I have been wild swimming a lot now for about 5 years. Growing up in Devon I was always a water baby and my brother and I would spend hours in the sea when we were young. I always battled the ol’ depression and anxiety growing up, but about 5 years ago in the summer, my mental health took a real hit and I ended up in hospital. The following winter, after my stint in hospital, I was healing and a good friend of mine talked to me about how much cold-water therapy can help the mind. So, I gave it a go! – we went to the beach chatted, swam, drank tea. Going into the sea hurt, it was so cold. But I was hooked on the feeling that the cold water gave me. It almost reset my mind and calmed the noise. After that it just became a really positive outlet for me.
I believe the sea heals. I swim in it because it’s the one constant thing in my life that keeps me from getting too overwhelmed when life gets hard. The sea also gives me a great sense of connection to nature, and I think that’s important. My menstrual cycles have a huge mental and physical effect on me that is sometimes unbearable, and I almost feel like a different person when I’m on. But the water soothes my pain and when I get in the sea I immediately, without even thinking about it, start smiling from ear to ear, I can’t help it.
I work as a chef and manage a small farm kitchen, which I love. I have dipped in and out of cooking /hospitality over the years with other job roles in childcare & beekeeping but I’d love to run my own café one day. I have a gorgeous little whippet, Wilson, who is my best friend and keeps an extra eye on me while I’m in the water.
In terms of routine, in the winter it’s just a matter of coffee and go, but in the summer I am better and tend to prep all my swim things ready the night before and set my alarm for 5 am. I make my coffee to go and head to the beach (still in my PJs) with Wilson and we sit and watch the sunrise, have a nice swim and then head home for a shower before work.
Despite the craziness of life, I find there is always so much joy when I swim and so many precious memories - clambering around the rocks and caves with my sister, laughing uncontrollably because a bird pooed on me or evening adventures - like last summer when I met with my friend Izzy and we went to the beach one evening, lit a fire, cooked some sausages and went for a swim. We floated and looked at the sky and just talked about life. I think we just both felt really grateful.
I decided to begin therapy about 2 years ago and it was one of the most challenging times of my life, unlocking memories, a very strange time, but ultimately positive. In Early Spring last year I started my 365-sea swim challenge. It’s made me get up and get out every day even when I didn’t feel like it, and that’s done me the world of good, even pushing myself to take a quick dip after a stressful shift completely calms me like nothing else.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve begun to recognise how important it is to have personal time alone to rest and re-charge. I found that body image was a huge part of my anxiety when I was in my 20s. Cold water swimming makes me feel strong, so it has taught me to appreciate what my body is capable of rather than what I look like. It’s given me so much more confidence. One of the happiest moments I can pinpoint was the day I let go of people’s expectations of me and focused on what makes me happy, that is when I felt most free.