So I’m back in the UK and so far it’s actually been nice. My fears of post tour blues have not come to fruition. However this may be because I’m not done yet. I still have 160 or so miles to ride to the Midlands so I can attend my cousin’s wedding. Right now though it’s just nice to enjoy some familiarity and catch up with friends.
Those of you who read this regularly or know me in real life will know I have ongoing problems with my mental health and depression. The cartoon below pretty much nails it in terms of how I often feel when I’m suffering. I know there are many people who are in more stressful or worse situations than myself. Who suffer serious physical and mental health issues or injustice and poverty. That feeds into the guilt element when I suddenly find myself down and struggling to cope. It makes me feel like I am malingering but I have seen how my brain can consciously and unconsciously pull apart my life. So I don’t ask for sympathy or special treatment just that people try to understand that those with depression can be inconsistent on occasion.
The positive thing though is that I am better than I used to be. Sometimes my brain runs off into dark places but I am more self aware now than ever before and can spot the warning signs that this may happen. This enables me to then do things to catch any downward spiral early. It flags up the need to eat and sleep well and cut back on caffiene and alcohol.
Having this early warning system in place is a comforting feeling and for the first time, even if I don’t understand why I get depressed I know the triggers for dark thoughts Those triggers are pretty much my reasons for cycle touring. The society around me that I struggle to accept and feel is fundamentally flawed in the life it provides us all will cause dark clouds in my mind when it invades my space. Equally the loneliness I have felt because of my inability to apparently form long term non-platonic relationships causes occasionally bouts of negative thinking.
The worst part of that being the two triggers work together to create a feedback loop. The first causing depression which I know strains relationships. The second stemming from that and removing some of sources of support that would help cope with wider society.
The best treatment I have found for all of this has been cycle touring. The space and autonomy it provides has helped me cope and removed a lot of situations where triggers are present. It has enabled me to have time to critically evaluate my thoughts and behaviour and work on my early warning systems. It gives me the opportunity to step partially outside the society that makes me depressed.
In theory cycle touring should make the second trigger, loneliness worse. I can say that statement is true to some extent but it actually has two positive effects. Firstly I have learnt to enjoy my own company more, I’ve learnt to be on my own and cope. To in essence be less lonely. Secondly it removes the pressure to have a relationship. I could at this point say this pressure comes from society to be in a normal stable relationship or it stems from inside and is biological. I don’t know which of those is true but cycle touring gives a reason (or excuse) to not have to form a long term relationship.
I am well aware that this is all coping by avoidance rather than facing any particular problem head on. It’s all an evolving strategy though and there are things about myself and the world I am powerless to change so avoiding issues is the only path currently. So cycle touring is here to stay as the best medicine. I now need to cope without it for a short period while I try to raise funds for the next trip. So lets see if I really can avoid the post tour blues and stay positive.