After writing that whole entry about my teenage years the other day, and writing about how much I loved swimming, I decided yesterday that I would do my cross-training at the pool. I haven’t gone for awhile, so I thought it would be fun. I went right after work. Usually my husband goes with me, but I finish work earlier than he does, so I was alone.
When I popped out to the pool I saw there were a couple of ladies in the slow lane (my destination) and someone in the fast lane. I say “someone” because I’m not entirely sure it was a person. She was doing this beautiful maneuver where she came out of the water with every stroke and then dove back in. I’m not entirely sure that she wasn’t a mermaid or some kind of dolphin-lady. Immediately a little intimidated.
I usually bring my husband and he hangs out in the waiting area. I can’t bring any identification with me into the pool, and I’ve lost my medic alert bracelet and not replaced it. When my husband is there, I don’t worry, because if I have a seizure (or drown from exhaustion), he can identify me and sort stuff out to either get me home or to a hospital. I decided to let the lifeguards know. Again, intimidated. I didn’t know how they would respond and I was a little embarrassed.
The lifeguards were two young adults. I introduced myself, let them know about my condition and pointed out the lane I would be in. They asked if I would prefer for them to station themselves at the end of the lane or if walking around was fine (it’s not a big pool). I said walking was fine and they thanked me for letting me know. I went and jumped into the slow lane and started laps.
What I had completely forgotten is how hard swimming is. I’m using totally different muscles than I do running and even though I went with the slight arrogance of “Oh, I’m athletic, this will be a breeze”, I quickly changed that thinking as I saw the mermaid and the ladies breezing by me. I persevered though, because I really wanted to be swimming. Even though I had to stop at each end of the pool to try to breathe, I would keep going eventually. It got both easier and harder with each lap but I loved the feeling each time I completed a lap. Every time I completed one, I thought “I just completed my [Insert number] lap. I don’t need to go any further, because that on its own is awesome. Maybe I will do one more”. Every lap was a victory.
I saw the lifeguards walking around. I noticed that they kept an eye on me. At first I was embarrassed. “What if they are judging me?” “Do they notice that I’m a terrible swimmer?” At some point, I suddenly realized that they likely weren’t judging me. They job is literally “Life GUARD” and that’s why they are there. They were doing their job, to guard lives. That includes mine. They are not watching me because I have to stop at the end of each lane. They are not watching me because I’m the slowest in the slow lane. They are watching because they want to make sure that I am safe. Embarrassment gone.
I swam 750m. That’s 150m farther than the last time I went swimming. I am pretty darn proud of that 750m. More important than the distance, I realized that the previous times swimming, I had been making my husband go with me to watch because I was too embarrassed to tell the people who are specifically there to keep everyone safe. I didn’t need to be embarrassed. My safety is just as important as anyone else’s.
When I left, one of the lifeguards thanked me for letting them know about my condition. I got their names, and later filled out a feedback form with a GLOWING reference to them. I saw the mermaid talking to another lady and showing her a basic front stroke. Maybe if I had asked her, the mermaid would have given me some tips. Intimidation gone.
I had been thrilled to swim, to increase my distance, but that was nothing compared to the realization that I could go alone. I could go and make the responsible decision to let the lifeguards know and they weren’t even fazed, nor made me feel awkward. There have been times when epilepsy has made me feel very isolated. As I’ve said before, embarrassed. That swim made me understand so much more that strangers aren’t likely to look at it as something to be embarrassed about. They are going to be concerned about me and want my safety. I have value. My life is worth guarding.
Later, my husband and I went out for salads and ice water at our favourite locally-owned bistro. And by that, I actually mean we went out for burgers and beer at a nearby pub. It was excellent.
Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!!!!
I really relate to your blog I run to help with my epilepsy too . The fear is something you can never explain to others . Over the years I’ve realize I should not feel embarrassed and alone but it’s a misunderstood disease. You can look perfectly fine and just had two seizures an hour earlier.