Sounds like a made up word right? But it is a real fear. ‘Thalassa‘ means sea and ‘phobia‘ means fear in Greek. Therefore it means it is a fear of the ocean. You might be wondering, how is someone who is an environmentalist and has a love for the ocean, be afraid of it? Unfortunately I am terrified of the water and it’s something I don’t think will ever go away. But it won’t ever stop me from wanting to do the best for the environment and try to save our oceans because they are vital to all existence (How We Are Destroying Oceans ); it just means my anxiety increases when I encounter a large volume of water- no it doesn’t mean I’m scared to shower or brush my teeth that’s not what it means at all. My Thalassophobia is the fear of the ocean (particularly the deep unknown of it) for me it also includes getting lost at sea, but the biggest part of this fear is being immersed into a large pool of water and drowning, I know a lot of people may suffer from this as it is fairly common; although probably not as common as Coulrophobia (a fear of clowns) which is why I wanted to share my story of living with this fear of the ocean. As a young child I liked the water. I would ask my mam to take me into the swimming pool or the sea on our holidays and go sliding on the water slides. I don’t remember ever having any real problems with water or the ocean in fact.
So What Actually Happened?
I suffered from an incident when I was about 7 which I think triggered my fear of water. I was obviously fairly young, in primary school when I went on a trip to a local swimming pool and at this time I could swim a little bit, not the best but I could stay afloat, I was loving it until something happened. When it felt like someone was pushing me underneath the water, keeping my head submerged like they were trying to drown me right there- being a child, it was extremely traumatic for me. All I can remember was someone holding my head under the water for what felt like a really long time, My chest getting heavier I was trying to fight it while wanting to take a breath. Luckily which worked out as they released me; allowing me to gasp for air, I didn’t cry I was in so much shock. I guess it was them trying to play a joke on me, not realising the damaging effects that event would have on me in the long run. I know the swimming pool isn’t the ocean but I guess that if I was almost drowned in a small area of water what would happen to me out there! I stopped taking swimming lessons; ditching the swimming Fridays in school and avoided going into the sea to swim. I restricted myself from large bodies of water for a few years after that.
Along with this growing fear, my eyesight got worse and worse resulting in me finding out I am short sighted and have to wear glasses.
I then started high school I tried to make sure I was in the group in Physical Education (P.E) that weren’t doing swimming; not wanting anyone to know I couldn’t swim or that I was terrified. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to ditch swimming this time. They made us all do it as it was to be counted on the P.E grades. That was not a fun day for me; although I wasn’t the only non-swimmer there were a few of us in the small pool with armbands and floats. I was the only one absolutely terrified of the water- and although experts say the best way to fight a fear is to face it. That was not the case here. I was made to swim lengths after a while going out to the deeper part of the pool which even gives me anxiety thinking about now. I can’t be in water where my feet can’t touch the bottom or where I don’t have the control – when that is taken away from me, I panic. So as I’m trying to do this ‘swim’ just to get a stupid grade, my heart racing so much and the fact I can’t see makes me so nervous that I start taking a panic attack half way out. This part being too deep that I can’t stand without being under the water, gasping for air making me take gulps of chlorine packed water, panicking me even more I start crying and have to leave the pool. Not making it obvious to everyone else what had happened to me, I just hated the pool and the ocean, I have avoided going to one ever since – except on holidays when I will just sit in there and chill (with my sunglasses that I can see out off.) The unknown of the ocean is what scares me the most; I would never go out in the sea further than I could stand in or I would panic and hyperventilate. Which in sea, is probably not a great thing.
As the twenty year old I am now; I still struggle with this phobia every day, I don’t swim at all because of my fear of the large unknown and the ultimate fear of actually drowning this time freaks me out. I will go into the water on holiday, however I won’t ‘swim’ or go out into the deep even being in the shallower area of the ocean or swimming pool makes my heart beat faster than normal. Maybe one day I can beat the fear but for now I am constantly living with Thalassophobia and it is just something that I have grown to except about myself. I will never swim and that is fine with me.