Cycling and Drugs

While I take a well-earned rest from writing my weekly blog on cycling and mental illness I plan to dip into the archives and re-post some of my musings.

I will be back soon.  In the meanwhile…

Ever since five-time Tour de France winner Jacques Anquetil said that he didn’t win bike races by ‘just drinking Perrier water’, the use of drugs in bike racing has been an open secret.

But I’m not here to go on about 3rd generation blood-doping products and urine tests etc.  I’m writing from the point of view of a prescription – medicated depressed cyclist who thinks that cycling itself should be on prescription.  20 mgs of Citalopram, and 3.75 mgs of Zopiclone.

I have just returned from a cycling trip to the World War 1 battlefields of the Somme in France. I enjoyed myself so much my face hurt from smiling so much.  But here’s the thing: at the same time as feeling serenely happy, cycling valleys dotted with military cemeteries, suicidal thoughts were my constant companion.  These thoughts were neither distressing, nor disturbing; rather they were thoughts passing through my mind, like the juggernauts and cement mixers careering past us with gay abandon on the occasional foray onto main roads.

Can this be possible?  To feel like this, and not be seriously intoxicated?

In my introductory post I mentioned that poetry also has a place in this blog.  So, here is the first offering:

Mental Cases
Who are these? Why sit they here in twilight?
Wherefore rock they, purgatorial shadows,
Drooping tongues from jaws that slob their relish,
Baring teeth that leer like skulls’ tongues wicked?
Stroke on stroke of pain, — but what slow panic,
Gouged these chasms round their fretted sockets?
Ever from their hair and through their hand palms
Misery swelters. Surely we have perished
Sleeping, and walk hell; but who these hellish?

– These are men whose minds the Dead have ravished.
Memory fingers in their hair of murders,
Multitudinous murders they once witnessed.
Wading sloughs of flesh these helpless wander,
Treading blood from lungs that had loved laughter.
Always they must see these things and hear them,
Batter of guns and shatter of flying muscles,
Carnage incomparable and human squander
Rucked too thick for these men’s extrication.

Therefore still their eyeballs shrink tormented
Back into their brains, because on their sense
Sunlight seems a bloodsmear; night comes blood-black;
Dawn breaks open like a wound that bleeds afresh
– Thus their heads wear this hilarious, hideous,
Awful falseness of set-smiling corpses.
– Thus their hands are plucking at each other;
Picking at the rope-knouts of their scourging;
Snatching after us who smote them, brother,
Pawing us who dealt them war and madness.

Wilfred Owen (1893 – 1918)

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