On my recent family holiday in the Lake District a funny thing happened. During a game of Taboo, someone had to describe the word ‘allergies’.
If you’ve never played this game before, you have to describe a word without using a list of key words, so you can’t say the actual word or other things e.g. YOU CANNOT SAY: ALLERGIES, ALLERGY, PEANUTS, ETC.
They said, “Ruth has a lot of these!” And the first response was ‘alcohol‘ 😂
Thank you guys, I love you all for that.
I’m so proud.
Ruth has a lot of these… drinks! Yes. Yes I do.
I mean I don’t want to be known as a total pi**head (there was a lot of drinking last week) but I was pleased that the first response wasn’t allergies. I don’t want to just be known as the allergy girl.
But I don’t drink THAT much…
I am a person behind the allergy
This blog idea leads really well into a new campaign, created by my beautiful and talented friend and blogger, Lindi who writes The Allergy Table Blog
I knew this campaign was coming up because a group of us had shared our thoughts with Lindi in short videos. I know she’s been planning this video for AGES! I’ve been looking forward to seeing it and it’s brilliant.
Lindi asked us all who we were. What our passions were, what we love to do and how much more there is to us than our allergies. Watch ‘I am the person behind the allergy’ campaign video below:
I absolutely love what Lindi has done here. It’s a powerful message.
So before you think about someone as awkward, fussy, boring or unadventurous because of their allergies, consider what they have to do daily to stay safe. It’s a lot.
And realise that behind all this fear, anxiety and planning to keep ourselves safe is a human being. An interesting, intriguing, fascinating human being.
We are all strong, brave, beautiful and maybe a little bit crazy… in my case.
Please watch this video because it’s brilliant. It really gets across all our personalities, our interests and what makes us a person behind the allergy. Or rather, in front of the allergy! The allergies need to be taken seriously but not so much that you lose the person inside.
You still have to own those allergies!
Obviously we planned meals out in advance and I took a lot of food with me, as always. If you have life threatening allergies you have to ultimately take responsibility and ‘own them’ to keep yourself safe. We ate out three times in Ambleside at Lucy’s on a Plate and we had Fish and Chips (twice, because they’re so good) at Waterhead which does gluten and dairy free batter. Most meals we cooked in our self catered kitchen because it’s easier, safer for me, cheaper and the Lakes were heaving!
As well as allergies, if you have eczema there is also a lot of planning and caution to try to avoid skin flare ups. There are also a lot of things you avoid doing. Which links in nicely with my final point. Behind this allergy and eczema person are so many things, but most recently, a lake swimmer!
I’m a wild swimmer!
This holiday was about trying new things. I wanted to go kayaking but due to Covid you needed to book really early and I just ran out time. I did however go swimming in Lake Windermere for the first time and I loved it. The extended massive family (my uncle’s family) all go sailing, paddle boarding, swimming and canoeing every day and I’ve never joined them. Because…
- I don’t like the water…
- I’m not a strong swimmer
- My skin will react, get dry, I’ll be itchy
- The water will be so cold
- It won’t be good for my skin
- I’m not good enough
- There is stuff floating in the water… ewwww
- I can’t see what’s underneath me
- Wet-suits are made of latex so I can’t ( not all wetsuits contain latex but check before buying)
- It’s not safe… there are ferries passing nearby…
So many excuses to make me feel OK with just not trying something.
And it’s totally OK to have things you don’t like, don’t want to do or just aren’t interested in. But what if you really loved that thing you’re scared of trying?
‘I’ll never go wild swimming’ was one limitation I wanted to test.
As my skin heals I’ve been challenging myself to analyse my beliefs and understand why I won’t do something, I realised that I really wanted to give this a go. If it wasn’t good for my skin at least I’d tried it.
Get advice and stay safe
I was safe, there were LOADS of people around, in the water and on the side of the lake. Seriously I actually knew about 20 people down at the lake side at any one time. It’s a really social side to these annual holidays.
I did my first swim with Zoe, who is an experienced swimmer, who taught me the basics of staying safe in wild water and how to get acclimatised to my wet-suit. I just swam to the nearest buoy and then back to land a few times. I probably only swam for about 15-20 minutes but I was slow. There were currents and waves as well as sticks, feathers and all sorts of stuff floating in the water at the edge. It was much harder than I thought it would be, but when you start to get out into deeper water it’s clear and fresh.
I love the photo below because you can see how lovely the weather was from the sun sparkling on the water and I also have my inhaler. It did make me puff, I did need to use my inhaler on the first swim. I got slightly panicky and struggled to get my breath in. I realised I was actually holding my breath and also trying to keep my head up. I need to learn how to swim and breathe properly when I’m swimming.
When I did swim out into deep water and couldn’t touch the bottom I lay back in the water and just closed my eyes. It was so peaceful. The wet-suit helps with buoyancy and it was so easy to float there. When I opened my eyes I was surrounded by mountains, blue sky, white fluffy clouds and the cool rippling waters of the lake. I know the Lake District is not always this serene and idyllic but I did choose a good weather day for my first swim.
The wet-suit was also super tight so it felt like I was fighting to make each stroke. But most importantly I didn’t get any skin reaction from the wet-suit. I always assumed they were latex and that I could never wear one. They’re actually often made from Neoprene and CAN be completely latex free. You need to check before buying but definitely = No more excuses!
The second swim was a colder dreary grey day. The water was much higher and choppier but I still really wanted to swim. I didn’t do up the wet-suit totally at the back which helped the second time with making breathing easier. It wasn’t a swimming one, (some are made for paddle boarding and are more rigid – who knew?) so was a bit too restricting. I went out on my own, with everyone around in the water, so I would be OK if I got in trouble. I swam for about an hour and this time it was much easier. At one point I was swimming along with three majestic white swans and it just felt so surreal. I stayed quite close to the side and just swam back and forth. I came into the side for a rest every now and then because I’m so unfit, but it was amazing. I loved it. My mum came with me both times too and my aunt and uncle the first time which was lovely and meant I got lots of photos.
This was a huge moment for me and I was just grinning from ear to ear… except when I was concentrating on swimming. I’m not swim fit so will need to build up slowly before attempting anything rash like getting to an island or the other side of Lake Windermere. I think it’s about 1km wide so that’s a challenge for next year.
I’ve watched others go wild swimming in fresh water for years but always held back due to my skin. I’d always been envious of these brave people but never thought I’d do something like this myself.
I have lots of friends who swim in lakes near where I live so I’m hoping to hook up with some of them and give it a go soon, although winter is coming and I’m not sure how hardcore I am!
I’ve healed so much from TSW that this year I was able to embrace this goal and just go for it. The water was quite warm but I was given a wet-suit to keep me warm so I’m really grateful to my family for this kindness. Thank you Fiona, Ash and Scarlet.
Yes I did have a large Gin and Tonic after the swim…😊
Ruth with the alcohol…
So I am Ruth, who likes her gin, beer and wine and also swam in Lake Windermere for the first time.
I’m so proud of myself and can’t wait to go swimming again. Sorting that out is top of my personal to do list!
Next year, if the weather is good enough, I want to take a towel on a walk and swim in Rydal water in just my swimming costume. I’m gonna make that happen.
I am Ruth. The person behind the allergy. I am brave and strong and refuse to let things stop me living life. I’ve been through so much these past few years. It’s been hard, really hard, but I’ve also achieved so much and have so much more I want to do.
I also run, love walking and hiking and exploring the beautiful countryside. To relax I love reading, writing and listening to music and podcasts. I’ve also discovered a whole world on Netflix and find this a great way to release the day’s tensions, although some series are hard to escape from!
Remember you are not just your allergies. You are not just your health condition. You are also not bound by any limitations. Get out there and challenge yourself!
I am also going to not drink any alcohol at home for the whole of September. If I go out I will have a drink, but not alone. This was always a rule of mine, but lockdown ended that one. Because ‘Ruth with all the alcohol’ clearly means I do need a bit of a detox! Maybe I don’t want everyone to think of alcohol as the first associated word 😂
So tell me… What are you also known for? and what do you want to do that you’ve been too scared to try?