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The terrible feeling of " Not enough air "

Discussion in 'New Divers & Those Considering Diving' started by Pyde, May 2, 2019.

  1. Pyde

    Pyde Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Idaho
    So a little background first. I am brand new to diving. I finished my PADI course work and did my first day in the pool doing every skill our instructors asked of us without issue. Well, There was one issue at the beginning of our pool session that I was able to push through over time. Took me about 10 minutes to feel like I was getting enough air per breath at the beginning of our pool session. Over those 10 minutes under the water I had this almost uncontrollable urge to surface. I was able to talk myself out of this urge and continue to breath. After that 10 minutes while we continued to work on skills I felt great and enjoyed every minute of diving/training there after.

    The issue I am having though is....... 2 weeks later we went to do our Open Water dives at a geothermal lake. Upon doing our 5 point descent and holding onto the buoy rope to descend to our training platform in the lake 20 feet down. That same feeling I had during our training pool dive was back. And this time in full force. There was nothing i could tell myself to make anything seem ok. I kept trying to descend getting closer and closer to the platform but the urge to ascend was to great.(I was also struggling to equalize my left ear. Because of my panicked head/breathing and was trying to equalize very hard). I signaled to my instructor with stop / problem / pointing to my ears and chest. I stopped for a moment and ascended maybe a foot or two to take pressure off my ears. But again the feeling of not being able to breath coupled in with everything else going on at the moment was to much. My breathing became sporadic and at one point very shallow almost to the point of hyper ventilating. After about 5-6 very short panicked breaths I was able to tell myself to calm down and take long deep breaths (Even these felt awful). At this point my other dive instructor above and behind me grabbed me by the shoulder and signaled me to ascend. So my other dive instructor and I ascended to the top while i held onto the rope all the way up. Once at the surface I couldn't shake how i felt under the water and wouldn't commit fully to trying again. I called my dives there and wouldn't do another dive for the weekend. This whole experience really weighed on me. I felt like a complete failure to myself / my instructors and my class.........

    Since this experience I have been doing a lot of research on breathing techniques. But my ultimate question is..... Will this feeling of not being able to breath underwater ever go away. I'm assuming with more practice and diving experience the body and mind will cope with what is going on and just like any other thing in life becomes second nature after repetition.

    Any advice to get through this would be great.

    Per my instructors request I am doing another pool dive this weekend.... Hopefully I can learn to feel more confident / comfortable about breathing under the water...... Or as my wife says "Remind yourself you are a fluffy cloud" (Lightning McQueen joke there.... for those that have little kids and watch Disney movies) meaning to get out of your own head and relax...... She knows I'm not a very relaxed person and when asked to do so takes me time.
    Kalab likes this.
  2. Jayfarmlaw

    Jayfarmlaw Divemaster

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Tuttle, Ok
    Your instructor should be able to help you through this. But here is what I would suggest.

    Set up your rig, and breathe for a few minutes out of the water. Get in the pool, then breathe on the surface for a few minutes. Then drop into the shallow end on your knees or squat so you can stand up but head submerged. Then sit on the bottom, breathe. Breathe until you convince your head that you can breathe underwater. Then start finning around. Burn as many tanks as necessary, although I would think 1 tank should get you close.

    It's in your head, you just have to get it out of there.

    Good luck,
  3. RB7

    RB7 Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: NJ
    Never hesitate or feel bad when u thumb a dive. Better to be safe than sorry.
    None of ur instructors or dive buddies would want a situation wherein you have a panic attack or other incident.
    Assuming that there are no instrument or gear issues (no hard breathing regulators or extra tight wetsuits etc), you should try and take the pressure off you. Maybe do a pool session again 1on 1 with an instructor and then a 1-1 with DM for an open dive. This will allow you to take your time getting comfortable and go on your pace. I recall i felt very anxious the first couple of times .. trying to rush thru to keep up with others in donning gear, going down etc will increase anxiety.
    Slow it down as much as possible the first few time so theres no pressure on you.
    Best of luck !
    Pyde likes this.
  4. kelemvor

    kelemvor Big Fleshy Monster ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Largo, FL USA
    Unless something is really wrong with your reg, it's likely just a matter of getting used to it. Breathing underwater just ain't normal. It can take some getting used to.

    Does the practice pool have a nice shallow area where you can just stand up to surface? If so, I'd try and get in there for a while and just practice going under while breathing the reg until you're nice and comfy with it. Then add in tougher things like clearing your mask or swimming around or whatever.
    Pyde likes this.
  5. foob

    foob Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: San Francisco
    I get the feeling on first dive after a long time not diving too. Not as strong as you but noticeable.

    Try breathing through your reg above water before entering. If possible, breathe with reg on surface while hanging out in the water.

    Switching from nose to mouth breathing can be disconcerting.

    And while breathing, relax and don't exert yourself in anyway.

    Hope this helps. The main thing is take it slow and easy. When rushed by others or rushing yourself, you might get anxious and feel something is wrong.
    Pyde likes this.
  6. Pyde

    Pyde Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Idaho
    No gear issues..... my wife and I purchased all new environmentally sealed Atomic Z2 regs. I like your 1 on 1 advice. Maybe I can ask for that. The first open dive to me felt rushed. Trying to get 6 of us under the water and on the platform 20 feet down. My buddy and I, along with one of our instructors where the first ones to start down. I felt I didnt have the time to get used to or control my breathing on the way down. As I tried to stop and relax I had the next set of students coming down ontop of me. Getting kicked by fins in the head on the way down certainly didnt help the experience. I would gladly pay more for a 1 on 1 experience so I could go at my pace.
    Trailboss123 likes this.
  7. almostDIR

    almostDIR Barracuda

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Finland
    Are you used to snorkeling /done it a lot? for me it helped to have lots of snorkeling experience before switching to scuba. the feeling being able to breathe underwater was pretty similar and it was extremely easy to adjust to the regulator after that.

    the basic fin pivot technique helps both your buoyancy and breathing technique to develop...you can do that for couple of minutes on every dive
    Jcp2, Pyde and Esprise Me like this.
  8. JackD342

    JackD342 Dive Shop

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Highland Park, IL
    Just in case it is a simple, overlooked fix: Be sure you have not over tightened the sternum strap on your BCD.
  9. Andrew Dawson

    Andrew Dawson Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Kenmore, WA
    You may also have your instructor breathe off of your second stage a bit even at depth to ensure it is functioning properly...perhaps the tune is a bit too restrictive.

    I saw lots of good advice above...and I second the taking it stepwise: breathing on the reg at the pool edge...then in waist deep water [head above water], then in waist deep water [head below water]...go slow...it is not a race...it should be peaceful underwater :) Good job hanging in there, bud!
    chillyinCanada and Pyde like this.
  10. Esprise Me

    Esprise Me Kelp forest dweller ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Los Angeles, CA
    Getting kicked in the face is really stressful when you're just starting out. Not that it ever became fun, but by the third or fourth time it happened to me, it wasn't such a big deal. I don't have much to contribute advice-wise, but you're not alone and it will get easier.
    Pyde and Andrew Dawson like this.

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