Late Swimmer

I was afraid of deep water for the first 39 years of my life. From being a young child, my mother sort of passed her fears onto me. (She never learnt to swim because of her anxiety) Let me start from the beginning. When I was a little 4 year old, I would play on our slum of a back garden (Building site) whilst my brother and sister were at school, and one day, whilst my mum was indoors, I inexplicably decided it would be a jolly good idea to pick up a long piece of roofing slate and plung it into my ear (Clever little bugger) Apparently my screams brought my mum out onto the concrete garden to see blood pouring out of the plundered ear (The right one) with the piece of slate sticking out at right angles, waving hello to mum!

Obviously I can’t remember much about it, it’s just a hazy memory, but mum scooped me up and ran with me dangling under her arm to the hospital. Luckily, we lived a 30 second walk from the town centre, with the hospital a 2 minute walk on the edge of the town, or a 2 minute run.

Anyway, my early attempt at trying to be David Blaine resulted in 2 trips to the hospital every year for a 3 day stay so they could perform a minor operation to enable me to stave off deafness. My yearly trips went on for 12 years until I was 16. By then I was sick and tired of going, so I discharged myself.

So, throughout all of those early years, my mum was advised to keep my right ear as dry as possible (No water) in order to prevent premature deafness. Because of the surgeon’s orders, mum took it quite literally and stopped me from learning to swim out of school, and in school. (You know what’s coming don’t you!)

Of course, the school teachers went along with my mum’s wishes, but at the very first opportunity of going with my mates out of school, I took it. My friends assured me that I would love it, they had got hold of a spare pair of swim shorts and that they would make sure I was safe. (It was a lieeeeeee)

I was having a great time walking around the shallow part of the pool, at last I was joining In with the lads, splashing and jumping around. Then I became a little bit too cocky and decided to walk towards them as they swam off towards the deeper water. I missed my footing, slipped and went under. With my eyes closed, I panicked and started swallowing water. Then I felt my little boy frame being lifted out of the water by a life guard, who placed me gently on dry land by the side of the pool. My friends were having such a good time they had been oblivious to my ‘Near death’ experience. They swam over, made sure I was ok then tried to talk me back into the pool. I was having non of it. From that day, my fear of deep water haunted me.

It wasn’t until I was 39 that I allowed myself to face my fear. My best friend Stuart (Shuffle and click) convinced me that he could teach me how to relax in the water and eventually learn to swim.

So, I placed my 6 foot 3, 19 stone frame into his capable hands and reluctantly trusted him. I walked into the shallow end and felt very silly and self-conscious, I mean, a big lump like me, wading into the shallow end at 30 years old!! To my surprise, the lifeguards didn’t gawp at me like I expected. They watched me intently as I struggled to doggy paddle across the width of the pool, stopping a few times so I could stand up (Waist high!) just to reassure myself I could still touch the bottom! Silly I know, but those nervous feelings took a while to defeat. But I slowly became more confident and better, eventually (After 3 months) able to swim a width without stopping and at a fair old rate of knots.

The day came when, after encouragement from Stuart, I decided to try and swim a length! I was breathing very deeply, becoming out of breath even though Stu was talking to me, trying to calm me down when the senior lifeguard walked by, knelt down beside me and said, very calmly “You’re ready”. I nodded and felt better when he told me he would walk along the side of the pool, holding a pole just in front of me in case I wanted to stop and needed something to grab hold of.

I walked to the shallow end and pushed off. Stuart swam beside me, allowing me enough room for my wide stroke as I kept my eyes on the pole just in front of me. I swam the whole length without faltering and reached the end of the pool quicker than I expected. I had actually swam a length, half of it in deep water! I could do it and I felt amazing! The lifeguard put his thumb up, smiled and asked me if I needed the pole on the swim back. I shook my head, told him I would be ok and set off for the return leg with Stu swimming just behind me.

After a few weeks of building up to swim 10 then 12 then 20 lengths, two or three times a week, we decided to try for a mile and we did it, swimming an extra couple of lengths to make sure we had done it. Swimming that mile happened just before my 40th birthday. I was elated and a little bit proud of myself and proud of Stuart for helping me conquer my fear.

I don’t swim much anymore, mainly because Stuart isn’t in the best of health and I never seem to have much free time, but I still find it surprising that I actually learnt to swim.

52 thoughts on “Late Swimmer

  1. Congratulations this is such an inspiring story – it’s interesting you say you inherited that anxiety about if from your Mum – I did the same thing – not with swimming but other weird little things like dentists and it wasn’t her fault, she couldn’t help it and I eventually grew out of it but parental beliefs are such a strong precursor to our own

    Liked by 4 people

    1. It is yes, the only anxiety that I didn’t inherit from her unintentional influence was making anxious presumptions about how people see me. She was always dramatising how she believed other people regarded her.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. She must have lived in a self created hell – that’s what anxiety does. Terrible thing. I’m so pleased I don’t suffer from it anymore or at least only as a passing emotion that I get rid of easily enough.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Fantastic! An achievement to be very proud of!!!

    I grew up with a swimming pool, and near the sea. I’ve always been a swimmer, just not a very good or strong one. I enjoy it, but for leisure. I have a deep respect for the sea.
    Thing is, while I do not fear water at all, I am not easily persuaded to go where my feet can’t touch with my head above water either 😉

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  3. Good for you! And congratulations for having such a great friend as well!
    My mother insisted that we learn it before we went to school, because we were living right beside a canal, where several kids had fallen in, one boy even twice, and he was saved twice, how lucky can one be? Anyway, my brother was a fast learner, but for me my mother had to muster all her patience. I started out with these air cushions on every limb and her hand under my belly. 😀 😀 😀

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  4. I know that fear. I can only do two widths, but as its been that long, I probably wouldn’t be able to do that.
    But when I did those two widths, I had the offer of a length, with the pole while swimming side of pool to grab. But I couldn’t do it. There was no way I was going in at the deep end.
    I don’t know where my fear comes from. I have had no accident in the pool.
    Mum didn’t swim, or go in the pool. But I don’t think any anxiety thing from her has been passed onto me.
    Where as the dentist fear. Yes, I got that off mum I would say. But I have managed to come hell of a long way with that one. Never thought I would.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. That’s a captivating story! And well done! I think it is more admirable learning things as an adult than as a child, for children are expected to be in a state of constant learning, whereas adults aren’t, although they/we should be. Breaking out of the idea of what one “should know” or where one “should be” demands courage, and people who do that I believe stay young in a sense. 🙂

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  6. Wow,I am so happy that you are finally able to swim and most especially learning how to conquer fear and anxiety and being able to trust someone else to help you through it.May God bless him with better health and may you keep winning your battles.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. You did so well. I still don’t swim and my mum gave out my first bicycle. Talk about deep water swimming. I think you’re brave and only fish should swim. It’s that serious. I like tranquillity. Only.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. As a professional surfer in the 1960’s, I was a super strong and confident swimmer. A half century later, I would probably drown if I had to swim more than 50 feet. There is a time and place for all things under heaven.

    Liked by 3 people

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