How surfing taught me that being womb-less doesn’t make me less of a woman
Surfing for many is deep therapy. Time in the ocean focusing only on one thing helps take the mind off our worries and put things into perspective. This is a story about radical acceptance through surfing and the other beautiful lessons that surfing taught me.
I’ve been inspired by the still stoked movement to share my experience of overcoming shame. I’ve found the antidote to debilitating, chronic shame to be radical acceptance; an approach I happened to acquire through the process of learning to surf. Another testament to the mindset is that surfing is not just a physical sport; but an incredibly emotional, mental, and spiritual tool to help find light from an array of dark places.
I was 17, I found out I couldn’t have children. I was born without a womb, a condition known as Mayer Rokitansky Kuster Hauser (MRKH) which affects approximately 1 in 5000 women. The way I am is not outwardly noticeable and for years it felt like I harboured a dark secret. I felt like there was something wrong with me. I felt like no one understood. And I felt completely alone.
As a consequence of this diagnosis, my inner life was littered with thoughts that my body was defective. It all began when I was 14 years old and my periods hadn’t started. Bullying was an external pressure, which only confirmed the thoughts of worthlessness and abnormality I struggled with; and now know, most people also suffer from.
As I approached adulthood I wasn’t aware of the deep-rooted shame I harboured, but I knew I wasn’t entirely happy or comfortable in my own skin. I tried to numb and nullify the awkwardness with drugs and alcohol. I perfected an outward persona that was carefree and cheerful. People-pleasing became a strategy. I was oblivious to the toxicity I would get myself into in order to deal with everything, however, it just magnified my negative emotions and self-sabotaging.
Surfing became the ultimate therapy for me; healing deep wounds and restoring my self-esteem.
The ocean called. I found myself in a surf town full of hedonism, fresh out of Uni; four years after my diagnosis. I was lost and in a haze of anxiety that I managed to hide from friends and family. However, I eventually plucked up the courage to take a surf lesson. It changed everything. I had never felt so alive. And cold. It was February, in Cornwall England. It hadn’t occurred to me that the ocean would change temperature. I was a complete novice, entirely clueless… but the empty waves and private instruction from the only coach who hadn’t escaped to Indonesia meant I was projected into a new world of wonder, one which would claim me for the rest of my life.
It was refreshing to be engulfed in something that was bigger than me and completely out of my control. I felt so small and insignificant, as too did my personal my issues… and with every paddle stroke, every wipeout and every wave I felt stronger, more dynamic. I was no longer a faulty female; just a crazy human in a rubber suit in pursuit of the ultimate sensation… freedom from life on land and connection to moving mountains of seawater.
Surfing became the ultimate therapy for me; healing deep wounds and restoring my self-esteem. It exposed me completely and in my state of vulnerability allowed me to find strength, focus, and clarity. Tumultuous emotions would be released as I got washed around by Mother Ocean; often I would find myself crying, sometimes in sadness, sometimes with pure joy. It became a release, an addiction, an obsession; thankfully starting me on a more positive journey of yoga, world travel, environmental activism, and studies in sustainability.
Like in life, it is possible to get caught up in analysing the why’s, the what-ifs, and the if only’s in surfing. Searching for the perfect wave, wind, tide, conditions… I joined the hunt, and then after a while, I gave up.
In terms of radical acceptance, it is a waste of energy. We get what we’re given. Some days are big, some windy, some small, and once in a while… absolutely perfect. The best thing to do is to accept what the ocean has to offer with graciousness and make the most of your short, sweet time together. Maybe you learn something on the way, maybe you just simply survive or maybe you feel so full of joy your heart will burst. I realise the process I went through learning to surf, allowed me to deal with MRKH and helped me foster radical acceptance – a letting go of expectations and embracing the way things are. Exposing myself to Mother Natures tumultuous cycles and riding whatever waves showed up birthed a resilience I never knew I had. Likewise, facing my feelings was the only way to get a grasp on them.
Since that first wave, the ocean has always been there for me. I’ve gone back to it time and time again, for help to rebuild my strength, focus, and clarity. It’s been an essential part of my messy recovery from breakdowns and heartbreak; offering the ultimate ritual for my mind to find peace. Surfing taught me to accept myself, and in turn, love myself so that I could transcend the chronic shame that I had held onto for so long. I see this as an incredible opportunity for women across the globe to access if they are ready to dip their toe into the ocean. We all have memories and emotions stored deep in us, only when we are ready for them to surface can we choose to embrace the healing that comes with radical acceptance.