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How has a panic attack transformed my life?

Updated: Mar 9, 2022

I will never forget this day of February 2018.

I had just jumped in the Miami Bay water, in my wetsuit and with all my scuba-diving equipment. I was about to have my first dive in the ocean, as part of my PADI 1 certification.

To start with, I would never have thought I would ever dive in my life. I was not the type of person who scuba-dives: far too dangerous and complicated for me. I had never been involved in any sport activity in my life (I do not count yoga as a sport) and had always stayed away from any high sensation, thrilling activities. It was not made for me. I was not this bold person. At least, it was the way I was seeing myself.

Apparently, David, my boyfriend who offered both us this PADI certification as a Christmas gift had a different perspective!

Prepping for the written exam and then training in a pool in Miami Beach had already been really challenging for me, putting me out of my comfort zone. The fear of failing and the belief I was not able to do this were very strong. I had a very hard time changing my own perception of myself and see myself as a scuba-diver…

When I found myself in this choppy ocean and the moment came where I had to go down with my Dive master instructor and David, I totally freaked out. I had a panic attack.

I remember thinking: “you cannot do that. You are not able to do that. You are not good at that. It is not for you”. And this intense fear that I was gonna die if was going down. That I would not be able to breathe. It all happened in a few seconds.

I was hyperventilating. My heart was beating so fast. I could barely breathe with the regulator. I was crying. I was super agitated in a water that was also agitated . I was in such distress. I just wanted to go back to the boat.

My wonderful divemaster, Mike, who had trained me in a pool the past 2 weekends, was telling me it was gonna be OK and he would be by my side to go down. David was there too. Very supportive.

I was thinking: “There is nothing OK about going under water with a tank of oxygen on your back . It is just crazy. Why would I do this”.

However, somehow, I found the courage inside me. I remember thinking: if you do not do it now, you will never do it again. These people with you will keep you safe. You can do it. Go. Now.

And I went down.

Not only did I survive (obviously!), but I had the most amazing experience of my life to this date. Yes. I mean it. I was mesmerized when I got to our diving site: the Multicolor fishes everywhere, the coral.

This calm. This silence. These feelings of peace and awe and joy. The visual beauty of my environment. The water all over me. I had never felt this before. It was one of the most intense and peaceful experience of my life.

It was so worth it!

I learnt a lot this day. I will never forget it. It truly transformed my life. It is the boldest thing I had ever done.

I learned I was stronger and braver than I thought. I was much more than what I thought.

After all, if I could scuba dive, I could certainly do so many other things I had believed I could not.

I discovered that when you are willing to get out of your comfort zone you can find something extraordinary. Something you will never experience in your comfort zone.

I learned it is OK to feel fear. But it does not have to stop you. It tells you there is something really special for you on the other side if you overcome it.

By overcoming the most intense fear I ever had in my life, I also gave myself the most intensely beautiful experience I ever had in my life.

You are so much more than what you think you are.

Maybe your fears are different than mine. But I know one thing: we can all find inside ourselves the strength to overcome our fears.

I also learned that it makes it easier to overcome your fear when you visualize what experience you will live.

I am not going to lie. I am still anxious each time I go diving. Yes I am. But now, I close my eyes, and I connect to the joy I feel when I am underwater . It gives me the strength to go!

This life experience, this lesson, has transformed my approach of challenges in my life. It has transformed my mindset.

It has developed my willingness to get out of my comfort zone. It has developed my self-confidence. It has made possible so many other experiences.

I can say that without this experience, I will never have

  • Had a skydiving experience a year later that I loved (but I was SO scared!)

  • Had amazing diving experiences in Florida, Colombia, in West Papua - Indonesia

  • Volunteered myself on professional projects far out of my comfort zone when I was still in the event planning industry

  • Gone camping off grid when I had been a cute B&B and beautiful hotels all my adult life

  • Said “bye bye” to 25 years in the corporate world as employee to become a solopreneur

  • Started a brand new career in coaching at 47 years old

  • Moved to the Ozarks, MO in the countryside after 14 years in Miami and 11 in Paris

  • Facilitated online workshops although I have a deep fear of talking in public

Because now, each time I feel the fear and anxiety when facing a new challenge, I bring back to mind the strength and courage I had when going scuba diving the first time, when jumping out of plane… And I know if I have been able to do that, I can certainly do anything.

I invite you to seize opportunities to get out of your comfort zone. To say “YES” to experiences that scare you. To explore new paths.

To change the dialog in your head when fear shows up (I am of course not talking of fears triggered by a “real” danger). What about focusing on “what is the best that can happen?”

You will strengthen your self-confidence and develop your growth mindset, one step at a time, one challenge at a time.

Embrace the learning, the imperfections, the failures, the successes!!!

Grow and live fully!

Be bold. Be Brave. Be you!

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