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Looking for advice on returning to diving after stress-related hiatus.

Discussion in 'Technical Diving' started by jtsfour, Feb 23, 2021.

  1. jtsfour

    jtsfour Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Alabama
    Hello all.

    I have not been diving since my drysuit / intro-to-cave class in August 2019. I got stressed and exhausted myself during this class. I decided I will just do a brain dump and explain my situation and ask for some advice.

    The first mistake I made was going into the class after not finding someone to practice cavern diving with. The second mistake was that I went into the class after 3-4 days of practice diving. This caused a few problems. It wore me out without leaving much energy for the class. I also did not have someone to correct me on some crucial mistakes I was making while practicing line following. (Body position relative to the line. Protecting my head properly.)

    Then there where some situational stressors that led to my underperformance. There was a scheduling issue where I was supposed to have a private drysuit class preceding the intro to cave class. Instead we went straight into the intro to cave the first day. (this itself was not terribly stressful just made the situation less ideal.)

    Day #1

    On the first dive I had a weird realization that sort-of stressed me out a little. We were in the cave beginning a lost diver drill. We were at about 80 feet depth. My brain got confused between one of my dive buddies and the instructor. This was the first time I was able to actually quantify the effect narcosis had on me. (I actually realized this at depth) It was nothing dangerous but it definitely effected my perception of self at depth. The rest of that dive went pretty smoothly besides fouling a reel when performing lost line drill.(I had a second reel and was successful.)

    Day 2 is where things went to ****.

    I started the day completely exhausted. Looking back I don't think I should have dove or been in class at all that day due to how tired I was. This is actually the first time I have written this out or explained it to anyone. I believe all of the following problems and stressors are probably related to being exhausted.

    Dive #1

    This was a dive I should not have done. I was feeling anxious and had a second stage O-ring fail when getting into the water.

    I was the trailing diver into the cave. This was a cave I had not previously dived. Entering was peaceful and uneventful. The instructor signaled me to initiate a out of air scenario. air sharing went smoothly until we started LOTC. This weird situation occurred. This was with a dive buddy I had just met and she would not hold onto my leg with any strength at all. Anytime I tried to move forward at all her hand would slide off of my leg. This started a start/stop trainwreck of a LOTC exercise. The repeated start/stopping made my buoyancy control go off-kilter. I cannot remember fully but the instructor let the **** show continue for quite a while.

    It was definitely a confidence destroying dive.

    Dive #2

    I was the leading diver this time. I made a navigational error in the beginning of the dive. (Should have had the plan more clearly understood.) The instructor pointed me the right way and we continued on. The rest of the penetration into the cave was uneventful and spectacular. However things again went bad on the LOTC exercise. During this exercise our buoyancy was MUCH better than the previous dive. However my body position was bad and I lost the line and spent way too much time trying to find it before climbing up to find my buddies hand. After that I had a miscommunication with my buddy and thought the cave wall was one the other side. This led to a cross-armed positioning for way too long.

    To summarize that dive it was an improvement from the previous but still terrible.

    The next day we did drysuit and it was peaceful and I caught on really quick. Instructor was able to barely pass me for intro-to-cave after the skill recovery on the drysuit day.

    I want to note that I have certainly massively understated all of the problems I had in these dives. It was a case of trying to move up the training ladder without having complete footing on the previous step. I believe this was caused from practicing by myself and not checking my skills with a better diver outside of a training scenario.

    To end the week I left the dive shop thinking "I am so tired of diving I am not gonna dive for a few weeks." For the following weeks/months I believe I hyper-focused on my mistakes. I'm not really sure how to describe how it effected me but it basically killed my confidence and desire to dive. Then of course 2020 hit and I just didn't give diving much thought for months.

    Now I've had more than a year and have hopefully humbled up and matured a bit. My desire to dive and revisit cave diving is rekindling. I am looking into next steps and to avoid the mistakes I have previously made.

    I am looking for advice on next steps.

    Here is what I am thinking.
    • Get in the water obviously(after checking cleaning and servicing my gear)
    • Make sure I am comfortable in my drysuit.(I'm not too concerned with my drysuit skill but i'll have to get in the water to see.)
    • Stop being anti-social and reach out to find people to dive some Cavern dives and practice with.
    • I need to have regular diving between bouts of training because training can be quite stressful.
    • I want to get more experience with deeper dives so I better understand how Narcosis effects me.(maybe AN/DP class?)
    • When my CURRENT skills are up-to-par or mastered then attempt to move on in classes.

    I greatly appreciate any advice given. To anyone that reads this Thanks for your time.

    I'm not sure how legible this is I just decided to write it late.
  2. happy-diver

    happy-diver Skindiver Just feelin it

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: same ocean as you
    When it warms up a bit go diving how you used to like it
  3. Graeme Fraser

    Graeme Fraser Tech Instructor

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Narnia
    Your 'road to recovery' makes a lot of sense, but I'd definitely take @happy-diver 's advice and go diving how you used to like it first. It's not uncommon to fall out of love with a hobby after a knock to your confidence. The fact that you recognise your initial shortcomings and are prepared to climb back on the horse after a break is commendable and will probably make you a better diver for it.

    Just one thing; I could be wrong, but it seems you had no prior drysuit experience before the course and it was just considered an add-on to your intro to cave. Using a drysuit isn't rocket science, but trying to master it at the same time as focusing on your course sounds like a recipe for task overload. I'd be inclined to do quite a few simple dives in your suit until it really becomes second nature.

    Good luck and fair play for giving it another try.
    jtsfour and chillyinCanada like this.
  4. Dark Wolf

    Dark Wolf Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: SW Missouri
    Looking at your profile, I would second what happy diver said. If the numbers are accurate, you are averaging between 5-20 dives per year. I think that just getting out and diving would be a great start, and then plan from there. You have a lot of time to get back to caverns. Once comfortable, a solo class might not hurt and would give you more opportunity to dive if finding a buddy is problematic.

    To me, the fact that you seem to criticize your own performance tells a lot. I suspect you will have the issues sorted out in short order.

    I look forward to reading about your progression. All the best!

    jtsfour and Graeme Fraser like this.
  5. Scraps

    Scraps ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Florida
    The missing ingredient in your plan is step one: make diving fun again.

    Do a bunch of dives you know are within your skill and experience level. Don’t put any pressure on yourself to pass any new classes or master any new skills. Get re-acquainted with your gear. Refresh your skills. Meet some new friends. Enjoy some dives where your only goals are to return safe and have a good time.

    When you feel a desire (as opposed to pressure) to resume training, eat the elephant one bite at a time with plenty of time to chew and digest between bites.

    You’re one of the youngest people who post here—young enough to not be in a rush and still surpass the skill and knowledge level of everyone else here by the time you’re done—or to do anything else in diving that strikes your fancy.

    Best wishes,
  6. Barnaby'sDad

    Barnaby'sDad ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Virginia
    Like they said...take a step back and just try to get back to where you can have a good time with it. Diving isn’t an inexpensive hobby...if you can’t find a way to enjoy yourself, you should consider moving on to something else.

    That’s one thing that I just don’t understand about some recreational divers (just a general observation of this forum)...they approach the HOBBY with an intensity, fervor, obsession, etc. that makes it seem more like work than an enjoyable escape.

    Good luck to you OP. “Do you” though. That is to say, go have a good time and do what you want to be doing...not something that someone peer pressured you into doing.
  7. rjack321

    rjack321 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Port Orchard, Washington State
    100% agree
    I would suggest doing 6 months to a year's worth of diving before taking any classes again.
  8. jtsfour

    jtsfour Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Alabama

    I really appreciate this and all of the responses from you guys. I will definitely take that advice and get plenty of fun diving in. A couple years ago I was completely obsessed with progressing as quickly as possible. I now plan on just diving to see how I feel and progress at well planned/calm pace. I now see that to become the best diver I could be it is very important to be really good or near perfect at the skills I am already familiar with.

    For now my game plan is to call one of my cousins in a few weeks and show him some of the springs in florida. I will continue sidemount/drysuit diving until I am completely comfortable and confident. Hopefully I'll be able to make the time commitment to dive a lot this year.
    Scraps and DiveClimbRide like this.
  9. PfcAJ

    PfcAJ Orca

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: St Petersburg, Fl
    Fatigue from multiple days is a thing. I’d also recommend reevaluating your personal fitness.
  10. jtsfour

    jtsfour Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Alabama
    Thankfully, I am significantly more fit than I was then.
    PfcAJ likes this.

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