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What Resilience means to me

Resilience is a pretty fashionable word at the moment, you see it popping up everywhere. There are books about it, podcasts, documentaries, courses and philosophies. If there is one word which is peppered into every single discussion I’ve seen or had with people about the Channel, resilience is the one which features the most. Time and again I have seen the phrase “swimming the Channel is 80% in your mind”. That puts an extraordinary amount of pressure on something you often don’t know you have until the moment is there. I have literally driven myself mad trying to work out if I am “resilient” enough for this challenge, and lurking in the back of my mind is the idea that if I don’t reach France then people will simply shrug and say…”Well, her mind wasn’t strong enough otherwise she would have done it”. Do I care what other people think? Sadly, yes I do! I cannot bear the idea that people will think I should have tried harder…which is ridiculous as 99% of the world’s population wouldn’t even attempt it!

I have set myself little challenges since I signed up for this madcap plan almost 2 years ago, culminating in a night swim in a lake in June this year. I ended up being so frightened I lost a lot of confidence completely, and the fact I was so scared made me wonder if I had the bravery, the resilience to swim the Channel at night on my own. I can’t help my fear, so what can I do about this?

For me, resilience is closely linked to personal responsibility and patience. Those who know me, know I don’t have any of the latter whatsoever, I have an idea and I want it done immediately, which is how I ended up saying I’d swim the Channel solo, and how I founded Chameleon Buddies. However, I do actually have patience when it comes to big things. For example, on my 6 hour swim last year, which I hadn’t trained for and had no intention of doing, I had to be patient (I was on a Channel swim camp for experience, and ended up completing the 6 hour channel qualifier the others had to do at the end of the week). I had to simply keep on patiently swimming, stroke after stroke, feed to feed, hour after hour, until the 6 hours was over. I couldn’t rush it as time is a master of itself. Throughout the swim I kept thinking “No-one else can do this for me, so if you want to do it, you have to be the one to keep on swimming.” And this is what I mean when I say resilience in my eyes, is linked to personal responsibility.

Throughout the early years of Sam’s life, which as we know were blighted by physical and emotional turmoil, people often said to me that they thought I was very resilient as I kept on going. For starters – I’m his mother, so I didn’t have much choice! I also had to be patient – I had to wait for scans, appointments, consultations, legal processes, surgeries, decisions and physical recovery. I remember a friend saying to me “You are always so cheerful! How do you do it?”. I replied “Well, no-one else is going to come and knock on my door and make me happy, so if I want to be happy I have to do it for myself”. I tried absolutely anything and everything to get mentally better. I had counselling, medication, cognitive therapy, I read articles, asked questions, and patiently kept trying everything suggested to try and get through some impossibly dark days. I absolutely understand that there are times in your life when you feel unable to do anything to help yourself, that things are just too big, too hard and too scary, but no matter how hard it