Neurotic Divers

What better way to pass the time between dive days than to read a book about scuba diving physiology on the beach? This particular tome (well, PDF file) that I picked up out of boredom and a severe lack of summertime television contains a fascinating enumeration of the things that could go wrong with someone who ventures into the seemingly impossible task of breathing underwater.

Me being me, a psychology student with issues, I had to find the section on the psychological profile of a potential diver. In other words, what kind of person is better suited to become a scuba diver. Obviously, you can’t run the risk of suffering a psychotic breakdown in the middle of a dive; you can’t be schizophrenic or paranoid or suffer from any kind of ailment that drastically alters perception. But then I came across this section: “someone with a personality characterized by a tendency to introversion, neuroticism and global mood disturbance is more likely to panic” (p.611), and I paused for a moment, going, by golly, that’s me!

Then I put the iPad aside to consider my experience.

And I realized that this book is wrong in regards to myself.DCIM100GOPROGOPR1737.

Perhaps, yes, in general, being neurotic, slightly depressive and introverted like myself, one is more prone to panic in social situations. I hate being around people, dinner parties are literal torture and every time I have to participate in group work at university I feel like I would rather spend a hot night between the sheets with Donald Trump (okay, maybe not, but you get my meaning). The wonderful thing about scuba diving is that it’s perhaps the most asocial sport you can engage in.

Sure, you have to talk to the people at the dive shop, you have to learn the names of your group members, you may be roped into listening to someone’s amazing story of a thousand meter shark or whatever; but when you actually go diving, even if you are in a group or with a buddy, you are alone.

Or rather, you are on a date with the rest of the world – bar the people. You are surrounded by nature in its purest, most honest form. Fish, coral, crustaceans, sea slugs, whatever it is, these creatures don’t judge you for being a little too heavy or a little too weird. These creatures don’t give a shit about you as a human being. You are immersed not only in the ocean around you but the vast expanse of your own mind.

The fact that you have to breathe slowly and deeply soothes you – it’s like yoga breathing but for those whose chakras lie further under the sea. You are cocooned in the blessed silence of water.

And it helps you think.

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I suppose you should be quite confident in your diving skills to be able not to think about the technical aspects of it and the things that could go wrong, that much is true. But once you are, it is beautiful.

I never feel as in tune with myself as I do when I am a dozen meters underwater sharing the same blue as an octopus or a moray eel. I see the people around me and unless their fins graze me, I don’t think of them as people. They are just aquatic animals, like me, like the rest of the life surrounding us. Even when I do collide with someone, I’m forgiving. Shit happens.

When we extract conversation from human interaction, it changes us. We are able to talk to the only person whose opinion really matters – the person inside out heads.

For an introverted neurotic like myself, that is a true blessing.

Perhaps it doesn’t have to be scuba diving; perhaps it could be some other activity so close to your heart that you can take yourself out of the social context and just be. Explore the inside of your head and don’t listen to those that say you’re too weird to do something awesome.

References:
Edmonds, C., Bennett, M., Lippman, J, & Mitchell, S.J. (2016). Diving and Subaquatic Medicine, 5th ed. CRC Press
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