It was on a sailboat in Jamaica that Yulanda Williams realized she needed to learn to swim.
“We went out on this little sailboat, and I was like, ‘If this thing flips over, could I get back up? Would I be able to save myself?’ And the answer was no,” she said Thursday evening as she stood chest-deep in the indoor pool of the Wilson Family Y.
She and her family returned from the trip last month, and the next week she took her first swimming lesson.
Williams had been afraid of the water since she was 9 years old. That’s when she tried to save her 7-year-old brother from drowning, even though she couldn’t swim. Luckily, she and her brother were pulled to safety by another child, she said.
“I think I’ve had post-traumatic stress about swimming ever since then,” she said.
People who take lessons learn more than how to swim, said instructor Michael White. The students learn about water safety and how to stay calm in an emergency situation.
“They get more than swimming out of it,” he said.
Unlike children’s classes, which teach a set of objectives, the adult swim class is tailored to the needs of those in the class.
“We do whatever they want to learn. If they want to learn how to get comfortable, we help them do that,” White said. “These three ladies wanted to learn how to get comfortable in the water and learn the freestyle backstroke, so that’s what we’re working on.”
Theresa Green had a panic attack on her first day in swim class.
When she was 10, she was pushed into deep water. She had never been in a pool before.
“Being suspended like that seemed like it had been forever,” she said. “(The first day) was like reliving that bad experience all over again. But then as the days progressed, it got better.”
Last week she practiced floating on her back as White gently guided her.
Green said she urged her water-loving daughter, Tiana Green, 10, to take lessons because she wanted her to be safe.
“Then it was like, ‘Well, Mommy, I’m taking them, so why don’t you take them, too?’ ” she said.
Green said she is looking forward to spending more family time at the beach and on vacation now that she is comfortable in the water.
Sabrina Morton, who also is taking the adult class at the Family Y, said she had no reason to be afraid of the water growing up; she just was. Some of the fear has subsided as she has gotten older, and she hopes to reap the health benefits of swimming as part of her exercise routine. She said knowing how to swim will allow her to participate in more pool activities, too.
“I feel like it’s a lifetime lesson,” she said.