Ride of My Life 2015 040
Coffee stops. At the soul of cycle touring.

I spent yesterday looking at maps and getting quite excited at the prospect of touring this summer. This has been enhanced by a series of local rides like the one I described last time. For many months, I kept eyeing the maps while watching TV. I felt contemptuous toward them, wondering whether they would get used at all this year, or perhaps ever again. I had even considered going over to an electric assist system to aid my ailing body and mind. But yesterday, I could see nothing but adventures and places that drew me to them as though they were magnetic. And it is all down to feeling more solid in my mind.

There is no doubt that my current medication has helped hold me in a more level place emotionally. That process has taken some months, a time when we experimented with dosage, requiring more than a little patience. I’ve been doing intensive EMDR (Eye Movement, Desensitisation and Reprogramming) with my therapist.  This involves dancing around the periphery of the trauma lying deep within and feeling more settled as a result of poking the monster to see what happens next.

Last year I gave up sugar in my coffee and improved my diet. This year I gave up caffeine in both tea and coffee. Previously I had stopped smoking. I like to think that those changes have contributed to holding me more level as well. Perhaps the biggest contributor is the fact that I have created a better attitude to my illness. I’m more accepting and more likely to say no if I think something will overload my mind. This gives me more internal peace and allows me to plan more easily without the distress that seems to build up when I feel there are too many decisions to make.

Escaping to beautiful places like the Outer Hebrides.

Earlier in the year I wanted to push everybody aside and hide away in my house. I hadn’t the energy to take part in conversation, decision making, or just listen to others talk. I would get quickly exhausted in these situations and withdraw to rebalance my mind, which felt as though it was screaming. My energies would be spent doing just the basics of life: those routine things I had to do to get through the day. During those times, my mind felt overloaded as though it was short-circuiting, about to explode.

None of that was helped by long-winded and on-going hospital appointments. I hope I will get some answers to those questions later when I head off to see the specialist again. This process has caused some concern, although I like to think I don’t worry about things until I need to. There is no doubt that this problem has affected my sleep. Getting up three or four times a night doesn’t do anybody any good, breaking up the time when you should be in deep, restorative sleep.

There are other things that have helped maintain some balance in my life. I have accepted that I need afternoon sleep as well as night time sleep. I’m also more likely to use Temazepam when I need it, to help my mind rest. For one or two weeks I have used it daily.. For the most part, I use it about once a week. At first I was so afraid of addiction that I wouldn’t use it. But my experience to date is that it really helps on nights when my muscles spasm and I feel terribly agitated. Getting some sleep on those nights has really helped me. Less fitful sleep is always of a better quality, or so it seems to me.

Borth: Wales.

This currently rejuvenated version of me is raring to get out in the world. Long may it stay the same. I sometimes wonder how I can still get excited at the prospect of cycle touring in the UK. The fact of the matter is that there are so many exquisite places to explore, that one lifetime probably isn’t enough. It’s more the act of riding away from home that stirs the fires, rather than the destination. I would love to spread my wings a bit further but presently I don’t have the resources, mentally or financially, to consider it. Those things may well happen, just not yet. That’s what I tell myself.

This summer I’m hoping to complete a Grand Tour of England and Southern Scotland.  The detail of the route is a little vague at present but I have lots of ideas now (and maps) and lots of people that I want to visit along the way. It will be a case of joining up the dots and seeing where I end up. I will post a rough map in the next couple of weeks to give you an idea of where I’ll be heading.

My therapist thinks that I enter an altered state of mind when I travel. I didn’t ask whether that was good or bad. Trying to explain what I get from riding great distances, by most people’s reckoning, is difficult. I tend to tie myself in knots. I try to explain the peace it brings me when I leave my world at home behind and pedal away. I take my home with me, but leave behind everything else that clouds my thoughts and mind. I love my home and look forward to seeing it again. But travelling anywhere at all seems to ease my troubled mind by getting absorbed in the wonders and rhythms of nature. Feeling my feet on wet grass. Breathing in the silence and fresh air of a new place and looking through eyes full of wonder at whatever has caught my attention in that moment. It is as though I have found my place in life, a place where being me doesn’t hurt as much.

Riding2Recovery. Early days (2011)

I don’t need much in my mind to be settled and happy, just a few simple things. Twenty-first century life is too much for me to manage. Too fast, too pushy, too pressured for me to deal with. It’s no surprise that I am trying to find another way, is it? I churlishly want to answer her by saying: ‘because it’s there,’ as a nod to the great mountaineer George Mallory who used that answer to explain why he wanted to climb Everest. It seems to me to be an unanswerable question. I ride because it brings me joy, makes me feel safe and in control of my life. Furthermore, it gives me a challenge and a purpose. Best of all, it brings me the inner peace I cannot find elsewhere. Is that so difficult to understand?

Finally, Saturday was an extremely sad day. It saw the passing of my friend and fellow cyclist Sue. She had been struggling for nearly eighteen months with a brain tumour and that battle came to an end two weeks ago. Sue was stoic and strong to the end. She hoped to see one more Tour de France. She was an inspiration to others, riding the length of France, solo, in her seventieth year and completing Lands End to John O’Groats with a Cycling UK group in 2015. Her mantra was always the same. Do it now because you don’t know how long you have. Rest in peace lovely lady, you will be greatly missed.

Until next time…………………