How to Spot a Drowning Person

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Disclaimer: This post is NOT about design. Its about something much more important. 
[Unnecessarily long story opener. Feel free to skip below line break.] 

I used to have this reoccurring dream that I was in this beautiful mountain valley, very distinct rocky white peaks with horizontally running lines. I'm floating in water. And suddenly I am quietly sinking beneath the surface - its very peaceful and I'm watching those beautiful mountains darken and break up through the rippling water. End dream. 

I had that dream my entire childhood, never thought much of it - it wasn't terribly disturbing aside from its persistence.It wasn't until I was in my 20's that I was standing at an outdoor pool watching my nieces and nephews swim in Provo, Utah and looked up and THERE WERE THE MOUNTAINS IN MY DREAM. Suddenly, my dream and real world were all mixed up. Was that a dream or a memory? I asked my sister I was with at the time, "Did I ever fall in a pool or lake around here?" She said, "Yeah Em, you did almost drown in a pool when you were little. Somewhere around here I think.." ??!!!! She didn't remember much, so that was kind of the end of that. In fact, that was the end of the dreams. As if that memory just wanted to validated as real for all those years. 

I called my mom to confirm this rumor as I was writing this because I still had lingering doubts about it being real. 

[PHONE CALL JUST NOW]

Me: Hi Mom.

Mom: Hiiiiiii honey, how are you?

Me: I'm good. Hey mom, I have a weird question. Did I ever fall in a pool when I was a kid?

Mom: Maybe if I had pushed you. (laughing). No honey, I don't think so.

[For the record she DID push me in several pools as a kid...she's funny like that.]

Me: Oh. Okay. So I never almost drown in Provo?.

Mom: Ohhhh wait!! Yes you did! You were just little. We were visiting your sister's apartment, She was dating some guy she wanted us to meet (long story ensues about how he wasn't that impressive but I guess they ended up getting married and he's cool now - like, 30 years later)...We were inside and someone spotted you floating underwater. It was just like you. You thought your life preserver was inhibiting you from exploring, so you slipped out of it. You were probably 4.

Me: Oh.

Mom: But I jumped in and pulled you out. You're okay now.


[Real content starts here]

So I almost drown I guess. Big deal. Its relevancy is just a personal story to get you thinking about drowning like I do; quiet, alone, without fanfare. Which, shocker, is just an analogy for something else.  

I watched a little PSA about drowning once and it felt deeply profound and sad. Basically the message was just this. Drowning doesn't look like you think. Its not all splashy and loud. Its usually quiet, it happens pretty quickly. If people aren't watching, and sometimes even if even if they are - they won't recognize the symptoms until its too late. (4 year olds probably should always be supervised in water, but this was the 80's so...{shrug}.)

In contrast to drowning scenes shown in the movies or on TV shows, the signs of drowning are often quite subtle and may not appear to be serious. This is because of the Instinctive Drowning Response, which Dr. Francesco Pia identified as the ways in which a person tries to avoid suffocating in the water. A person who is drowning:

-is likely silent. A drowning person is almost always unable to call for help.

-may hold her mouth below the surface of the water or alternate between the surface and under the water. This makes it difficult for her to inhale or exhale.

-cannot wave or signal because the natural instinct is to press down on the water surface to lift him up for a breath.

-A victim exhibiting these signs only has about 20-60 seconds before she is submerged underwater.
— https://www.wikihow.com/Recognize-That-Someone-Is-Drowning

GUYS THIS IS AN ANALOGY FOR ALL SUFFERING.

Every single time a guy shoots up a crowd of people, or a neighbor commits a bizarre crime, or a family member kills themselves what do the family, the friends, the neighbors say??

"He seemed perfectly fine. He was a nice neighbor. She was smiling and laughing yesterday! Maybe a little off. Okay, they were acting odd - but nothing big. I had no idea."

You know what I hear? We are all lonely. We don't know how to SEE each other's loneliness. Or we don't want to. We are suffering from chronic isolation from eachother and, particularly for men, from our own feelings.

We believe people who need our help are going to (metaphorically) wave and yell for help. At least they'll splash around long enough for us to notice right? Not usually. Our instinct is to keep our head above water as long as we can, but its probably not to get each other's attention.

One of the best pieces of life advice I got once was from a self defense teacher. He said,

"You know a lot of women are worried they're going to do one of these defense moves (This particular first phase one was just yelling "GET BACK!" really loud) and embarrass themselves in front of a stranger. What if that guy really is just accidentally following me too close? Or he really wants to know the time?" He said,  
"Your life is worth more than embarrassment."

This applies to other lives too. We don't reach out because that feeling we got, that little flicker of distress, that odd behavior, well its probably nothing. What if we make a big deal and they've just got allergies? Or just a little under the weather. They just like to party. They're just under a lot of stress. How embarrassing! We see the itty bitty tiny symptoms people will give us that they're drowning and hold out for something big. People are drowning right in front of us and we can not see it. Or we ignore, disconnect or diminish each others suffering to the point of inaction. 

We are pushed (away) by fear instead of lead by love.

Don't let the nudity distract you from the point. 

Don't let the nudity distract you from the point. 

I am willing to bet at your worst moments the smallest gestures of kindness were like gulps of fresh air. A delivered meal or kind note can be profound and life-changing. You have to get in the water with those suffering to help (this is empathy). You can't do it from the beach or at your watchtower. Get in there. 

From this good article I already linked to above. 

"Reach out to someone who you think could be lonely, and invite them to do something fun together. Keep inviting them. Build trust, and confide in each other. Set the example by being a safe and supportive person to be around."

My closer, this is not a personal cry for help. This is a call for action. I'm writing this for everyone who needs the compassionate understanding of each other. Listen to your intuition and reach out. Kindness costs nothing. That is all for today. 

Emily Bunnell