Mother of three Davinah Jade had a traumatic experience at a swimming pool when she was just seven years old which caused a crippling fear of water.
The 37-year-old from Enfield Town said: I was pushed into a pool when we went swimming at school. I would never actually been in the water in a swimming pool so it was like my first experience. I just came around on the side with someone helping me to get the water out. I never went back in the pool.
Davinah, who is no stranger to adventure and has been skydiving and bungee jumping, describes an irrational panic when she sees large quantities of water, that has even made her pass out.
If I can not be in control of the situation, instantly I start to panic. I feel like I am hyperventilating and have a difficulty breathing, and a difficulty in being able to focus on anything besides there is so much water. Sometimes it can just get ridiculously out of control, just because I can see water, not because I am in any danger.
One time I was driving over Dartford bridge I was going to see my friend and – I did not realise, I was not prepared for it – there was lots of water. I was driving and my mind just kind of faded away that the bridge had collapsed and I had fallen into the water and I would not be able to swim and I was going to drown, I was going to die.
I had to stop the car, and I mean you are not allowed to stop on Dartford Bridge, but I had to stop the car and I had to literally get my thoughts together because I was thinking I am going to crash the car if I do not get my mind together. When I did start driving off, I was driving off at 10 miles an hour and people were beeping at me and losing their minds but I was just thinking, I am surrounded by it and I can not do anything about it. It is frustrating because when I look back I feel kind of silly because I was never in a life-threatening position but I felt like I was.
Determined to overcome her fear, Davinah tried swimming lessons but quickly learned that the lessons were not going to help: It is very different not being able to swim and not being able to swim with a deep fear and I felt like that although they were great teachers, they did not really cater to people that actually had a fear, that were scared so I was able to get to a certain point but then could not go any further.
Davinah worried that her fear was having a negative impact on her family, particularly her youngest son:I did not want him to pick up what I had a fear of when he does not actually have a fear of it himself. I could see that he is just watched and learned my behaviour.
I know a lot of other mums that go swimming with their children on weekends and holidays, so swimming has just become part of their life and I could not do that with them. I felt like I had missed something with them like a milestone had been missed. I wanted to be able to be on the beach and just say to my children lets quickly go for a swim, lets jump in or lets splash about.
Davinah says taking part in the AALP course has changed her life: I am no longer scared of the water. I recently went on holiday and was at the beach in the water when beforehand I could not even be close to water in such a large capacity. Best of all, I am moving my career towards my dream job as an air hostess which is something I would never have ever dreamed of doing in the past because of the water aspect of the job.
Being comfortable in the water has given me a sense of freedom and means that I am no longer restricted to what I can or can not do.It has given me such a sense of accomplishment because it is the biggest fear that I have ever had.