Off Road

Regular readers will have noticed that last week I didn’t post an edition of the blog, as I usually do.  No cause for concern, I was spending a few days on a cycling holiday in the New Forest ( a National Park in Hampshire, a couple of hours from where I live by train along the south coast). I planned to go on a cycling holiday at around this time of year  March. The idea was to mark the milestone of having not had a single day of sick for 2 years. Unfortunately, shortly after having staggered to that point, my mood has dipped, as I have discussed in recent editions. So, I decided to go on a less ambitious trip than usual – this year’s trip was the 5th in as many years. I have been to the Isle of Wight, Belgium, France and Wales in the past. Going to the New Forest meant that I could come back fairly easily if I felt too unwell, and the terrain was pretty much flat.


As you can see from the photo, I took my trusty Tourer bicycle with me. I do own a Mountain bike, but feel more comfortable and connected to myself with panniers and drop handlebars.

The weather was beautiful, and the cows, horses and ponies roamed around where ever they pleased. And so did I.

I spent hours every day riding through the forest with no particular destination in mind.

While I was there I spent time with an old friend whom I had  met at a depression support group when I first became ill in 2001. She was driving me back through the countryside to my B&B late one night after  a meal out when she swerved abruptly to avoid hitting a horse that had ambled into our path in the dark. She explained to me that animals in the area wore luminous collars that were meant to show them up in the dark. As we drove on and I saw other animals by the side of the road, it seemed to me that these collars hardly seemed visible, you’d have to be particularly vigilant to spot one.

The staggeringly obvious parallels with road cycling only struck me much later, once I was back home. I don’t mean near misses, cars swerving narrowly avoiding sending me sprawling, the importance of bike lights and yellow cycling gear. No, I mean not seeing the signs until it’s almost too late. I have been swerving too much lately, failing to see the signs, dim and hard to see when so much around me is dark and countryside – quiet.

I don’t mean signs of relapse, either.Regular readers will know that I’ve written about that issue in previous editions.  Rather, I mean mis – reading recovery. My psychiatrist upped my medication. I knew to increase my medication, which one and by how much. When I saw him before the trip we discussed it again and he suggested tweaking it further. So, that’s what I did.

I came back home from the trip feeling – not surprisingly – great. It would be hard not to, frankly. A couple of days later I was treating my mood stabilising medication like so much aspirin ( an over the counter analgesic). I stopped taking the higher dose, that we had agreed, and thought nothing of it. No need to see my psychiatrist so soon, either.  I made a mental note to cancel my upcoming appointment at the beginning of July. No side effects.

But I haven’t been writing this blog since 2010 because I have been having headaches, have I? A few days after I got home I went back to work – a 2 day course in London.The trip takes a couple of hours door to door. Getting there felt like, well taking an early train to London with lots of other people and then needing to arrive feeling focused on why I was there (a management training course). By the time I arrived I was ready to turn round and go back home. I spent the day sitting in the training room doing a series of impersonations of a participant at a training course. By the end of the day I felt like I would be nominated for an Oscar, at the very least.

That night my hands were shaking as I counted out the pills, all 350 mgs of them, just as I had agreed with my doctor, just as I had known I needed to do when my mood dips.

This is no headache, though it is by turns a throbbing pain, a sharp pang and most of all a dull, dull ache.

A World Where News Travelled Slowly

It could take from Monday to Thursday

and three horses. The ink was unstable,

the characters cramped, the paper tore where it creased.

Stained with the leather and sweat of its journey,

the envelope absorbed each climatic shift,

as well as the salt and grease of the rider

who handed it over with a four-day chance

that by now things were different and while the head

had to listen, the heart could wait.

Semaphore was invented at a time of revolutions;

the judegment of swing in a vertical arm.

News travelled letter by letter, along a chain of towers,

each built within telescopic distance of the next.

The clattering mechanics of the six-shutter telegraph

still took three men with all their variables

added to those of light and weather,

to read, record and pass the message on.

Now words are faster, smaller, harder

we’re almost talking in one another’s arms.

Coded and squeezed, what chance has my voice

to reach your voice unaltered and to leave no trace?

Nets tighten across the sky and the sea bed.

When London made contact with New York,

there were such fireworks, City Hall caught light,

It could have burned to the ground.

Lavinia Greenlaw (1962 – )

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

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