SPIRIT

HOW THE STRUGGLE FOR LIFE CAN LEAVE YOU DROWNING

READING TIME: 5 MIN.

This is not a story about survival, but you can give it the meaning that you want.

The fear of death is one of the biggest fears people will ever have in their lifetime. Some will go to horrible lengths to stay alive, steal, kill, lie, cheat and destroy. Others will do the admirable, swim oceans, climb mountains, and fight the circumstances.

I didn’t do neither and still, for some reason I´m here.

I was 16 years old and I was dying. I didn’t realize this at first until I took a short breath that I swore would be my last.

They say your life flashes before your eyes when you´re dying, mine didn’t. I wonder which moments I would  have seen?

Before this moment I use to believe that I’d be one of those people who would go through unimaginable lengths to stay alive. Some think I gave up, but the truth is, I gave in.

The experience that was driving me towards death was painful at the beginning, emotionally and physically. The lack of oxygen was painful, my limbs were exhausted, and the continuous beating had me down on the ground. Living seemed out of my reach and I thought that maybe I had to stop fighting being alive so I could give way for death to take its part.

Never underestimate a peaceful surface; it can hide the strongest currents.
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Laetitia Santoni Photography

 

I was standing on the shore, rinsing the sand off my skin, using my hands as a bucket. The left overs of a wave reached my legs and softly covered my knees. I didn’t know the monster that was hiding underneath the calm surface.

A current so strong that was impossible to fight it. Before I knew it I was deep inside the sea and the shore so far away; I started battling enormous waves that would push me down into the seabed. A raging strong wind that would splash the water to my face, along with the current that wanted to drag me to somewhere unknown.

In the blink of an eye I wasn’t a 16-year-old girl enjoying a hot, autumn day at the beach anymore. I was a 16-year-old girl who was losing the biggest battle of her young life.

An easy way out can seem your only option, but look again, always look again. 

My amazing brother-in-law went in to save me (he nearly lost his own life in the process). But that’s the thing about Mother Nature; she doesn’t care about human needs and she doesn’t stop for anyone.

His hand was holding mine very strongly, every time a wave would push us down, it was his hand holding mine that gave me reassurance and a certainty that I was going to make it out alive. I kept fighting and wanting to swim to reach the rocks that seemed painfully close to me.

I knew it was a bad idea, there was a whirlpool between the rocks and I could get dragged in, and the waves were so high that they would make it unreachable for any boat to get near them. Besides, this was an empty beach in a remote part of Mexico and the closest town was an hour drive away.

But I didn’t care, I just wanted to catch my breath, I didn’t care how dangerous and stupid this temporarily “save haven” was. It meant a breath of air and when you´re drowning, this can seem your only option.

I kept hearing my bother-in-law´s voice, “STOP FIGHTING, STOP IT, DON´T GO TO THE ROCKS!!” And then his voice and my ears would drown into the waves.

“YOU HAVE TO LET GO WITH THE CURRENT!” He would tell me every time we´d reach the surface once again.

But I kept swimming towards the rocks while fighting the waves, the current and the wind.

Until one more enraged wave came to greet us. The moment I saw that height, I knew it was going to be a strong punch. I felt the pressure of this wall of water hitting the top of my head and then strongly pushing me down into the sea, I had barely been able to take a breath before this happened.

There´s a very thin line between life and death 
Laetitia Santoni Photography
Laetitia Santoni Photography

And then I realized that his hand wasn’t holding mine anymore. I was alone. This was the strongest knock and the pressure had pulled us apart.

This is one of those moments when you realize time is only lineal in our watch. Life stopped being determined by time.

Outside it was chaos, the noise of the crashing waves, the wind,  the fighting, but it meant life. I desperately tried to swim out, but I couldn’t. My legs moved but they led me nowhere, my arms move but the couldn’t reach the surface, the current would throw me violently if I tried to push myself out.

My lungs had barely any oxygen left in them and I could see it scape in the form of bubbles floating away.

My eyes were open and I could see the sun shining through the water, a deep blue color all around me.

I began to sink even lower until my legs were standing on the seabed, my body completely erect, my arms reaching for the sky, but my finger tips couldn’t even reach the surface. My eyes staring at the sun, with the surface dividing this two worlds apart, like a window made of glass that keeps the hungry from a loaf of bread.

There was such  a sense of detachment that I never even thought of all the things I didn’t get to do.  I was going to die and this were my last moments of life.

Sometimes you have to give up, so you can let go.

I stopped thinking, and started admiring the world from inside, there´s no noise inside, and the sun still shines. You can see the chaos of the outside world and realize that you don´t belong there anymore.

I didn’t have the strength to push myself out of here, life was just there, a meter or two away from my fingertips. But distance and time no longer existed,  two meters could have been an inch and it wouldn’t off made a difference. When you´re drowning you´re drowning, it can be in an ocean or in a glass of water.

And then the peace came; my body was in agony from the excruciating pain from the lack of oxygen. But then it was like my mind, my body and my spirit separated one from the other, my body was in agony, my mind was calm and at peace and my spirit could smell the freedom that death would bring.

 The world around me seized to exist, I stared at the sky  until I closed my eyes.

There are battles when someone holds your hand and because of that, you didn´t lose the war. 

I don´t remember being found. Against all the odds, my brother-in-law succeeded in finding me in the Pacific Ocean, since I wasn’t fighting any longer, he dragged me along with the current until he finally managed to get us both out. I wasn’t really swimming at this point, more like floating and semiconscious.

I owe my life to him and the greatest respect, because he risked his own life to save mine. He could have let me died; he could have given up on me and saved his own life.

He could have said that he tried his best, and get to the shore empty-handed. No one would have blamed him for anything, after all, he had tried. He had gotten out there and took a beating and he had already selflessly risked his life for mine.

But his selflessness, love and determination were stronger that his own well-being.

The next thing I remember was laying on the sand throwing up salt water, I took a deep breath  and stared at the sky and saw my sisters eyes, full of tears and her lips quirked into a smile.

I was alive.

Photo credit: Laetitia Santoni

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