I Tried Sea Swimming With Endometriosis. This Is What Happened
This last year has been a challenge for many of us. In my case, staying in most of the time meant that my levels of fitness went down a notch or two.
During six weeks, ten of us would meet every Friday with two swimming instructors to learn about sea safety. We were to be taught how to optimize our swimming techniques and how to navigate waves and tides safely.
Additionally, this particular course was also meant to contribute to research exploring the effects of wild swimming on people's mental health.1
Where I live, during the winter months swimming in cold water turned into a bit of a trend. Yet the cold temperatures both in and out of the water made me wonder what was everyone doing, had they lost their minds?
Shops were sold out of wetsuits. Was I missing out on something?
Trying something new made me anxious
It is widely known how swimming can benefit our bodies, yet recent studies suggest it could also help delay dementia2. In my particular case, I wondered whether it would be something I could do during a fatigue flare-up, or worse, during my period.
I almost gave up before the first session.
The night before, my anxiety levels were at a mighty high. The morning of the swim it rained horizontally.
I had to stop myself from writing a message to my swimming buddies, telling them I wasn't up for it. At the beach, I felt shaky.
Once in the water, I felt like I was being stabbed by a million needles. We stayed in for almost ten minutes.
Once out, shaking and swearing profusely while struggling to get dressed, I felt a weird feeling on my face. It was a smile.
I walked away from that first session with a newfound sense of achievement and pride, almost a glow. I felt alive, conscious of my own body, and so grateful for it.
On the way back home I listened to The Power Of Love by Huey Lewis And The News and had to stop myself from dancing and singing aloud.
After six weeks of weekly swimming sessions, this is how I feel.
Swimming and it's benefits with endo
I experienced immediate effects on my physical body and pain levels. While I struggled during my first swim, week after week I felt stronger. My back pain has practically disappeared.
Yet the most shocking experience was swimming during my period. While I experienced painful cramps on dry land, as soon as I got into the water and my body adjusted to the temperature, it was almost as if the sea acted as a pain killer.
It felt amazing. My body could effortlessly float, and my pain seemed to evaporate. When it came to the fatigue, if the sea was calm, it was the perfect opportunity to allow me to just float, or to engage in some light swimming.
This enabled me to move and stretch my body, without over-exerting myself.
Feeling stronger and having better mental clarity
Over time, my depression eased up. While I am currently on antidepressants, pre-swimming, I still felt regular bouts of very low mood.
Yet, after six weeks of aquatic activity, I feel my confidence has risen, and my general mood is more positive. My PMS seems lighter and easier to manage.
During one of the sessions, I was knocked down by a giant wave, and pushed violently onto the shore. It felt like the sea was rejecting me.
An instructor helped me get up and asked "Do you need a break? It's OK if you do". I thought about it for a second, holding back the tears.
I then clenched my fists, bent my knees, and went back into the water, feeling stronger.
My physical senses switch on whenever I am in the water. I can taste and smell the salty water, and feel the temperature against my skin, the push of the tide.
Nothing else matters, only me, my limbs, lungs, and the closeness of the shore. It turns out I kind of love all of that.
I now swim weekly, and the practice feels like a form of active mindfulness. And a shot of pure happiness.
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