My hope is that you will have noticed that I haven’t posted my blog since January. Let me reassure your concerns that my mood had slipped and I was too ill to put pen to paper, so to speak. The reason I have not been writing has been that I have been absolutely fine, and my thoughts on cycling and mental distress simply wheeled to a halt. There is also the other factor that dictates so much of what we do, for good or ill – habit. I simply got out of the habit of writing, to you, to me.
Over the past month or so, the miles have been few and the scenery mainly tarmac. My moods have been fine, banal in their equilibrium. Regular readers of these musings from the saddle will recall that people with wobbly moods are often creative types, writers, artists and poets. What’s disappeared over the past weeks and months is that creative energy that fuels these musings, as well as the regular progress that I had been making on my novel.
I have 400 mgs of Quetiapine and 100 mgs of Lamotrigine a day to thank for that.
In my day job as a mental health worker my focus is ‘recovery – oriented’. I don’t swap ‘war stories’ with the peers I work with; the point of my role is to share strategies for coping with our challenges and offering a message of hope that life doesn’t have to be circumscribed by diagnosis or troubling symptoms.
But I miss it.
In the past I have written in these pages about what I have gained from my depression. It allowed me to give up a very stressful job, when I couldn’t see a way out. It freed me from a debilitating four-hour commute. It meant that, ill as I was, I was able to have a more active role in raising our children than would otherwise have been possible.
In January I stepped down from being the facilitator of the weekly Depression Alliance support group, and, as planned, stopped attending the group. This felt like the right thing to do at the time, and it still feels that way. So, what do I miss exactly, and who in their right mind would miss depression?
It’s the sense of connection with fellow sufferers that I miss. Sharing my experiences of depression without being judged. Recognising my experiences in others’ stories. Offering and receiving acceptance of our most intimate feelings; in recovery all that is gone. It is gone because I don’t have those feelings anymore. My outlook on life is no longer so bleak that nothing behind, or ahead of me, has any meaning or value. I have learnt strategies for coping with distressing symptoms. I have developed a good awareness of when my mood is rising to point that threatens to destabilise the equilibrium that I know I need to function.
This doesn’t mean that I will seek to derail my recovery, or slip away into relapse, be off sick from work, and start being a regular visitor at my doctor’s surgery once again. I am approaching an important landmark in my recovery. In six weeks’ time I will have completed a whole year without having had a single day off sick. Assuming that I don’t get the ‘flu, or some other malady, it will be the first time since 2007 (I think) that I have managed that.
So begins the process of unhooking myself from the person I was for so long, adrift upon the tides of depression and elation, to one who can cycle along the coast enjoying the view.
from An Irish Airman Foresees His Death
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.
W.B.Yeats (1865 – 1939 )
I should mention that the title of this edition comes from the book of the same name by Anthony Lloyd.