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Salt water therapy: Swimming my way through heartbreak and frustration

Words by Nicole Holyer. A journalist and writer by trade, Nicole posts very irregularly on her blog.

I have been swimming with OceanFit for the past three seasons. I’ve loved developing my confidence and my weekly morning sunrise swims.

Then, last year I fell pregnant and had a miscarriage all in a short period of time.

It all happened pretty quickly, it was one big shock after another.

I couldn’t exercise for a while because I was really nauseous, then my thyroid stopped working properly and I had to go on medication (which I’m still on). It really threw my physical (and mental) health around.

So, this season I have been swimming my way through heartbreak and frustration.

When I swim I count my breaths as I stroke, slowly up and down the pool lanes, or across the bay at Bondi, each stroke a metronome tick: one, two, three, four.

I entered the water in spring a stranger to myself. My body was round, full of strange hormones and medication, heavier than it has ever been, and so very slow. I did not trust my body, much less like it. I was angry, and sad, and I wanted to punish my body for failing me in a very profound and fundamental way.

The counting was soothing and gave my mind something to focus on, other than the failed pregnancy and all that rage.

As my heavy limbs worked, my mind was able to rest.

Ocean swimming sessions were an opportunity to forget myself. Instead of remembering, I looked for the plate-sized stingrays buried lightly beneath the sand, and the little silver fish with flickering eyes. I ducked and dived and strained to keep up with the strong swimmers, heart beating fast. I built muscle.

Here at the end of summer, I am tanned and a little leaner (but not much), faster than I was, and a lot less distrustful. Mostly I can keep up now.

I’m still swimming through heartbreak and frustration, and daresay I will be for a time to come. Instead of welcoming a summer baby I must keep swimming through the change of season, hoping for the best.

The rage has quietened. I am softening into forgiveness. And I am coming to understand that healing follows salt water, the right amount of rest, and the count of my breath.

OceanFit

3 comments

  • Thanks for sharing your story Nicole, it’s such a hard time and what a roller coaster. Its great you had your swimming. Now I swim regularly too I don’t know how i’d get through with out it.

  • Lovely to read your words. 18 months ago I turned to ocean swimming to drag myself out of the despair of an abrupt ending to a long marriage. It got me out of bed, it got me fit and it stopped me crying. Bit hard to cry and swim at the same time. As it was quite challenging to begin with, it was absolutely exhilarating to be taken out of my comfort zone and to observe myself improving and thriving. Swimming with likeminded friends on a Friday became my weekly highlight. Off went the flippers and on went the wetsuit, so
    I could keep it up all year round. I entered a few small ocean swims, a winter and summer swim club and I am heading off to a national comp this weekend. You don’t have to be the fastest, just to enjoy it, along with all the other diehards.

  • Lovely post Nicole. I also swam a lot after a messy marriage breakdown and to this day refer to swimming as being a ‘great friend’. A mate and I compete in a few ocean swims in SA every year and train together every week. It’s a tremendous cycle breaker, energy giver and just plain wonderful thing to do. I often think we swimmers are truly blessed to have such a pastime.
    May you grow stronger very day.
    Grantley.

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