I love swimming. I’m aerodynamically designed to swim. Swimming out of my depth is fine too, as long as I can see the bottom. But swimming in Loch Ard presents a real challenge because it’s full of peat and peat means a murky bottom. And I don’t like murky bottoms.
There are bright red buoys anchored in a large, loose circle far out in the open water, away from the safety of the shore. They’re swim buoys for distance swimmers who want to go for miles. I’m one of those swimmers but since watching Jaws (and other horror films) too young, that first scene has stayed with me. It has stunted me and left me with feelings of anxiety that I haven’t been able to shake.
Can’t see the bottom? Definitely not going any further and swimming back to the shallows as fast as possible! Eeeeek.
I’ve swam in Loch Ard four times now. The first two I just romped about in the shallows. The silt bed was my guide. I was safe and free from the heebie jeebies of all unknown fears because I felt in control of escape.
The third time I saw two women swimming out to one of the buoys as I was sitting on the shore. It spurred me on. By the time I’d got changed they were out of the water but I was ready to give it a go. The intention was there. I said goodbye to safety and started out. The sky was overcast. As I made my way to open water I started feeling uneasy. The water was so clear in front of me. I could see my arms powering along, crystal clear. But the backdrop was blackness. It was unsettling. My mind started racing and imagining all the possible monster fish that might swim up to get me. I was back in a horror film, just before something terrifying happens. I couldn’t take it. I turned back. I tried hard but the fear outweighed the gain. I swam back as fast as I could to Simon and gave him a cuddle. He was my den.
I got to thinking about what would help me get over this fear. It was a shame it was holding me back. I longed to swim far in one direction, without needing to turn around like doing lengths in a pool. Sure I swim across, but I wanted to swim out. More people being in the water would help. More people swimming out to the buoys, definitely. And then I wondered how much sunshine had a part to play. When the sun hits the water in this loch, it sparkles gold. It’s so beautiful. There’s no blue here but gold sparkles and sunbeams - there are millions of those.
The fourth time I went swimming in Loch Ard was a warm day full of bright sunshine. I wasn’t planning on a huge swim, I was simply happy to be in the water for one more summertime splash. There was certainly a passion and a desire to swim a long way but I’d put those hopes to bed after being scared senseless last time. This time I swam the opposite way to usual. I saw some other people head over there so followed them. They were a long way off and they’d survived. Bonus!
As the sun shone down, I kept swimming. As sun rays hit the water, danced on the surface, I kept swimming. They made me feel safe. They made me feel magical. As I found my rhythm, I found my freedom and started to swim to the red buoy. All of a sudden I was on my way, no turning back and going to make it. My fears were under control. I focused on those dancing rays that lit up my path and kept the darkness at bay. I had some internal struggles. Distant leaves floating on the water made me look twice and emotions from the past couple of months reared their heads but my sense of freedom and exertion, of pounding my body into pure, fresh water and feeling my heartbeat pump away quashed those anxieties. I was purifying myself in this water. It was my friend. I was becoming The Queen of the Seals.
I reached the first buoy hungry for more. This was my realm. My body is more happy in water than anywhere else. I decided to swim across to another buoy far far away. And so began my deep water swim, releasing all tensions and simply celebrating being a mermaid in the sunshine.
It’s sad to think of traumas getting in the way of this wonderful experience. After what seemed like an age I reached the second buoy before swimming back to shore with a big smile on my face and wobbly arms (front crawl all the way).
We don’t often get to conquer our old demons. I’m glad I took the opportunity to have a go and succeed.