Tuesday, June 4, 2013


I let two weeks go by since my last swim.

It wasn't deliberate. Just in the competition of Healthy Things To Do, swimming lost out to dancing, running, walking, meditation, dentist, taking niece to farmer's market, cooking local organic beet greens, etc, etc.

Meanwhile, my baseline emotional state has been very depressed. Weeping on the couch, asking myself about the point of my life, vis-à-vis other lives of suffering or relative non-suffering, vis-à-vis humanity's place in the universe.

That is to say, when I wasn't happy because I was dancing or buying raw milk cheese, I was very, very unhappy. (I chalked this up to lots of things, most of all starting back on Lyme-killing herbs, which causes bacteria die-off, which can make me pretty damn depressed.)

Last night I dropped my darling niece off at my brother's with a batch of macrobiotic muffins we'd just made, and left to swim. And as soon as I was out my brother's door, I was drowning all the existential awfulness. Plus my legs were aching with fatigue. Lyme-disease-herxy fatigue, meaning you-might-not-walk-for-a-couple-days-if-you're-not-careful fatigue.

So I was seriously doubting whether swimming was a good idea. Tears filled my eyes as I drove toward the pool.

“I wish I hadn’t cried so much!” said Alice, as she swam about, trying to find her way out. “I shall be punished for it now, I suppose, by being drowned in my own tears! That will be a queer thing, to be sure! However, everything is queer to-day.”

Swimming, however, was my plan. I'd left my happy extended family behind to do it, and I knew if I didn't, I'd go right back to my couch to cry, and that wouldn't be good either. So I mentally frog-marched myself to the pool, meanwhile making my exercise superego promise my prudent side that I'd just swim for fifteen minutes, slowly, if that was all I had the energy for. And for the first few laps, it looked like fifteen minutes was all it would be. (Plus, everything going on under my swim cap and goggles was pretty unhappy. )

Then suddenly I felt good. I was swimming fast without meaning to. My legs weren't fatigued, and my brain was contemplating the future in a calm, optimistic fashion, having quietly banished thoughts about my life, the universe, and everything to a galaxy far, far away. The world was once again filled with endless beauty.

I swam for half an hour, and got out of the pool not just glowing with happiness, but physically less tired than when I got in. And today I am not only less fatigued than yesterday, but also no longer depressed.

Why does swimming do that?

My naturopath Amy Derksen once told me that swimming is the best exercise for draining the lymph, because of the action of the water along your skin. And my other naturopath, Nesreen Medina, told me to take an Epsom Salt bath after swimming, to get the chlorine out of my skin, and I always do this after I swim. Maybe this combination is why swimming gives me not just the post-exercise high, but also helps with Lyme die-off and depression the next day. At any rate, I need to keep it at the top of my Healthy Activities list.

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