Friday, 26 November 2010

Arse kicked

I've not had a good week (see Wednesday's blog). I'm not absolutely sure why, but I haven't really helped myself. I didn't plan much for the week. I didn't push myself to leave the house. So each day, I didn't do anything. I drifted. While it isn't the case that I did literally nothing all week, I did find myself in a real pit of lethargy, self-pity and some deeply nasty dark thoughts.

Today, I got up. Did things. Went to town, met my sister, then met a friend for a drink or two after work. She kicked my arse. In the nicest possible kind of way. Sometimes my friends and family are so wonderfully caring, they cut me slack and tell me to do what is right for me. Sometimes I feel embarrassed telling them I ended up not helping myself as much as I should. Sometimes they forget I'm not quite the Tom that they know, and I'm not as proactive as normal. This particular friend has got personal experience of depression in her family, and she got, er a unique way of being brutally honest, without it ever coming across as brutal. She is a star.

So, tonight. I'm planning next week. If I genuinely can't stick to all the plans, then no big deal. But I will make sure that I give myself the best possible chance by organising some in the first place.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010


A good friend came round tonight. We went for a quick 5 mile run, ate some tea, and I helped him strip an old bike he's going to do up.

-Black and grey

-Colour bleaches back in slowly

Such a beautiful evening for a run. Cold, crisp, but fine once we were moving. Dave's a fit lad, and could knock out 35min 10ks a few years ago. He's not run so much recently, so he began to tire before me, but we were as good as evenly matched. Up through Little Switzerland, over to Roundhay Park, back along Street Lane to Moortown Corner, and home, via the steps through Chapel Allerton park.

Soup, crusty bread and blue cheese.

Radio 6, a Cumberland Ale and getting hands dusty and oily.

Thanks Dave.

Plunged back into a world of black and grey

I don't know what's happened. I felt stronger. I felt positive.

Now I feel alone, want to be alone. Once again the world has lost its colour. I haven't exercised since Saturday. I simply can't find the motivation to. I've not really left the house too much. I haven't had much to leave it for, but that's suited me just fine.

I feel myself in a self-destructive cycle. I'm losing the energy to keep doing this. Back to the doctors tomorrow maybe.

Watching bits of life on a badly tuned tv. Moments of clarity make the haze and black harder to take.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Saturday, 20 November 2010


Being off work makes the weeks blur together. My life isn't defined by the two days at the end of each week. To be honest, I'm really looking forward to building in some more structure, and getting a few days work in. Going to an office, interacting with more people again. Not long now.

Off to Dalby forest this morning with Peter. His wife and children are coming, and having a walk around some of the trails while do the red there. I've got a love/hate relationship with Dalby. It's great fun in the dry, and I like that it is longer than most trail centres. But... it doesn't have many real climbs or downhills, and in the wet the sandy mud destroys brake pads and bottom brackets in no time. But, for today it'll do me just fine. I haven't been there since the spring, and I haven't seen Peter for over a year, so it will be great to catch up.

Might sneak in a run when I get home, make some homemade pizza, before a couple of drinks out with friends this evening. Almost feels like a weekend!

Friday, 19 November 2010


Well, the house is gradually looking more like my home. It's a bitter-sweet feeling. I finally feel less empty while I'm here, but equally, I still think of it as "our" home. I almost don't want to give up that feeling.

I had a whopping 3 hrs sleep last night. Was wide awake at 2am. Listened to lots of episodes of A Brief History of Mathematics, which despite being interesting, tends to send me back to sleep within 10 mins. So, at 4am, I wandered downstairs in my Rab down coat, made a hot milk and settled down to read and listen to music. I also spotted that CRC were having a big sale, so accidentally bought some new waterproof overshoes for when I finally have a road bike again.

I think I dozed off briefly at 7ish, to be woken by next door's builders arriving at 7.15. Harumph.

Never mind. I'd been putting off washing and maintaining my bikes all week. Time to get wet. Downhill bike first - quick hose, soapy water, 5 mins and done. It wasn't too bad actually. Notice that both sets of pads are nearly to the metal, and the brakes probably need a bleed. I keep debating selling this bike. I barely ride it. I love it to pieces, and I've time I do spend time on it, I come home with the biggest grin... but... I like to ride my bikes. Not push them up hills, not sit in a truck getting bounced around. If I lived in the Alps, or even Fort William/Glen Coe, I'd be on the gondola every week. Sadly, pushing up a track in Wharncliff or similar doesn't really do it for me. I'm just worried that I won't get a great deal for it, but I would love a 5-6inch fun bike that I can play on DH courses with, but also ride up big mountains when the want takes me. Wonder if Brant at Shedfire will give me a new Nukeproof Mega if I keep mentioning it in my blog often enough? I can but dream...

2nd up... CX bike. Nice and easy. Nowt to do other than a thorough clean, although I did notice the brake blocks have worn a lot over the last week or so. Time to get some more ready to swap in.

3rd up... the On-One. This was hidden under a thick layer of clay-mud from Cannock a week or so back. Would have been better with archaeological brushes and tools to uncover the bike underneath. Bottom bracket was seized, and I had a new one ready to swap in, but after a bit of cleaning and regreasing, it was actually running relatively smoothly again. Score. The On-One is currently set up in fully rigid guise. This was not meant to be a long term thing. I like to ride my bikes downhill as fast I am capable. Rigid forks are not always particularly conducive to this... but my Rock Shox Revelations died earlier in the year and they are back with Fishers awaiting a new MoCo cartridge under warrantee. I bought the rigid forks as a stop gap. They've been more fun than I was expecting, and actually don't hinder speed too much, unless it is really rough. Looking forward to getting some nice bolt-through 140mm travel back though.

So... bikes cleaned, repaired as far as possible... and now settled into their new home. As I have the house all to myself, I've converted the "dressing room" into the "bike room".

Bike maintenance done. Time for some personal maintenance. I've been meaning to get my hair cut for at least a couple of weeks... it has got to the so wild it doesn't even look it's deliberately meant to be like that stage. Just need a cup of tea first...

Thursday, 18 November 2010


The blackest thoughts come when you least expect it.

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Good advice

I am agnostic, but really identified with this text message a friend sent me.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Thanks Tom (my friend, I haven't started referring to myself in the 3rd person).

Monday, 15 November 2010

Our Fold - Belt Tap and Needle

Just in case you were wondering where the title of the last post came from. This might have popped onto my ipod while I was riding.

10 man army of skin and bones

Very weird week. Learned lots.

Discovered that getting better isn't just steady progress day after day. Had a few low, low days. Not always caused by anything. Some of them were. Sitting in an empty house, feeling very alone isn't always conducive to finding perspective either.

But, I got over them, and despite, or because of those days, I feel a bit stronger again.

  • Nice meeting with my boss. Lovely card from my colleagues. I certainly wasn't ready to go into work that day, but it has properly started to sow seeds in my mind and I can more easily visualise a route back to working.
  • Returning to climbing, around 3 years since I last climbed regularly. I'm weak, I've got poor technique, but it has been fun. Had forgotten the simple pleasure of staring at a piece of rock (or climbing wall as it was) for 5 mins, trying to visualise how to reach the top.
  • House beginning to feel closer to a home. Not the home that I had before, but somewhere that I don't feel on edge or alien to.
  • I've started carrying a mini sketch pad with me, whenever I go out. I have very limited artistic ability, but have enjoyed doodling away over a long coffee or two when my head feels too crowded to read.
  • The ongoing love and support of family and friends. Amazing.
  • Painful, horrible discussions with my girlfriend.
  • The fear that the loneliness, the feeling weak won't go away. That this is my life now.
  • Going into town with a list of three simple jobs. Haircut, bank, food. Feeling so confused, and scared that I had to turn round and come back home.
  • No bike riding for most of the last week.
  • Looking in the mirror and seeing a gangly collection of skin and bones, where well defined, lean muscle used to be. It feels like my physical state is representing my mental state.
So, this morning, I got up, and loped downstairs. Hoodie pulled over my (now quite wild - see above) hair, conserving some warmth. Bare feet on cold tiles. Moka pot primed and on the stove. Heating flicked on. Cereal eaten. Silence. Curtains opened. Frost. Winter blue skies. Pastel morning sun.

Bib longs. Thermal vest. Softshell. Merino socks. Autumn full finger gloves. Cap under helmet. CX bike (still waiting for insurance company payment to let me replace my road bike (RIP)). Click. Click. Pedals engaged. Purr of a Mavic freehub. Out of the saddle, then into a spinny gear to generate some warmth. First climb feels wonderful. Cold air catches the back of my throat. Legs feeling ever so slightly restricted as flexing knees pull at tight fitting lycra.

Turn off tarmac for the ribbon of bridleway past Golden Acre Park. Stop for a pic.

Skate over wet leaves. Frost has already retreated to the most sheltered, shady parts of trail. God, I can tell I haven't ridden for a week. The bike feels unwieldy. I'm fighting to make it go where I want it to. I'm getting bumped off line, my legs don't want to transfer power to the pedals. Frustrating.

As minutes and pedal strokes tick by, familiarity returns. Back straightens, shoulders relax, legs push. Lungs find a rhythm. I thread my way through the Emmerdale set, and through the grounds of Harewood House. I dare a smile as the bike skips around under me, and I hop and pump through dips and bumps on the trail.

  • When you live by yourself there is no one to tell you that the very muddy bike should not be in the living room.
  • It still needs a wash.

So, start of a new week, and I feel stronger. I will carry on surviving and fighting and taking every moment of pleasure I can. I am a 10 man army of skin and bones...

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Good and bad

Keeping with the lists theme, I'm doing a bit of a retrospective of the last week or so.

•Bike ride with great friends on Saturday. Travelled to Cannock Chase, as a central meeting between Sam and me, based in Leeds (and Rob who was up for the weekend) and Mark (Tamworth) and Rich (Oxfordshire). Rode Follow the Dog and the Monkey Trail. I was really surprised at how good and generally fun the trails were. They really make the most of the landscape and limited altitude to create a fantastic mellow, flowing red route, with some interesting, though not overly technical short black options. I wouldn't travel 2 1/2 hours purely to ride here, but will be happy to meet friends there again.
•Short blasts on the CX bike first thing in the morning. No more than 2 hours. No less than exhausted when I get home. Definitely good for my mental health
•Lunch with an old friend and her two year old boy. Don't often get to play cars or diggers when you are 30. (er it was nice to see you too Gemma)
•Headtorch-lit trail run above and around Halifax. Standing on top of Beacon Hill, looking over the Halifax town centre, stretching out to Wainhouse Tower and the moors beyond. Had a few issues with my light shining off misty breath, making it difficult to see. Tempted to get a dedicated headtorch for running. Can anyone recommend a relatively cheap one? Alpkit? Back to the run. For a few short minutes I felt totally and utterly calm. No stress, no worries, not even the nagging sensation that I should be worrying about something. As I hit road again, my mind started wandering, and again the familiar stress drifted back, like the annoying guy at the bar you chatted to once, but now insists on sharing his wisdom with you while you settle down to a quiet pint.

Not so good:

•My girlfriend moved out yesterday, into a room in a shared house 10 minutes away. I helped as best I could, but my head wasn't doing me any favours, and I made things worse, other than being able to move the heavy stuff. I don't know what's going to happen now. I can't picture a way back. I like being able to dream, to visualise, to be able to create what I want in my head, in every detail, so I can almost touch it. I still just feel empty, shell shocked and heartbroken.
•I hate that I'm hurting someone that I love so much. It is all consuming. I have found it so hard to think about anything else. I have to fight the deep miserable sense of loss, guilt and self-hatred. The tips of my fingers are hanging on by the last joint to sanity, to a life, to wanting to exist. It could be so easy to let go and revel in a spiral down into the darkest nastiest depths.
•My (our?) house no longer feels like a home. It felt like a dirty hovel last night, with bizarre, fake holes torn out where the tell-tales of happy co-habitation once were. Suze's favourite mug gone, 75% fewer shoes by the door. An empty dressing room. Dusty footprints where furniture once rested.
•I couldn't face tidying last night. I couldn't really face it this morning, but started it anyway. Started with the bedroom. It almost feels clean and like my room now. Its hard though. I don't really want "my room". But, like the medication, I know deep down it's what I need and good for me. Certainly better than a tangle of hangers on the floor and piles of books stacked on half opened drawers.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Keeping busy...

All being well, this will hopefully be my last week of no work. I don't think I'm ready to launch straight back in full time, but equally, I feel like I want to start doing some.

I've got a lot to get done this week... not compared to "normal" Tom, but a lot for Tom who has been struggling to concentrate, or even get out of bed some days.

-Chase up my insurance claim r.e. road bike crash
-Buy some new bib shorts
-Buy my girlfriend's birthday present (main stuff sorted, but still need to get her a last gift)
-Sort out house after decorator painted it this weekend
-Meet friend on Wednesday lunchtime
-Meet girlfriend on Wednesday teatime
-Long ride on Thursday (today's planned long ride has been shortened to a couple of hours this afternoon)
-Meet some mates on Thursday evening
-Long ride on Saturday or Sunday and a social mountain bike ride on the other day

I never used to like lists, but they're growing on me.