Where’s Watto? – The Cycle of Depression

I write this as we are nearly 4 weeks into the weirded times of lockdown. This enforced times at home can be a great opportunity to learn new skills, do an online course and broaden your knowledge or simply sit back for a bit of self reflection in calmer times with less pressure to be anywhere or see anyone. However, for anyone with mental health issues this might not be seen the same way.

For the past couple of years I have been running a cycling club, racing team and coaching business at the same time, which is essentially a 24/7 operation. My whole purpose and being is to help encourage and motivate others. To help them build confidence, develop new skills, encourage new experiences and make them love the glorious sport of cycling. You take on their problems, you take on their differences, you set standards, you create discipline, you stop being a cyclist yourself!

I find it hard to write about myself, as I always think of it as being a look at me. But I want to write my story to hopefully help anyone else struggling with anxiety and depression, and encourage us to all talk which often is hard to do. Being ill is hard to admit. But it shouldn’t be.

I have written about this before in a previously with https://coachwattodotcom.wordpress.com/2017/10/10/fit-and-ill/ although now I am far from fit, just ill. Since then there have been good and bad times with my illness. However, as the pressures I have put on myself over the last two years have built it has gotten worse and worse so now I don’t have good and bad weeks and months, I just have good hours, and they are not so frequent.

Where’s Watto? – Is in reference to my often conspicuous absence form rides and training sessions. Of course I hate missing these and hate letting anyone down, but when I am not there it is because I physically can’t! Or so it feels. My illness manifests in absolute debilitating fatigue. I can’t stay awake at night and in the morning I feel like I have been stapled to the bed. My body a 10 ton weight that doesn’t move! I force myself to go on my bike, I am on the road but it feels like I am riding through thick mud. I am pushing hard on the pedals but the bike is going no where. Then comes the false illness. I have training planned then on comes the sore throat, the shakey cold feeling like you have the flu, and you need to lie down and rest. But 24 hrs later it’s gone. This happens almost weekly. It’s taken years to understand and years to dental that this is all mental. It feels so physical, but test after test after test still say I am fit. So time to admit it all once and for all and find a way to manage this beast. Clear the fog, see through the clouds.

Cycle of Depresion – Did cycling cause my depression or did depression effect my cycling? The very thing that is a scientifically proven to relieve the symptoms. But then if the joy of something goes then the enjoyment will go. You start a cycling club with the greatest of reasons. At the time of doing so it was 2012 as the Olympics was on in London. Lots of people riding bikes but many put off joining a club. I wanted to change that. And with my mates Grant and Gordon we formed CC London. I wanted this to be an old school club, you start with club runs, you do longer and longer rides, further than you think you can go. You have the opportunity to try the competitive side of the sport, and through it all from first ride to first race you have guidance and knowledge. We did this with a lot of success. You go from 10 members to 20 then 40 to 50. Quite quickly we were 100 and at the most we were almost 200. Your role changes, you’re not just a rider anymore. For the almost most it is a fun rewarding thing to do, with a lot of appreciation. But there are a lot of things to take your mind off the sport yourself, the enjoyment and safety of riders, the personal differences between riders and groups, the organising of the many events, the whole responsibility of it all. Don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t change it for a second as hard as it can be, just an understanding and realisation to yourself that things are not the same and won’t be the same. About adapting.

A committee was formed within the club nearly 2 years ago to help with the running and who have all done a great job. So I decided to start a racing team that was born from the club and was to cater for the members who had reached a level in racing that meant that they needed the extra support to race Nationally and Internationally. Although born from the club it was to cater for aspiring riders from all London clubs who had reached that level. This took another level of management. Now you have the hopes and aspirations of some very talented riders. The logistics go up 10 fold as every weekend is spent on the road driving up and down the country. You now have to get sponsors, keep sponsors happy. You have to manage the emotions of the riders who have big race calendars and often big pressures they put on themselves. Again, for the most this is an amazing thing and I love it dearly and don’t want it to change. It’s just a realisation again that you have to manage your own emotions around it. Cycling, or anything you normally get joy form, can soon turn against you if your attitudes and emotions get the better of you. I thought about it recently and with my experience as above, I stared all these things to put like minded people together, so they can share experiences and grow together in a fun friendly environment. I didn’t apply for a job to be a manager. I didn’t strive to run a department on some career ladder. I just wanted to get people on bikes. However, an inevitably part of putting so many people together and trying to run lots of activities is that you have to manage. Someone had to, so I had to roll my sleeves up and do the job. As an untrained manager I haven’t always got it right. I won’t always get it right. And sometimes however hard I try I will upset someone, as unintentional as that is. I may have the odd error of judgment. If trying to please everyone and ending up pleasing no one was an Olympic Sport, I’d have the Gold Medal for sure.

I’ve rambled on. I didn’t plan this post out and I am not editing as I believe it is straight from the heart. Depression is an arse to say the least. It effects all us sufferers in different ways. The above is a somewhat explanation of why I think I have gone backwards and hopefully will relate to some and it can help. Depression I feel is based on fear, guilt and regret. Fear of the future you cannot see, guilt of past experiences you could of handled better, regret of missed opportunities you didn’t take. In truth though, the past doesn’t equal the future. As corny as it may sound, the past is history, tomorrow is a mystery and the only thing we can control right now is the present. The here and now. We cannot change our past, those experiences good and bad have shaped the amazing people we are today. They were an education. We are the keepers of our own destiny.

I am happy with my role in cycling now. I am happy to be that manager and I will build on that. I will also get myself fit again and I am starting to enjoy cycling by doing very small slow rides. At the time of writing Fit and Ill I was racing and would of been 78kg. At the moment I am 95kg struggling to do small rides and very unfit. But not a bad place to be, ground Zero and the only way is up. Again we can’t change the past, and the future is out of our control. The only thing we can influence is this present time! So I am off out on my bike now to continue my journey back to health.

Always tell someone how your feeling. It’s Ok to not be OK. There are quite a few of us out there. Speak out you have friends, especially me, let me know how you are I want to know 🙂

Love, Live, Laugh

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