Sunday, 11 September 2016

The Story About Whales

I didn't always hate whales. In my 20s, I was excited to go whale watching off the cost of Victoria B.C. We saw orcas and it was great.

The cover of this book stresses
me out!
Then I read Moby Dick and developed a whale phobia. I thought to myself, this is ridiculous, I am an adult scared by a book. I saw on TV, the story behind the story that inspired Moby Dick. I thought I will watch this, I will realize how stupid this fear is and get over it. The opposite happened. The real story is worse (I have blocked it out thankfully) and my true phobia was born.

It is a very specific phobia. I am afraid a whale will crush me. This means the phobia is limited to the really big whales - like, blue, grey, humpback. I am fine with dolphins, orcas, narwals, and belugas. I can't walk under a big whale skeleton. Museums always love to hang them on their ceilings, what is with that? And being on a boat whale watching is scary.

Before our trip to Iceland last year, I decided I was going to overcome this fear and go whale watching. I started doing cognitive behaviour therapy and systematic desensitization on myself (thank you education). Then my nightmare came true for a Canadian woman in Mexico. She was in a zodiac, the whale breached and it landed on her and killed her. You can read about this story Here. My fear was realized! At that point I was sure I would never whale watch.

When we arrived in Iceland, I had no plans on going whale watching, even though I knew it was something my husband would enjoy. As we drove around the island, we kept seeing brochures for it and heard people talking about it. The night before I entered my new decade I decided, let's try this. My only conditions were that we went in a ship and not a zodiac (one can get way to close in those little boats), and that I wouldn't take the pictures (that is usually my job). A couple days later I found myself on a ship, heading out to watch whales.

By the ship we went on
While everyone else excitedly entered the ship, I quietly sat on the inside and tried to talk myself into calm. I felt sick and dizzy, but kept saying "You can do this. This is 40."  When the first whale was spotted on the other side of the ship, I couldn't move to go see it. Everyone else rushed and pushed and I sat rooted in my spot, willing myself to keep breathing and to gather the strength to see it.

I was eventually able to look. I got through it. I didn't like it, but I did it.

After this trip we went to the whale museum. I enjoyed the part about how they hunted whales (it is the one species I would love to see disappear), and then we got to the skeletons on the ceiling. I didn't have the strength to physically walk under them. It was just too much.

While I remain phobic of whales, I am happy I made myself do this. It is a good example of how sometimes we just have to do things we are terrified and it doesn't usually kill us (even if in the moment it feels like it may).

The hump of our humpback

1 comment:

  1. We can totally understand. Our mom is scared of all water. She was in Venice in a gondola and so scared she cried. BUTT there weren't any whales.

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley