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How Sea Dipping has saved me!

November 5, 2021  |  by Lorna Trevethan

This may sound dramatic but it’s true!

If you had have told me at the start of the year that I would have been desperate to get in the Irish Sea and swim/dip every day I would have laughed in your face. I have always exercised, and taking up running 11 years ago was one of the best things I have done both for my physical and mental health – it’s true what they say about the endorphins and the runner’s high.

However, over the past year, I have had a number of challenges that have pushed me to my mental limit and I needed a new way of coping.  The biggest of these challenges is supporting my teenage daughter with her anxiety and mental health.  Isle Listen have supported her through regular therapy sessions which are helping enormously, but holding your sobbing child for hours on end in the middle of the night, whilst they tell you they can’t see the point in living and want to end it all, knowing that nothing you can say will make much difference, is one of the worst feelings you can experience as a parent. 

At the same time, my dad was diagnosed with Lewy Bodies Dementia, and in April this year we had to make the hard decision to put him into a full-time nursing home.  He has deteriorated so quickly and it is overwhelming and draining to witness your once funny, clever, protective dad fade away before your eyes. 

I call this “Living Grief” – he is physically here but mentally he is gone. 

Having to try and support my mum through this too, whilst dealing with my own emotions, is very difficult and I have had to withdraw a little in order to process my own feelings and protect myself.

On top of all this, my eldest daughter has just gone off to university in the UK (I couldn’t be more proud)  and I am peri-menopausal having to cope with all the physical and mental changes that this puts you through.

I needed to find a way to cope with this before I cracked. 

I am so lucky to have a supportive family and group of friends, and it was one of my friends who suggested that I tried dipping in the sea.  At first, I was very hesitant and decided that the only way I would go in was if I had a wetsuit and sea swimming socks as I don’t like being cold.  With these two things bought, and on a cool day in May I took the plunge for the first time and that was it – I have been hooked ever since!

Since then, I dip/swim as often as I can – 4-5 times a week – I would go every day if I could.  It’s difficult to explain the effect that it has on me, other than it helps me cope with the stresses that life currently has me under.  I’ll explain it the best that I can.

Since then, I dip/swim as often as I can – 4-5 times a week – I would go every day if I could.  It’s difficult to explain the effect that it has on me, other than it helps me cope with the stresses that life currently has me under.  I’ll explain it the best that I can.

It’s not just about being in the sea, it’s about the whole experience.  My mood starts to shift from the moment that I arrange a time to meet my “Ditsy Dippers” friends at a given time and location.  The anticipation really builds an hour or two before our scheduled dip.  Once it’s time to put on my swimming costume and gather my stuff, I am so excited.  Walking into the sea has this incredible effect – I just forget everything and embrace the coldness and the nature all around us!  I said above that I needed a wetsuit, well by the end of the summer I braved dipping without it and the effect is even greater!  The coldness sharpens your mind and you have to concentrate on the moment and everything else just drifts away – it’s like a weight lifts from you.  I have entered the sea in tears and feeling like I can’t cope any more, and then the moment I am fully immersed, everything changes.  I have never walked out of the sea without a smile on my face.  The sound of the sea is so different when you are in it. 

There have been times, when I have been so desperate to swim and my “Ditsy Dippers” haven’t been available, that my husband has accompanied me and watched from the rocks whilst I swim!  He sees the transformation in me – it is a physical as well as a mental change.  After a dip, I feel I can cope again.

Who I swim/dip with also helps make the experience.  We laugh (mainly at each other at the screams and shouts that often accompany the entry into the water!), we cry and we chat.  Without fail we all exit the water with big smiles on our faces, ready to face the challenges of the rest of the day ahead.

The final part of the process is changing and then the washing down of equipment in a lovely hot shower when I get home.  That rounds off the experience, and, until all that is done, I don’t think of anything else. 

This usually means that I have around two hours of feeling free from the stresses of my life.  It’s not that I am escaping, it just means that I then have the mental strength to deal with everything.  Of course, I still feel overwhelmed a lot of the time, and I have days where I can’t stop crying, but knowing that I can get in the sea and immerse myself in the cold – it feels like little knives prickling your skin – and it feels amazing – just helps me cope on those low days.

We need to break down the stigma around mental health and seeking support when you need it.  I do not feel ashamed that my daughter is receiving help, I would do anything to make her well, and hopefully one day soon she will feel more positive about things and not require the level of support she currently receives. I am only able to support her because of the help that I get through being in the sea!

I often get told I must be mad to go in – and you know what – maybe I am – but don’t knock it until you have tried it! 

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