I’ve asked Singletrack to withhold my real name and publish this piece under a pseudonym. Why you might ask?
Whether you suffer from poor mental health or not, starting up a conversation about it can be pretty tough – it can feel embarrassing, shameful and pretty risky too. Doing it in a safe environment with the right people can help make it a little easier. That might be your mate in the pub, the other half over a cup of tea, a support group, a therapist, or, like me on this occasion, the anonymity of a pseudonym on the internet.
It doesn’t matter how you choose to do it, just find a way to share how you feel.
What if I want to die every day of my life?
Someone asked me the other day what did sad feel like. It took me a while to answer. After all, how do you explain the crushing, overwhelming feeling you experience every day but yet spend all your time distracting yourself from because if you don’t, you don’t dare to think what you would do. That thing that I frequently wish I was brave enough to do.
And then I was asked what happy felt like. Aside from the absence of the brutal, over-bearing weight that I’ve grappled with for everyday as long as I can remember, I wasn’t sure. What does happy feel like?
After a while I remembered.
What happy feels like
It felt like that moment a few weeks before, where for the first time in a long, long time I was on top of a hill, with my bike, under beautiful bright blue sky, in photographically perfect light and with not a single other person around. And for a moment, oh such a brief moment, I didn’t feel like I wanted to die.
I hit that sweet spot and I’m not sad. And I don’t want to die
And that’s what brings me to ride as much as I can. Because despite the majority of rides being a struggle of mind over matter, where the physical challenge of climbing the hills is insignificant in comparison to the mental battle to keep going on, there is that odd time where I hit that sweet spot and I’m not sad. And I don’t want to die.
Over the last year finding that moment has been even harder than ever before.
Physically I’ve been forced to rein it in. And so I’ve gradually lost my fitness. And so I’ve lost my confidence. And so I’ve lost my ability to find any flow. The battles have spread from my mind onto the trail.
My head tells me I lack the fitness and ability to ride with any of my friends and I have hidden away. As everyone’s life goes on they ask me to meet up a little less. This suits me; I don’t have to say no. On my own I don’t feel any joy but at least I can hide my shame.
As my fitness, confidence and ability have fallen away all that holds me back has exponentially increased. It’s been far harder to find the time to get out and, when I have done, needing to deal with the pile of mucky kit and bike repairs has started to feel like another insurmountable challenge. It has meant that the next time I’ve had a chance to ride I’ve let it go. I’ve almost completely stopped giving myself the opportunity to find that sweet spot.
But even when the balance all but entirely shifted to the negative I keep going. I keep going for that odd moment when things aren’t a battle and the constant weight of that heavy cloud lifts.
And I can breathe.
That perfect moment a few weeks ago has made me realise how bad things have become. It’s caused me to reassess, I need more than the rare moment that things fall into place.
I’ve taken to the turbo. Despite the monotony and the falsity of it, it’s given me something to get my teeth into for a short time. For an hour it’s distracted me, it’s taken me away from battling with my head. It’s given me a vital shot of endorphins. It’s also started to build my fitness so those rare opportunities to ride outside have become a little less hard, have become a little easier to push myself so my throat and legs scream and my head stops doing so.
I’ve come up with a plan of sorts. It’s neither a life-affirming nor a particularly challenging plan, but a few things written down that say I’ll get on the turbo a couple of times a week, that I’ll go out for a ride or two at the weekend. It’s not much – I don’t need something else to fail at – but it’s enough for me to make a commitment to myself that I’ll do something and enough to see that I’ve achieved a bit too.
I’m working on appreciating the small things of a short, less glorious, local ride too. To try and enjoy the parts that might arise more often, rather than chasing that rare moment of perfection. I hope by focusing on the pieces that I will be adequately distracted from all the noise that has started to be overwhelming.
And I’ve reminded myself to keep on keeping on. Because sometimes when I’m on my bike everything falls into place and I don’t want to die.
- Warning! Cliff edge ahead – we need to talk about mental health
- Mental health, mountain biking and looking after your mates
- Keep an eye on yourself
- Viscous Cycle – A journey through depression on a bike
Are you affected by this?
The key thing to realise is you are not alone.
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