When I was a child, every Saturday evening at 6.00 p.m. I went swimming with my school friends to a pool in the city centre. It’s long torn down now, and apartments built instead. We were in and around 11 years old, when we were told the following Saturday there would be swimming lessons held there, free of charge so we decided we were going to attend.
Well way back then in the last century, the way to teach swimming was to throw us into the deep end, without any buoyancy aid! I have to say it was the end of my swimming days for some time to come.
The noise of hitting the water, the colour, the sound under water and the concept of not being able to see where I wasgoing properly, absolutely frightened the heart out of me. It was such a pity, as I loved being in the water, but risking that experience again, definitely not! The trauma affected me for decades after. Trauma that also infiltrated into lots of adventures that I just could not take part in. The fear of what might happen next was just not worth taking the risk.
Every holiday we went on, I would get into the sea, remembering what my father told us as kids, only enter the sea up as far as your knees and swim parallel to the shore, staying safe at all times.
My head never hit the water, neither did my mouth or my nose! Not ever!
While I loved the feel of the water, the waves as they came in and went out, the pull of the tide, the feeling as the water allowed me to float, there was no way I was putting my head under it and that was all there was to it. So therefore, I had no stroke technique, so I suppose you could say, I could float but could not really swim.
Well, when I started our beloved Swim club, it was very obvious to the other volunteers that I was fearful about putting my head under the water. Each time a toy fell to the bottom I had to ask a volunteer to get it for me. The reply I gave to the many questions was I was going out and I didn’t want to get my hair wet!! That ran out after a short while and the truth came out! I felt so inadequate, I was watching athletes with learning disabilities swimming away up and down the pool not a bother on them.
A very experienced coach was volunteering in the club at the time, and he suggested to me to go and take some swimming lessons and try to conquer the fear. Great idea, but even the thought of taking lessons terrified me. What if I was the only adult in the pool learning? How silly would I look?
Back to the swim club, Special Olympics ran a summer school every September with workshops on all the different sports, so I booked into the Halliwick programme which was in-water teaching. A fascinating method, designed by a mother of a child with cerebral palsy most unique, as it teaches the breathing first and the stroke technique last. Clever mother!
For the first time I was encouraged to enter the water from the bank supported by an instructor, put my head under and surface again. But most importantly, how to manage my breath while I did this. I took part in many entries and exits, head under water activities and to top it off an assistedsomersault!! I came back from that weekend, full of excitement and decided to finally go and learn how to swim properly.
Off I went, every Tuesday and Friday mornings and I was swimming with a good technique before long. I watched many ladies in their 70’s and 80’s lane swimming with ease.
In the early days of the club, I was wet more days than dry, as I was in the water with the club on Sunday, classes Tuesday and Friday, lane swim Monday and water safety Thursday night!!
The trauma caused by that incident when I was quite young, held me back from taking part in many swimming and other activities because I was so afraid. When I finally conquered the fear of my head being under the water, it was such a sense of achievement. There I was 43 years of age, feeling like a little child. Feeling free, able, and accomplished.
I am teaching a little guy to swim at the moment, who has a learning difference. He can float unaided, but he’s not happy about the water on his face, near his mouth or nose yet. But guess what? I’ve got lots of time. Patience is really important when supporting anyone to the world of being able to swim. A small slip and he could go right back to the beginning and sit on the bank. But watch this space, there’s a wonderful time on the horizon for him. I can’t wait for the lesson, when he conquers the fear and realises, he really can do this!
If you are identifying with anything I have been writing about, some QTT would really help. Don’t allow trauma to stand in your way of living your best life, you deserve the freedom that releasing old trauma brings.
Stop thinking about it, whatever it is and take action, it’s the best way to freedom.