When I feel broken wild swimming puts me back together - Alexander Brown
Suffering a series of bad news involving injuries, friends and family, I unravelled and felt not so much sadness as an ache.
Angry, confused, and exhausted, I sought solace in that most middle-class obsession - I went wild swimming.
Now I know it has become a cliche to say ‘oh you wild swim, you haven’t mentioned’ to every bougie literary type with a Twitter account, but the irritation others feel hearing about it is nothing compared to the liberation it gives me.
At home I replay conversations and scenarios in my head, wondering what I could have done differently, questioning whether or not to mourn while feeling lost.
But these doubts disperse when I get in the water, my aches and anxieties washing away as I feel relief just as much as the bite of the cold.
Thursday I had barely slept, couldn’t focus, and thought I would not be able to face seeing anyone.
Diving in that morning and listening to the birdsong and shaking of the trees while the sun danced off the water, instead I felt very alive, and just so lucky to have things to enjoy.
My worries don’t disappear, but those moments of the cold plunge and feeling your body adapt to it are beyond rewarding.
I feel like I have achieved something just by going, and the warmth of the sun upon exiting is a nourishment far greater than extra hours of sleep.
When I am broken the water puts me back together and carries me through the day, and has ever since I started going.
Then there’s the people you meet, and the moments beyond the actual dip.
The dogs waiting outside, the people wearing wetsuits in 20 degrees, the realisation you are swimming with Harry Styles.
It has also given me friendships with those not only mad enough to love swimming in cold water, but irritating enough to post about it online, such as my friend Poppy.
Before I was lucky enough to be at Scotland on Sunday, I had a job I hated so much it made me want to quit journalism.
I was routinely sworn at, got told off for going to the bathroom, and had no motivation or pride in my work.
But I would wake up at 5am, get a bus and then train to meet Poppy and swim together, before huddling around a tea while shivering.
Those moments gave me a memory to hold onto, a reason to be excited about waking up when my work was making me sick and depressed.
Even in lockdown, these swims were a comfort, cycling to meet her in secret spots in the city, getting in quickly and hoping not to get caught, feeling like we’d had an adventure at a time when nothing was allowed.
I swim for fun, I swim for my health, and I swim when I’m hurt both physically and emotionally.
It’s been a rough week, but the wonder in the water always keeps me afloat.
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