Friday, June 29, 2012

One Friday in Sydney

Soup, socks and the Stalking Shadow

My borrowed flat bar coasts gently as the path sweeps around the lake. Tears meet sweat. I start to sob.

I can’t do it. My brain is done. I’m tired. I can’t go and get another job. I can’t go and see another psychologist. I just want this all to go away.

I’m angry. I’m sad. And mostly, I feel nullity.

I furiously grind the pedals. I normally love this ride around Lake Burley Griffin but now I just want to get it done. So much so, my muscles don’t scream this time when I get out of the saddle to conquer the rise behind the Governor General’s house.

My friend catches up to me just before we descend down a small hill. I’m not sure if she noticed I was crying. I don’t much care.

But I’m lucky she and her husband do. I needed a different scene to my house. I’d been holed up there for a while since the four hour hospital visit a few Fridays ago. She took me today for a ride around the lake, accepting only yes as my answer. I’ve watched hours and hours of TV. Season 8 of Entourage, the last two episodes of White Heat, 8 episodes and I’m up to date with America on the latest Mad Men.

And she’s fed me. Pea and  ham soup, quiche leftovers and given me her ex fat bastard, brand new long knicks to ride in, and pink argyle socks (she has no idea who Ryder Hesjedal is). She rides my pace despite her lovely Cannondale roadie.

I don’t know what happened. I don’t know why in my middle class blessings I can’t get out of bed or can’t cope. I have battled depression for many years now, attempting to manage it through exercise, writing and other stuff I love. For the last six to twelve months, I became indispensable at work, working long hours, taking work home, thinking about work, and ignoring rather than fighting the stalking shadows. The Thursday night before that Friday, I had a meltdown. My brain could cope no longer with the chemical imbalance caused by stress.

The next morning, I was psychologically finished. I asked my husband to drive me to the nearest mental health care facility which we soon found out you can only get into via the hospital’s accident and emergency. Four hours later, I was out of there with pills and an order to go to the GP for a mental health care plan.

* * *

“Fleeting thoughts of self harm.”

Fleeting thoughts of self harm. Words written by the A&E psych on Friday in my file. That was the reason the mental health care team visited me on the Monday. I told the A&E psych I felt like driving my car and crashing it. Not to kill myself or do major damage, but just enough to go and get some rest. I explained to the two lovely women sitting in my lounge room with their note pads, it was my descripiton for my feelings, not my plan for action. This answer satisfied them as they left my house and “closed” my file, advising on their way out, I should give up the job I was in.
I have not seriously considered suicide. My stubborn will grips a couple of fingers tightly on life, hope and amibition, trying its best to stick the middle finger up at indifference. It’s hard seeing people tweet about the Tour this week and their role in it. I am not envious. I just wonder how lethal I could be if I could only concentrate.

The last five weeks have been hard. I’m not sure where I would be without Bron and Harj’s soup and socks; the support of other friends and family; and tweeps who have helped me out of an urgent spot. But mostly, I don't know where I would be without my husband Adrian.

The support he has provided to me at his own cost is for me an expression of real romantic love. I cried in the hospital A&E room, I cried in his arms, I cry crouched down on the bottom of the shower. He is still here, providing me and us with exactly what we need. Most of all, he tries to comply 200% to the “just say that’s shit isn’t it, and hug me” ruling I gave him early on in our relationship rather than try to fix me. I see in his eyes just how hard that is for him.

Cycling and depression

Cycling for me used to be about escape. Relief from the warring legions of thought in my brain, my only thoughts excited kid like ones and concentrating on keeping tempo up a hill. But other thoughts have now invaded this last hiding place. “That car came too close. Fuck this fucking groupset. Fuck this bike, why is getting out for a ride so fucking difficult?.” This of course isn’t about the groupset or my $300 ebay bought bike, but illogically blaming myself about the financial situation I have put us in. Thankfully, we can just cover the bills at the moment, but that’s it. I’m going for a job interview later today, an easy admin job that would leave me time to blog and write and exercise. But getting that would make life too manageable. (And there’s the anger again).

Other than a nice little 7.5km ride a couple of weeks ago – it was all I could handle without it becoming an extension of my mind - I’ve not been out for a proper road ride. I almost laugh as I think about how only in March I competed in my first sprint triathlon.

I haven't done any running or swimming or riding. Instead, I’ve been walking. Two times around the block, about twenty minutes. I go despite the weather. I rug up to embrace the cold, scared to work, to write, to live, to ride.


  1. Im sorry to read of your issues. I fear this is something else we have in common. In high school i attempted suicide by pill. thankfully it didnt work and while I know i'll never go that deep again; I still deal with issues. I'll get in week to 2 week funks; i wont shave, I wont do much to help around the house, I get irritable and i dont want to go outside. Its worst when the seasons change, though that has been lessened living in the south where the change is far more minor (though oddly i love winter and ice hockey, just the transition between the seasons get me). I went through one a few weeks ago. ive been coping better of late, because i remind myself that the ride isnt just a ride you? Running was a real challenge lately as well, but i bought new shoes and an ipod and said look, just go do this, it will help you feel better in the long run.

    I hope that the TdF and your online friends help when you truly cant find a way outside or to other help.

  2. It's hard Rach. I know. I suffer similar. My "everyday" is broken down into mornings/afternoons/evenings still.
    A misdiagnosed illness until it was to late sent me on the slippery slide to depression. Trying to be the "super mum/woman" and working too hard when I was sick. They call it the "black dog". I don't see a black dog. Mine is a big,smothering grey blanket of melancholy. It got so I couldn't talk myself into getting out of bed in the morning. Getting dressed. Just doing the"normal" day-to-day shit. It was one of my daughters home on a visit that said I looked awful,sounded awful,bossed me into seeing my GP. I'd sit for hours,just staring at nothing.Spiraling into a black hole, it was awful. I thought I was going insane. That was 2 years ago. Medication helps. I still spiral. I still get too sensitive. I still get too prickly. I still get withdrawn and people still irritate me. Too much bad news on the telly affects me. I don't watch much TV anymore. You tell yourself to harden the fuck up but it doesn't work. It's not an illness with any bleeding,bruising,having to wear a plaster cast 'cos you have broken something. It's in your head. A chemical in-balance. My husband tries his best to understand. He's patient and thank bloody god he's so even natured. He needs to be, coping with the highs and the very low,lows. That's all he can do. I have one truly wonderful best friend. I can talk to her about my darkest moments. It helps. Riding is my outlet. Nothing grandiose with what I do. Go out on the bike and forget shit. I enjoy it. It usually keeps me sane. There are an awful lot of people out there who suffer but don't/won't/can't seem to do anything about their depression. I hope your words have helped someone today. Thank you.

  3. You are one courageous woman Rach, putting this out there. I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to have depression but you certainly give a very good insight into the hell it must be. You are very lucky to have Adrian, I can identify with his situation after living with my husband's paranoid schizophrenia for 32 years. It's hard for both of you, but slightly less so if you don't try to hide it from the world. The stigma of mental illness is ridiculous, but people like you are starting to make a difference. I salute your courage! I'm here any time you need to offload. Lotsa love, J

  4. I'm glad you have Adrian and your friends, and I'm really glad you sought help. Without going into too much detail (because it's not my story to tell), my sister suffers from depression and she hid it for so long that by the time we knew and convinced her to go and get help, things were just so unbearably scary and dark (harming herself, harming my nephew). I would hate for anyone I know (even though we're Australia-Scotland twitter pals) to hit that low. So I know you're in a shitty place but I am so pleased that there are people around you making sure you are ok.

    I can't offer advice, I muddle along in my own way fighting off badness, but I do send you all my best wishes that you can get on top of this.

    "I just wonder how lethal I could be if I could only concentrate. "
    This line really sticks with me. You are still lethal and I mean that in the bestest way.

  5. Rach - I so want to jump on a plane and come give you a big huge hug. And Adrian, too. Brave Brave Brave post and a great step toward getting on top of it all. Lots of love from Pompom

  6. Hi, found you via twitter. After a breakdown I spent two years doing literally nothing -- I was on a CRS rehab program, drawing Newstart, but avoiding their return to work obligations. I listened to a lot of Radio National in bed. Riding, and support from family, and time, eventually got me back on my feet. Good luck, my thoughts and hopes are with you. Brave post.