How I Overcame My Fear of Fish

October 11, 2015

How I Overcame My Fear of Fish

A fear of fish is quite a common thing, called ichthyophobia. When I was little, my sister and I had a fish tank. On occasion, a fish would decide that it didn’t like being in the fish tank and they would come flying out of the tank. My sister would run to get the net and me? I went to grab the cat hoping it was hungry. I really didn’t like fish. To put it bluntly, I had absolutely no use for them and I had a fear of fish.

I was in my early twenties when my sister told me that she had signed us both up for a scuba class. I reminded her about the fish tank episodes and no matter how much she pleaded, I stood firm. Two years after she took the course, she was going to do her first salt water ocean dive, in Honduras. All I could think about was that she would get eaten by a shark, swallowed by a whale or generally become fish food. I decided as her brother I needed to make sure that didn’t happen.

After signing up for scuba and I needed to get to know more about my potential enemy. I needed to get over my fear of fish. I read everything I could about sharks, sting rays, eels, you name it. I decided to go to the aquarium (Shedd Aquarium in Chicago) and study up on the creatures under the water, in sort of a face to face (between glass) situation. I was slowly beginning to develop an appreciation for the beautiful creatures under the water. I began noticing neat things about the fish, the colors and the movements they made, it was really sort of fascinating and very relaxing.

I finished my scuba class and did my open water training in a fresh water lake that was full of fish. No sharks or any of the stuff that I had read up on. The fresh water bluegills were more of an annoyance to me since I knew they weren’t going to eat me. The real test was going on my first ocean dive. When I looked out at the ocean, everything I read about with the fishes left my head. It was so huge and I knew that somewhere out there was a fish that was looking for me. What I did was grab my mask, fins and snorkel and ventured in from shore. It was shallow and close to the beach. I put my face under the water and just watched everything around me. I got that relaxing feeling again that I had developed at the aquarium. I snorkeled out a bit further and totally got enthralled about what I was seeing. The colors, the beauty, it was like discovering a whole new planet.

I do still have a healthy respect for fish because they are, wild animals. I am bothered by people who say things like sharks don’t like the taste of people or that shark attacks are a case of mistaken identity. I don’t know about you but I don’t think that anyone has been able to verbally talk to sharks and discuss their likes and dislikes. I have seen sharks when I have been scuba diving over the years and I can honestly say that they are very majestic creatures.

I think your best course of action is to make the first day of your vacation, a snorkeling day. Get into the water with your mask, fins and snorkel and take a look around. You might surprise yourself and fall in love with the underwater world. Take it at your own pace though. Being pressured by friends and family will only make it more uncomfortable.

With sharing my story, I hope this has helped you with the fear of fish. Above all, I hope that you are able to turn your fear into an appreciation of the world beneath the waves. I can honestly say that this was over 25 years ago and I have not had a fear of fish since.

The Fear of Fish
Shedd Aquarium
Fresh Water Bluegills

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