Thursday, 12 December 2013

Cycling Back To Happiness

Thought this might be worth sharing. Apologies if you've already read it elsewhere.

Early on in 2013 I began to feel a bit down never really having suffered with personal mental health issues before. I shrugged it off as I took delivery of my new bike, the days lengthened and I prepared for the 1400km London-Edinburgh-London Audax (LEL) at the end of July. Come October, LEL and Super Randonneur series completed and the nights drawing in, the depression returned with a vengeance.

Mostly this was related to a stressful work environment, in fact thru October I was 'dealing' with the stress by drinking after every shift as I couldn't switch off any other way. This was obviously not a long term solution and I was hanging on for a week’s annual leave at the end of October. I didn't make the holiday before bursting into tears in the middle of a clinical area (I'm a Charge Nurse in A&E). I felt terrible and seriously thought about resigning on the spot. I even gave up on my Imperial Century a Month challenge nine months in!

The holiday was a temporary reprieve but ultimately work was still a major issue so, after long chats with my wife, on return to the UK I went to see my GP. The few weeks since then have been a bit of rollercoaster to say the least. He signed me off work, started me on antidepressants, we agreed some counselling and he has reviewed me at fortnightly intervals since. A few days after first seeing the GP I was knocked off my bike by a pedestrian, ending up with facial bruising, dental damage, 40 min memory loss and a poorly bike. I'd been cycling trying to keep positive and active. Cycling was temporarily halted but at least I was alive.

At this point sleeping was terrible, I felt negative about everything all the time (awake or asleep), I was having trouble interacting with my 7 year old who in turn started to keep her distance and my wife and I were in different beds as I was so restless. Can't work, can't sleep, family life in turmoil, stopped driving (didn't feel safe), not cycling - I felt I was being stripped of my life! My wife, family, work colleagues and friends were all really supportive but the first two weeks on meds things didn't get better but worse (often the case).

The bike went for repair and once my eye was open I started cycling on another bike. Just short distances to start with but it got me out of the house and gave me something I could actually enjoy for a while. Three weeks in I was back up to 30 miles on my newly repaired bike and last week managed 50 miles without too much difficulty (although I felt tired keeping up with cycling buddies on the hills). Sleep in still an issue and I've just started a short course of night sedation. However, my mood is now much better, work is not such a focus and I plan to return in the New Year.

For me cycling has provided some reprieve, motivation, exercise, enjoyment as well as a yardstick to measure progress. I've not always wanted to get the bike out, particularly on cold wet days, but have always felt better after making the effort. I couldn't have got this far without a great GP and medication, counselling and my wonderful wife. Cycling has been a great help for me thru this period. If I didn't already cycle I might have found something else. However, I can't overestimate the positive impact it has had for me.

So, I suppose what I want to say to anyone reading this who might be in a similar situation is: Things can get better, seek help and don't struggle by yourself, medications can be a useful aid to get you in better mental state to address problems, counselling can be very useful and, whatever you do, keep as active as possible - preferably on a bike.