I thought about what it means to be brave last night - it was after so many wonderful messages sent to me by people who have also struggled with their mental health and are looking for a way to be free again.
I noticed a common theme that the element of being brave is thought to be before actually getting into the sea. It made me consider that throughout my own struggles my feeling of bravery came not from the getting in (I didn't feel brave at all) but from the getting out.
Getting into the sea on a cold winters morning for me, and especially when I was so unwell, took no bravery at all. I was defeated and I had given up - getting in was more of a 'I may as well' kind of feeling than that of a heroic one.
After this mornings swim and on every morning the getting in part always makes me feel more submissive than of brave - but it is in the getting out that the real bravery can be found.
The feelings of accomplishment, of doing something extraordinary, of being a real life warrior.
I watched all of my lovely swimming friends this morning - some 70, some 80 - and for them the getting in is a quiet affair, like they are very simply and ever so gently slipping into a silent world - but it is in the getting out that their real strength and bravery can be seen. Faces full of laughter, of rosy cheeks, glowing skin and gleaming wide open eyes filled with joy and inner pride.
Where slumped shoulders and bowed heads enter the water - it is Kings and Queens that often climb out.