I wrote the below piece a few months ago (when I was down and out with illness) but never posted it. You spill out your thoughts with enthusiasm, willing the documentation of it to heal the un-wanted emotions. But then vulnerability appears and speaks louder. Forcing me to hit 'save' rather than 'publish'.
Last month I was on a hugely unwelcomed rest duty with a pulled muscle, and revisited all of the same thoughts. It's quite humbling really, knowing we have this circle of emotions we live in where every thought is recycled.
Based on that, and the fact today is World Mental Health Day, it felt right to now post this piece. Scary - as it always will be to open your diary - but if it helps a few people to better handle the shit brigade that injury brings, then viva la fear.
Originally wrote in in June 2016:
What a difference seven days can make. This time last week, we were rolling out from Dudley on our final stretch of a two day cycling adventure. Spirits were high and negative thoughts were extremely few and far between. I’m now sitting ill on the couch, having to cancel both rides that were planned this weekend, and it’s experiencing positive thoughts that feels extremely rare.
I’m not good at doing nothing. Not only am I missing out on moments with friends that we’d planned together, but there's a haunting unease that I'm not getting fitter or stronger on the two days you expect to do just that. We all have busy lives and the weekend usually offers up a blank canvas of time to do everything that makes you happy. When that’s taken away, what I’m left with is a silence that is only filled with thoughts I normally cycle away from.
I’ve built an identity and purpose around riding. It’s a hobbie that answers to so many of my human needs, that I struggle to find another way to fulfil. After this weekend I’ve realised I’m not good at handling the uncontrollable. I spend hours each day planning ahead so I can fit in time to be better, and when that’s taken away from me, it seems like everything else falls with it.
I’ve been ill, but what’s polluted me more is the constant stream of negativity I’ve been feeding myself. From anger and frustration to a general blanket of flatness over everything I do. I’ve been disappointed and fuelled most of my decisions with ‘fuck it.’ Which, I’d like to make clear, is not a productive decision making process.
I’ve got many friends who have experienced illness and injuries. When it’s not you, it’s easy to be supportive and talk through the usual coping mechanisms. You can be pragmatic when it’s other people. However, when it’s you, and your emotions and demons are part of the story, being a pragmatist feels impossible. You speak to yourself in a way you would never dare anyone else - you become your own worst enemy. And the last thing you want to do with an enemy, is spend time with them. Unfortunately being house bound and ill means you can’t get away from its shit company.
Days are limited. I go through my life with this attitude as a way to wake up earlier and fit more in than most deem necessary. People ask why I wake early - it’s not only to use hours in the day that otherwise don't exist, but it’s to give myself piece of my mind that I am part of something. The discomfort of an early morning will forever be less painful than the feeling of not achieving. I’m now listening to my friends talk about the rides they are on, coffee they are drinking, laughter they’ve shared and moments that I deeply hate missing. It's FOMO (fear of missing out) on a whole new level.
All or nothing. A stupid but very common way of handling things. I could have used this time to relax both physically and mentally but instead my body aches from the introduction of nothing and I've mentally exhausted myself by questioning everything. The mind is powerful thing and this weekend it got the better of me. A friend once rightfully said 'There's a big difference between using cycling as a way to improve your mental heath, and not feeling mentally well if you don't cycle.' That line can often blur.
It’s important to have hobbies but it’s also important to know how to cope when things don’t go to plan. I’m not good at the latter. It's my sketchbook and pens I often turn to for cheap therapy, but its my internal space that I need to make more colourful. Accepting the moment, being kind to myself and letting go of feeling lost when you lose one small part of who you are. Our lives are built around buckets - work, family, friends, health, hobbies. I have the most incredible family, boyfriend, friends and community around me. They all provide a happiness that you can't replicate on a bike and it's sometimes too common to forget that.
Onwards to being better at coping. Because life goes on, even when you can’t ride on.
Photography: 35mm that didn't go to plan.