Chasing the Dog .....
An event in Forrest last year gave me a new reason 2 ride. Chase the Dog ... an event that proudly supports Beyond Blue.
It was a ride that was all new ground for me. Rail Trail, off road, back road, sealed road, muddy road and even a section that resembled a river. Great climbs, spectacular descents and a lot of open space where your mind could wander.The whole purpose of this great ride was to bring a non competitive edge to a ride where you could just take it at your own pace and enjoy the ride with your mates. Chatting about whatever came up and enjoying life.
But for me, it highlighted something that I had been turning my back on for a very long time. The dog was catching me.
All of my life, mental illness has been a big issue. As far back as I can remember, it was something I had to deal with. Mental illness comes in many forms. From depression and anxiety right through to the extreme forms of Bipolar disorder. Yep - I knew them all. But I rarely spoke about it. Simply because people who suffer from any sort of mental illness are often referred to as crazy. Their behavior cannot be explained, so it is easier to ignore it, not speak about it and when confronted with it, pass judgement and run for the trees.
But when you are exposed to mental illness and cannot run, only then can you understand that it is a disease like most other. It debilitates, it wears you down, it takes everything from you, yet when you least expect it - it can take your life. It is in control of your every thought. It consumes you and there is not much you can do about it.
It is not a phase. It is not something that you can simply forget or hope that the next day "she'll be right!"
For years, I watched mental illness kill my mum. Looking back on my life - my childhood, my teens and my adult hood, it was always there. It was her mood swings, it was her heightened expectation of perfection, it was her delusion of grandeur and it was me forever feeling like I was never good enough. And there was even the goodie bag of delusional psychosis.
The symptoms as described by sane.org ...
People with bipolar disorder can become high, over-excited and reckless, or imagine that they are more important or influential than they are in real life. They can also become extremely low, feeling helpless and depressed, with difficulty making decisions or concentrating. Some people mainly experience highs. Some experience mainly lows, and some experience both extremes — becoming profoundly depressed or over-excited. The person may then behave in an uncharacteristically irrational or risky manner.
Yep - this was my mum. The 1 person who should have loved me for who I was and not for the person who she expected me to be.
In her death, many people spoke of Mum and how she was so unique. She was ... where only 3% of the population were like her. She suffered from an illness where there is no cure. Only a management plan where you either want to die (yes, she tried this) or you want to kill everyone around you (yes, she tried this too). The in between had the potential to be a happy place but that depended on who was still there opting to stick around rather than run.
Bipolar is an extreme and should never be compared to depression or anxiety, yet I found that after losing mum, I got to experience just a little of what she went through. For around 10 months I faced my own battle with depression and I didn't realise how bad it was until I jumped on my bike on October 11, 2014 and tried to support others.
It was just 4 days after the 1st anniversary of mum's death. It had been a hard emotional week of feeling totally alone. My biggest battle with my grief was that I had felt so alone. My step-dad needed my support so I held it together for him. My kids needed to express their own grief, so I held it together for them. My brother and I didn't speak often about Mum's death ... we spoke more about her life, so it was not a time to mourn. I was in a new job so lacked the support from colleagues who didn't know my past. And my husband was battling his own health issues and needed me. So there I was, functioning in a life that made no sense to me. I wanted to cry. I wanted the ache in my chest to leave me alone. I wanted the lump in my throat to go away. I wanted to eat without the feeling of chocking. I wanted someone ... anyone to take me in their arms and let me cry. I wanted to hide under my doona and never come out. I didn't want to leave the house. I didn't want to get up, do my hair and make up. I didn't want to play the charade one more day of being someone I was not. I didn't want to hide in the shower as this was the only place I could cry. And out there on the muddy trails in Forrest, I let myself fall apart.
I had lost all of my strength. I had lost my willpower. I had lost me!! That person who over the last 3 years had ridden for those who couldn't. Riding under the motto of "We ride because our sweat is nothing compared to their tears" ... yet here I was drowning in my own tears pretending to be strong. After 40kms I gave up having no more strength left in me. I felt like I held my breath as the support crew drove me back to the finish line, not wanting to show how much I was hurting inside.
On October 13 I called Beyond Blue. I explained to them how I felt. It was not my first call to them, but it was my most honest one. And they were there for me. I explained to them my history with mental illness - they were very quick to reassure me that I was not turning into my mum. (It is a genetic predisposition that can strike anyone) and they were very quick to reassure me that they could help. I was suffering with depression - triggered by the loss of my mum. They gave me the tools I needed, the support I wanted and within a few months I felt like my old self again. Now days when I think of mum, I mostly just feel sad. No longer crippled.
For 4 years I have dedicated my life to riding to conquer cancer. But now, I have a new focus. I want to Chase the Dog. I want people to be able to put their hand up and admit that the dog is chasing them. And I want them to feel supported, loved and understood. I want to conquer the image of depression and anxiety being crazy. I want to tell my story - the one of growing up, the one of survival and becoming who I am today. I want to share the tools I have in my toolbox and support others. And mostly, I want to ride my bike and enjoy the feeling like no other. The wind in my hair, the freedom, my thoughts and my escape. My therapy!!
This is now MY story. Together with #ridelikeamum , #chasethedog and #beyondtheblue , this is now MY reason to ride.