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Day 24: A Confession… Why I Can’t Scuba Dive

Day 24: Talking to Pat Makes Me Happy

Day 24: Talking to Pat Makes Me Happy

I sat at the doctor’s office today, surrounded by coughing sick people, for almost an hour until it was my turn. Everything went smoothly, quickly, and just how it was hoped. I’m about to be a free woman, in a big way, and I’m excited to see where the future takes me… perhaps under water?

You see, there’s something so essentially me that I often don’t tell people because I’m kind of ashamed and embarrassed. GASP! Whatever could it be? Well, let’s flash back to August 2010. Cairns. Sunlover Reef Cruise. On the boat, ready to go!

There probably wasn’t anything on the east coast Australia road trip I took that I was more excited about than the introductory scuba dive lesson on the Great Barrier Reef. NOTHING. Being one of those things many people only dream about, I was mentally prepared for the exciting exploration of a world that Nemo calls home… a place that’s almost magical and where time stands still.

Heather and I made our way to the bottom level of the boat to fill out the forms for the scuba instructors. This included medical history, emergency contacts, and plain old signing our lives away. I hesitated when it came to the medication section because I knew I had to put everything down, and subconsciously I had a feeling it would be an issue, even though it wasn’t listed on the website for this excursion as being so.

underwaterThe trip itself had come together in a matter of weeks of heavy and quick planning, so beyond looking at their scuba dive information, I didn’t have much chance to really prepare… like consulting a doctor. I assumed everything would be okay, but you know what happens when you ass-ume things, right?

Telling myself it was going to be just fine (I mean, we were on the boat already), I gave the guy my forms while Heather stood next to me. He went through the information, asked me some questions, all without really looking up from the paper. Then, he had to do it; he had to ask me what my medication was for.

So, I told him.

He paused for a moment. Still looking at the paper — I think it happened in slow motion — he took his pen and made a gigantic “X” across the top.

You will not be going with us today,” he bluntly stated.

Gasp, shock, #*%&%*!… I mean WTF man?!

I was screaming in my head, yet standing there in disbelief, fumbling through my words as I tried to come to terms with what he was telling me. I wanted to cry. I wanted to punch every other person going on a scuba dive in the face. I rented a bloody underwater camera for it and everything.

“I’m sorry, but this is something that just changed a few weeks ago. People taking any sort of anti-depressant medication of any kind cannot go on the dive without a doctor’s consent. There have been issues with blacking out from the pressure change.”

So, hi, my name is Brooke and I suffer from major depression, an evil beast that has a sneaky way of taking over your life until one day you can’t physically do anything except for lay in bed, even if it means you don’t eat or do your work. Oh, yeah, and there’s its evil friend, anxiety, to deal with, too.

Yep. Got ’em both.

While anxiety is something I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with for most of my life in little bits here and there, when ol’ D-man came to visit, their forces combined to leave me helpless. When? Oh, I say the big hit came around May of 2009, a few months after being in Australia, and over a year before the scuba dive incident. There was a lot I think I was dealing with that contributed to it all, but I just couldn’t put the pieces together at the time. I often tell people that I was walking in a cloud for a few months because when you’re depressed, you can’t see anything clearly. It’s like you’re possessed by some demon that makes you do things you wouldn’t normally do. I felt as low as low can go… like an insignificant blip in the universe that could disappear with no one even caring.

And, it wasn’t just mental. I physically felt sick all the time. In fact, I gave myself ulcerations in my esophagus from all the stomach irritation it caused. I looked constantly tired, and I felt drained. I hated being around people; I hated going out. Even the idea of traveling sounded overwhelming… what?!

It took a few long months of crying and a steady decline of work quality before something clicked. I got help from a doctor that diagnosed me and got me started on some sweet, sweet drugs. Hey, I definitely would rather have gone with therapy, but its like over $100 an hour here! Say all you want about anti-depressants, but these little guys helped me get my life back in order.

And, so there we are… here we are. I like to think I’m a much stronger person now. It’s been about 16 months of taking meds, addressing my issues with life and putting myself in a position that is conducive to being without them. Which is now. Which is today!

I’m starting the process of weening from this very day.

Do you know what that means? It’s means, Nemo, I’m looking at you!


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32 Responses to Day 24: A Confession… Why I Can’t Scuba Dive

  1. Annie January 24, 2011 at 11:29 pm #

    Bummer that you weren’t able to go diving that day but I think it’s better safe than sorry!

    Way to go on writing this post and good luck with the process, it takes a lot to admit something and to work on getting better! We’re behind you!

    Keep your sights on that scuba diving trip!! I’m looking forward to see awesome pics and posts from it! 🙂

    • Brooke January 25, 2011 at 11:06 am #

      Yeah, obviously blacking out under water is not only bad for me, but it’s bad for everyone else, too. So, I understand, just wish it hadn’t happened 🙁 Nothing I can do now except for look to the future 🙂

  2. Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World January 25, 2011 at 2:06 am #

    Good for you! It’s time to go shopping for a diving excursion!

    • Brooke January 25, 2011 at 11:12 am #

      Thanks, Jill 🙂 It feels good, and I’m excited for the chance to dive!

  3. kevin winter January 25, 2011 at 5:15 am #

    A bit of an odd rule (no diving…), but I suppose since diving is not a required activity, it’s best to err on the side of caution.

    What do you think it is about your travels that has made you better able to cope with your depression? I’ve always thought that travelers view the world a bit differently, but I guess my question is: Do you think your being able to unmed is more about external factors (change of job, scenery, etc.) or about a change internally (better coping skills, patience, etc.)?

    Sitting on a 20 hour third-world bus certainly teaches patience, but I think it actually changes the structure of our minds. Or maybe street food and fresh air make you smarter.

    Thanks- and keep going!


    • Brooke January 26, 2011 at 6:04 pm #

      Thanks for taking the time to respond 🙂 It took me a while to respond because I couldn’t really answer this question right away. I think if I wasn’t trying to stay put in Australia — or Sydney — maybe it wouldn’t have hit me so hard. I think the change of scenery and new adventures can help me forget problems and things that irritate me. There was a lot of pressure when I got to Sydney to try and figure it all out… new Aussie bf, money, etc. So, I can’t really say that my travels have helped me cope, but the idea of traveling again is definitely a motivating factor in getting better. Cheers 🙂

  4. Steve January 25, 2011 at 5:29 am #

    Hi Brooke,

    I know where you are coming from. I suffer from a severe case of SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and for 4-6 months of the year I feel exactly like how you described. Brave of you to share and congrats for battling through it.

    Fortunately, when I lived in Sydney I was feeling great and had no issues. When you go scuba diving make sure you do not have a cold or any sinus problems at all! I went with a small cold and the pressure KILLED me. I was in a lot of pain for a few days after and you can seriously damage your ear drums. I was lucky….

    • Brooke January 25, 2011 at 11:23 am #

      I’m very familiar with SAD, and I would say I experience it a little bit in the winters back home. To be honest, I had SAD while in Ukraine (during their winter) right before coming to Oz. I don’t think I snapped out of it, though, and the stress and anxiety of dealing with a lot of issues I think just made it worse until it was full-blown. I’m so happy to be past that.

      As for scuba diving, yes, I’m aware of the ear issues and I’ll take your advice! I once had some major issues on a flight when I had a bad cold. Learned my lesson!

      • Steve February 2, 2011 at 6:13 am #

        Yeah every year when the SAD lifts its like you’ve been living in the dark for months and you can finally see again haha.

        I’m struggling a bit with it right now. I run a travel club and was supposed to bring us to Egypt yesterday but had to cancel the trip due to the political crisis and civil unrest. The added stress dealing with getting my group’s money back and re-planning the trip doesn’t help!

        When you put it into perspective we should really be happy that the people of Egypt are finally on the brink of change after being oppressed for 30 years. Major bummer but we’ll get there soon enough.

        Keep up the the great posts!

  5. JoAnna January 25, 2011 at 7:44 am #

    I have a confession to make too: I can’t go scuba diving either, but it’s for a different medical issue. Bum ears run in my family, and I can’t be subjected to intense pressure changes. Luckily for me, I honestly don’t have any interest in scuba diving.

    If, for some reason, you can’t go scuba diving, I promise I’ll go snorkeling with you if and when I make it to Australia.

    • Brooke January 25, 2011 at 11:30 am #

      Aw thanks! I’ll gladly go snorkeling, too. It is still pretty freaking amazing 😉

  6. Alouise January 25, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    Kudos for being so honest. I’m sure you’ll find a way to go scuba diving. I can’t go scuba diving, because I can’t swim. I failed the “put your head under water and blow bubbles” part of swimming lessons four times as a kid. Never stuck with lessons, although if I was anywhere near an ocean I’d probably learn just to try scuba diving.

    • Brooke January 26, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

      Oh my goodness, 4 times? 😉 Well, you can always put on a life vest and go snorkeling 😀 You should give lessons another go!

  7. Sheryll January 25, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    So brave of you to share this. Believe me, I know exactly how you feel. I’m still dealing with depression everyday. I applaud you for your decision to take medication…I just couldn’t do it. For some reason, the medication made me even more depressed and anxious. I learned that the one thing that really made me feel better was running.

    I can’t wait to see the next chapter and hear about all of your diving adventures 🙂

    • Brooke January 26, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

      Oh man, I’ve heard so many good things about running, but I can’t do it. I tried the whole couch to 5k thing just bc of the depression, but I suck at running. As for the meds, it took me a few months to get used to them. Hopefully it’ll take less to get used to being off ’em 😉

      Here’s to a happy future for both of us 🙂

  8. Lauren January 25, 2011 at 3:14 pm #

    What an awesome and honest post. I am excited for you that you’re able to start the next phase in your journey of slowly stopping the meds. It sounds like you’ve been doing a lot of hard, but worthwhile, work. Rock on. And your last line made me smile. Hope your scuba diving adventure happens sooner rather than later.

    • Brooke January 26, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

      Thanks, Lauren 🙂 It’s been a long road for sure. I can’t wait to scuba dive, but most of all, just live life without the feeling of being restricted.

  9. Zablon Mukuba January 25, 2011 at 4:24 pm #

    i had friend who was suffering from depression, i know what it did to her life, am glad to see you are battling it. big up for confronting it and try to tackle it.

    • Brooke January 26, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

      Cheers, Zablon. It’s not an easy thing to deal with, but I think I learned a lot about myself in the process that can help keep it at bay. 🙂

  10. Elizabeth January 26, 2011 at 3:44 am #

    Wow props to you for talking about this! My roommate has been on anxiety medication since high school. She is finally starting to ween herself off of it and taking measures to make sure she won’t go slipping back to where she had been. I know it’s hard, but you can do it! I’m sure scuba diving will be way worth it. Can’t wait to read about your experience.

    • Brooke January 26, 2011 at 5:05 pm #

      Thanks, Elizabeth. I’ve been wanting to write about it for a while now. These issues affect so many people, but it’s hard for them to deal with on their own. I have a pretty good support system, so I’m sure it will all work out 🙂 Can’t wait to hang out with Nemo!

  11. Amanda January 26, 2011 at 4:43 pm #

    Depression is never a pleasant thing. But I’m so glad to hear you’re kicking its butt! Here’s to an awesome scuba adventure in your future!

    (PS – I haven’t stopped by in a few days, and so am just now noticing the new theme. I LOVE it!)

    • Brooke January 26, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

      So glad you like the new theme 🙂 I’ve been playing around with colors and whatnot, but I’m thinking I’m going to stick with this for now! Like a vintage photo. Also, I can’t wait to scuba dive! 😀

  12. Akila January 27, 2011 at 9:00 am #

    Wow, that’s really interesting. I have never heard of anti-depressants causing blacking out when scuba diving. In any event, bummer that you couldn’t do it before but yay for you to get out there now!

    • Brooke January 31, 2011 at 7:14 am #

      Yeah, I’m sure it is probably one of those things that happened to a very few people, but to be safe they had to just cut out all people on any sort of meds like that. But, I’m very excited to be coming off the meds. They helped when I needed them, but I’m ready to be independent, and I’m ready to scuba! 🙂

  13. Anna January 31, 2011 at 1:59 am #

    Good work for putting it out there my friend!
    I really hope you’re able to come off the meds without too many lows. You have some awesome travel to look forward to, which is a major plus. I know it’s about more than the diving but it’ll be an awesome bonus if you do get drug-free!
    Really enjoying the daily blogging – keep it up 🙂

    • Brooke January 31, 2011 at 7:31 am #

      Thanks, Anna 🙂 It’s been a week so far on half dosage, and I think it’s going good. Actually, haven’t noticed the change at all… so we’ll see over the next few weeks. I must say, it felt good going to the pharmacy this weekend with my half-prescription note. When he (the pharmacist) asked why I was coming off and I told him because it was time, he smiled and congratulated me on my progress.

      I’ve got lots of goals and projects that I’m working on at the moment, and I think that helps keep me focused.

      Hope all is well in Cambodia!!!

  14. Chris - The Aussie Nomad January 31, 2011 at 2:56 am #

    Brooke, your blog was one of the very first I found when looking to take off and travel for myself. Since then you’ve been a great help (like when I tried to win that trip to costa rica) to many including me that I can see there is no stopping you now.

    I can’t wait to see a scuba diving post pop up here in the near future.

    • Brooke January 31, 2011 at 7:45 am #

      Aw, thanks Chris 🙂 Too bad we couldn’t get you that trip, hey? 😉 I’m very excited for the future!

  15. Nick January 27, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

    I’m not sure how I stumbled across this page – researching dive excursions…. I see that the posts are over two years old, but I feel compelled to add a comment.

    I have been taking SSRI’s and another medication for the past 4 years for similar reasons.

    I am also an avid diver. I discussed the situation with my GP several years back, mentioning to him that its something you need to indicate on the forms before diving with tour groups. He researched it a bit and could find no empirical evidence that someone who is in a stable condition taking these medications should avoid diving.

    As such, I have been on dozens of dives, including technical cave diving and have had no negative repercussions. In fact – Diving has helped my tremendously with my mental situation.




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