These past few weeks, the skies above my head have been belligerent. Normally an all – weather cyclist this British summer has turned me into a 6 miles rider. The longest trip is an urban – to and from the centre of town. The traffic lights, the pedestrian crossings, the cycle lanes have left me sweat – less. That’s not much to be going on if I’m going to post a new edition of my cycling/mental health blog now is it?
Or is it?
The weather analogy has served these pages well enough in the past, and so I will call upon them again today. On Thursday 26 May I saw my psychiatrist for my regular appointment (around 4 times a year) and it took him a mere 15 minutes of that 30 minute appointment to sign me off work for a fortnight. 2 weeks later when he saw me for a follow up appointment he signed me off for a further fortnight. And it is from there that I write to you today. I was confident that this was just a blip. I would bounce back after that first 2 weeks and so I made a plan of how I would return to work. Adjust my hours, do 2 days a week, rather than my usual 3, for a bit. Ease myself back in by attending this meeting, skipping that one. Spend a carefree afternoon working from home trawling through emails. I emailed my boss with the plan. She sounded positive. I sent her my Fit Note signing me off for a fortnight. And that, I supposed was that.
But by the time I came to be sitting in my psychiatrist’s office a fortnight later we both knew I wouldn’t be going back as soon as I had planned. I felt relieved, disappointed, guilty and a whole lot of confusion about all those feeling as they jostled for my attention. I knew that I wasn’t going back to work the following Monday because I had failed (yes, that is the right word here) to do what I had needed to in order to drag myself up the hill and out from under those skies. Cycling? Not so much. In and out of town. It made for variety in my otherwise cumbersome days. 12 hours of sleep most nights, and even then the mornings were blurred with fatigue. Upping my dose of mood stabiliser, my most trusted friend in these circumstances, failed to show up.
And so it goes. This week will be different. I will lurch back onto my bike, heave those cycle routes books and maps out of that draw and set off somewhere – anywhere – that is not here.
But then again I might not.
Those skies are on my shoulders, I move and they will surely fall. But amidst all that aching responsibility, all that effort it takes to breath as I sit, my feet still. I sigh, I cry out in frustration and I hold my breath. And then, when all is lost, I shrug my shoulders and I’m ready to let the skies come crashing down.
These days, these nights, this sleep, this waking. The colours of the sky outside, the wet, the dry: its like all the times preceding this I will trust the skies once more. And that is all the hope I have.
Stay near to me and I’ll stay near to you –
As near as you are dear to me will do,
Near as the rainbow to the rain,
The west wind to the windowpane,
As fire to the hearth, as dawn to dew.
Stay true to me and I’ll stay true to you –
As true as you are new to me will do,
New as the rainbow in the spray,
Utterly new in every way,
New in the way that what you say is true.
Stay near to me, stay true to me. I’ll stay
As near, as true to you as heart could pray.
Heart never hoped that one might be
Half of the things you are to me –
The dawn, the fire, the rainbow and the day.
James Fenton (1949 – )