I was reading about racing cyclists in Yemen recently. As you might imagine resources for the sport in a country that has been described as a ‘failed state’ are scarce. The national team find it nearly impossible to fund participation in international cycling competitions. The last time they were able to compete on the international stage was at the Arab Club Championships held in Egypt in 2006. At home the small team of riders wearing faded sun – bleached lycra and riding bicycles that are in varying states of repair, cycling at altitudes of over 7,500 feet in Sana’a the country’s capital – higher than some parts of the French Alps.
But lack of oxygen and funding are not the only challenges facing these riders. Attitudes towards them among the general public are hostile, to say the least. These lycra – clad cyclists routinely face verbal abuse and worse. They are seen as different, strange and therefore alien. Riders have to contend with more than being cut up by a stressed out driver on the commute to work. Dodging rocks being hurled at them, lorry drivers running them off the road are frequent challenges they face as they ride round the capital – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As remote from my surroundings as this country situated on the Arabian Peninsula is, I was struck by similarities in attitude that people with mental health problems are faced with. It may be relatively rare that people with mental health problems (in the developed world) are attacked in public, but there are still attacks of a diiferent kind that we face every day. People may not throw stones at us, but they can, and do run us off the road with silence, thoughtless quips and the lazy use of terms such as ‘mad’, ‘manic’, ‘depressed’. They run us off the road with low expectations, impatience and the inability, or unwillingness to listen to us.
If my tone sounds angry it is because I am.
For some one for whom mood swings are – to put it mildly – a problem, sometimes my feelings are just that: feelings. I’m not angry because sometimes my mood can spike sharply from relaxed to shouting and swearing in a moment, I’m angry because the attitudes I am describing here (and not for the first time) cause so much pain.
Now that he’s got that off his chest he’ll feel a whole lot better, right?
Sometimes it’s not me who needs to change my attitude.
Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
Robert Frost (1874 – 1963)