Meet Audrey Dalton – smart, talented, a true original. Audrey exudes positive energy, a larger-than-life spirit, and determination from every gorgeous pore. But Audrey is lucky to be alive after almost drowning as a child, to the point that she was declared DOA when she arrived at the hospital after a 25 minute journey. I am fortunate to call Audrey a friend and doubly fortunate that Audrey shares my determination to end childhood drowning through joy, not fear. Empowerment, not negative messaging.
Here is Audrey’s story:
Everyone has a fear of something. Fear of the water paralyzed my ability to grow. I never realized how much of my life was stymied until I learned how to swim. For years prior to taking that first step towards swim lessons I had dreamed of swimming, idolized famous swimmers, and watched every movie ever made about swimming. I also suffered from anxiety attacks that were humiliating.
This fear of water manifested itself after a drowning accident I experienced the week prior to my sixth birthday. Miraculously I survived after being submerged for over five minutes and comatose for ten days. A fear of water was deeply embedded in my subconscious mind, so much so that I went for psychotherapy to get past my fear. One day after moving to Florida, a state surrounded by water, I decided to seek out swim lessons.
The swim school where I enrolled was run by a former competitive world class swimmer. He wisely assigned me to a swim instructor who had psychological training and who specialized in teaching adults how to swim.
The journey began as I sat on the side of the pool every day shaking…yes, visibly shaking. My teacher was not fazed, and he had me get in the pool and blow bubbles. Just this small act gave me an anxiety attack each day I took a lesson. The heart palpitations, the racing pulse, shortness of breath then absolute panic which would dissolve me into tears. I felt utter shame verging on pathetic and my lessons took place at a public pool. To my surprise everyone who I spoke to was extremely supportive.
Eventually after several weeks my teacher was able to get me to swim a half a lap in the shallow end of the pool. My teacher was wonderful and extremely patient with me, holding my hands as we jumped into the deep end of the pool, consoling me as I broke down into tears day after day in frustration and fear. One day after several months of lessons I arrived for my lesson early, determined to move beyond that half a lap of the pool. Thoughts of swimming to the deep end resulted in a mind block for me, and every time I envisioned myself moving forward I would look down and stop short.
As I was struggling with this one of the girls on the swim team showed up for her practice and walked over to me. Everyone who came to the pool had seen me there struggling for months now and this child was no exception. She told me to swim to the deep end and promised she would walk alongside the pool and notify the lifeguard in case anything happened. Somehow seeing her body there while I swam and took a breath gave me the courage and shifted my focus to watching for her as I took stroke after stroke. When I reached the deep end I could not believe it!!!
The girl jumped up and down and clapped, then she told me to swim back to the other end and she would do the same thing- walk alongside the pool as I swam within eyesight. As I was swimming the rest of the swim team started showing up for practice, and they too walked alongside the pool as I swam lap after lap. I stopped swimming that day at about ten laps and everyone was congratulating me.
My journey was not over, and I was not satisfied with swimming only ten laps. Eventually I worked my way up and one day I swam a mile. When I emerged from the water that day I felt like I had won the Olympics, climbed to the top of the stairs of the capitol like Rocky, like I was on top of the world!!!
From the day I learned how to swim my life has been forever altered for the better. Conquering my biggest fear changed my life in ways I could not imagine. If anyone reading this has a fear of water I can honestly say if I can learn how to swim anyone can. For every parent who does not know how to swim please reach out and get swim lessons for yourselves and your children. You will never regret learning how to swim. Do it for yourself and do it for your children. You will be glad you did!!