And breathe out slowly

Michele testing her tirke after gear adjustments

Michele testing her tirke after gear adjustments

The sun’s back out in Devon. As I write this, the sky through my front bedroom window is cobalt with orange highlights as the sun begins to sink towards the horizon. Wisps of cloud still linger but are diminishing and the wind that has torn around all day is quietening for the evening, its merry dance complete for today. Daffodils are lifting their beautiful heads towards the sun again, the sentinels of springtime, and crocuses lie like rainbows in the ground. Heat is slowly replacing cold. The sun’s rays, now warming, will slowly replace the need for multi-layered clothing during the main part of the day.

It’s just a matter of a few weeks until the UK clocks chime in the new summer time. They will be leaping forward just one hour  but our brains leap much further in terms of our thoughts and expectations of the fast approaching summer months. We are all making plans that will soon begin to hatch as we count down the days of March. Thoughts of riding all day and watching the sunset from my tent increase exponentially as time ticks on and memories of similar events in years gone by start to bobble around excitedly in my mind giving new purpose to my riding.

My legs know that something’s afoot, if you’ll excuse the pun. I keep asking a little more of them week on week, ride on ride. Sometimes, when they think I’ve been out enough already this week, I’ll surprise them by going out the following day as well. They don’t seem to mind too much and I’m starting to enjoy riding in a way that just isn’t possible during the winter, even though we often pretend that’s not the case.

There’s a greater sense of urgency as the weather warms towards summer. Leaving home is so much easier when there isn’t a negative temperature gradient of 20 degrees Celsius as soon as you open the front door. The routes I began to envisage on my maps, that I wrote about a couple of articles back, start to become more real. There’s a tangible air of expectation about actually riding roads I spent so long investigating during the dark nights of winter.

Camping a la ferme, Devon style :)

Camping a la ferme, Devon style 🙂

My body clock begins to wake and so do I. My mornings are starting a little earlier as light encourages me to get up and take advantage of the longer days. The evenings don’t seem to plummet into darkness as quickly any more, tending to linger just long enough to enjoy them instead. And enjoy them we must because in less than four months time those precious days slowly begin to grow ever shorter once more.

Morning grogginess, caused by the daily dosage of Trazadone Hydrochloride gives way slowly to a feeling of being awake. I’ve taken to eating porridge in this befuddled state, something I seem to do without any kind of emotion. Porridge is like that, kind of bland but not disgusting, edible but not exciting. I add fruit and cinnamon in order to try and make it more exciting, but it just isn’t. It is excellent fuel though and that’s a good enough reason to imbibe. Being only partly awake at this stage I rely on coffee to unlock the next door that bars my way to the daytime and the excitement it holds.

I sit quietly for a while, not wanting to be there, wonderingn whether getting up was the right choice. I begin to investigate my day by staring at my iPad and the banality of the news as depicted by Yahoo. Soon enough my mind wakes to the point where I remember I don’t have to use Yahoo and I stutter over to the BBC website.

The main page is coloured red. It’s a appropriate choice: red for danger. All of the world’s worst atrocities and most depressing stories are reported here in colourful detail but it isn’t the place for a delicate mind first thing in the morning so I move on. I flick to the sports section where I remember that 85 pages of football, cricket and rugby aren’t that conducive to improving my early morning state of mind. Why I choose to start my day staring at technology I don’t know, but it’s a habit that seems to have grabbed everybody in this electronic age. It would be much better for me to resume my old habit of sitting outside listening to the birds and sipping that all important coffee until my systems waken enough to move. And this is what I intend to do as soon as it warms enough to make it pleasant.

Morlaix, France

Morlaix, France

Until that happens I can only stagger clumsily into my day. I have to be motivated to make things happen, because if I don’t then nothing does. And this is where it gets tough. On many of my days I am simply unable to achieve much at all. From dawn to dusk it’s a struggle to do the very basics of life as the internal struggle demands all of my energy and attention. This is the reality of depressive types of illness. I recently saw depression described as trying to sprint while standing up to your waist in water in a swimming pool. How apt a description that is.

When I have a series of distressing days I would really like to be able to do something to take my mind away from the fact. It doesn’t seem to work like that. At least not for me it doesn’t. On those days, the noise in my head overruns everything else, banging like a drum on the inside it threatens to break my skull. If it doesn’t succeed then I might as the urge to smash my head on a wall with great force is at times all I can think about. Depression is inescapable. It batters and swipes my mind from the inside, not visible, but terrifyingly persistent. It creeps and claws, agitating and irritating, trying to demand that I give in to it. I sleep, rest, take drugs (legal ones) and do little else. It places large holes in my week when nothing happens. Worst of all it leaves me physically and emotionally exhausted unable to face the world at all.

When it clears again I’m still exhausted and have to wait for that to change before I can go and work, cycle, or think about anything else. Given a clear run I begin to gently go and cycle, shop, cook, clean, or do any of the things everybody else does on top of working. Out on my trike I often feel as though I’ve never ridden before, legs as weak as a kitten. The frustration makes me want to quit, sell my bike, and give in. Fortunately I don’t and my body will remember that I’m actually quite strong in a couple more days if I can only be patient enough to rest up again and wait. After all, it only takes a few good rides to put those thoughts to bed.

And wait I have. All winter long, bouncing from week to week, hoping the next will be better and struggling to maintain a little fitness. Trying to believe in future plans is so hard but I battle the thoughts that tell me it’s a waste of time and make them anyway. I’ve reached for the Diazapam on quite a few occasions recently when distress threatens to overwhelm me. I’ve clung, as always, to the notion that spring is around the corner. I’ve been angry at myself, my life, other people, and my inability to uncover any answers. I’ve stepped back from wanting to smash my world to pieces in rages born of frustration and anger. Most of all I struggle with the constant struggle, if you see what I mean. I’ve tried to be accepting, but it isn’t easy when you are only able to use a small percentage of your abilities for strictly limited time periods.

French family on tour: Sheepwash, Devon.

French family on tour: Sheepwash, Devon.

But spring brings hope, something to offset the negativity. There are signs of new life and warmth outside that my embattled mind has almost forgotten exists. The softness of nature as life bursts forth in spring brings softness to my emotions, a feeling of being alive and not just surviving another day. A kind of mindfulness occurs that reminds me of what it is to be human on this beautiful planet. To observe nature at work is to realise that the world of outdoors will always, for me at least, be the world where I want to spend my time and life.

The new growth taking place all around gives hope that I might follow suit and the anger and frustration that have been present all winter begin to subside a little. Watching fragile fauna take its first steps, having just been born into the world, or watching flowers that have just burst into life above the soil that had covered them for many months is a gift to behold. I try to capture these feelings by taking the time to notice. I stop to look, listen, and absorb. Taking time away from a world that moves ever faster works as a balancing mechanism for my mind and I begin to see life as not only fragile but precious. These thoughts help me maintain my own life by showing me its true value beyond the struggle that so often dominates my own world. I cherish those moments.

 

 

RIDE 4aUntil next time…………….

 

 

2 comments on “And breathe out slowly

  1. Graeme, thanks for your thoughts. I know there is turmoil you can suffer in your head, but, your writing seems to be a palliative. it is almost tranquil to me. It’s also fascinating to discover how you are thinking. You bring something of nature and its joys to other lives.

    So thanks again. It is deeply appreciated here.

    With love and solidarity

    Dave Clinch

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