Just in case you haven’t been paying attention, I went on a cycling holiday to Wales in
September. The trip gave me much food for thought, and material for my weekly musings on a life spent in the saddle.
Several months ago (November 14 2010) I wrote an edition called Bike Baggage. This time I would like to expand on this theme.
As you can imagine, going on a cycling holiday entails careful packing. In my case this meant how much lycra do I need for a five-day trip? How many books am I going to read? And finally, how much stuff – including, inevitably, more books – will I be bringing back home with me? I took two bulging panniers with me, and a half empty back pack. Cycling
to the B & B where I would be staying I wore my back pack. Not surprising, it was heavy and uncomfortable, especially on the long, slow climb to Brecon in the failing light. So, I bought some cable ties which meant that I could fasten my ever bulging back pack onto my pannier rack for the return trip. Needless to say, the trip from Brecon to Newport was much more comfortable than the ride north five days earlier.
Those cable ties set me to thinking about other kinds of ties. I have written elsewhere of the dynamic of chronically mentally ill people to ‘fuse’ with their diagnosis, so that it becomes part of their identity, an important piece of who they are, and this makes it more difficult to set out on the road of recovery. Sure enough, I also clung onto my diagnosis of depression for the best part of a decade. Doing so wasn’t entirely negative; it meant that I took the illness seriously, read up on it – I have a substantial library of books on the subject – and was able to engage with my doctors in an informed and articulate manner. But it also tied me into a cycle of relapse and recovery that meant I had to give up work, and subsequently spend three years on Incapacity Benefit- and believe me, I really wasn’t fit for much. Over the years I felt best during the Winter (it was a relief when the clocks went back, and the winter evenings arrived like a duvet of comfort and protection.
But cable ties have their uses. They tied my back pack securely to my pannier rack for my trip home. Likewise, tying myself to my diagnosis for all those years meant that I found out about the symptoms, talking treatments, pills and potions in a way that helped me to take an active part in my care at the hands of G.P.s, C.P.N.s, Psychiatrists, and Psychoanalysts. For many people with a diagnosed mental illness the diagnosis means submitting to treatment, rather than engaging with it. For so many this means that treatment is not reviewed, dosages are not re-examined, alternatives routes to recovery are not explored. In fact, the very idea that recovery is possible is filed away as surely as the patient’s notes.
straight jackets may be a thing of the past in the U.K. but the same constrained way of thinking amongst doctors and patients continues to deprive people with troublesome psychiatric symptoms of the means of recovery.
Hope is what is most often missing from psychiatric treatments.
As someone who supports my Peers who are struggling with challenging symptoms, I am there to offer the hope that they , too, can recover and lead meaningful lives.
Cable ties are not inflexible. They stretch, and they are strong. These traits, flexibility, the ability to stretch oneself, and the strength to be able to maintain such an approach to life’s challenges, are key to loosening the bonds that hold us back from becoming all that we can be.
|The Ties That BindYou been hurt and you’re all cried out you say
You walk down the street pushin’ people outta your way
You packed your bags and all alone you wanna ride,
You don’t want nothin’, don’t need no one by your side
You’re walkin’ tough baby, but you’re walkin’ blind
to the ties that bind
Now you can’t break the ties that bind
it’s all just a crutch
I would rather feel the hurt inside, yes I would darlin’,
You sit and wonder just who’s gonna stop the rain