Talitha is taking on her 3rd Aspire Channel Swim despite having a long term mental health condition

This is my third time taking on the Aspire Channel Swim, I did it in 2018 and 2019 as well. The first time, it was to improve my mental health, but I only managed 11 miles due to being in hospital for some of the time. The second time, my mental health had improved, and I was able to complete the full distance, with the goal of improving my physical fitness and losing the weight I had gained as a side effect of medication.

I am taking it on again this year as I enjoyed it very much before, and this year I had the added bonus of my swimming pupil Sheamol joining me. I’ve been teaching swimming and my pupil Sheamol, a Cambridge University Student, who only took to the water for the first time a few short months ago, is now heading up Team Talmol. We will be adding our lengths together, and will hopefully get lots of sponsorship from the Cambridge University Ceilidh Band (more than 60 students who play folk music for barn dances), at which we met; music, dancing, swimming, and of course parties and cake - all coming together to help Aspire help people who aren't able to move about as easily as we do.

Talitha 1

Swimming has been my favourite form of exercise since I was 16, when I used to go to the local swimming pool by myself during games lessons at school. It was very kind of the school PE teachers to let me do this, and I felt mature and trustworthy, setting off for the pool all alone. Though I am very gregarious in my daily life, there is something special about solo swimming - the rhythm of it, the feel of the water. I love going swimming as a form of 'me time'. I swim regularly, both in my local pool and - in the summer - in our local river.

I enjoy swimming because I love the feeling of gliding, not being as heavy, almost like flying. I love the feel of water on my skin, especially cool water on a hot day - I can't wait to get in there!

In the river, I feel at one with nature. Other creatures are not frightened of humans swimming and will let you get close. The moorhen chicks are the best, adorable tiny bundles of black fluff, cheeping brightly. The sun shining through water droplets is one of the most beautiful things I ever see. I tread water and splash with my hands, and a million diamonds rain down around me - I feel like the richest person in the world!

Talitha 2

When the river is too cold, I love swimming in the safety and comfort of Parkside Pool. This is where I swim for Aspire, as I can count the distance accurately. The staff are all really great and friendly, especially the cafe manager - I always have a meal or a snack as part of the whole 'swimming experience', and I love this, I feel very 'at home' there. In 2019 I organised a party in the cafe to celebrate completing the Challenge, and we plan to do so again this time.

My main reason for swimming is pleasure. I wish it would make me lose weight as well, but it doesn't seem to. It is also said to be good for mental wellbeing. I have a long term mental health condition which means I sometimes have to go to hospital and miss my normal swims. After hospital, I am often too tired to swim for a while. But it’s lovely when I go back because nobody judges me. Even if my mind is not back to full wellness at that point, my body can still swim.

This year, once again, my mental health is getting in the way of my swimming, but I am doing my best, and hopefully together Sheamol and I will reach France.

I ask people to sponsor me by email, but word of mouth seems far more effective, following up by sending them a link. I don’t do Facebook, I don't broadcast, I ask each person individually, and enthuse to them, picking out aspects that they can personally relate to.

I'm hoping that teaming up with Sheamol might not only celebrate and encourage him as a new swimmer, but also boost sponsorship - he is massively more gregarious even than me, and ever-enthusiastic, so if he gets into it, he knows hundreds of people who could give money. I'm always on the lookout for new team members as well, for the same reason.

Talitha 1

When I am very ill with my mental illness, I am incapacitated. I have sometimes scored 3 on the Glasgow Coma Scale. So I can, in some ways, relate to people with life-changing injuries. My illness has completely changed the trajectory of my life. I hugely value independence and choice in my life - not to be treated as just a patient, or infantalised, or stigmatised, because of a physical or mental deficiency. Adults have agency, choice, rights, preferences. We are not children or 'poor little things'.

I gladly raise money for Aspire because they empower people to choose and take control of their lives again. Thank you for putting the challenge on again this year, we are delighted to be involved.
  • View Comments
  • Post Comment