I can't do that...

Fear, doubt and disbelief. Got to let it all go.

I can't do that...


Welcome to Hello Computer. A newsletter about being different. I’m Pete Carr (they/them) an autistic(awaiting ADHD diagnosis) writer and photographer identifying as non-binary.


The photos in this post are from the 2023 Across the Mersey River Swim event.

Captain’s Log

We’re back on Substack. A lot of the old posts have been imported, and there’s plenty of tidying up to do. I need to look at all the new features and figure out what is good for this newsletter / community?

Orange dots in the water are toe floats from swimmers. There are hills way off in the distance.

I can’t do that

I write a lot about anxiety because it feels ever present. Going out in a skirt gets me noticed. For the most part I’m OK with that, but there are days when I don’t have the energy to nip to the shops for fear of what may happen. I love to swim, to glide through the water like a boat, but I’m constantly on edge. When my hand knocks a twig in the water I leap out of my skin like a surprised cat. After a decade of open water swimming you’d think I would feel calm.

My anxiety peaked around summer, or the months previously known as summer. The local lake was filled with harmless jellyfish and I couldn’t handle it. Today I swam for over an hour, and the same for yesterday. In the “summer” I struggled to do 10 minutes. There’s no issue in the lake. Jellies are harmless. I know that, and yet my body is in flight mode. That’s the battle, the one with myself not the jellyfish in their home.

This year I’ve realised that it’s not specific moments triggering my anxiety. Anxiety is always there and can affect me when I swim, shop, or work on a commission for a photo client. It’s always there. This year has been a wakeup call to deal with anxiety rather than read about how to deal with anxiety. To see the impact it is having on my life and the countless times I think “I can’t”.

“I can’t.” Yet, in many ways “I can.”

The other day I stood on the banks of the River Mersey watching 160 people swim across it. It is a treacherous swim in a river with the 4th largest tidal range in the world. If you’re not fit enough and run out of energy the current will take you into dangerous places. The weather was lovely. Low wind, blue skies, and warm. Perfect conditions for the swim. A tiny part of me wished I was doing it, a tiny part.

I stood there watching the swimmers, seeing them struggle against the current and thought “I can’t.” I stood there wearing blue fishnet tights in a miniskirt with purple lipstick on with a big blue beard thinking “I can’t do that.” I had no anxiety about how I present myself to the world, in a way that is flamboyant and not what most people wear. That I can do, but to swim across the Mersey? I can’t do that. Yet, how many of those swimmers would look at me and think “I can’t do that.”

Today I read about a Swikini. A bikini swimsuit with a built in midriff to hide any body issues you may have. I’m glad it exists to help more people get in the water, but I would hope that the people who need that can find it within themselves to overcome their fears, as I did with social anxiety. I no longer fear standing around shirtless with my stretch marks on display while I air dry at the beach. Years ago I would have needed something like the Swikini and now I don’t. Has the world got better? Have I lost weight? No. I have proven to myself that there is nothing to fear.

“You have to let it all go Neo. Fear, doubt and disbelief. Free your mind.”

Can I let it go? Could I swim 2 miles across the River Mersey? Pre-Pandemic my fitness levels were getting me close to being able to. Physically I could get there. I’ve ran a marathon. Can I get my anxiety under control to do so? I want to believe I can because I will be better for it. When you get into trouble in the water the RNLI teach you to float to survive. It’s the panic that kills you, not the water.

While chatting with one of the swimmers who could swim across the river he said “Next year?” I pondered it and he held up his little finger. “Pinky swear. Next year.” I pinky swore. I can do this, at least I’m going to try. Even if on the day it’s too much for me I’ll at least be better than I am today.

This they can.


People battle against the currents in the River Mersey to swim back to shore.

Transporter room

Two men hold hands for stability as they exit the water.

End program

“Be bold. Be brave. Be courageous.” Christopher Pike, Captain USS Discovery.

Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter. I’ll be back. Feel free to subscribe or send to a friend.

There is no paid subscription to this newsletter but there is a tip jar.

petes out 🖖

Instagram / Facebook / YouTube / Twitch

Thank you for reading Hello Computer. This post is public so feel free to share it.

Two people embrace after finishing a 2 mile swim.

Weekly email features Captains Log, fascinating links and more photos