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My home town: HAatherleigh in West Devon.

It’s now autumn. I know this from the abundance of colour that stares me in the face as I ride. Red, yellow, gold, green, brown, it’s a visual feast heralding the onset of another winter. Recently, my mind has been absorbing things like a sponge. Maybe I’m opening up again having shut down for protection during my aborted ride in August.

Last week, on the way to the shops in Okehampton, I watched a stoat heaving a large chunk of dead badger back to its residence. I stopped pedalling and just stared as this relatively small creature manoeuvred and dragged what appeared to be a limb to its home. The determination on show was incredible, the lump of meat in question was double the size of the stoat.

This week, I was riding along minding my own business when a tiny frog hopped across the road in front of me. Again, I stopped and watched as this wee creature made its way to the other side. Why did the frog cross the road? I have no idea. But it made it safely and that was a bonus as in previous weeks it may well have been squidged by one of my three wheels, accidently of course. Owls hooted, deer stood and stared, buzzards cleverly dodged between tree branches, the world came alive. I rode on, waving and stopping to talk to all and sundry. It seems that I had come alive too.

Noticing things, mostly the surrounding nature, is an indicator of better health. When I stop feeling and close down, nothing gets through at all. I do not feel and I don’t have a sense of being in the real world. I sense that I’m an imposter in a film set. Nobody can see me as I move through it and I can neither touch or feel any of the things around me. It’s painful, I want to feel, I want the sense of being alive, but I don’t, I just make my way through the world like a zombie, undead.

So now, in this moment I feel I’ve been revitalised and renewed. Everything I see is a thing of wonder. Best of all, my legs work of their own volition, as if detached from the rest of me, and my mind doesn’t even consider them as it scans the near horizon for new wonders. They just describe circles and my magical, three-wheeled carnival, continues.

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My mind needs a sign like this.

Meantime the miles are passing by and my destination is getting closer. There is always something to look at whether it’s scenic, some kind of animal, or people going about their business. In the last month or two, there have been a group of plasterers working on completely re-plastering an attractive farmhouse that lies on the road to Jacobstowe. Each time I pass they call out something along the lines of: ‘still taking it lying down I see.’ I wave and reply to the affirmative. Each time I’m there, the house gets a little more complete. Each time they all call out and wave. The new plaster is a work of art and the house stands proudly in its prime position at the roadside. Who knew such joy could be had by cycling past a house under repair?

The message coming from all of these observations and interactions tell me that the world is a good place to be and that I have a place in it, a positive one. How different this is from the desperation felt during my bike ride. The solitude I felt. The panic. The sense of being completely removed from, and not belonging to society in any way. Lost and alone. Outcast.

Sadly, these two positions are poles apart. So far in fact that when you are at one pole you cannot imagine the other. It’s similar to the curvature of the earth. You cannot see to the other side from wherever you are, but you know it exists. It becomes hard to remember that there is another side to life. Without feeling, we are nothing, and that is how you come to think of yourself.

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‘Life is like a butterfly, as soft and gentle as a sigh’………Sometimes!!

Part of the reason I document my life through this blog is that it helps me to remember the good moments. It provides a way of expressing my fears and joys and leaves me a record to look back on, a record that helps me to see that however dark it is, it will change again at some juncture, normality restored. Of course, I also hope that it might give somebody else a moment of hope, a moment that helps them see that life is worth having and living. If you are not affected in this way, it is hard for you to understand how a bright light can suddenly be switched off. ‘I saw them two days ago and everything seemed fine.’ I’ve heard this often It’s often accompanied with pictures of somebody smiling just hours before they ended their life.

The pain of living continually in these extremes may well be the reason that people, seemingly suddenly, choose to opt out for good. Depression, borderline personality disorder, bi-polar disorder and extreme anxiety, are more difficult to manage than I could ever express in words. Social media doesn’t help. All those positive memes that tell us we only need to take control, be positive, push on regardless. It’s all in our hands. We make the difference if we just believe it. It all adds up to being complete and utter rubbish if you are mentally unwell. But it is so easy to feel you are failing and that is your fault and yours alone.

What would help us is to be recognised as being unwell, rather than vilified for it by the government and media. We need resources to be available when we need them, not six months down the line, or sparsely if you are like me and managing. We need to be able to live within our illness, without the expectations of the working world. Some days we can do things and others we can’t. Why is it so difficult to recognize? We are not lying, sponging off the state, being lazy or living an alternative lifestyle. We are ill with unimaginable pain and suffering going on in our heads and bodies. Disbelief isn’t helping us to talk openly, manage, or recover, and that needs to change, soon.

Until next time………………apple-icon-76x76