Jessica swims because in the water she no longer feels disabled
When I read about the Aspire Channel Swim I signed up because I was inspired to help others. I always yearned to swim the Channel, and never thought I would be able to, but gradually, by doing it bit by bit, it is suddenly somehow possible.
It will be a remarkable achievement for me, and the fulfilment of a lifelong dream.
I have permanent damage to my spine which has resulted in weakness, back pain, and numbness in my foot. I struggle to get in and out of the pool, as I suffer debilitating pain throughout my body and I have a spinal injury and tardive dyskinesia, which affect my strength and coordination. I cannot feel my right foot.
Luckily, I often swim with friends who can assist me, and there are little steps available. The changing rooms have seats in, which is invaluable for getting changed. I swim as often as I am able, although I am a working single mother with multiple disabilities so I’ll slot in a swim before work, or prior to collecting my son from nursery. I treasure a rare trip to the beach, or to Clevedon Marine Lake.
I swim for my mental and physical wellbeing and health. My physiotherapist recommended it for my spinal injury and overall strength. It is the only exercise my disabilities permit me to take; and in the water, I no longer feel disabled, but light and free.
Swimming brings me a deep peace which is extremely precious in this frantic life, especially as I am bipolar, and my brain is often wrought into a tangled knot. When I am in the water, my mind gradually unravels my thoughts, and often, I find resolution and purpose there. Swimming lifts my soul - I am a nereid.
I was distraught when the Lido had to close due to the pandemic and elated when it opened back up to members, with careful cleaning measures and lane swimming in place. Recently, I have been able to take friends and also my little son, who was enraptured to be back in the water. He loves the water, like me. He wants to be a shark when he grows up!
I swim at the glorious Bristol Lido, an oasis of beauty and calm in the heart of Clifton. There is a hot tub, steam room, and sauna too, as well as a wonderful restaurant. It is thoughtfully and tastefully maintained, with olive trees and hanging baskets of lovely flowers which the Lido bees love. In the winter, it is brightly strung with pretty lights. The staff there are fantastic.
I’m not great at fundraising because I am too shy to ask for donations! I know that times are tough for everyone but I have shared my page on social media, and kind friends have supported me. Some of my friends are swimming part of the way alongside me, and for the grand finale I’ll invite my friends and my little son to cheer me on from the poolside!
Prior to becoming disabled, I ran the Race for Life a few times, in memory of my mother who died of skin cancer. My running days are long gone, so I was delighted to find a way to raise vital funds for people who will benefit from them.
I fiercely treasure my independence and I wish that for others, too.
My physiotherapist told me, gently and kindly, that they cannot ‘fix’ me, but that I can accept the way I am and make the most of what I have, and I took these words to heart. We humans need to look out for one another and help each other where we can.