Swimming through Winter

At some stage, life gets busy for everyone.

As things built up over time,  I started to feel overwhelmed.  I had gradually lost my ability to cope with all the things that were going on in my life. In response, I accepted an offer of a counselling session that had been arranged for me at a well known organisation.  Unfortunately, when I was at my most vulnerable, the counsellor facilitated an ongoing, unhealthy and unethical style of therapy that created complete dependence.  I have never experienced anything so debilitating. I kept pushing my doubts aside and trusting the ‘professional’, but it didn’t take long before I was unable to cope with simple everyday tasks.  My friends and family commented on how I had become vacant as it became a huge effort to just get through each hour of the day.  I wanted to be asleep all of the time to avoid  these feelings.  I couldn’t see how I was going to get myself out of the situation that I now found myself in, let alone recover from it.

I love how open water swimming easily crosses age and gender barriers.

I finally plucked up the courage to submit a complaint form which triggered an investigation into the treatment that I had received.  Whatever the outcome of that though, I needed something else in my life. Something healing, something reliable to bring me out of this hole that I had slipped into.

Swimming was the one activity I knew I could turn to.

Throughout my whole life swimming has been something that I can rely on, it’s always been there for me.  I feel comfortable in the water more than anywhere else – I feel confident and capable there.  As a kid I joined the local swimming club when I was just eight years old.  In our very small country town I seemed like a great swimmer, but further afield I have always been quite average. Even now in open water events I always finish right in the middle of the pack, but as much has I like to race, it has never been about competing.  It’s about the relief that being in the water brings –  the weightlessness,  the freedom, the escape to this other world that is waiting under the surface.

I enjoy swimming in pools, but it is the open water that is truly motivating and exciting.  The changing conditions provide a lucky dip that never disappoints.  The  joy of swimming in the rain compared to the bright blue sunny days plus everything else in between.  There is always something different from the changing tides to the occasional creatures  or just the  strange looking clouds above.

This year our youngest child started school giving me the time to increase my swimming.  With two mornings a week free, I started to swim at a beautiful spot where the river meets the ocean.  On overcast days I was hesitant to swim alone as the water was shadowy and random thoughts of big marine creatures would enter my mind. Fortunately, I found a group of retired men who swim twice a week all year round.  I asked if I could join them on their swims and of course they said yes.  So, two mornings a week regardless of the season or the weather, we swim.

I’m so grateful for the shared appreciation that we have for the water.

The camaraderie that we experience increases when the water gets colder.  I love that a thirty-nine year old wife and mother can have such a valuable bond with a group of sixty-five year old men.  I love how open water swimming easily crosses age and gender barriers.

The changing conditions provide a lucky dip that never disappoints

This has been the first year that I have kept outdoor swimming throughout the winter.  The exercise has been good for me physically but more so mentally and emotionally.  Swimming is calming, it regulates my breathing, it puts everything back into perspective and helps me sleep better. These winter swimming sessions have given me my self worth back.  They have boosted my sense of achievement after each swim.  I feel I am doing something that others aren’t even willing to try.  I had a goal to focus on –  to just keep on swimming.

As we moved into winter I felt an urge to write about each swim.

I have never had any desire or the skill to write about anything before, but it gave me something positive to focus on whilst I tried to battle the consequences of the therapy.  I turned it into a blog and was buoyed by everyone’s comments and encouragement. Slowly I began to get my life back.  I wrote about my memories helping me put them all back into their rightful place after they had been so disturbed.  One of my friends encouraged me to keep writing as future generations could be inspired by what I had written.  While swimming was keeping me well, the challenge of compiling a book gave me a major project to work on.

I ended up intertwining what I had written about my swims along with my memories and titled it ‘Swimming through winter‘.

It’s my little story of how I swam through winter literally as well as metaphorically.  I hope that someone somewhere will find something helpful or encouraging in it.

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