For the last four years I’ve entered winter with a good idea of what I would be doing in the coming summer. For the first time since starting my project Riding2Recovery this is not the case. In the autumn I worked towards a goal of putting together a ride that would see me travelling around the south-west of the UK in 2014, giving talks, and leading a series of rides that would encourage new riders to get out and enjoy their cycles. Prior to Christmas it was obvious that I wasn’t going to raise the level of support and help from others that I would need to give the project the green light and so I rather reluctantly shelved it for the time being.
This left me feeling in a quandary. What would I do? How would I fill my time? It had to happen at some point and I would like to point out that along with not gaining the support I needed I also felt I should take the time to replenish my energies. Given more energy I would have pushed on anyway, so I guess the reason for the break is really one of personal need. In short I’ve lost my mojo. I feel flat and unmotivated, dark and brooding, agitated and angry. None of these things are traits I like but they are part of my makeup/illness and I know them well enough to realise that it’s time for a gap year, a break from pushing myself, and a time to recuperate and consolidate what I have already done.
Making this decision has left me all at sea. Not knowing what the year will bring is an uncomfortable place for me to sit. There are routines and rituals that rely on my riding and for the time being these would have to change. There is a certainty about having a plan. It provides something to strive for and look forward to. Not having a plan does the exact opposite and if I’m honest I find it all a little frightening, much more so than heading off on a big adventure as I have done for the last few years. Of course I can still go riding and camping and I’m sure I will.
I have written so much about winter and the darkening of the skies along with my own mind. It always feels like a place without hope. It almost feels as if my world is ending but not quite. Short days that are often cold and wet do little to make me want to get out in them although when I do I invariably enjoy being on my bike in the fresh air. I was feeling the onset of this downturn as far back as June last year maybe even earlier? I knew in France that I would need to take a break once I completed that ride but hoped that by backing away a little my energies would return during the summer.
Sadly this hasn’t been the case. I’ve found the energy to complete what I hope will be my third book but I’ve lost the desire to be visible on social media and to keep promoting my ideas and plans through my website and other outlets. In my mind I feel as though I have nothing to say or add to what I’ve already done and in life I feel empty and flat as though it’s all too much. Every single thing I do feels like a huge burden to carry and execute.
In short the depression that dogs me is back. This has been clearly reflected in my therapy sessions. I’ve spoken of feeling as though I’m diminishing: my energies slowly but irrevocably draining away. I am referring to my physical and mental energy and the way the seem to abandon me after a period where I’ve had success and especially over winter. I have pondered many times whether this is because I ask too much of myself but have come to the conclusion that it’s part of the cycle of poor health that I live with, a pattern in my illness.
You might think that after all the success and achievement I would be replete with confidence and joy but that isn’t the case either. I don’t relate to my own achievements and find it difficult to see that I’ve achieved anything at all. At the moment I get on my cycle and it feels like desperately hard work to begin with. Something in my emotional makeup and mental health is draining me like a battery and I don’t have the resources to fight it. Acceptance of this state is the hardest part of dealing with my illness. My therapist has been keen to help me see that everything I have done is still both there and relevant and that nothing has gone away permanently. My own responses seem childlike in that I don’t see anything as permanent. When something changes or fluctuates it feels as though it has gone forever.
To try to understand this process I spoke to my doctor who in turn wrote to try to gain an appointment for me with the psychiatrist. My last visit was 2010 and I felt that it might help me especially in the light of new therapies. I also wanted to explore the side effects of the medication that I take, something I can only do with a psychiatrist as they are the only ones qualified to make decisions on this.
The next day I went to see my doctor, reporting that I felt heard for the first time in eight years. She was as pleased as I was, as was my therapist when I told her. At last progress as to what is happening seemed to be being made. Two days later another letter dropped on the mat and I knew immediately that it was from the mental health services. Opening the letter I felt instantly shocked. The psychiatrist had written that he felt there was little point in us meeting and that whilst I could see a psychologist he felt the 2010 diagnosis was still the correct one. I should add that the original diagnosis was made on the basis of one forty minute long meeting at a time when I was far less open about my illness and hid many aspects from her.I felt angry, gutted, and abandoned in one moment. I welcome the possibility of a new therapeutic approach but none of my questions will now be heard, at least not in the immediate future. Our mental health services are stretched thinly and funding has been recently reduced even further in budget cuts. So much for putting mental health on a par with physical disability as promised by our loving government.
In short it’s down to me to find a way forward. I wanted a diagnosis, not to hide behind, but because I need a reason to fight and to understand why my mind acts in the way it does. The self-doubt that comes with this kind of illness is an awful thing for anybody to manage and hard for others to understand. The fragmented life I lead and the feelings that I don’t belong anywhere or have a place in society are difficult things to live with. Then there’s my inability to relate to my achievements. How can it be that I just can’t see what I’ve achieved, getting constantly lost in my mind so it all feels as though somebody else is doing those things? I work hard to manage that and stay positive and only asked for an interview with somebody who may help me to understand better. Is that so much to request? It shouldn’t be.
On a more positive note, Michele and I are planning a three-week trip to France in June. I’m busy selling stuff to raise some funds and Michele is saving what she can. We had hoped to buy two recumbent trikes by now but that would seem to be another minefield. I’ve done a myriad of research and we have road-tested those available to us but are no closer to making a purchase. We looked at ICE trikes, the market leaders world-wide. We loved the ones we tested but cannot stretch our budgets to buying them. I have been offered a discount on one but even allowing for that I can’t manage it. I’ve talked to a dealer about used ICE trikes and they are only marginally cheaper than new ones and you don’t get the warranty that comes with new or true knowledge of where they have been and what they have been put through.
I’ve also been offered a substantial discount from a European manufacturer but since that euphoric moment by email I’ve failed to get any more contact from them? It feels like I’m trying to blood from a stone. Maybe it’s just my current mindset but I don’t think so. The UK doesn’t have many dealers and the dealer base is diminishing. Trikes are not so popular here as they are in say the USA or mainland Europe. The people selling them have mind-sets that I can only describe as odd. It’s assumed that you will be able to spend £2500 upwards for a first purchase. There is an exception in the form of KMX Karts, a company that was set up by a friend of a friend, who are now making adult trikes of good quality. The trouble is that they don’t fold and transporting the things is difficult to say the least. We may still go take a look so you will have to wait to hear about that.
The only other positive response I’ve had is from a guy in America who is more than happy to export to us and has bent over backwards to help by answering my emails by positively and by return. The downside of this is that to buy one costs an extra 35% for import duties and VAT plus the large sum to have the things freighted here. I’m guessing that we will make our decision soon as to what to do next but it feels much harder than any other kind of purchase I’ve ever made and possibly on par with buying enriched uranium.
So right now life is grinding. Winter is on us and the lack of cold does nothing to help in the face of the biblical proportions of rain that keep falling. Poor Irene looks like I’ve been mountain biking, never clean for more than a few moments before getting caked in mud again and I guess that’s how I’m feeling too. You know as do I that this will change. The winter will pass and positives will become more apparent and obvious as spring claws its way over the horizon once more.
Until then I’ll hang on by my finger tips, looking forward to the meeting in February concerning Inclusive Cycling in Britain that I’ve been invited to and in the hope that those people who have stated a desire to work with me this year get back to me with some plans in the not-too-distant future.
Have a great year whatever you plan to do. See you next time 🙂