After a break to regenerate my creative juices I am glad to announce that my blog about cycling and mental illness is back.
At this time of the year cyclists (in the northern hemisphere at least) have to brave cold conditions. I have to admit that I have discarded my plastic hat for a wooly one. My fingerless cycling gloves have been put away and been replaced by proper ones.
As I returned to my blog after my break I checked the site stats that WordPress supply. There was no surprise, though a twinge of disappointment, I must admit, to see that the number of readers had plummeted.
Just like the number of miles I have been doing recently. Regular readers will know that I am an all-weather cyclists, as unafraid to don lycra tights in the cold weather as I am to put on the padded shorts come the Spring. But these days I have hardly been out into the Sussex countryside to enjoy the views and the fresh air in what has been, (apologies to Scottish readers), a pretty mild winter.
The only miles I seem to be doing have been the three times per week commute to the station on my way to work, and a 6 mile round trip to Brighton about once a week. I am barely on speaking terms with my bike computer; 12 miles one week, barely 20 the next. 10 tired and wet miles back and forth to the station, back home up the hill in the dank, dark evenings.
Despite these lacklustre distances my mood has been fine.
But it has not been ever thus.
These commuting trips along the same, familiar roads, past the same landmarks, remind me of how depression can reduce me to having to settle for just getting from A to B, and little else.
In my job as a Peer Supporter, helping fellow sufferers to make their way on their personal road to recovery, I hear a lot about how things are when life is at its worst. One person I met regularly last year who had been severly depressed for the best part of a year, before emerging slowly back into the world described her recovery as abrupt. She couldn’t see how she had come out of this long episode so abruptly. Neither could I. Reflecting on my own experience of recovering from episodes of depression I saw my re-emergence as gradual, faltering – anything but abrupt. As we got to know eachother, shared our experiences, I could see that Eve’s* recovery had been anything but abrupt. She recounted what her psychiatrist had asked her to do when she was begining to relapse. He had asked her to have a shower, brush her teeth and go for a walk every day, then write these things down as a kind of diary. This she did nearly every day week after week, month after month. Nothing dramatic, nothing deep and meaningful. What he asked her to do was almost mechanical. But, I reflected to her when she told me this, the tenacity it took to follow these instructions, to record these mundane actions, were what slowly, inperceptibly, brought back into the world.
Cycling feels like that sometimes. The miles are short and functional. They don’t include inspiring views or the satisfaction of finishing a long ride, tired but happy. But they do get me from A to B. And from there, I know I will one day travel much further.
At the merest handshake I feel his blood
Move with the ebb-tide chill. Who can revive
A body settled in its final mood?
To whom, on what tide, can we move, and live?
Later I wheel him out to see the trees:
Willows and oaks, the small plants he mistakes
For rose bushes; and there
In the front, looming, light green, cypresses.
His pulse no stronger than the pulse of air.
Dying, he grows more tender, learns to tech
Himself the mysteries I am left to trace.
As I bend to say ‘Till next time’, I search
For signs of resurrection in his face.
Vincent Buckley (1925 – 1988)
*Not her real name