Saturday was World Swim Day and I wanted to write something about what swimming has done for me.
Swimming has almost always been part of my life and without it I felt lost. I had about 5 years after my accident with no swimming and during that time my life changed drastically, I became disabled, a long-term relationship ended, I graduated from University and I moved out of Cambridge. When I started getting into swimming again, I tried desperately hard to get back to swimming in the same way as I used to, I spent about 2 years trying to swim the same way as before, constantly trying to relearn to kick my legs but after a course at Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases I realised that I didn’t need to do things the same way, I just needed to do them!
Sister and I at my Graduation in Nov 2014
After that course I gave up with focusing on learning to kick my legs and instead just figured out the easiest, best, and most effective way for me to swim and as a result realised it was better for me to swim without using my legs! Realising that I could swim and swim well despite the changes in my stroke was a complete game changer for me, I realised that it wasn’t just when I was swimming that it didn’t matter how I do something; I was with everything. Slowly I learnt the easiest way for me to do things and learnt to block out other people’s judgements of me and now, I just do things in the easiest way for me – no matter how backwards it may seem to others! Realising this helped me to gain some confidence back and it also helped me realise that everyone does things slightly differently and in whatever is the easiest thing for them, so why was I making things more difficult and causing more pain for me? I felt like a right plonker.
Since then, I have done more and achieved more than I thought possible, I started using my wheelchair almost full time as I realised that using the chair reduced my pain and exhaustion levels so it meant I could do more each day, my pain levels lowered and it even resulted in me being able to reduce my medication and obviously, it meant I could swim more too! Being able to do more, live more independently and generally have a life again was incredible and my mental health improved drastically.
Swimming has also given me a social life again, I suddenly had friends, friends that didn’t judge me, understood my obsession with swimming and whom I had things in common with. Somehow and to my surprise they let me join them on swims, did all they could to help me and tried to make sure swims were accessible to me and they still do – thank you if you are one of those wonderful people!
Swimming has also given me my determination and mental strength back, its meant I could create something to help not only myself my hundreds of other people too and I couldn’t be anymore proud. Every time someone posts in ADOWS and shares a good swim, how they are personally overcoming the barriers they face, or even spreading awareness; it warms my heart to know that I, in some small way, may have helped them to do that.
Swimming has, as of this year even begun to give me a career and its a career that I love and like to think I thrive in. I am an open water coach and I hope by the end of next week I will be a qualified Level 2 swimming teacher too! I am being interviewed regularly, writing articles and blog posts and even being asked to give talks about not only accessible swimming but also my journey from becoming disabled to swimming Windermere 2 way.
In other words, swimming has totally transformed my life and I can’t wait to see what it is going to bring in the future. I hope for new challenges, more joy, more friends, more laughing, more celebrating and of course, many more hours in the water!