Thin

When I started writing this blog back in 2010 I made it clear that I was no whippet – thin racing cyclist riding the most stylish racing bike money can buy.

I ride a touring bike with panniers carrying a cumbersome bike lock around with me wherever I go.

Racing cyclists are a skinny bunch who have to monitor their diet very closely so as to maximise the amount of watts of energy they can squeeze out of their bodies.  When the elite British rider Victoria Pendleton retired after the London Olympics she expressed relief at no longer having to live on a diet of grilled chicken.

Self – confessed drug cheat Bjarne Riis, ‘winner’ of the 1996 Tour de France was easily recognisable in the peleton thanks to his skeletal appearance.  One drug he certainly wasn’t taking was Quetiapine (Seroquel).  This Atypical Anti – Psychotic boasts weight gain as one of its most common side effects.  I should know – I take 300mgs of the stuff every night. 

My involvement with mental health dates back to when I was a teenager, 14 or 15 years old. I was in love with a girl from the Western Isles (for those of you who don’t come from these Islands they’re off the north west coast of Scotland.) So remote was the island she lived on that she had to take a boat to school to Oban, a larger island.

We used to write to each other (letters – this was long, long before the world wide web.) I remember being frustrated that she didn’t reply for ages. She was very, very thin and I was vaguely aware that this was a problem.

Fast forward to my first (of several) visits to her on a locked ward of a psychiatric hospital in south London. I remember her lying  in bed in her own room.  I couldn’t understand why she didn’t respond more quickly to my letters – she had all this time on her hands. The patients with bandaged wrists I saw on the ward didn’t seem ill to me. I recognise now that my perception of her situation was as distorted as her own view of herself – seeing not a dangerously under weight person, but a person who looked over weight and ugly, too.

The years went by, we lost touch; some time ago I heard that she has made a career as a singer.

Those infrequent letters and the hospital visits were my first exposure to someone with serious mental health problems. They provoked feelings of frustration, impatience and incomprehension in my adolescent self.  But those early experiences also taught me that people I thought were ‘normal’, with no reason to be ‘troubled’ were real people – with personalities that were separate from their – considerable – mental health problems.  Those feelings I had then have stood me in good stead when talking to friends and families of people with mental health problems about what their loved on may be experiencing.  It is frustrating not knowing why someone cannot get out of bed in the morning, has no desire for company, takes no interest in things they once enjoyed.  And the longer these symptoms go on the more impatient one can become. It’s important to recognise these reactions; they are important. It’s worth recognising that while we are quick to recognise that the perceptions of some people with mental health problems are distorted, some of ours are, too.

From here we can begin to understand.

Girl from the North Country

If you’re traveling in the north country fair
Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline
Remember me to one who lives there
For she was once a true love of mine.

Well, if you go when the snowflakes storm
When the rivers freeze and summer ends
Please see for me if she’s wearing a coat so warm
To keep her from the howlin’ winds.

Please see from me if her hair hanging down
If it curls and flows all down her breast
Please see from me if her hair hanging down
That’s the way I remember her best.

Well, if you’re traveling in the north country fair
Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline
Please say hello to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine.

If you’re travelin’ in the north country fair
Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine.

Bob Dylan (1941 – )

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This entry was posted in Bi Polar Disorder, Cycling, Depression, Mental Health, Poetry, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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