Cycling – wise, I am lucky. I live less than half a mile from the countryside. Think of the views. The rolling fields, farms, villages …. and the sea – that’s the English Channel if readers in Chile, Egypt and South Korea were wondering.
Some days I see nothing of it. I see dark grey; a long, winding strip of, well, dark grey. Like today. I was pedalling in the winter sunshine through the countryside. After a couple of hours it occurred to me that it wasn’t the beauty of nature that I was seeing. Hunched over my handlebars I was looking (mostly) at the asphalt in front of my front tyre. Sometimes smooth, sometimes rough, but grey, always dark grey. One reason for this is the posture that the handlebars force us to assume. On a Tourer like mine ‘the drops’, handlebars that curl downwards, can force you into a hunched, more aerodynamic posture. It also means that I’m not sitting up admiring the beautiful surroundings. I see grey. And after a while my back starts to hurt. Even holding the top of the handlebars only makes a small difference.
So, cycling’s not that much fun, then? You might be right.
Nothing’s much fun when I’m unwell. ‘Unwell’, that’s the mot du jour amongst the great and the good to describe someone who is mentally ill (off sick from work, too ill to work, unable to leave the house, in hospital.) I prefer ‘ill’ every time. I’m not talking about a high temperature and stomach cramps, unpleasant as that certainly is. No, I’m talking about the front door bell ringing and ringing unanswered. The phone messages ignored. Food tasting like fuel. Sleeping 20 hours a day. Sleeping 2 hours a day, for days.
Those of you who have been following these finger – wagging diatribes will know only too well that my day job is door to door sales. I peddle hope. Hope that recovery is possible, that life does not have to be ever thus. But let me share with you a Trade Secret. I don’t believe half of what I say. The most deceitful falsehood that I, and legions of mental health workers, doctors, nurses, and psychotherapists repeat is ‘try to continue with your usual activities.’ My usual activities, hmmmm ….. If I could do that, well I’d be just dandy; I’d be ‘fine’.
I am paid to deliver ‘recovery – oriented’ workshops. Eat Well, Stay Well; Coping with Stress; Managing Anxiety. You get the picture. I am paid to tell people ‘Don’t you get it? All you have to do is ….. and you will be a fully paid – up member of, well, everyone else.’ Like they eat fresh fruit and veg every day, drink four pints of water daily and practice Mindfulness 30 minutes a day. Mindfulness!!!! I swear if I hear someone else mentions ‘paying attention to the breath’ helps to quiet the mind I will, I will ….. probably suggest it to one of the peers I support.
Jaded? I’m looking at too much asphalt.
Brief Reflection on the Word Pain
Wittgenstein says: the words “It hurts” have replaced
tears and cries of pain. The word “Pain”
does not describe the expression of pain but replaces it.
Thus it creates a new behaviour pattern
in the case of pain
The word enters between us and the pain
Like a pretence of silence.
It is a silencing. It is a needle
unpicking the stitch
between blood and clay.
The word is the first small step
In case others
Miroslav Holub (1923 – 1998)