that she’s never seen anyone more afraid of water than me.

I couldn't hide from the water after my kids were born. I didn't want to instill the fear in them and took on purpose swim lessons at the YMCA. After explaining to the teacher just how frightened I was, she nodded in understanding and worked on making me comfortable in the water. One day, she slipped a life jacket around my neck and floated me toward the deep end of the pool.

At the end of the pool while holding on to the edge, for the first time, I realized there was small ledge about two feet under the water. I enjoyed the sensation before climbing out of the water. As I stood at the edge of the pool looking into the deep end, my teacher said, “Jump In.” My brain said jump in, my legs said, “F#$# that!” She literally had to pull me in.

While there, I tried desperately to acclimate myself to the water, (I had a life jacket on you know), and as I doggy paddled, fear gripped me, my heart stuck in my throat and I ran, well swam away from the deep end. After all it’s water dreams of myself floating and sinking that still wake me from sleep.

We’re afraid of the unknown, afraid of losing ourselves in uncontrollable situations which is why the world of the supernatural and horror is so stimulating and gripping, because even as the fear takes hold of us, it’s safe and the turmoil only lives in our head.

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