Another couple of weeks since my last post. Apologies for the slackness.
I've carried on going into work... and managed every single day. Not necessarily long hours, not necessarily the most productive. But I've kept it up. I've gone in when I really didn't want to get out of bed, when I all I could think about was dark thoughts. But, where I used to allow them to beat me, I fought them. I stood up and walked away and concentrated on something else. Sometimes for 5 minutes only. But I did it.
I had the benefit of a treat at the end of the week to look forward to. Every few months my mates and I all meet in South Wales for a weekend of biking, catching up and a huge pub dinner on Saturday night. For the first time in so long, on any bike, I had that feeling. You know the one. Everything clicked. My pedals felt lighter than air. The singlespeed ate up climbs with a kind of inevitability. I didn't just feel fast on the descents, I felt playful. Hipping jumps just because I could, using every inch of trail and a bit more, drifting, and pumping. This is what trail centres are about. Mindless, childish, pointless fun. I felt myself. This is me. Giggling, and chatting and joking.
I guess it was inevitable that returning back to Leeds and work would be tricky, and I was kind of expecting it. Monday was awful. I reached for Diazepam for the first time in weeks. But, things have got better since. I've continued to run, gym and ride. I've continued to work towards being me all the time.
So, after a few days of a cloudy head when I got to work, that I couldn't shift until gone lunch, I tried something new this morning. On Wednesday night I packed my bags, laid out my kit, checked my bike. This morning I got up, got dressed, slung my leg over the cyclocross and rode into the dawn with a purpose. A quick warm up through Little Switzerland to Roundhay Park, then drills. Running up hills. Sprints. In rain. Then sleet. Then horizontal hail. And finally snow. I arrived in work sodden, cold and smelly. I sat in work for the rest of the day, awake, content and lively.
I guess I knew pedaling would be part of my cure... the title of the blog gives it away. I'm not sure even I realised out intimately linked my physical health and actions would be to my mental health though. I'm more than happy to live with that as long as I can ride my bike.
I was shattered when I went to bed last night. Couldn't keep my eyes open. I still woke up at 1am, 3am, 6am, then the alarm went off at 7am. I climbed on to the bus, read a bit of Laurent Fignon's autobiography (great book so far). Arrived at work at 8.30. And could have gone straight back to bed.
Instead, I had a coffee, flicked on my computer and really tried to concentrate. It took me all day to do what would normally take me a couple of hours. But I got somewhere, and didn't give up.
After work, I went to the gym again, and bumped into a couple of old training partners. Had the same conversation with them as I've had with lots of people.
"Not seen you in ages Tom"
"Yeah, I haven't been so well for the last couple of months, but I'm mostly better now"
"It's great to see you. You do look like you haven't been well. You've lost lots of weight haven't you. Do you mind if I ask what was wrong?"
Every time, I wonder what to say. Every time, I tell the truth. Sometimes it still feels like something I should be a little bit embarrassed about. I know I shouldn't. I'm almost angry that I feel like that.
"I've had a bout of depression, and it hit me quite hard. But, I'm getting over it"
"Oh, that's awful. I've had similar/a close friend.../my family..."
It's good to know how many people care. It's good to know that I'm not the only one who has ever been through this. I'm looking forward to people not being able to tell I've lost weight. I'm looking forward to feeling more confident again. I'm looking forward to not waking up and having to coach myself into getting on with the day. I know it'll come. I'm just looking forward to it, impatiently.
I felt on high yesterday. Happy with what I had achieved. Today feels different. I feel really quite sad and lonely. I can feel the loss and hurt from the last few weeks. I also feel determined though. I am not going to let this beat me. I am going to fight every step of the way. I am going make myself fitter than I have ever been before, mentally stronger than I have been before.
Time to sleep. Tomorrow is a big day. I'm going to get up. I'm going to go to work again.
And today was a slightly bigger one than recently.
There were times when I thought I would never get back to this point, and a few false starts along the way. But, today I went to work. I worked a full day.
Not exactly ground breaking, but 3 months ago I was at a point that I could barely string a sentence together. Then I couldn't get out of bed, or stop sleeping. Panic attacks were a regular occurrence. My head was cloudy, I was constantly confused. So, to walk into the office, to see people I haven't seen since September, to sit at a desk was a big deal.
I don't love my job. It isn't what I dreamt of doing all my life. It doesn't totally fulfill me. But... I realised while I was off, that it does define a big part of me. I get a lot of self-esteem from being good at what I do.
Today was an action packed day of... coffee with my boss. Then trying to clear my email account so I could actually start sending them again. Then starting some actual work. Nothing massively challenging today, but a nice clear route back to some real deadlines, and some more challenging stuff.
So, work done for the day, I decided to go to the gym. I haven't been since I stopped work. I'm not totally sure why. Cycling and running just felt like a better escape, and I was eating so little for a while that I don't think I'd have been strong enough to do a great deal. Turns out 3 months of no gym, turns Tom into a very weak boy. It was good to do a different kind of exercise though, and as with a lot of other things in my life at the moment, I know it'll get better.
I'm shattered now. But a content exhaustion, a tiredness that I haven't felt for a long time. I know that there are a lot of battles still to come, but the more there are, the more opportunities there are for little wins.
So, as a running theme, stuff that has been good and not so good over the last week or so:
+Some wonderful rides over the weekend. Magical snowy ride on Saturday on the cyclocross bike. Sliding and skidding, gripping and railing round frozen ruts. Frozen water bottle, frozen shoes.
+Cannock Chase on Sunday. Travelled down with my longest friend, Sam (coming up to knowing each other for 20 years) to meet my mate Mark, who lives in Tamworth. Unfortunately he had to pull out, but we still had a fantastic loop round the Follow the Dog and Monkey Trails. There wasn't any snow there, but temperatures were bitter. The car thermometer read -9 when we pulled into the car park. Sensible layering meant we were nice and warm though. The trails were a little icy (I took a tumble on the first corner into the singletrack), but lovely and fast and zippy. Singlespeeding was tricky, as climbing out of the saddle almost instantly lead to the back wheel spinning out. I'm sure I turned the cranks twice as much as I should have needed to to get up some of the hills.
+Snow! I know not everyone appreciates it, and I am in a fortunate position of not having to battle my way into work everyday at the moment. But I just love it. Love how it makes even the most uninspiring view look a little bit prettier. Love the noise of walking/riding through it. Love the dull silence as noise is dampened.
+Seeing friends... had a lovely run with my friend Dave, and talked for hours about extremely geeky bike stuff.
+Getting my arse kicked... (see last post)
+A beautiful, brutal run today. 10 miles through a blizzard, through foot-deep snow. In suburban Leeds. There were times the snow was so heavy that as I did hill-reps it felt as though all I was breathing in were big sticky, dry flakes of snow. My eyelashes froze. Ace.
+Cognitive Based Therapy
Not so good
-Had a strange start to last week. Felt very low for a few days. Didn't plan much for myself. Didn't feel motivated to do so. Ended up promoting my own vicious cycle and felt like I was staring down into the pit yet again.
-The above meant I didn't do some of the relatively small things I wanted to do. I didn't organise going into work like I told myself I would do. I'm now due to go in tomorrow, but I doubt my boss will be able to make it over the Pennines in the weather, and it was mainly him I wanted to see.
-Lacking a vehicle is getting seriously annoying now and limiting my ability to do what I want to do. Number one on the list to purchase after xmas and cash flow is closer to normal.
-While writing this, I had the text from my girlfriend today. We have been barely communicating since she moved out. It has been so painful, and I guess from my point of view, I ended up burying my head in the sand. It was just easier to concentrate on the rest of life. The bits that I didn't need to worry or panic about. The bits that were solid. Creating my own little island. I know that this has been destructive to what was left of our relationship, but I just didn't know what else to do. I now have the same feeling of having my heart ripped out that I had when she moved out. The same feelings that I had when I was sitting opposite her and couldn't string together a sentence because all that was flying around my head were shards of emotions and thoughts. A storm of confused, bruised fragments of "me", churning in an almost drunken mist of weird suicidal, depressed thoughts, shouting and bullying to be heard.
She wants to drop her keys off, move on, and can't carry on waiting for me any more. I understand. As I said, I know I haven't helped the situation. I know I'm hurting her by shrinking into myself. I guess, if I'm honest, I felt abandoned when she moved out. Felt like I didn't want to open up to her, even when I was better able to talk, because other people would be more understanding. I hadn't hurt them. They only needed to worry about my feelings, they didn't need to protect their interests. I have still sat, staring at my phone, with her number ready to be dialled. Willing myself to call. But I didn't, and now it's too late.
Maybe it isn't too late, but I the second I feel any real pressure at the moment, I feel myself falling apart. I can feel the familiar creep of anxiety trying to pull me down into the depths. I feel sick. Time for a walk.