I have to admit, I don’t exercise much. Not as much as I should do, anyway. I try to force myself to go to a yoga class once a week but sometimes I just can’t find the motivation to go.
I could claim it’s pure laziness on my part but it actually isn’t. The problem with booking a class a couple of days before is that I have no clue what sort of day I’m going to have on the day of the class. If it’s a bad day, you can’t get me to leave the house, let alone exercise.
I don’t often share advice regards to day to day life, as I feel like I’m not in the position to. Everyone with a diagnosis of some sort of mental health condition will know about the positive effect exercise can have on your mood. That’s because everyone and their mum will tell you. I know it, I’ve never regretted exercising once I’ve finished and still I can’t motivate myself most days. I just can’t be arsed.
I hate most forms of exercise, maybe because of PE classes at school. I’m really bad at running so I’d be the classic case of a kid who was the last one to be picked into a team. Also before my thyroid condition was diagnosed it actually left me unable to sweat. I would feel really ill after exercising without understanding why so I’d avoid it altogether.
Today, however, I went for a swim at the local leisure centre. It was in the middle of the day on a weekday so it was quiet. Like I said before, I hate most forms of exercise but I actually like swimming. I can do it at my own pace and as the water carries my weight, it gives me a sense of lightness and freedom of movement.
I especially enjoy swimming on my back because all of a sudden the water blocks all the sounds around you: the common commotion, splashes and afternoon tunes played at the loudspeakers. All you can hear are the underwater sounds: kicks, the air bubbles and your own breathing.
It could’ve been distressing but it actually wasn’t. I started focusing on my breathing more as I could hear it so clearly. On yoga classes we’ve been taught to breathe into belly instead of breathing shallowly into the chest so for the first time, with all the other sound blocked out, I managed to do it. On class my thoughts would get too tangled or I’d be too focused in breathing at the right time or at the same rhythm with everybody else that it just didn’t work. I overthink. That’s my problem. Now after a few laps it started to happen naturally.
When I was really ill, I felt like I was walking in water. All of my limbs felt heavy and everything seemed to happen very far away from me. I had such a hard time hearing others that at some point I actually thought I was going deaf. I also constantly had the same feeling a diver has when they run out of oxygen. There was so much pressure coming in from everywhere around me. My lungs and my head were about to explode.
So in a way it’s funny that after such experiences I’d find swimming such a relaxing activity. Maybe because I feel so much better physically than I did back then. My antidepressants have taken away the fogginess and my sleeping medication has removed the insomnia that contributed to my feeling of being underwater. Now water was on the outside rather than inside me. Back then there was nothing I could do about the feeling. Now I was in control. I could swim.
Of course I overdid it. I swam for about a mile without a break, which is ridiculous. In all likelihood I’m going to seriously regret it tomorrow morning. But I’m still proud of the achievement. I’m going to try to go swimming once a week. Without a set time to attend a class or the pressure of a group, I can choose a day when I feel up to the challenge.
That would be my piece of advice. Find something that suits you. Something that doesn’t add any unnecessary pressure. Some people swear by running. Some people go to an aerobics class. I think by trying out different things, at your own pace, gives you that joy of exercise the athletic people and PE teachers kept talking about.
Because I felt it. As I was swimming on my back, listening to air bubbles, breathing into my belly. I looked at the ceiling, kicked against the water, thought of nothing and just was.
I was alive.