Why I swim
All my life I have had an affinity with water, and I am lucky enough to live close enough to Coniston that I can submerge myself in her clear waters year in year out, forty-seven years and counting. Starting when my parents first took me to Brown Howe as a baby, I remember loving swimming lessons and learning to swim under water before getting the knack of swimming a top.
It is my happy place.
As I grew older I forgot to use the water as a safe place, a cocoon, a place to rid myself of those deep rooted anxieties. Instead the complexities of adolescence enveloped me, turning me into a socially awkward, shy and chubby teenager who sought out alcohol and drugs to remove the barrier I felt when around humans!
This led to impulsivity and reckless behavior on and off for the next twenty five years! During this time I became quite unwell from a myriad of factors: drink, painful hands, underactive thyroid and perimenopause to name a few.
Drink only served to exacerbate my anxieties and aches and pains and my life became an ever decreasing vicious circle!
One of the calamities that occurred during my very long and dubious career as a wino was to seriously damage my hands when tripping over a guy rope at a camping session, jolting a nerve in my neck causing seemingly untreatable chronic pain for many years.
The menopause brings with it a whole new bunch of daffodils to contend with, hot flushes, anxieties, apoplectic rage over the tiniest little thing, and word retrieval issues.
Three and a half years ago, after, it must be said, a fair few attempts I finally ridded myself of the poison that is wine!!! Two months later I gave up smoking!!
My mind had discombobulated and it seemed to take until last summer for all the little pieces to settle and lodge themselves in a happier place than before.
Two and a half years.
During this time I transferred my addiction, as addicts tend to do, to food, specifically sugar, and put on four stone!!! Not ideal! Now, this sugar is evil stuff and has no earthly business to exist in its processed form. I am only half joking!!!
Last September, after my last swim of the summer when the lake water seems at it’s warmest, I decided I would swim again the following week, and the next, and now I find myself nearing the last part of February, having given up the temptations of sugar and still swimming in 4.5 degree water with a grin of pure delight!!!
Paradoxically, my decision to swim into the winter had nothing to do with the pandemic, although I see many people who have taken to the open water due to swimming pool closures nationwide and I am delighted that so many others are reaping the rewards nature provides.
I laugh every day about the madness of this new addiction, and I am delighted and amazed at the sheer excitement and exhilaration I experience before during and after my swim.
I am extremely fortunate enough to have a couple of kind and wonderful, crazy swim companions who love it as much as I do. The feeling is such that I have never experienced before, and I know that it is the very thing I have been seeking all my life.
The peace, tranquility, release of stresses and anxieties the icy yet welcoming water affords is nothing short of heavenly to me!! And it triumphs over any buzz that can be found through alcohol or narcotics.
I cannot recommend this highly enough to anyone. And to people who struggle in their navigation to find peace and contentment within themselves, I say throw yourself in and see!!!
Even the preparing to go fills me with joy, from the boiling of the kettle for my flask and occasionally a hot water bottle to shove in my pants to warm my torso, to the putting on my cossie and neoprene socks, yes I am a little bit of a wimp, I cannot go in bare hand or feet, although I never wear a wetsuit.
I have been spoilt over Xmas as my parents and children, seeing what joy and calmness I exude due to this new addiction treated me to a Smoc Smoc and a Turtleback bag (worth a Google!).
My wonderful children and parents kept me from toppling over the precipice and I am grateful to them every day for accepting me for who I am, even if I continue to give them cause to scratch their heads in astonishment or bemusement.
The icing on this very beautiful cake is that my moods are calm, my hands are relatively pain free, my hot flushes are nil and I am happy in my skin, especially in the water, as I go from clumsy and wobbly to graceful and buoyant!! Cold water, who knew?!
Keep on swimming, you will get there in the end. X
Things to think about…
- How do you find peace?
- What types of things do you do when you are stressed or have anxiety?
- Would you like to try open water swimming?
Have you tried cold-water swimming?
If so, do it safely! There is some safety advice here: https://www.nationalwatersafety.org.uk/advice-and-information/open-water-swimming/
Websites like wildswimming.co.uk or Cumbrian Open Water Swimming Facebook group might help you find out where to start.