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"Breathing problems" - continuing the story ...

Discussion in 'New Divers and Those Considering Diving' started by Sandie7, Nov 4, 2014.

  1. Sandie7

    Sandie7 DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Lisbon, Portugal
    About 2 months ago I posted for the first time on this Forum, asking for help (http://www.scubaboard.com/forums/new-divers-those-considering-diving/490161-breathing-problems.html ). I received very good advice and support.

    Sorry for the long post, but I have no other way of explaining what happened and I needed to talk about this … also, sorry for eventual words that may not be the correct ones.

    As I had stated, I decided to start the OW course, and received my manual at the beginning of September. At that particular school, classes are not scheduled – but I wasn’t in a hurry. We did the first 3 theory classes. The first confined water dive was postponed because of bad weather - my instructor does not like pool classes and believes the ocean bay where the school is perfectly fits the idea of “confined water”.

    I kept studying hard. I thought that the more I learned the better chances I had to fight the panic.

    Anyway, because the weather wasn’t getting better, we ended up going to a swimming pool (we were a group of 4 students). I felt extremely relieved. That class was great for me – after what had happened before, I realized I could actually breathe with a regulator (I felt panic just thinking about that) and did all the exercises with no particular difficulties.

    The weekend afterwards the second dive was cancelled, again due to bad weather. We ended up doing that dive only in October 19[SUP]th[/SUP] (1 was sick, we were only 3). One student was experienced – had learned to dive with his mother -, the other one was used to swim in the river Tagus. To my instructor, because of my “panic issues” I was the only one who would give him trouble. We put on the equipment and got in the water from the boat, and waited for a while for the instructor to put his own equipment on. There was wind, and waves – I started having a bit of trouble breathing, my mask was uncomfortable, and for some reason I wasn’t doing well with the snorkel … I was swallowing water and coughing. So … my instructor told me that “What you need is to be in the water”, asked what was wrong, I told him the mask was hurting, and he gave me his own mask and fastened the straps. I thought it was too tight, but he seemed so angry by then that I thought I better keep quiet (I tried to move the straps but couldn’t do it). He then demonstrated how to descend. Everybody did so, except me. I did not have enough weight, but even with an extra kilogram it did not work. With no obvious patience left, my instructor pulled me and I ended up at the bottom on my back and couldn’t get up (I weight 52 kilos, by the way, and I am slender - was very unbalanced with the equipment).

    It’s difficult to explain what happened next as it was so confused: my mask filled with water immediately. I cleared it. One student went back to the surface as he could not control his buoyancy – the instructor had to go up too. He tried to make the 2 of us swim but he was actually shouting under water. He was trying to make us go to a place where there is sand, so we could do the exercises. My mask filled again. I cleared it. I could not see well from my right eye. When it filled for the 3[SUP]rd[/SUP] time, I choked, but managed to cough with the regulator. And this was happening when I was trying to use the buoyancy control (which I had only tried for a while 1 month ago at the swimming pool) and with an equipment that was too big for me. I was in trouble and made the sign to go up.

    I was not allowed. I admit that, at that moment (and only then), I felt the panic growing, and fast. But then the mask filled again, I choked again so I had something else to do besides panicking (!!!).

    We still stood there for, I think, a few minutes – but never made it to the sand place. I honestly kept trying, but then I felt a pressure in my head. It was not horrible, but was very obvious, and I could tell it was not something good. It was enough, I had to go up. The only thing I could see was the student who was experienced going up, and my instructor going down to get the other student, who was at the bottom. I managed to make a slow ascent the best I could. When we all reached the surface, my instructor started shouting at me. I told him I had a problem with the mask, and he said “There are other people here. The class cannot stop because you have problems. When there are problems with a mask, you carry another mask on your pocket, and put it on ! “.

    This sounded so ridiculous, that I didn’t know what to say. I just said, very calmly, that I did not want to disrupt the class, and that I was going back to the boat. There was a big silence, he said “ok, go !”, grabbed my mask and threw it to the Skipper. I handed back his own, and he just left me there.

    I am still shivering as I write this, just as I was shivering then. However, I was absolutely sure I had not done anything wrong.

    A few hours later, after lunch, I went back to the school, and we talked. He did say he was an impulsive person, and that he overreacted. He said that he was going to separate me from the group, and to teach me, alone. That I was a very quiet person and he didn’t know what I was thinking. Asked for the tenth time if I was sure I wanted to learn how to dive. And that he was going to teach me even if it took a year. And, that I had to trust him.

    I always try to think the best about people … and I didn’t know any better. To me, he had made an obvious mistake, but he was trying to correct it. So I said yes, and another dive was planned, a week from then.

    That night, I began seeing a light in my eyes, a half circle. I have hormone induced migraines, so I knew what it was – but it was the first time I had a migraine with aura in about 12 years.

    To make this very long story shorter: my husband called his cousin, looking for a doctor specialized in diving medicine. His cousin is one of the most reputable diving instructor in this country (he was back from abroad and told him we was going back to teaching – starting a new OW course the next week), and said for me to join them in the first swimming pool class “just to play a bit”.

    Things were SO different that, for the first time, all I could think about was going back to class. This weekend I completed the 4[SUP]th[/SUP] and 5[SUP]th[/SUP] theory modules, passed the Exam with 100%, and also completed the 4[SUP]th[/SUP] and 5[SUP]th[/SUP] confined water dives. My new instructor and his assistant say I am technically going very well and will be a diver as good as most as soon as I calm down. The classes are very fun but also very serious. Being in a group also makes the difference. We laugh and learn from each other. Next weekend we are going back to the pool for a 6[SUP]th[/SUP] confined water class. The instructor says we are not ready yet, not confident enough.

    And, today, the doctor said the migraine was caused by the high stress and the mask being too tight. And that I have a battle to overcome my first fears plus the ones that I gained during all this –but that I am with the best instructor I can be.

    So, this is the end of the story … or, finally, the beginning of it :)
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2014
  2. soccerrefjason

    soccerrefjason Regular of the Pub

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Near Daytona Beach Florida
    Wow! What an amazing story. I'm glad you found a way to stick with it with a new instructor. I hope this one works out well. I am however, concerned about your health with migraines. I suggest you go back to a scuba supply store and purchase a mask in person that fits properly. There are many threads that discuss the importance of a proper fitting mask that will be beneficial to you. I look forward to seeing you under the water sometime soon. Good luck!
    Sandie7 likes this.
  3. Sandie7

    Sandie7 DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Lisbon, Portugal

    Thank you. I already have my own mask, which is very comfortable. I will let you know when I finish my course :)
  4. SKMoss

    SKMoss Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: So Cal

    Glad you're getting a different perspective on the instructional side.

    One thing to keep in mind. Mask straps should not be real tight. Just enough to hold it to your face. If they are too tight, they tend to deform the mask skirt and that can allow the mask to leak. If you're not sure, check yourself in a mirror after a dive. If you have a big ring impressed on your face from the mask skirt, it's probably too tight.

    Sounds like you got a migraine so bad it turned in to an ocular migraine. I get them every so often, not from diving, but yes from stress I think. Mine make little fuzzy lines wander around my vision. Couple of advil and I'm back to normal quickly.
    Sandie7 likes this.
  5. Sandie7

    Sandie7 DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Lisbon, Portugal
    Hello SKMoss, I know how the mask should feel ... but at the time, when my instructor put his mask on my face, I was already nervous for being in the ocean. There were waves, and I was having a bit of trouble breathing. He was angry, and I didn't have courage to say anything else. I didn't know how those straps worked ... :(

    Thanks for the advice, I do have a very good mask now - it's very comfortable !
  6. Pinecube

    Pinecube Barracuda

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Ontario, Canada
    Wow, quite the story! Thank you for taking the time to write it, it couldn't have been easy. I'm glad it worked out for you in the end, and I'm very glad you found a good instructor to work with. It would have been unfortunate to be turned off of diving due to a poor introduction.

    What surprised me (with what little knowledge I have) was the instructor suggesting doing the confined water portion in the ocean! I don't know exactly how 'confined water' is defined or what the rules are for instructors regarding that. I figured the point was to learn and practice in a controlled environment to minimize things that could go wrong with unfamiliar students. Then again, maybe the 'learn in the elements' thing is acceptable? I really don't know, it just seems to go against how I was taught.


    I just re-read the bit where you all surfaced again. If you feel something isn't right, it's never wrong to thumb a dive!
    Sandie7 likes this.
  7. Sandie7

    Sandie7 DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Lisbon, Portugal
    Thank you !

    Maybe we should wait for comments from more experienced divers ... I too have doubts about the idea of "confined water" ...

    The only thing I can say is that, after the "Scuba Diving Experience" when I felt my lungs were going to explode from lack of air, doing those classes in the ocean were being too stressful for me ...
  8. Phil_C

    Phil_C ScubaBoard Supporter Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: UK, Middle East, Cyprus
    Hi Sandie7 - I am glad you have found an instructor you can work with. It sounds to me like the first instructor actually was not that experienced and only had one way of doing things - I see this a lot, unfortunately when you did not conform to their expectations of your learning curve he had no strategy in place to deal with the fact you needed a different approach.

    As far as teaching in the ocean is concerned this does not breach the standards, so long as the conditions are 'confined'. I regularly help out at a dive centre that exclusively teaches in the sea and has no access to a pool, however the conditions for 9 months of the year are flat calm, a sandy sloping bottom at 2-3 metres for a long way out, and no currents.

    Oh - and did I mention 25/26 degrees celsius :)

    Relax, don't rush things, and enjoy your diving - P
    Sandie7 likes this.
  9. cocoajoe

    cocoajoe Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Cape Canaveral Fla
    Sounds like crappy instructor ("impulsive, overreacted) don't go well with scuba. Your use of the word "panic' several times may not be panic but anxiety...totally different. I and most who will admit it, get anxious from time to time but (true) panic can and does kill divers. My advice is to know the difference
    Sandie7 likes this.

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