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PASSIONATE SWIMMER FACES HER FEARS BY THE POOLSIDE. HERE’S HER INSPIRATIONAL STORY

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Passionate Swimmer Faces Her Fears By The Poolside. Here’s Her Inspirational Story

 Posted on 20th April 2023  4 minute read

A talented swimmer, whose passion for swimming was halted by her vitiligo, has had an incredibly inspiring journey, and through support from her daughters, her own personal courage, and love and talent for swimming, she has since competed in the Swimming British Championships.

Beverley was going through a difficult period when she first discovered the onset of vitiligo, which coincided with losing her Mum, her job in advertising and the breakdown of her marriage whilst adapting to becoming a single Mum to two little girls. Quite naturally she felt like life wasn’t quite on her side.

Starting as a small patch on her wrist, it quickly spread to her bikini line and areas on her face. After her diagnosis, Beverley naturally began exploring treatment options with hope that whatever was suggested would help her to re-pigment. She saysAfter a few years of trying different treatments, such as hydrocortisone and PUVA and topical steroids, my dermatologist explained that vitiligo would probably eventually cover me completely; I lost hope that anything would work and decided to stop all treatment”. Her decision to stop meant that she had to accept that she was never going to go back to how she looked before. It was a difficult realisation to accept. She continues, “I had lost all my confidence, was so embarrassed and simply wore bigger and baggier clothing because I was unable to face getting into a relationship. I was filled with so much self consciousness”. 

Swimming was a big part Beverley’s life. She had been competing in championships since the age of 10 and went on to compete in the National Age GB Championships, yet despite her love for the water, Beverly’s vitiligo halted her ability to truly enjoy something she loved because wearing a swimsuit and being around the pool simply made her nervous and anxious. She says, “the though of being around the pool in a swimsuit that would bare my patches made me feel incredibly self conscious to the point where I found it difficult to breathe. The feeling of anxiety in that moment is one which I’d never want to experience again as I reflect back to that time’. It’s a feeling many of us can relate to because any situation, which means us having our patches on show, can make us feel incredibly vulnerable and self-conscious.

Despite her reservations, it was her daughters that encouraged her to start swimming again because they knew how much she loved it and they were conscious that she would regret not pursuing something she was passionate about. Remembering the conversation with her daughter, she says, “My eldest daughter asked me to get involved with a charity swim. I agreed as it was a river swim (wetsuit included!) but it was an enormous 10k! So that meant facing the public baths to train. I learnt how to move as quickly as possible from changing room to water, with full shorts and sleeved swimsuits. After 6 months of training, I completed the swim, raising £2500 and my girls then encouraged me just to continue to swim”.

Reading Beverley’s story and I can’t help but feel empowered by how courageous and determined she was, re-connecting with something she’d loved doing since her teen years.

The charity swim was a huge deal for her and after all the training and the swim itself she was keen to carry on and see where it could take her. She say’s proudly “With all the courage I could muster, I approached Barnet Copthall Masters Swim Team who welcomed me with open arms. My coach Ian has been the kindest man, helping me concentrate on training and sweetly, ignoring my idiosyncratic habits of big towels etc. Before I knew it, I was competing in the British Championships”.

Facing your fears is never easy and with vitiligo the impact it can have on our confidence and self-esteem can be significant, especially if like Beverley you enjoy swimming, which requires you to reveal your skin in front of others. Ask anyone with vitiligo and they are likely to recall a point in there life where going swimming or comfortably enjoying the beach was emotionally and psychologically difficult.

Beverley, who is Caucasian, has been on the receiving end of remarks, which suggest she shouldn’t worry about her skin because you can’t ‘notice it as much’. A dismissive suggestion, she says, that can be frustrating. “Hand on heart, I still can’t look in the mirror at my skin, but I have learnt to distract myself.  I still feel broken when people make insensitive comments like ‘why are you worried, you are white anyway‘. This doesn’t mean I can’t hurt and feel the distress like everyone else who has the condition”.

Thankfully, with all the awareness that has been raised alongside working on her own mindset, Beverley has learnt to accept her skin. “The years of going through giraffe-like patterning all over my face and body did break my spirit but with the support of my fantastic girls, I have learnt how to accept the quirky skin I have. I really wish I could have got to this place earlier on my journey so I could have been a stronger model for my girls. I haven’t had the courage to date but I am a very happy lady. I run every day with my dogs and give any worries to the woods, always returning with a better frame of mind”.

As lasting words Beverley shares, “In the 15 years, I have been dealing with vitiligo, more and more information is out there socially. Hopefully young people facing their own battles of confidence will lean on your society for support – I certainly would love to help”. 

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