In the 1989 edition of the Tour de France the American rider Greg LeMond won the Tour beating French man Laurent Fignon (Tour winner in 1983 and 1984) by 8 seconds over a distance of 3,285.3 km. This is the shortest margin of victory in the history of the world’s greatest bike race.
At the time race pundits speculated as to whether Fignon’s ponytail lost him the Tour due to the ‘drag effect’ his hair style created.
So, 8 seconds is a really short time; coupled with a seemingly unrelated factor like a hair style, it can mean the difference between victory and defeat, elation and despair.
Actually, I think that 8 seconds is quite a long time. How many of us let our mobile phones ring for more than 8 seconds before answering? In a conversation how many of
us begin to feel uncomfortable with a silence that lasts that long? What I’m getting at is that moods can change very quickly. Consider for a moment having the thought while cycling or driving: ‘I need to brake to avoid crashing into the car in front of me’. That potentially life – saving thought takes about 4 seconds. So, thoughts are quick, and
can have important, immediate effects, on our actions. Furthermore, we don’t tend to dwell on thoughts like these; we take appropriate action and move on concentrating on
the road ahead.
I contend that there are similarities with our moods, with equally important consequences. Consider the thought: ‘My family would be better of without me’. Such a thought rarely occurs just once. It is the sort of thought that can plague people who suffer from mood disorders – with potentially life – threatening outcomes.
It’s not only such potentially dangerous thoughts as these – the slow grind of undermining thought patterns can have a debilitating effect. ‘I am no good at my job’, ‘I’ll never pass my driving test’, ‘s/he can’t possibly find me attractive’ have the strength to undermine us from achieving our goals.
Likewise, with a mood disorder that can mean a wide range of feelings for me within the space of one day, the consequences are not only restricted to yours truly. It is easy for me tell people that I am not easy to live with, but that hardly comes close to the uncertainty, anxiety, discomfort, resentment and fear that my family must feel at times when I come through the door after a day at work, or a trip to the supermarket. Which husband/dad will it be this time?
One of the ways of coping with a loved one, a colleague or acquaintance who experiences extreme mood swings is to give them some space. Often erratic moods are partly fuelled by adrenalin, excess energy. This week I cycled 25 miles at a furious pace, both literally and figuratively, through some of the most serene countryside that Sussex has to offer. What triggered these feelings? I have no idea. I was my calm, good-natured self all morning until I began to feel – out of nowhere – what I can only describe as my brain heating up, an almost overwhelming feeling, that only racing up the hill and into the countryside for a couple of hours could dispel.
The Toys of Love
His cuddly toy of love
Was bought to keep him warm;
In bed he held it tight
And did not fear the storm
Which flogged the howling night
Until it bled to dawn.
His woolly toy of love
No longer soft and white
Grew bristly, cold and thin,
Consoled no more at night;
Its mouth chewed on a grin,
Showed teeth and they could bite.
His silver gift of love
He used with joy and skill
And wore it on his thigh,
Was thrilled by it until
He found it was no toy,
Was loaded, and could kill.
Vernon Scanell (1922 – 2007)