Wild swimming soothed my mind
Posted Tuesday 24 April 2012
Maureen blogs about finding the courage try open water swimming, and the difference getting outside made to her mental health.
I had lost faith in ever reaching a conclusive solution to my 'black gene'. I had tried all the pills and talking therapies in an effort to take control of the hairy monster inside my head which periodically dragged me to a place I didn't want to be. The first time it was given a name they called it depression.
Without going into the external reasons (or some even said excuses), it is suffice to say that I decided I simply needed to accept my predisposition to these bouts of blackness in the same way I happily accepted my periods of lucidity. I set out to 'manage' my whole self - including the part I liked the least.
I chose to get physically fitter - just in the swimming pool to begin with - and then I discovered the open water which included endless miles of rivers, lochs and seas. I mustered up the courage to dip a toe in the water, having talked to lots of 'wild swimmers' and I took the plunge. Clad in neoprene from head to toe I ventured into the murky depths of my local estuary against all the advice of non swimmers.
I discovered a whole new, private, secret world where I could be with new friends or alone with my thoughts. However, my thoughts became less overwhelming as I had to concentrate on my safety in the water.
When I went home in the evening I slept well because I had been out in the fresh air. My living room took on a different shape - it was warm and welcoming, a post-swim haven. The computer which had previously been an addiction for all the wrong reasons was now the conduit between me and the groups who were already involved in this wonderful pastime.
I set up a more local group so that I shouldn't have to drive quite so far and people joined me both for the swim and then for coffee afterwards - nothing too posh - just a flask of homemade soup or home baking that was divided among us like the loaves and fishes while we all shivered contentedly.
I organised the New Year's Day Loony Dook and participated in charity fundraising events which I follow online with enthusiasm.
I would never have believed that reconnecting with nature would have such a profound effect on my mental health but I can honestly say that I have found a new lease of life by making that first horribly frightening step of going outdoors.
My black gene is still with me but we are in harmonious synchronicity as we swim through the brine and jump the often choppy waves. I squeal like a girl when it's cold and I languish in the sun when it's warm.
I feel I should add a moral or a piece of advice but I have shared my story and that's all I can do. If this inspires a single person to get outdoors and take a little more control of their own mental health then that would make me a happy person.
Feeling stressed, anxious or low? We’ve got some great ideas to help you re-energise and give your mind a boost.
Commenting is now closed.