England: Still green and pleasant.

So here we are, over halfway through January 2017. It isn’t that I want to wish the time away, simply that I yearn for warmer months and more time so I can escape by trike to new places. My current medication has its benefits and its downside. Firstly, it is holding me in a more level space, something I haven’t known in years. Secondly, and not so good, I feel flat and demotivated, unable to wake early or to get going even when I do. Once I force myself out and about things improve for a while, but on my return I still fall asleep, curtailing my days at both ends.

If you add in the shorter winter days, you begin to see that there isn’t a lot of daylight left between these phenomena for me to play with. My doctor and I recently applied for assessment for more psychiatric input in the hope that a proper diagnosis would aid finding the correct medication and help me move from the spot I seem firmly frozen too. When I previously applied for assessment I was granted it. It was recommended that the psychiatrist saw me as soon as possible. At that moment, I felt heard for the first time in years and shed tears accordingly. Sadly, just two weeks later, the psychiatrist decided that there would be no benefit to them spending more time with me, saying that I could access the psychologist and a raft of strategies that they have on offer instead. That never happened. I haven’t heard another thing in more than two years and have felt cast adrift ever since. This was a classic case of systemic failure. Underfunded and over-stretched resources cannot cope with anything beyond crisis.

Monkey can’t wait for summer again.

Perhaps my friend spoke the clearest when she said “it seems that unless you are stood naked and dancing on a cliff edge, brandishing a knife, you have little chance of getting seen or supported.” And there lies the problem. If you manage your illness you are left to rot, to get on with your own recovery, without any guidance or hope of support from any health professional beyond your own doctor. You might be hanging by your fingertips, but you will be seen to be fine right up to the point where you collapse or self-harm again. Then the process starts all over, or worse for those who feel they cannot face another day.

I don’t wish to sound alarmist, but this is the truth. With suicide rates among the young rising and help diminishing I don’t know how Teresa May has the gall to say that she wants a more equal society where mental health issues are valued as highly as physical health issues. It just doesn’t hold water from where I stand and I feel offended by her audacity in saying those things while knowing she has little intention, if any, to follow up the words with real action.

Under these circumstances, I personally feel let down, as if I’m not worth the time or effort. It’s hardly surprising that many people feel abandoned, having already lost careers, income, status, homes, partners and whatever else. There is no long-term recovery of lost income. No re-establishing of a half-decent pension and on top of those things, many people are now treated like cheats and scroungers, living off the system. On top of all that, there is the stigma, a kind of invisible tar and feathering of those unfortunate enough to have become part of the one-in-four who suffer  poor mental health.

Without the support network and guidance of health professionals, it is unsurprising that people feel alone and abandoned. How else could you feel after many years of rejection and inaction. But this in turn leads to another problem. Without support, diagnosis and understanding, those with mental health issues are an easy target for ‘back to work’ type initiatives. How can you prove you are ill when nobody believes your doctor and you have no access to psychiatric analysis?

Who knows what you might see on your travels?

In order to cope with all this negativity, I feel the need to plan a long cycle ride. I know that during rides I feel more at one with both myself and my world. It may help, or it may just be that when you go away you can hide from reality for a while. I have many friends who enjoy cycle touring for similar reasons. Part of me just wants to be left alone to live out what is left of my life. I feel as though I have little desire to fight left and have been trying, as stated last time out, to be more accepting of my situation and live within it. Anyone of intelligence will tell you that to constantly strive for unattainable goals is a waste of time, not to mention incredibly demoralising. It isn’t a matter of quitting, more a matter of being realistic in the face of ever-decreasing resources. I would much rather concentrate my meagre resources on doing something positive like another UK cycle ride.

Having not been well at all this week with stomach problems, I have felt lucky to have a few jobs to do on Kermit. I used Schwalbe Tryker tyres again for the summer, along with Slime, tube sealant. It was experimental and to some degree worked well. I could pull out a thorn, pump the tyre up and continue, never once having to strip the tyre off to mend a puncture. The problem I seemed to have was that sometimes punctures would seal fully and at others only temporarily. When I finally removed the front cycle tubes I found four holes in one and three in the other. It was odd because the tyres were still inflated fully and the tubes only leaked after removal, suggesting the Slime hadn’t cured properly. Add to that that patches no longer seemed to stick properly and I decided to return to my heavy, but faithful, Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres (comfy and extremely puncture resistant, but without sealant).

I have also purchased a new rear wheel, one containing a Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub as well as the ability to add a cassette. It’s like the SRAM Dual Drive but all the reports suggest it is much stronger. If I leave the triple chainset on I will have a mind-boggling eighty-one gears! I think I will probably only run two chainrings, reducing the number of gears to a mere fifty-four. This isn’t as mad as it sounds. The super low ratios are only for long-steep hills when loaded up and most of the rest of the time I will use the middle ring, cassette and three hub gears to provide me with a more normal twenty-seven gears. I’ll let you know what it’s like when I get it back on the road, sometime next week.


cover4pdf-page-001As well as cycling I have grown to thoroughly enjoy writing. My third book: Serenity and Storm is getting closer to being released. I will be publishing it  at some point in February. Once published, it completes the trilogy that is the backbone of my Riding2Recovery project and I’m very proud of what it represents to me personally.

Next week I hope to get my riding back on track, tummy permitting. It is frustrating when my various health problems seem to coincide with great riding weather. Rest assured that I will feel great again just as soon as the rain returns.

Until next time……………….