Elite cyclists are liars.
Well, not all of them, but it is not unusual for winners of Grand Tours to be disqualified for doping after having stood on the podium milking the applause of cycling fans having raced for weeks with the support of team mates, some of whom may also have been doping. At the end of the second Tour de France in 1904, Maurice Garin the winner of the inaugural Tour de France the year before was disqualified. He was banned for two years. Two other riders, Chevalier and Pothier were banned for life. Cheating was so rife in that year’s Tour that the father of the Tour, Henri Desgrange despaired that ‘the Tour de France is over and its second edition, I fear, will be its last’.
Not all cheats were liars, however. The Italian rider Fausto Coppi won the Tour de France in 1949 and 1952. He won The Giro d’Italia five times in the 1940s and 50s. Asked if he taken drugs he replied ‘only when necessary’ When he was asked how often that was he admitted that this ‘nearly always.’
In the modern era Floyd Landis was stripped of the Yellow Jersey in 2006 after an astonishing (later revealed as a drug – fuelled) comeback. He protested his innocence for four years while appealing against his disqualification. Alberto Contador is about to finish a ban after having been stripped of the titles of the 2010 Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia 2011.
So, cyclists cheat and lie. And so do I.
Well, cheating? Not really. In case you hadn’t noticed I’m not an elite cyclist. But a liar I most certainly am. I tell myself all sorts of things about myself, and the world around me, about what other people think and feel about me that are simply not true.
Where do I start? That the world would be better off without me; that I am a burden to those around me. That the compliments people pay me are lies, and that if they really know what I was like they would never say those things, much less actually believe them.
But in order to maintain these enormous, sturdy structures inside my head I have to engage with these thoughts, feelings and perceptions. And in doing so I strengthen and nurture them. ‘Nurture them?’ I hear you ask. That sounds as though I actually want to be depressed. We- ell now that you mention it…. depression does mean that my rational mind, my view of the world, is in sync with my feelings. Life really does have no meaning. As Anatole France once put it: ”He was born. He suffered. He died.’ But don’t take his word for it. Long before the author of the children’s classic ‘The Little Prince’ shared his view of life, the Rabbis of the Talmud stated; ‘Against your will you are born, against your will you live, and against your will you die’.
If these are truths, how is it that I am lying to myself? Is it because I strive to find evidence to fit a theory, a theory about how hard life is, how full of misery and suffering? I have spoken about the impact of diagnosis in earlier editions of this blog, and I want to return to this theme again now.
Diagnosis is a useful tool in gaining access to psychiatric services, getting the right treatments. To that extent it is worthwhile. But there is a cost to it also, which I believe gets in the way of recovery, and undermines to a great extent the usefulness of the diagnosis in the first place. Having a diagnosis means that – over time – we come to over – identify with it, it becomes part of us, our identity and how we choose to see and interpret the world around us. We fuse with our diagnosis; it’s as though it was magnetic.
In his book ‘The Happiness Trap’, Russ Harris explains his theory of ‘fusion’. ‘In a state of fusion, it seems as if:
- Thoughts are reality – what we’re thinking is actually happening here and now.
- Thoughts are the truth – we completely believe them.
- Thoughts are important – we take them seriously and give them our full attention.
- Thoughts are orders – we automatically obey them.
- Thoughts are wise – we assume they know best , and we follow their advice.
- Thoughts can be threats – some thoughts can be deeply disturbing or frightening,and we feel the need to get rid of them.’
He goes on to give the reader a couple of thought exercises to do. Then he reminds us that ‘… you can’t learn to ride a bike just by reading about it; you actually have to get on the bike and pedal.’ And so it is with changing the way we think and feel about the world around us and the formative experiences that have shaped and formed the way we think and feel, anticipate how we will think and feel about things that haven’t even happened yet- and might never happen. The American author William Faulkner wrote: ‘the past is not dead, it’s not even over.’ I used to think that this meant that the past was fixed and that it would just continue to shadow me through life. Events that happened long before I was born would continue to dictate what I think and feel about my life, and the world around me forever. But if the past ‘s ‘not even over’ I can change how I understand it, manage it, and what’s more I can re – evaluate it, and my reactions to it.
Easier said than done, I know.
Mr. Housman’s Message
O woe, woe,
People are born and die,
We also shall be dead pretty soon
Therefore let us act as if we were dead already.
The bird sits on the hawthorn tree
But he dies also, presently.
Some lads get hung, and some get shot.
Woeful is this human lot.
Woe! woe, etcetera. . . .
London is a woeful place,
Shropshire is much pleasanter.
Then let us smile a little space
Upon fond nature’s morbid grace.
Oh, Woe, woe, woe, etcetera. . . .
Ezra Pound (1885 – 1972)