When you feel like you are drowning …

Life supports us no matter what. All we have to do is open to receive help in whatever form it comes.

One day I was having a nice bike ride at the lake. The sky was blue, and there were very few clouds. I could feel the light breeze as I rode. I was rounding my last lap when I noticed a man teetering back and forth on the trail. As I passed him, he smelled slightly of alcohol and was muttering something incoherent.

“Help! Help!” he suddenly shouted.

I turned around just in time to see him twirl around and fall into the lake. I quickly pedaled back to him, jumped off my bike and saw him at the bottom of the bank.

“Hey, you!” he shouted. “Get me out of here, now! I’m drowning!”

I eyed him closely to see if that was true. He was flailing his arms and yelling at the top of his lungs.

“Grab onto the tree trunk right in front of you,” I called down.

The bank looked mighty slippery to me and definitely unsafe. I intuitively felt I shouldn’t try to shimmy down the bank to pull him up. He was at least 6’ tall and was panicking, throwing his arms in all directions. I felt he would pull me in if I tried to grab him. Though he was only in a foot or so of water, he felt like he was drowning. He shouted an obscenity at me while I considered my options.

“You’re going to be just fine,” I said. “Keep holding on. You’re just in a little bit of water. I’m going to call for help.” I dialed the emergency number for the lake, and while I talked on the phone, I could hear him yelling about snakes and what a horrible person I was.

Very shortly, two guys came by in a boat. Hearing the commotion, a family, who had been out for a walk, also came to help. The father quickly scooted down the bank, and with the help of the boat guys, pulled the man to safety. While we waited for help, another person showed up and whistled loud enough for the police boat to hear us and come over. Within a few minutes, the man was safe and sound, albeit a little wet. You could hear him huffing and puffing. He had a few scrapes and his cigarettes got wet, but he was okay.

Before he left for the hospital, I leaned down to ask him his name.

“John,” he said a little weakly.

“Well, John,” I responded, “I want you to know that you had support the entire time today. We weren’t going to let you drown.”

Later that night, I found myself pondering panic attacks and the fear of drowning. Many of us, like my lake friend, are fearful of physical drowning. But there is also another type of drowning — when you feel covered up with work or overwhelmed with obligations or submerged in an unhealthy relationship. It can be a suffocating feeling, one that makes you fearful of losing control, fearful of losing your life. That’s when many people go into panic mode and reach for the person closest to them for help. Some people reach so fast and with such intensity, they pull the other person down, too. We don’t mean to pull the other person in, but when we are panicked and fear is running the show, all the focus is on ourselves. All we want is out. And we don’t care who we take down to get there.

Be mindful of how you respond to stress, for it can easily influence the relationships you’re in. If you take a moment to breathe into the situation, you give the Universe a chance to respond, too, by sending support and help from all directions. If my lake friend had slowed down long enough to see what was happening, he would have seen support being offered, starting with my seeing it happen, along with several others who stopped and did their part to effect his rescue. He was never alone in the first place, never in danger of drowning. We were all on the same team and simply being asked to serve.

Life supports us no matter what. All we have to do is open to receive help in whatever form it comes.

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