Anne Callaghan is our Campaign Manager for Scotland. As part of our International Women’s Day blog series, highlighting female experiences of loneliness, she shares her story about tackling loneliness through wild water swimming.
“Five years ago, I moved back to Scotland after 20 years working down in London. I found it an incredibly lonely experience, as I didn’t have as many meaningful connections as I did down south.
I quickly learnt that I needed to prioritise trying different things to make meaningful connections, like joining local book clubs. I also work from home, which means I need to make that extra effort to socialise and make connections.
I am also perimenopausal – a transition period women experience before the menopause. It causes changes to your hormone balance, which can affect your ability to sleep, your mood, and sometimes your weight.
“There’s something about putting yourself in cold water where you cut through the BS. We laugh, we cry, but there’s also just this sense of community.”
I found a meditation centre near my house which had set up an online menopausal support group. Through women I met on this group, we set up the Southside Bluetits – a wild water swimming group. It’s open to anyone who identifies as a woman, trans, inter-sex, non-binary or gender-fluid.
There’s something about putting yourself in cold water where you cut through the BS. Everyone that comes has got a story to tell. I’ve met people and I’ve heard their life stories and they, mine. We laugh, we cry, there’s highs and lows, but there’s also just this sense of community and companionship.
We get to share our experiences, our authentic selves. Research shows that being outside in blue space is also beneficial to your health and wellbeing. And it’s true. You come back energised.
“At the end of the day, we’re all just humans, in the water, giggling away like kids.”
Digital is often criticised for making us more disconnected, but a lot of us live really close to each but have never have the opportunity or the reason to connect. The initial online group gave us that opportunity to connect. It gave us a shared interest, a shared activity, and through that, discovered shared values.
Wild water swimming also means you need to help each other, as it’s not wise (and not always safe) to do it on your own and it’s good to have help to get some of your swimming kit on and off. It’s a very communal experience.
At the end of the day, we’re all just humans, in the water, giggling away like kids.”
This is part of a blog series for International Women’s Day 2020.