I’m currently sitting in the Seattle airport on my way to Arizona again for a month of training. I figured I’d take the opportunity during my layover to reflect on 2018 thus far.
A month ago I wrote a very real post about how depressed I was. For all I knew, I was commencing on a similar trajectory as I had this time last year. I was depressed and afraid.
The night I got home from Arizona in December I cried myself to sleep. I was reliving memories of last January. The following morning I went to work and upon being asked how I was doing by my boss, I opened my mouth to respond with the reflexive ‘I’m well,’ but started crying instead. It was too bad to even fake being okay. I was a mess. The emotions had amassed so quickly. There was no escaping, it seemed. I was again subject to a tortuous state of constant sadness, stress and panic.
I emailed my counsellor that day and told my parents and Bryanna how I was feeling, and even made a post on Instagram saying that I could really use some love. I wasn’t about to do this alone. I didn’t think I could win, but I would fight it. I wasn’t ashamed to cry for help.
Three days after getting home, my friend Aidan arrived from Calgary. He was moving in with me. That day it was five degrees, absolutely pouring rain, there was a wind warning and it was so overcast that the street lights had to stay on throughout the day. Nevertheless, Aidan was keen to get out and ride so he built his bike shortly after arriving with the intention of going for a ride with me. He asked me to join and I said no. I wasn’t feeling at all ambivalent; I had absolutely no desire to ride. But, I didn’t want him to ride alone. After all, I had invited him to move in and ride with me.
We put on all our clothing, grabbed lights, and set out without a plan. A kilometre from the house we were drenched. My forehead was frozen from the short descent from my house to the waterfront. I couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculous conditions. We rode along the water and I showed him some of my favourite little roads and dirt connectors within the city. We would turn when we felt like it and once we were properly cold, we headed home. It was dark when we arrived two hours later.
I loved it. I was frozen, but I loved it. We decided we would do the Oak Bay ride the following morning. I was very depressed and the weather was shit - inauspicious conditions to start training again - but somehow, I was suddenly motivated.
January became the month of adventure. I realised that being depressed doesn’t mean that I can’t ride or enjoy riding. I decided not to ‘train’ but to ride when I felt like it and ride how we did the day Aidan arrived, with loose to no plans, and a sense of adventure. I told my coach not to give me any plans for the month, and instead of fighting my sadness I worked with it. I removed all pressure or expectation. I had no weekly goals in terms of hours, and pushed the idea of doing intervals out the window.
We would head out for a ride and return four hours later, sometimes having only actually ridden for two and a half. The routes we chose always included dirt or gravel sections (we were on road bikes), which were sometimes so steep we’d have to walk. Often we would stop to look at maps to figure out where we were and whether there was any hope of cutting through the forest to get to the next road. A ‘No Thru Road’ sign became an open invitation to make it a thru road. ‘No Exit’ signs were challenges. We always accepted and rode to the end, riding up driveways in search of trails or old fire roads. Sometimes the signs were true, but often they weren’t, and we would be rewarded with trails that took us through creeks, past placid lakes, and to roads I’d never seen before.
There would also be a point on every ride at which we’d just stop and chat next to a stream or the ocean, sometimes for half an hour. One day we set out for a ride, really weren’t feeling it, and sat atop Beacon Hill listening to music and joking around. Eventually we bombed down the grass to Dallas road and sprinted each other home. Not sure how long we sat there, but we had been gone two hours when we got home despite having only ridden 15 or so km.
Saturdays were reserved for the Oak Bay ride, and Sundays were reserved for adventures by foot with Bryanna and Aidan.
I’m extraordinarily grateful that Aidan moved to Victoria when he did. I spent three days wondering what the hell I would do between getting home and his arrival. Last year depression meant I couldn’t ride, couldn’t spend time with friends, and could rarely even leave the house. When it hit as hard as it did after Christmas, I thought it would be the same. I thought I’d become incapable, weighed down by the same cumbersome emotions. But all I needed was somebody willing to do things the way I wanted alongside me. My approach to riding isn’t exactly text-book, so it takes a certain kind of rider to be stoked to follow the ‘Oli training plan,’ but it doesn’t work if it’s just me, as I’ve learned the hard way that I really can’t do this alone.
My depression could perhaps be analogous to a ‘No Thru Road’. It presents constant problems-constant reasons not to continue- but pushing through and exploring my depression’s limitations has taught me that it can be flexible at times, as long as I’m willing to bend with it. And for the most part, exploration is rewarding.