A client experience of reflecting on demons
The following is a real life example of a swimmer coming up against demons and going on to deal with them.
Well, that was a new experience! I’ve done many things in my life, some of them challenging and definitely “out there!” I’ve also supported swims and seen many people dealing with their own demons, and helped several deal with them and come through to achieve their dreams. I never thought it would happen to me in such a dramatic way!
During week 1 of the SwimQuest Long Distance Training camp in Croatia after successfully completing the shorter 2 and 2 1/2 hour swims, and feeling quite good about the swimming as the work I’d put into my stroke since this time last year seemed to have paid off with good extension, the catch that worked and a much improved body position. However, the wheels really came off during the 6 hours swim. At a point around 1 1/2 hours into the swim I found myself asleep in the water and still swimming, waking up with no idea where I was or what I was doing, which was really disconcerting. This happened another couple of times and I decided that it would be a good idea if I got out. It turned out that I got out just after the 2 hour feed, not that I was aware of this at the time. Once back on land I didn’t warm up for over 10 hours; we had a seminar and I was wearing multiple layers sitting under an air conditioning unit blowing out hot air and still shivering! The consensus was that I was suffering from a virus and needed a few days to get over it.
Week 2 started and the change in weather from constant rain to warm sun was very welcome! Rather than swimming, I took the opportunity to rest and helped the SwimQuest guides run the boats supporting the initial swims. I must admit that I did enjoy playing with the boats and taking lots of photos, while recovering from the virus. At the same time I was also terrified of what had happened in the first 6 hour swim, and that it would happen again; waking up and finding you’ve been asleep in the water is a very scary and disconcerting situation!
While I had spoken about the swim during debrief sessions with the whole group and also with the Guides, the experience was most definitely weighing on my mind when the 4 and 6 hour swims were next in the schedule. Emma was aware that my experiences in the 6 hour swim had unsurprisingly affected me, and was getting me to focus my thoughts and look at myself closely and analytically. It would have been very easy, and enjoyable, to sit on the boats and helps support the swims. I’d have been doing something both useful and also well within my comfort zone, however, Emma asked a question that cut to the heart of the issue; what would be my greatest regret: not to start and never know whether I could have swum or to start and then fail (although I could succeed)?
I started the 4 hour swim and entered the water terrified that I’d experience a repeat of the 6 hour and be asleep in the water. My intention was to see if I could swim and to get past the 2 hour point, and then get out, saving myself for the 6 hour qualifying swim; however, at the 2 hour point I gained a swim buddy (such a boost) and I did complete the swim. It was such an amazing relief to defeat that demon; the one causing me to be terrified of being asleep swimming in the water. The demon was finally beaten during the 6 hour swim when I swam past the point when I’d had to get out the previous week.
I was determined to complete my 6 hour qualifying swim; however, I could have very easily left Croatia without it and terrified of doing a long swim in the water, and even just getting in and swimming in the sea. Focusing my thoughts on the actual event, that it was the right thing to get out as my subsequent condition showed, rebuilding my confidence, that my technique was ok, that there was no pressure and I could always do 6 hours in Dover, and ultimately it was my choice and what would be my greatest regret. I’m someone who would always try and perhaps fail rather than never try at all and not know what might have been; so posing that question which demanded an honest answer was the right approach and got me in the water again attempting and completing my 6 hour qualifying swim!
Have you faced demons from past events that continue to shape your current world? That one question that I asked Paul to consider is the one that I use when I face any difficult situation. It is the question that I asked myself after my disaster in Jersey last year when deciding whether to go on an attempt the channel a few weeks later.
So if you have a difficult decision to make: Which would be your greater regret - to do whatever it might be and fail, or to give up without even trying? Ask the question honestly and you’ll find the right answer. Should the worst happen after that event then you’ll also know that you knowingly made that decision, it will make that easier.
If you need help with dealing with demons or it would help to ask that question through a discussion with me, please get in touch.
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