Santosha: Being content in who you are, and what you have.

So my precious unicorn hasn’t bolted yet – and having it around has been an utter joy so far. It really is living the dream. Hard work, but worth every second. Nobody ever said happiness and dreams were easy to attain: it is all hard work and dedication. And this is such a rush. I haven’t had to use my brain like this in years, and it is all just absolutely perfect.

A peaceful spot.
A peaceful spot.

Coming up to the first anniversary of when my life changed – I’m starting to get a little reflective. Those damned mozzie bites did lead to something more, and that something more still affects me from time to time, even 12 months on. I have never been so terrified in my life. Those days in the hospital, and the pain… and then the constant fatigue. (And my bloody-mindedness while being totally fatigued that I couldn’t possibly still be that sick – just making things worse for longer). It really is frustrating how something like a couple of mozzie bites can turn your body against you, even months after the infection. But it really did teach me, in a brutal, non-negotiable way that I really did need to slow down.

And in forcing me to slow down, it made me reevaluate things. Dengue and the Black Dog have made me think about a helluva lot over this past year and a bit. Luckily, there are more Up days than Down days now, and I’ve learnt just how much I can push my body before it backfires horribly and I’m a wibbling mass of exhaustion. Taking care of this unicorn has also turned me into a rather anti-social recluse, which I am rather enjoying if I’m going to be honest. The people I work with online are absolute gems – the lot of them – and if I need to interact with people, I can just go into town for my errands and go to the gym and yoga.

The unicorn, amongst other things, has also forced me to really look at what I do and why. When something you love starts to make you anxious and you psych yourself out instead of actually participating – something is clearly wrong. I was doing that with my freediving last month. I had this expectation of what I can do (because I haven’t been pushing myself at all), and what I should be doing in practice. And I was making myself absolutely miserable – training almost every day, only to be regressing – and for what?

This is where I had to stop and think about why I started freediving in the first place: to swim with the fish. For the love of water and the utter freedom that swimming beneath it brings. I have never been a competitive swimmer or diver. I don’t spearfish. But I am happier in water than I am out of it. Or I was until something had to give. I will never be Kathryn Nevatt, or Jody Fisher, or Natalia Molchanova, or Amber Bourke. I don’t want to be. If you’ve never heard of them, look them up on YouTube and watch their diving. They are all incredible women and freedivers.

My mistake was that I let my highly, highly, competitive nature get the better of me. And when I compete against myself in such a way, positive things do not happen. I lost my way, and I lost my happiness in the water. So, I’ve walked away. For now. I’ve walked away to look after my unicorn, and to remind myself not to take things so seriously. And when I do go back, it won’t be to partake in competition, it will be as an exercise of mindfulness and personal growth. And for the sheer love of being underwater. But, I need to stay away until that urge to compete doesn’t come back. There’s no harm in pushing my limits and boundaries – I’ve PB’d several times this year from doing that. But it is a different mindset. I want to swim with the fish and the rays and the turtles. In freedom: without a tank. In amazing places all over the world. What I was doing to myself wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t healthy. And I was able to stop that vicious cycle before it really got a hold.

So I go to my gym at lunch time and swim instead. Just me, my (unicorn) snorkel, my fins and a kickboard. And I clear my mind, and I swim until my toes cramp, and then I swim some more. Why? Because the feeling of being in the water is simply the best thing ever. It orders my thoughts, and calms my emotions. Not being in the water was too painful (which surprised me), so I’m doing what I have to do to look after me. (And stay in shape for the prospect of a trip to dive the Poor Knights in October – this is why I started diving).

And then, after work, I go to yoga. I have two very favourite teachers now. And they’ve helped me come so far mentally and physically. With the stretching, and the breathing, and focus. My mat is still one of the most glorious things I got myself, and it is an absolute joy to practice on. Again, it’s about exploring your limits and your boundaries (physical and mental). About being honest with yourself, what you want, and what you can achieve. My little yoga studio just down the road is one of the greatest finds I’ve made. I have been lucky.

So while I have lost things that cannot be fathomed in these last 12 months. Although I may have been crushed completely. Although I’m going to be picking up pieces from all of this for a while to come, I have also gained so much more than I ever imagined or anticipated. I have dared and experienced, and I have grown up enough to recognise and rectify. My Black Dog still keeps me company, but he isn’t too much of a threat any more. He’s just… watchful. And he reminds me of what I have. And that in itself, is a very big adventure.