Well, a global pandemic was not something I thought I’d ever see in my lifetime but here we are, 15 months deep in the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s been hard going, not just for me and mine but also for you and yours and the world at large.
There’s a lot that I had to put aside in 2020 and to just focus and looking after my family and myself and keeping the day to day as stable as possible under the circumstances. The energy that took led to my enthusiasm/creative drive to write here just disappearing. Which sucks! I set this blog up as a space to reflect on some experiences I’ve had, explore other ideas and to perhaps share a little, give what I can back to the cycling community.
I finally feel I have the energy and drive to do something more creative again and as a starting point, I want to talk about something I had a rough time with lately, mental health.
Close to home
Working from home has been a double edged sword. The positives mostly outweigh the negatives, but, boy….those negatives can be harsh.
Having more time to spend with my family is a big positive. No commute, no delays getting home and being here everyday has been a real improvement. Even combining training, I still had hours extra each day to sit and talk with them and enjoy more time together.
Being home more whilst they were off at work or school wasn’t the hard part, my employer has been consistently busy so work was always there to occupy the time, but not being cut off from family and friends WAS hard. After spending all day on Zoom calls my enthusiasm for more of that in the evening was non existent. I felt isolated and that ground me down. FaceTime, zoom and text messages are no substitute for being able to talk in person or hug your family and friends.
It took me a while to come to realise how much this impacted me. By December/January of 2021, I was depressed. Being someone who relishes moving around, going to different places and interacting with people means a single trip out of the house to Lidl each week wasn’t going to be enough.
Time to talk
Acknowledging you are not in the best place in terms of your mental health isn’t easy. Even acknowledging it came with baggage. I felt – and still feel – guilty for feeling like this when I knew there were people in much worse situations than mine, dealing with much more and under much tougher circumstances. After all, I have my health, I have an income, I have food on the table what right do I have to be depressed? What right do I have to still feel it?
With all this rattling around my head, my enthusiasm for a lot of things vanished. I still rode bikes but I wasn’t always enjoying it. Some days it felt like I had to do something or I’d find myself just scrolling though social media aimlessly and feeling frustrated and impatient. I feel anxious over things more than I used to which led to frustration and impatience. I snapped at things and people which made me feel worse. It’s overwhelming at times.
Opening up to my wife about it was tough. I’d thought over that conversation repeatedly and when it finally happened I could barely get my words out. But it helped.
One other significant moment came when I happened to run into a friend out riding where we’d both stopped to grab a coffee and as we rode towards home I openly told them where I was at mentally. I got a two word response.
That feeling of isolation that had built up, it cracked. Simply hearing that other people were struggling with things in the same way, it was almost relief. I’m not alone in how I am struggling and whilst it doesn’t fix everything immediately, being able to talk about it and get some perspective has helped.
I don’t find it easy talking about how I am doing mentally. It’s uncomfortable. I internalised a lot of it which I know isn’t healthy but one thing I have learned is that friends and family don’t judge you for this. Sharing what I am going through has resulted in support, understanding and compassion.
Talking helps. I’m 37 years old and perhaps only in the last year have I been more open about my mental health with people around me. I am still learning, still working to understand things and more willing to talk than ever.
Talk to you friends, talk to you family, talk to whoever you are comfortable with.
Do those things that make happy, that bring you some comfort and few content where you can.
I’m not an expert, nor am I offering a blueprint for how I started to process what I’ve gone through, but talking is a good first step.
Look after yourself.