Rowing: My Refuge

How rowing improved my mental health. 

I have been struggling with depression  for
the past two years, but in March 2016 my condition became critical. I started displaying elevated mood with thought disorder. As the days went by, I was sleeping less but still had buckets of energy; I was consumed by creating my own businesses and was planning on investing large sums of money into them. With no insight that I was becoming poorly, my manic episode went untreated, and I very quickly became acutely ill. I started presenting with psychotic symptoms; I was hallucinating and had delusions of grandeur.

I dyed my hair bright colours and wore odd clothing. I believed I had 'inner mermaid powers' and that I could levitate! I also thought I was seeing butterflies which represented good and evil spirits.

Eventually my behaviour became so erratic that I was taken into A and E as it was feared that I was becoming a danger to myself. I was sectioned there under the Mental Health Act and was admitted into an acute psychiatric ward for observation.

I spend the next 9 weeks being treated for
bipolar in hospital. With trial and error of different combinations of medication, my mood finally stabilised and I was discharged.

But as quickly as my mood lifted, it suddenly dropped; I started to become seriously depressed. I was struggling to cope with daily life and become overwhelmed with tiredness and dark thoughts. Unable to cope, I turned to self harming and overdosing. With strong suicidal thoughts, I was admitted back into hospital, only 3 weeks after being discharged.

I was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar, a more severe mood disorder. I spent 10 weeks being treated on an acute ward under Section 3 of the Mental Health Act. I finally started to make progress with new medication and input from occupational therapy. In August, I was transferred into rehabilitation hospital in Hereford where I start the long road to recovery.

I knew that my journey to recovery was going to be tough path. It's a slow process of healing, learning healthy lifestyle habits and promoting positive well being. There are lots of elements which have been beneficial to my recovery, but none more valuable than rowing.

I first fell in love with rowing last year after I completed a 'learn to row' course at Ross Rowing Club. When I get into the boat, I leave all my emotions on the shore and focus entirely on being in the boat. Depression and mania are distant emotions when I’m rowing.

Rowing is a great form of exercise; it keeps my brain healthy, which is a significant benefit towards improving my mental health.
I love rowing as part of a squad as it creates a sense of community and belonging. I am so fortunate to row with a lovely bunch of people who have been a great support network while I've been hospitalised.
I have had an unhealthy relationship with food ever since I was a teenager; rowing has encouraged me to eat well and make sure I'm taking in the right nutrients to be able to perform.
Rowing has taught me to be resilient. My weekly training routine is a stable focus: no matter how I feel, I train and I always feel the rewards.
Rowing boosts my self-esteem and I truly believe it's helped my concentration, sleep, and made me feel better.

I strongly encourage people to get out and be more active. Exercise has a magical effect on your mental health. Joining a club or sport, not only can improve your fitness but has addional benefit's of socialising and increased happiness.

I am a stronger women, both mentally or physically because of my rowing. 

To look for a rowing club near you, search on the British Rowing Website:


  1. Inspirational Georgie

    We love having you as part of our rowing family



  2. Hi Georgia,
    I blog at Girl on the River and also write for Rowing & Regatta magazine. Very moved by your story and would love to hear more. Do get in touch at
    Patricia x


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