At night it taps me on the shoulder as soon as I start getting ready for bed. On rides in the gloom of a west coast autumn the clouds sometimes cast a shadow over my thoughts. Thoughts too become darkened; colourless. These thoughts aren’t bad, not like before, but I remember my bad thoughts and find these reminders worrying. I shake my head as a chill runs down my spine and I focus on the positives in my surroundings.
As soon as it began I became aware of the ever-lazier sun, which has been sleeping-in later and going to bed much earlier these days. I started to feel a little sad when I got home from the Whistler Gran Fondo last month, because I knew the seasons were changing. It became challenging to remind myself that I was feeling sad simply due to the anticipation of sadness that would likely take shape in the coming months. I wasn’t sad yet, I was sad because I expected I would be. I feared that I would be. I feared that a pattern would repeat itself.
Identifying my depression has had its pros and cons. The negative side that I’ve experienced is that sometimes, when I’m sad, I think: ‘Oh fuck, not again. I’m depressed.” Then I have to remind myself that, no, being sad doesn’t mean I will sad be for long. Everyone gets temporarily sad, at least, and that’s normal. This being said, I’ve perhaps become over sensitized, in that I expect to be sad, so that expectation can bring sadness upon me prematurely...if that makes sense. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that, I now know that I get sad, so maybe I get sad at times because I think I’m going to be sad. It’s very difficult to explain, but for now that’s the best I can do. It’s difficult to expect someone to understand how my mind works when I don’t understand it myself.
Anyways, as fall approached and then came upon us, I started to fear what I thought to be an inevitable sadness. However, so far I’ve been doing a really good job of staying positive. I got a job, which I enjoy, started racing cross again, and have been training a lot. This time last year I had a job I didn’t like, and could barely bring myself to ride more than 4-6 hours a week. I hadn’t really been riding at all since July, and had no interest in racing.
I’ve been having fun on the bike this time round. I’m winning races! I’ve been looking forward to rides. In the past three days I did over 13 hours of training. I did 4.5 on Friday, 4 on Saturday and 5 on Sunday. I surprised myself. I was proud of myself each day. I enjoyed it all. I finished my ride yesterday thinking that this was pretty great, it being mid-October and my motivation and mental health being at a level which allowed me to do what I did, without any sort of mental challenge. That’s why when I woke up sad this morning, it was a shock. It scared me.
I don’t know why, but this morning I woke up in a bad space. The only bit of sadness I’ve been feeling lately is a bit of a heavy feeling each night for the past couple weeks. Apart from that, I’ve had the odd ‘oh, this time last year I felt like this’ as I recall my struggles during bike rides. I’ve sort of known that soon it would catch up with me, but after the weekend I had it just doesn’t make sense.
I really wasn’t feeling it by the time I got to work at noon today. I walked in, said ‘hi’ to my colleagues, put my jacket in the back and thought ‘oh, please not today! Please.’ I grew aware of a faint head ache.
I fucked up an order right away. Then I dropped a spring from the locking mechanism on a drip coffee jug into a freshly brewed pot. I had to pour the whole thing out and fish out the spring. I began to sweat. I could feel my eyes gloss. These were small mistakes, but I couldn’t handle them. When I started to brew another jug and then walked away to work on the till, I forgot to open the hole to allow the coffee to drip into the jug. Five minutes later my boss showed me the huge mess created by the coffee dripping with nowhere to go. I told him I’d clean it, and then I’d need five minutes to go outside. I barely got the words out because I didn’t want to cry in front of my boss of only two weeks. I was now aware of a throbbing head ache – stress.
I went outside and ran both hands through my hair as I do when I’m stressed. I tried to regain control of my breathing. I cried for the first time in, shit, I don’t know how long. I thought about the fact that I’ve gone so long without crying. I remember when I used to try and go a day, just one day, without shedding a tear. I wondered if I was about to start that pattern all over again.
My boss, Alan, who’s also the owner of the café, came out a minute later. He asked what was up. “No idea.” I said. “Yesterday was good, and I woke up today and I was way off” I managed to say.
When I went in for my interview at this place a few weeks ago, Alan asked what I do off the bike. I started to tell him that I took a few months off at the beginning of the season because I needed a break. Before I could finish, Alan interrupted me, and said, “I know. I did my homework. I’ve read your blog.” He Googled me, I guess, after I left a résumé with him.
So I knew that my response to his ‘What’s up?” would be understood. We had a long chat in the parking lot as I continued to push my hair back. Eventually I became less aware of how difficult it had become to breathe. My hands travelled to my pockets. I started to relax. I laughed a little as we chatted. I felt accepted, understood. He told me about his experience with emotions of the sort that I was experiencing. “You’re strong, physically, but mentally, not so much. And that’s good. You’ll work through this, and later in life you’ll be better equipped for what might be thrown at you. But we all have weak moments, or days. It’s okay.” I asked for a hug, and he gave me one.
I wanted to ask if I could go home, I didn’t believe I could work anymore. I wondered if I’d ever be able to work again. But then Alan said, “all right, come on in. Just hammer out drinks today.” Not in a bossy way. To me, this was encouragement. He wasn’t sending me home. He knew I could do my job.
That belief in me was enough for me to believe in myself today. It got me through. My head ache still hasn’t subsided, it’s 10 pm, but fuck am I grateful to be working with someone who cares and has more than a clue. I’m also glad that I had the courage to say that I needed five minutes. A year ago, I couldn’t have done that.