Riding South For Winter

An early blog this week, because I’ll be away this weekend, on the beginning of my personal Lions tour. Down to Dunedin for the Highlanders game, and to all three tests as well – all done on the bike. It seemed a great idea when I booked it in spring. Now that winter is here I’m a little more nervous about it.

You see, this is what I used to do, as a single man. Travel around the North Island to sporting events, the Highlanders, the Black Caps, Joseph Parker, an All Blacks test every year, taking the bike whenever possible. That was my leisure activity, my downtime. And I loved it. It was a great life. When it got colder in winter I’d sit by the fire with a book. I still don’t have the focus or concentration back yet for reading. Hopefully it’s not far away. The nights are long, sitting by myself with only an unoccupied mind for company.

I booked the Highlanders game when tickets first came out, and was tremendously excited. After she left, I couldn’t have given two hoots about it if I was offered the chance to play. The early advice I got was to try and resume living my life how I had been. So when some of the test tickets that weren’t claimed in the ballot came back up for sale, I bought them, as much out of idle curiosity to see if I could get excited about it as anything. I couldn’t. It was just something I was going to do. Something to fill in time.

These last two weeks now that I’ve been recovering, I’ve finally rediscovered a little bit of excitement about it. I was able at long last to sit down and roughly plan the trip ahead of time. I couldn’t quite get to a 5000km total – just denied by my original plan, which had been to start and end the trip with visits to Napier to see her, now being redundant. When I sat down to plan, the thought occurred to me this will be my first proper holiday since 2012. If you haven’t been on holiday in 18 months, ring a travel agent. Ring your cousin with a bach by the lake. Ring DOC and book a hut somewhere. Get off the farm, for your own sake, and for your family’s sake if you have one.

The recovery has been more or less sustained. A bit of humour coming back, and the ability to retort with a smart answer to most things people say. My humour has gotten me through a lot of dark places in my life to date, and yet I lost even that these last five months. There is the odd low moment, like sitting down at the kitchen table to a meal for one, and wishing I’d been cooking for two. Still, five months later, a moment of hope every time my phone beeps, wishing it’s her, knowing it’s not. I’m lonely now, in ways I never have been before. But mostly it’s positive steps. A return to working until the body says I need to stop, rather than my head. I’m terribly out of shape after doing so little for so long.

I’m hopeful it will continue on a mostly even plane. I’ve done it as naturally as I could, just waited and monitored it, managed myself through as needed, followed most of the advice I was given most of the time. This way I know it’s me trying to recover, not some false medication-induced recovery at risk of crashing and burning. I am on medication, and that’s part of the recovery for sure, but I’m confident it’s not the whole story. I got the all-clear from my psychologist as being on the mend and out of danger, and was left to schedule any further appointments on a need basis, rather than her feeling she still had to keep an eye on my progress at regular intervals.

Some clarity is back, along with some feeling, rather than just the endless numbness of depression. I can think again, plan, understand consequences. At one stage while depressed I bought a newspaper to try and do the puzzles, try and stimulate some mental process. The crosswords were a write-off. Despite having been a top math student and always having had something of a talent for numbers, I was unable to even do the medium-level sudoku. That should have been embarrassing, but I didn’t even care. I haven’t tried again but I’m confident I could do it now. It’s the little things like that, that indicate the biggest changes.

I haven’t done this alone. Many thanks are due, to my close circle of friends I first turned to, my family, my naturopath, my psychologist. Dad, for just picking up the workload without thought or comment. All of you who have been following my blogs, offering your support and wishing me well. It’s all helped. Asking for help was one of the hardest things I ever did, but it’s turned out well for me. Still too many don’t ask. Too many are afraid to, afraid of the stigma. How many of you reading this have suffered mental illness? How many of you know someone who has committed suicide? How many of you wish that person had instead come to you, and said, “Mate, I need some help.”? How many more people have to die, before this becomes ok? This is so common. How can it not be ok to talk about? I hope I’ve managed to shed a bit of light on this for some of you on your own journeys through the darkness.

Reading back through this, it sounds like I’m signing off. That wasn’t intentional, and I don’t know if I am or not. I’m not well yet, not at all. I don’t know how much more insight I have to offer though. I’m not sure how much purpose any further blogs would serve, or if it would just become me rambling on. I’ll see how this break goes I suppose, see if anything relevant comes to mind. Maybe my psychologist has the right approach. Any further blogs will be on a need basis, rather than sticking to a regular schedule. Thank you, all of you, the thousands of you. That still shocks me. I won’t say it’s been a blast. It’s been thoroughly miserable, and that’s been ok. That was the most important thing of all. If you’re fighting your own battle, don’t give up. If you’re stuck in that hole, please, ask for help. There is a way out.

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