How I Almost Lost My Life (And What it Taught Me About Life)

by Amy on May 4, 2016

(The Deschutes)

I came within minutes of drowning once.

My husband and I were rafting with some friends down the Deschutes River. We were on a two-person raft. We came upon a very large boulder in the middle of the river and didn’t maneuver past it in time. So the raft floated into it, going parallel to it until we tipped over.

The force of the current flowing into the rock caused us to get sucked under immediately. Somehow because of where he fell in or his size, Ron was able to make his way out. But I got stuck.

The current against the boulder was pushing me down at the same time as my life jacket was buoying me up. I couldn’t move. All I could see were bubbles.

Everything was happening so fast, but I remembered some advice my mom gave me when I was a kid at the beach.

“If you ever get caught in a riptide,” I remembered her say, “swim sideways.”

It wasn’t a riptide it was what white water rafters call a “Pressure Wave.” But all I knew to do was “swim sideways.”

That’s when I took it off.

Seems like the dumbest thing to do given the situation. I was about to drown after all. But I didn’t have time to think. I just did it.

I took off my life jacket – the very thing that was supposed to be keeping me safe.

It floated down the river, past my husband who had no idea where I was.

And when I did, I could finally swim sideways. I could finally see the surface of the water. I was many feet down. And without my life jacket it was hard work to swim to the surface (I’m hyperventilating a little bit just remembering it.)

Once I got to the top, I tried to inhale but I had been down so long and had swallowed so much water that at first I still couldn’t breathe.

But eventually I made it out. I broke free from the Pressure Wave. I survived.

A lot of people ask me what it’s like to be stuck in The Approval Trap.

I think it’s a lot like a Pressure Wave. You pick up on the idea that parts of you – for whatever reason – are not fit for human consumption. So you hide these things under a façade of likeability, perfection, competence (whatever your culture tells you to be), thinking that this façade will keep you safe.

But the force of the outside world – ideas about beauty, success, what it takes to be happy – bear down on you. The façade you have created is like a “life jacket.” It seems like the very thing you need to feel safe amidst these outside forces.

But, in reality, it keeps you pinned. So you can’t even “see” anymore. And if you don’t do something about it, you’ll drown.

The solution is not to struggle harder – to be better, smarter, more attractive or successful.

The solution is, actually, not what you think at all. And your loved one’s might think you’re crazy, but…

You have to do the thing that scares you the most.

You have to get rid of the very thing you think has been keeping you safe, all these years.

You’ve got to drop the façade. And let them see all the parts of you, especially the ones you’ve been hiding.

When you do, you can finally “swim sideways.” You can move out of your situation. You can see from a new perspective. You can figure out how to get out. You can find help.

At first you won’t feel like you are breathing easily. After all, you’ve been drowning. Your lungs were full of water.

It takes some time to readjust to a life of authenticity. But getting to the surface is worth the initial struggle.

The stakes are high.

Your life, your mission, your tribe are waiting for you there.

It doesn’t have to be as scary as it sounds. I’ve got your back. And I’ve created a whole tribe who will too.

Click here to learn how to escape The Approval Trap – there’s still time to save $300 and join me for the next round of Be Brazen in Business and Life.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Ginger May 5, 2016 at 1:09 pm

Hey, Amy,

What a brilliant use of a metaphor–the very thing that seems like a good idea (the need for approval that was a survival mechanism for us as children) becomes the thing that is the most hazardous in some later grown up situations!

Nice job, Writer Lady.



Joanna May 5, 2016 at 5:37 pm

This was a really good post – thanks so much for writing it and sharing. Much easier said than done, but totally spot on!


Virginia Reeves May 5, 2016 at 6:50 pm

Clever analogy of ‘drowning’ and having to push sideways to get on top. We do have to take a different direction when we get overwhelmed. And it may not seem ‘proper’ or ‘wise’ but our survival instinct tells us to go for it.
I remember a rafting dump episode too – Hells Canyon. Scary but the sense of survival afterwards is a big adrenaline rush.


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