Why I Swim - Lilith
*Trigger warning – mention of suicide, anxiety, depression and disassociation.
Swimming, for me, was a calling I didn’t know was happening in my life. Only starting last year, I fell into wild swimming as I floated on Ullswater, whilst a friend was pumping up the paddleboards; the main activity planned for the day.
I had always been a swimmer, in fact I’d always been a water baby. But as I grew out of my teenage swimming years, low self-esteem kicked in and the only swimming that took place was on foreign lands where it was guaranteed no one would recognise me.
These promises of holiday swims soon led me to a passion of snorkelling in my early thirties, where I would spend hours skimming the blue surface finding schools of fish to follow or coral to explore. Under that water no one could take away my connection to nature, no matter how I looked or how high my BMI.
And so, it was only last year once learning to paddleboard that I realised my passion could truly exist outside of traditional swimming pools and once-a-year vacations. Although having lived around the Lake District for more than half a decade, I only connected to this epiphany once, I believe, my soul was truly ready for it.
Years previously, I had a mental breakdown whilst working in the corporate world as a senior manager. Chronic stress and bullying triggered anxiety and so soon my depression also returned. Redundancy came, my relationship at the time also ended and once the dreaded c-word arrived and lockdowns began, I headed towards a world of isolation and disconnection.
I was at a loss.
But that loss, that hole, became a space in my being for much more beauty and purpose.
Whilst looking for new work I met my now-bestfriend Lisa @happyjustwandering and it was on our one year friend-iversary that I had decided to overcome my fears and try paddle-boarding. Fears due to disassociation and my experience of disconnection and distrust with my own body. This paddle-boarding turned into a swim and then that swim turned into more, a lot more. Not only swims, but more friends, more memories, and a gorgeous community that comes with.
Soon Lisa, Jess @shoes_full_of_feet, Kate @kate.s.appleby and I had forged a bond and with it a drive to make the outdoors accessible for anyone around us; regardless of experience, ability, gender, faith, culture, sexuality, size or anything else. Our passion for being ‘outdoorsy’ also controversially included wearing what we wanted, even sometimes having false eyelashes on, wearing lipstick and being proud of our range of ages, styles and clothes sizes.
Each of us bringing or own specialty to the outdoors, I began @the_water_wytch , an Instagram account focusing on spirituality, healing and self-development through the connection with nature, predominantly with water taking the centre stage.
Wild swimming quickly became both a spiritual and mental health journey for me, with the connectivity of the water soothing the disassociation, bringing down my anxiety levels and allowing this new physical side of myself meant that I felt a purpose I’d never had before, which in turn lessened my feeling of worthlessness and depression.
During this time, I also became so much more at peace with my body. I now admire what it can do, how far it can swim, what temperatures it can handle and how much its always there for me when I needed it. The trust has finally begun to build in ways I haven’t had since trauma occurred in my early twenties. Trauma which had led to me to trying to take my own life at 27.
Knowing that a vast space of nature is waiting for me to immerse myself into is what keeps me going back. It opens its arms, and it allows us to gain anything we need from it. Each and every time.
Every time I’m in there, I take a moment to close my eyes, feel every part of my being, feel the sun or wind on my face, breathe deep and let everything else in life simply melt away. Usually that is followed with a huge sigh and a feeling of pure gratitude and peace.
The water brings together a community of people who simply take you in because of the passion for the swim, regardless of anything else. I watch as people from all walks of life wander into the deep, destined to experience their own moments, no matter what shape or form of interaction gets them there.
Some of us swim miles, some paddleboard, some paddle to their knees and some dip in for mere moments. It doesn’t matter to the community that I see, all I witness is a joining of the passion for being in those waves.
The best moment for me will always be having the chance to swim with Darwyn, my springer spaniel, for the first time. It was such an honour to be in there with him.
It’s safe to say that wild swimming has become part of who I am. From my exercise, my meditation, my friends, my creativity in photography and writing all the way to being part of me as a witch. The water binds my heart, body, mind and soul together and I am filled with such gratitude to have this in my life, when I’ve needed it most.
Our Why I Swim project aims to give voice to our untold swim stories and strengthen our fantastic community. If you would like to share your story, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are new to outdoor swimming and feel inspired to give it a go, please ensure you do so safely.
We would strongly advise trying out your first swim with an experienced cold water swimmer until you are completely confident of your own abilities.
And if you have any questions, pop a post in the Swim Feral Facebook page and our fantastic community of swimmers will be sure to help.
Happy swimming xx
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