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How to Soothe Sunburn and Get Through Your Swimming Lessons

Written by Cathrynne Yeong.  Copywriter. Storyteller

I almost drowned as a kid. Because of that, I’ve developed a phobia for swimming. I was living happily without knowing about that phobia for the next 15 years or so. Until one day, in my early twenties, that I was challenged to take up swimming lessons. All because I wanted to go for an island holiday where the main activity was snorkelling.

I started searching and found a local public swimming pool that was offering swimming lessons, about 5 km away from my house. And I signed up for it without hesitation. I went out and bought a set of swimsuit with goggles, all ready to take up the lessons.

The first lesson came, and I was learning how to breathe underwater. That was when it hit me that I have the phobia of swimming. *Imagine the soundtrack of Jaws playing in your head while you submerge under water*. I struggled. I wouldn’t let go of my hands holding on tightly to the sides of the pool. But thankfully, the instructor was truly professional and guided me step by step. She made me count my breathing at the shallowest end of the pool. She told me I was safe, and I could stand up anytime if I felt uncomfortable or feared to drown. She helped me develop my confidence in the water slowly. What was supposed to be a 1-hour lesson became 2 hours. My lesson started from 10 am to 12 noon. All I did was practise breathing with my head submerged, and my back upwards getting all tanned.

And if the title of my blog was any indication at all, you guessed it right – I got a terrible sunburn after the 2 hours. My shoulder and back were raw red, every movement from changing to leaning on my back caused a stinging pain. I had to look for something to treat the sunburn immediately. What I got was the very popular aloe vera gel. I had to get my mother to apply it liberally on my skin over the next few days as I couldn’t reach my back by myself.

With that, I thought my skin would be fine, and I pressed on with the weekly lessons. But 2 weeks later, there was an odd film that has built up on my back. I was unsure if it was my skin peeling from the sunburn or was it from the residue of the gel after applying it for a fortnight. Mind you; I could not scrub my back during shower as that would cause a lot of stinging pain.

So, I decided to change my sunburn treatment to coconut oil as I was told that it would help in treating a sunburn too. My mum was not keen initially as she said that would leave an oily residue on my clothing (Mum was doing all the laundry those days.). But as she saw the peeling worsen, she had no choice but to agree. So, we went to a local grocery store and got a bottle of coconut oil from a reputable brand and started applying. It felt oily at first, but the oil was fully absorbed after a while and I could feel the itch that was associated with the sunburn stopped. The condition of my skin improved after that. The peeling reduced, and the pain subsided faster. But my swimming lessons were for a period of 3 months. So, I continued applying both the aloe vera gel and the coconut oil. And that’s how I treated my sunburn and got through my swimming lessons.

Fast forward to 15 years later, I am proud of the fact that I did something to overcome my phobia of swimming back then. Swimming is now one of my favourite sports. But has the phobia really been cured? I don’t know, but I still do the counting while I’m in the water as I associated that with safety.


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