Sunday, 1 July 2018

The road to nowhere....and back to life.......why I carry on doing stupid stuff!!!

There I was, stood looking over the edge, imagining falling. Imagining it all being over…I stood on the edge of Scammondam bridge, a day’s leave taken for this. It had been weeks coming, if not months or years. I can’t remember the date or even the year, possibly 2014 but as Adam Duritz sang ‘Today was just a day fading into another, and that can't be what a life is for’.

Its all such a blur, work was horrific with such a toxic atmosphere and I was scared. Scared of things not going right and not being able to understand why. Scared of being on my own. Months before this, there had been numerous times that I’d been for a run along the canal, stopping at the train line, waiting for the next train to go past. It seemed all too easy to jump and end it all, except it wasn’t. People say it’s a coward’s way out….but it’s far from easy to end the relentless days of despair and the thought process that by going, you stop being a hindrance to those around you, and whilst that may not be true, inside your head at the time it very much is. Thankfully I had not got that far…
I don’t know how long I was stood at the edge, hoping for my phone to ring or someone to come past to break me away from my dark thoughts….but nothing. I’m not sure how long I stood there for, thinking. My nephew and niece came into my thoughts, I didn’t want this, there was still some light in my life. I turned and walked away.

So why write this down? Its been ten years since I was in London with Matt finding he had died in the bed next to me , and I have bottled this up and its not done me any favours. There has been lots of talk of mental health recently and that may have helped. Seeing the stories from others out there who walked away but also those who just found it all too hard to carry on.
At the time it was hard to speak, I didn’t know what to say. My head was a swirling mash of unanswered questions, with my brain arguing with itself. People told me ‘well its not as bad as when your Dad died’, and when I was off work I even had a couple of people ask how the holiday was. 

This made me question even more, what was wrong with me, why couldn’t I just get on with it, if people who I know and trust are saying that then are they right? It happens to people every day and they manage to carry on. The constant discussions, arguments even, in my head were horrendous.
I stopped doing things I loved. Cycling. Running. I had a fear of being away from people, being on my own. If something went wrong and I had no one there to talk to, to hug…….I just couldn’t cope with that again.

I managed to carry on with lots of things, going to watch Rovers, having a drink and when I was around people I was ‘fine’. However as soon as they went home, I just drank on my own moving from one Harwood pub to the other, imagining, hoping Matt would walk in at any moment and join me for a beer.
Whilst off work, I made a massive effort to drive to Halifax on a Monday and play 5 a side. People I worked with played there, but they were fantastic. No questions of how can you play football if your too ill to work. No treating me different. Football was a massive release and kept my mind focused on the game and nothing else. Heaven. It got me out the house and kept me active and helped me pull myself out of the hole I was in and slowly start to rebuild. I’ll never forget the support of those at football at that time.

There were also some amazing friends who despite arguments about whether peach belongs on a pizza or not was a continuous debate, still invited me round and kept their eye on me and others who came out for a few drinks despite knowing the state I would be in. Those people do not know how much I appreciate what they did for keeping with me at that time. Thank you, X.

From there I started going on small bike rides and walks, nothing too far but far enough.  It got me outside, the exercise and just returning to nature really does make everything seem different, very much a cliché I know, but there is something magical about it.

I had set the 3 peaks challenge for 2008, climb Ben Nevis, Scafell and Snowden and cycle between them. I put that on hold, the prospect of organising and taking on something so big was too much to handle, so I postponed to September 2009, adding in Cardiac Risk in the Young as a charity.  I also added in the Yorkshire 3 peaks to make it the 6 peaks and a bike challenge, not sure why I made an already ridiculous challenge even more difficult, but it just felt like the right thing to do. It was a different challenge now from the one I initially planned, a lot had changed and so should the challenge.
Just like Kilimanjaro in 2007 when my Dad was battling cancer and after he passed away, it gave me a much-needed focus and a purpose.

I guess after 2012 and the 12 challenges if the year of madness I had put challenges and therefore exercise in general and raising money for charity to one side. I didn’t realise the effect that would have and started to feel worthless and felt the depression creeping back in, leading me to that day on the bridge.
So, I began to think of another challenge, something to focus on, something worthwhile and something to get me back out on the bike and in the hills. Something which was far better than anti-depression pills.

The next challenge was to be the alternative triathlon in 2015. Just having that to focus on was massive. I was joined by John, Jonathan and Gaz who had done lots of challenges with me before and these guys were awesome. John had done all the challenges of the year of madness and was a massive support for me and Jonathan just loved to organise which took a lot of pressure and stress off me which was good, and Gaz providing entertainment by using his foam roller in a busy beer garden!

 In 2016 something happened which had not happened to me before, I failed to complete a challenge. It was the Triathlon X 70.3 and after a tough swim I managed 12 miles on the bike up the Struggle in Ambleside but throughout the ride I just felt empty. That winter I failed to finish the Spine Challenger with a nasty chest playing up after 30 miles or so.

I tried again in 2017 for both but didn’t even get to the start line, I had lost the desire to train and at the beginning of December 2017, setting off up Pen Y Ghent to take on the Yorkshire 3 peaks, something I’d completed 15 times before, my head went and I could not go on, I was convinced I could not get round. I sat half way up and broke down. If I couldn’t do any exercise, then the fear of reverting back to where I was a few years back was so so scary.

People often say, ‘well you choose to go out on the bike / do these challenges’ and whilst that is partly true, life events lead me to do them and without them I honestly wonder what would have happened. It is funny that people will turn to anti-depressants or other medication so quick yet don’t do exercise or get into the wilderness to try and help themselves, then benefits are massive. It has kept me going and keeps me going and gives me confidence to get through everyday life.

Anyway, enough rambling on……so where am I at? I’ve deferred the Ironman from this summer until 2019 with wedding planning and building an awesome life taking up 2018. I have set another challenge with John, Jonathan and Gaz in May – the 3 peaks pub crawl (hike Snowdon, Scafell and Ben Nevis and cycle between them stopping at the highest pubs in each country). It’s the ten year anniversary next year of the 6 peaks and a bike challenge so felt right to do something to mark that and will also conquer the Triathlon X in September next year.  Will I fit the Spine in? Who knows…….

It’s a busy one, but one I need to do to exorcise some demons……….

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