After nearly drowning when she was just 13 years old, Kathy has lived in fear of water, an anxiety that has surrounded her for almost 52 years. The incident happened at a lake while away at camp. She and her friend would go out to a floating dock to play and Kathy could manage to reach it by using a combination of an improvised dog paddle and being able to just barely touch the bottom. One day, Kathy and her friend went to reach the dock but by the time they were close, Kathy could no longer touch the bottom. Terrified and panicked, Kathy lost control and began to thrash around, eventually blacking out. “The next thing I remember I was on the shore. I had been resuscitated.” Ever since that encounter Cathy has avoided lakes, rivers and beaches. She even struggled to take baths and showers due to the anxiety.
Recently Kathy’s daughter was able to add her mom to her insurance, which allowed Kathy to join the Y at no cost from the Silver Sneakers membership program. Kathy originally joined to be more active but discovered that she could receive discounted swim lessons through her Silver Sneakers membership. “At my age I just want to be able to look at water without trembling, to get in the shower without being fearful of water in my face. I’ve been struggling with that all these years. It might sound silly to some people, but it’s a real fear.”
Kathy’s courage and bravery has swelled since beginning her lessons. “I’m feeling more comfortable every time I come to a swim lesson. I’m feeling healthier and more active.” She says she wants to be able to spend time with her grandchildren by the water and not be isolated from her family because of those memories. “My swim instructor, Pepper, is very patient with me and knows how to make people feel at ease. She’s helping me realize that my mind is a big part of it and my thinking. It’s mental.”
The support of staff, friends and even complete strangers at the Y have been critical to help Cathy in her journey. “For people who are terrified of water, I want them to realize that If I can get in there without panicking, then they can do it, too. If you’re in need of love, guidance, friendship – the YMCA is all it. You’re never on your own when you’re here at the Y.”