It’s been around thirty degrees lately, so I’ve spent as much time in the water as is physically possible. My lovely local baths, built in the 1920s and conveniently less than a hundred yards from my front door, have been my salvation all week. And it’s a good habit to get into, of going swimming as often as I can manage it – Two or three times a week at best, to go with the reccommendations of the hypermobility clinic. And with it being so close to home, I can feasibly go for a ten-minute swim, or a half-hour swim, or decide at 21.00 that I want to catch the last session of the evening, and be in the water by 21.15. It’s a proper “old fashioned” pool timetable, as I would describe it; Closed to the public for all but a couple of hours a day, since the water is taken up by swimming lessons and the competitive teams and a synchronised swimming troupe. There’s an adults-only swim every weekday at 12-13.00, and again on Monday and Tuesday at 21-22.00, with a ladies-only session in that slot on Thursday, and a general-access laned swim starting at 20.00 on Monday and Sunday, finishing at either 21.00 or 22.00. I daren’t go to the un-lane swims, as honestly my relentlessly swimming laps is probably antisocial if people are trying to bob around in the water and float.
There’s also a disabled swim on Sunday afternoon, which I might go to, but that’s a whole kettle of fish.
I’m disabled – there’s increasingly no getting around that. I walk slowly, get fatigued quickly, am never far from a bottle of morphine or my splints. But in the water it’s pretty much invisible – I still swim with the same technique as I did ten years ago, and although I’ve lost a lot of the raw power that I had, the techical ability is still there. I casually overtake healthy, ablebodied people trying their hardest, at my comfortable cruising pace. I am genuinley more fluent at moving in water than I am on land.
And this upsets me sometimes. Having to get out of the water, and have new friends that I’ve made find out that, in the real world, I’m crippled (And sometimes they’re fine with it, and sometimes they’re really awkward) Having lifeguards remark “You’re so agile/graceful/strong in the water; You’re like a different person!” (And they all do this, every time) Getting the pitying eyes as they’ve had to syringe my medication into my mouth, strip me out of my swimming kit, and towel me off like a child (This happened yesterday, it’s still raw). The emotional whiplash between the respect, fellowship and admiration that people have for me when I’m in water – People asking me for tips on improving their own technique, complimenting me on a good session, or even just swapping exhausted smiles over a waterbottle as we cool off at the end of a lane – and the abject pity, revulsion and fear that people have for me and my body when I’m poolside – What happened to it? Is it going to break? Can it understand me? What does it get from coming to the pool? When it can barely walk, so obviously there’s no way it could swim.
Sometimes I feel like propping my crutches up on the diving blocks, then turning in a 68s 100m freestyle is a revolutionary act. Nowhere near my personal best (55.5s, short course) but still enough to remind people – And especially myself – that my life is something other than pain, confusion and hospitals.
Speaking of hospitals, I have an appointment at StJ’s rheumatology on the 24th of September (Booked before my UCLH appointment, to be a coda to it). Let’s see if I can get that far without needing more doctoring.