“The Thrill Is Gone…Again”
“The thrill and the excitement of swimming are lost for now, and I am left desperately trying to recapture them, wondering if the ADHD has once again snatched away something I loved dearly and that kept me sane.”
Despite the vibrant fall foliage, perfect blue skies, and too-orange-y Halloween kitsch, a dark gray cloud looms over my autumn season. And it has manifested in the water.
Since the summer, my appetite for swimming — once a passion and an alternative treatment for my ADHD symptoms — has dimmed. My love for the pool, for the water, and for life has faded.
I swim with a sigh rather than with a smile. The thrill and the excitement of swimming are lost for now, and I am left desperately trying to recapture them, wondering if my ADHD has once again snatched away something I loved dearly and that kept me sane.
How could I just lose interest in something that meant so much to me? And if it’s the attention deficit how could God be so cruel? (the good Catholic girl in me rebels). It feels a bit like falling out of love, only unlike my string of brief-but-frequent romances with (non-ADHD) men, this passion had lasted for a good seven years and has been rock solid.
A shrink once asked me to name my longest relationship and looked shocked when I answered, “Water.”
I had an exclusive relationship with water. The men who I dated needed to show a similar passion with water or support me on the sidelines as a prerequisite for dating them. “Love me, love my swimming,” was my almost comical and certainly quirky rule. A few brave beaus have even jumped into the open water with me to tackle the infamously dirty East River in Gotham.
But that was then, and now is now.
It isn’t the actual swimming that I’ve lost, but rather the chutzpah to swim better, and the feistiness to find the right swimming environment. I’ve stayed away from open-water swimming, which was my life for a few seasons. The friends and coaches at the beach and at the pool were like a surrogate family.
Swimming was also my chlorine therapy, as I liked to call it. By nature, swimming is about order and discipline, and at the end of every swim I was rewarded with a hot shower, a sense of accomplishment, and a natural adrenaline high.
Now, passion has been replaced by fear. This is what happened over the summer. I dropped out of an open-water race, explaining tearfully to teammates that it was due to a family crisis. Last Christmas the father had a close call with death and suffered a heart attack. I told the swim friends that he wasn’t a fan of me tackling the open water, and they seemed to understand.
The father was an excuse that ordinary people could understand whereas fear and anxiety are invisible and less understandable.
Indeed, when I told a close friend that I’m afraid of taking the plunge in the open water now, she looked at me with disbelief. “How did that happen, I mean was there something that happened to you recently, did you try swimming in the open water?” she asked. I had, I did, and the last time I tried I found myself treading water and convinced I was going to die for at least 30 seconds. I’d somehow become separated with the pack of swimmers around me, and the lone kayaker in the banana-colored kayak looked so close and yet didn’t hear me as I screamed, “Hey, I need help! Hello?!” I called this out several times and was lucky that I connected with another lone swimmer. We finished the swimming event, but it was with relief (similar to the feeling of flirting with death) rather than happiness, joy. Simply said, it is no longer fun.
In response I’ve tried to desperately recapture what is lost by returning to the pool, even if it isn’t with a team. I’m hungry to swim with the same kind of 1,000-watt smile that once drew friends to me at the pool. I’ve tried to swim some workouts with the local Chinese team that I’ve found here only to think back to where I once swam, who I once swam with, how I once swam, and to collapse under an emotional of regret, guilt, shame and then anger.
Why I am in this city half a world away from my hometown, my family, from familiarity? Did I put myself in this predicament to begin with? Why did I leave my home pool? This is all my fault, I’ve once again put myself in this situation. I could have just stayed in New York with the father and the family and tried to find a job, but no I needed to shake things up and move halfway across the world. Was I running away from something?
I mourn what I hope is a temporary loss by desperately trying to hang my hat on another sport. Hmmm, maybe I should try tennis, skiing or karate, but I don’t sound very enthusiastic about those either. Swimming is the one passion that remained a constant, a common thread that kept me sane for so long, and for now there is nothing to take its place. Sigh.