I’m finding that this past month has been alarmingly similar to last year in terms of my mental health. Despite the different efforts and necessary changes that I’ve made in an attempt to prevent a similarly torturous next few months, the road down which I’m staring is dark, downhill, and seemingly endless.
I started this blog as an outlet; not only for me to make note of my struggles and hopefully learn from them, but for others to read and hopefully find some sort of meaning as well. However, out of fear of redundancy, I sometimes hesitate to write what it is I’m going through. The reality, though, is that perhaps depression is redundant. So here we go.
It started again when I tried to get back on the bike after taking a break but couldn’t gain momentum. It was colder than it had been before my rest, there would be no competition until March of next year, I was now unfit, and, quite simply, I was sad.
You see, the most frustrating part of all of this is that I want to ride. I want to race. I want to be fit, get stronger, and get faster, lighter and better. I want to train. I want to want to train. I can make a plan to train, but I can’t follow through. It is so difficult for me to enjoy riding when I’m unfit and when it’s cold and the conditions are dangerous, with limited visibility, wet roads and even ice.
I knew what I needed to do to make it through this winter last December, when I would lay on my bedroom floor crying instead of riding. I wanted to go to Australia. Really, I wanted to go to where it would be summer. I made a vow that this winter I would wind up there, living in a small apartment with Bryanna, and racing and training in the sun. Maybe I’d work at a cafe some days, and other days I would spend time on the beach. I’d take photos, write, and enjoy riding. I’d also be fast come the start of the season.
At the end of this season though, I had bills, namely the bill for Canada Games and the remainder of my Team Manitoba coaching fees despite no longer being coached by the Manitoba coach, and no money. I planned to race cross, and work at a cafe to earn a bit of money through autumn, and then I’d head somewhere warm in the New Year (Australia!).
One of my greatest sources of stress is money. Even if I have it, I absolutely hate spending it. The uncertainty of when I’ll earn it back, or if what I’ve earned will be enough to get me through the season (likely 8 months without income) kills me. Purchasing bulk trail mix while on the road is enough to make me sweat, while grocery bills have made me cry (California last year). It’s pathetic, but true. The other massive struggle for me is being alone. Loneliness dominated me last year in California as well. I hesitate to go somewhere warm on my own because I know Bryanna won’t be there, and in my fragility, being alone isn’t good.
Due to this financial/mental instability, I feel trapped. I did what I could to make Victoria work by racing cross, sucking it up and purchasing expensive but warm clothes and devoting a bike as my noble winter steed. But between Nov 18th and December 20th I only rode a handful of times. I crashed twice in only a few rides. I ripped my new and expensive winter clothes. Just getting out for a ride was a gargantuan task in itself, and completing a ride would have been an even bigger accomplishment. However long I’d spend in the saddle, the entire time I would be in my head. The ultimate question: Is it worth it to suffer like this day in and day out, every winter, until cycling is no longer a viable option? How will I ever make it if I can’t ride during the off season?
I’m positive that if I can figure out how to make winter work, it will be worth it, as the sample I had of racing this year certainly alluded to.
I won’t make it through this winter unless I go somewhere. Australia is most ideal, as the conditions there, I know, are what my dreams are made of i.e.: hot, sunny, dry, hilly, ocean nearby, races, group rides, and cool accents. It’s also, quite simply, somewhere I’ve always wanted my bike to take me. I think the reality is that perhaps I need to be the one to take my bike there. Option two is Girona, Spain, but both are dreams. I just spent 5 days in Arizona, and while the weather was ideal, the riding doesn’t quite suit me. I think that riding needs to be as stimulating as possible for me, otherwise my mind goes into ‘self-deprecate’ mode.
I’ve identified what I need to do, but I’m holding myself back. How the fuck can I afford it? How do others afford it? How can I get Bryanna to go with me even if it’s just for the first week? Just like the training paradox in which I find myself, I know what I need/want, but I can’t bring myself to it.
Sometimes I think depression means: a state of being trapped within a made-up box which one can think outside of, but cannot step outside.
While in Arizona this past week I found that I had just enough motivation to get outside, which I attribute to the sunshine, my training partner, the lack of rain and ice, and the fact that I could ride with bare legs. I still struggled to get outside though, and some days I probably wouldn’t have ridden had it not been for my friend Mohammed.
Today, as I descended into the grey of Vancouver at the end of a three hour flight in the sunshine, I felt the weight of the clouds through which we sunk apply itself directly onto my chest. My heart and stomach sunk with the plane. Layers and layers of grey suddenly surrounded me and I could no longer read the words on the pages of ‘Cycling’ magazine as the light disappeared. I noticed the indistinct beginnings and endings of each layer, impossible to differentiate between one or the other- a massive, literal grey area, into which I am returning, with a desire to escape but no plan.