Suffering in Silence: Cyclist Stories


After her heartfelt blog on depression, CWRB caught up with Loren Rowney to thank her for sharing her story – shared more than 500 times – and striking a chord with many who have also been suffering in silence.   Her greatest wish after courageously stepping out into the limelight is to use the momentum […]

After her heartfelt blog on depression, CWRB caught up with Loren Rowney to thank her for sharing her story – shared more than 500 times – and striking a chord with many who have also been suffering in silence.

 

Her greatest wish after courageously stepping out into the limelight is to use the momentum to keep the conversation going.

 

“I had dozens of people emailing me, messaging me and leaving comments on social media. Thanking me, and sharing their own stories.”

In order to do that, she has volunteered to publicly answer a few questions alongside other members of the CWRB community (some of whom have had their names changed for privacy reasons).

All around the world, in fact someone you know well, people suffer in silence. They battle on, day after day, with chronic pain, illnesses and diseases that strangers can’t see. They have auto-immune conditions that few will ever understand. And, of course, those many suffer in silence with PTSD, anxiety and depression.

Read some amazing stories of women who have some pretty serious sh*t going on in their lives… and how bikes saved them.

 

What was life like before the symptoms appeared?

Loren: I’ve always had this chimp on my back. For as long as I can remember, I have had some level of anxiety. I first truly felt the “symptoms” of depression in Year 12 [the last year of high school]. Or really, that’s when I had my first real meltdown and where the self-harming started. And I think the meltdown happened because I no longer had cycling as my release, my purpose… I identify as an athlete and when  I lost that identity because I decided to quit cycling (due to the immense anxiety I felt when competing – I didn’t have the right coping mechanisms in place), I didn’t know who I was. I tried so hard to be accepted by peers and did it successfully. I became one of the popular kids at school… but it wasn’t what I actually wanted… and so I spiralled out of control. When you get to this point, you see no purpose. You sit in your room and stare into space and just cry, and feed on these bad thoughts that flood your mind. You see no light. There is only darkness. And you can’t feel anything other than sadness. It feels like there is no solution and no end to the pain. You can’t see yourself being that happy go lucky carefree person who is happy. You only see the sad reflection looking back at you thinking “what is even the point to this all?”

Sally: I always played a lot of sport as a child – swimming, athletics, softball, netball, basket ball, indoor cricket and anything else going … and tennis. I loved playing sport and it was a big part of my life, both before and after children. I continued with tennis post children and loved both the exercise and social aspects.

Donna: “I use to be an athlete.  I would train daily.  I would have a training plan which I created from books I borrowed from our local library.  I had been accepted into the state track team but my parents didn’t have the time or money for me to train so I would go every afternoon to my school oval and run drills, do strengthening exercises.  As I moved into grade 11 boys became the focus and running was left to the wayside.  I played netball, soccer, rode my bike from Deception Bay to Redcliffe (no helmet) regularly.  I was always active then I had children!!!! I started Tae kwon with my daughters and graded up to a blue belt.  I trained three times a week and loved it.  I loved what my body could do.  One night I was doing round house kick repeats when my rib popped out at the back.  I couldn’t breathe.  It took three days for it to pop back into place.  I never returned to TKD as I was scared of doing that again. My friend started doing Triathlons and I would watch her train.  She introduced me to Damian (my partner) and we hit it off.  Needless to say, triathletes are a different species.  I began riding my bike because we created and opened a Triathlon Store where we sold bikes.  I did my first road ride in cleats with Jordana at the Ride for Robbie Williams.  I went with an old school friend who I had not seen for years.  We laughed, we fell off, we enjoyed ourselves.  I joined Brisbane Chicks who Ride Bikes and through our store began recommending the group to people.

Jenny: If I am completely honest, I have suffered from depression since I was a teenager/child. When I am ‘well’ I have great energy, no issues with concentration and all my relationships flourish!

Lucy: Prior to purchasing my road bike, I spent many years attending Southbank ParkRun every Saturday, then I ventured into my very first 5km running event, then I plucked up the courage to compete in a 10km running event, then I took the plunge and did my very first half marathon 21.1km. I loved running. Aside from running I would attend the gym most days, attending personal training sessions and learning to eat right. My energy levels were off the chart as I loved being outdoors. Every running event I entered I improved on my times. I never worried about competing against other runners, it was just about setting PB’s for me. I work as a debt recovery paralegal for a mid-tier law firm. I have been employed with the law firm for 25 years. Work was always hectic but it never stopped my passion for training and getting outdoors.

 

And after symptoms started to appear, what was your journey to diagnosis like? Was it frustrating? Did it happen quickly?

Loren: What happened with me is I got caught out. I was self-harming, cutting my wrists… and I guess I chose that area so it was in my face, and real, and also perhaps I was hoping someone would take note… someone would help me. It was winter of 2006 and I had my school jumper on every day. One day I slipped up and my friend saw my bandages. He went straight to the school counsellor and before I knew it, my mum was down at the school and it was over. I was going to get help, I had no choice, and that is the best thing that ever happened. From then on, I saw an amazing psychologist and we just talked. He helped me understand why I got this point in my life. I went on antidepressants and my moods finally balanced out. I was becoming me again. And at the end of year 12 was approaching so I could almost see the light. I got new friends at school and moved away from the popular kids. I started to get a new outlook and I decided as soon as year 12 was over I would get back on my bike again. I wanted to have a crack at being a bike racer again.

S: After playing tennis from the age of 11 and at an A grade level as an adult, my knees began to give way at around 40. The torn cartilage at the age of 20 that resulted in most of the cartilage being removed at the age of 25, saw the left knee begin to fail. However, a snapped ACL in the right knee meant a reconstruction to that knee first. This was really successful and that knee is still good today.  Despite nursing it as much as possible, the left knee broke down at the age of 48 and a total knee replacement followed.

D: I attended our beginners riding classes when I could.  I noticed women smashing the hills where I would have nothing in my legs.  Despite a good diet I began to suffer severe nausea and had issues with constipation and diarrhea.  This went on for about four weeks.  I went to my doctor who knew I swam, rode and ran regularly and had a good diet.  She sent me for a colonoscopy.  I am 41. I am too young. My colonoscopy went well.  I did, however, have 7 polyps removed which was excessive according to my doctor.  (I like to excel in things).  All these polyps were over 1mm which is large.  I went home and slept. When I woke up at 2pm, I was passing blood.  I continued to pass blood until the ambulance came.  I wasn’t in much pain but I did get the ‘green whistle’ (favourite medication).  When I arrived at the hospital they didn’t have a bed for me and the ambulance kept me in a bathroom and continued to monitor my pain meds and condition.  I was losing a lot of blood.  I don’t feel scared in hospitals because I know they know what they are doing (having worked in them as an AIN for years).  My doctor arrived and said she needed to get me to stop bleeding so she could go in and put clips in.  I have issues with my Blood Pressure and the amount of blood I was losing set off heaps of alarms, there was beeping, yelling for O negative blood…I kept saying yes I am O negative and I donate. When I woke up my clothes had changed, I had six catheters in my arms, blood being pumped in everywhere.

J: There is a strong family history of mental illness and when I became pregnant with my first child emotionally and mentally I went downhill (gotta love those hormones!). That was the first time I saw a psychiatrist who diagnosed me as being clinically depressed. It took me lashing out at the people I love to come this and it’s not a very happy memory for me. In some ways it was a blessing having a diagnosis, I knew that it was coming given the family history – it was a matter of not if, but when. I just knew that it was something that I had to be in control of and not to be afraid of.

L: During the month of June, only a few weeks into my training program, I started feeling ill, no energy, cold and flu like symptoms. June through to September are the coldest months to training for an event, early morning rides and runs and late night swim sessions. I continued to battle through with my training. However I felt frustrated and annoyed as I didn’t understand what was happening. I just had no energy. I wanted to sleep all the time, I was taking time off work. I certainly didn’t want to give up on my dream and probably one of the most biggest events I would do in my lifetime. My coach strongly suggested I go and see my doctor as I could have low iron levels and with a major event coming up for me, it needed to be sorted. I went for several blood tests and in August revealed that I am carrying the Ross River Virus. This was devastating because I didn’t know if I could carry on with the training and whether I would be able to endure a 6 to 7 hour events.  I continued on with doing a half marathon, which was extremely painful. Every stride I took was agonising. I felt like I had old brittle bones. My joints were hurting with each step I took. RRV plays havoc with all your joints so running in particular was very painful. I also managed to do the Rio Tinto Ride 200k ride. That was brilliant.

Bella: When I was 18, I was diagnosed by a Psychiatrist as having depression which wasn’t a surprise to me given my limited knowledge of it at the time. I was given medication, had the occasional session and would soon stop going and take myself off the medication. This was a cycle I would repeat a couple of times before developing OCD symptoms. I then stuck to seeing a Psychiatrist and taking medication (which I still take now).

 

When you got diagnosed – were you scared? Relieved? Did you have family or friends with you? Did you have to research it? What did you think it meant for you?

D: I was relieved to be diagnosed.  I have always had medical issues but tended to ignore them until they wiped me out.  In 2007, I was hospitalised with a BP of 291/190.  No reason behind it except stress.  I lived in a DV situation and my body finally said no more.

S: The advice from the specialist that I would need a total replacement scared the hell out of me. Knowing that my exisiting knee would end up in the bin and be replaced with a titanium version was terrifying – I didn’t want to contemplate what would happen if the surgery wasn’t successful. My marriage ended two weeks before the surgery making the whole experience that much more difficult.

J: I was relieved. I knew it was coming – you don’t have a family history like mine and escape it! I refused to have anyone with me during the diagnosis, the father of my child and I were no longer together and I have always been a fairly self-sufficient person – I deal with the big things on my own. Research wasn’t a huge issue. I knew what to look out for, to listen to the doctors. I learnt from how others around me managed their own mental illness – I didn’t want to be like them. I knew that this wasn’t going to be a once off thing and that I would need to manage it for the rest of my life.

L: I took the diagnosis all in my stride as I really didn’t understand the virus or what it could potentially do and how it could affect you on a day to day basis. I went through the process myself, blood tests and doctor visits. After receiving the news, I phoned my coach and we discussed a new training plan and the best way to approach it. This meant taking 3 weeks off work so I could just eat, sleep and train day after day. I did a lot of research to try and get an understanding of what it was and how to manage it. I even went as far as getting a second opinion from another GP and also saw a specialists. At the end of those final consultations there was nothing that could be done. RRV is a debilitating virus. You just have to manage it with pain relief and rest. I honestly thought I had to throw the rest of the year away. I felt absolutely devastated.

B: The depression diagnosis wasn’t a great surprise given my understanding of it and circumstances at the time. I’m not sure whether the diagnosis made me feel better or worse, just that I was getting help when I needed it. Eventually I changed Psychiatrists as I felt that I wasn’t getting anywhere on just medication and basic therapy alone. By this time I was on anti depressants and mood stabilisers. My new psych gave me a different diagnosis – anxiety, as well as the OCD. This was a relief as I knew what kind of beast I was dealing with, as the depression tag didn’t always ring true (as I DID want to do things, I was just too anxious to). With the diagnosis as anxiety, I felt I had more control in dealing with it as there are strategies that can help. With depression, and the way mental health professionals tend deal with it, I felt less in control as medication is prescribed and minimal therapy provided.

 

How long did it take to ‘settle’ into a new rhythm? Did you slip backwards or have any problems? Did any piggybacking occur for you? (ie did Anxiety, Depression or any other illness appear in conjunction with your original diagnosis?)

D: After my recovery period of four weeks sleeping I came back to work.  I got back on my bike.  I missed my bike.  I was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression in 2003 and then Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the same year after a boat accident.  I actually don’t remember my son as a baby.  He was given to me to feed and I mechanically did all the things I had to but I lived in a fog.  I didn’t go out.  I didn’t want people to talk to me.  I had nothing to say.  I couldn’t string together a conversation.  I had nothing to wear. I was empty.  I went to my GP who put me on a very low dose of medication and told me to do one thing a day.  Go for a ten minute walk, just something simple that made me happy. I got out of the DV situation and one day I was driving along laughing and singing.  I felt funny.  I didn’t understand the feelings I was experiencing.  I realised I was happy.  For the first time in years I was happy, really happy.

J: I’m one of those weird people who anti-depressants work straight away for – within a week I was much more settled and stable.

L: After being diagnosed I had approximately 6 weeks left of training. I had to give it my all as best as I could. There were days I missed training and all I did was sleep for days. I can’t describe how much the joint pain hurt. Just to move one leg or arm and to roll over and to walk was excruciating. At this point I had to find out what I could do to ease the pain. It took a number of different pills and potions to find something to ease the pain. Every day I was taking up to eight tablets which included fish oil, Vitamin B, Vitamin D, Multivitamins, Magnesium. This combination helped. I still take all of these but there are days where I still get frustrated and don’t take them for days but then I relapse and the aches and pains resurface immediately. It has been one and half years since the diagnoses and I have my ups and downs. I’ve had teary days but then I’ve had really good weeks. Every day can be different and every week can be different. After being diagnosed I had approximately 6 weeks left of training. I had to give it my all as best as I could. There were days I missed training and all I did was sleep for days. I can’t describe how much the joint pain hurt. Just to move one leg or arm and to roll over and to walk was excruciating. At this point, I had to find out what I could do to ease the pain. It took a number of different pills and potions to find something to ease the pain. Every day I was taking up to eight tablets which included fish oil, Vitamin B, Vitamin D, Multivitamins, Magnesium. This combination helped. I still take all of these but there are days where I still get frustrated and don’t take them for days but then I relapse and the aches and pains resurface immediately. It has been one and half years since the diagnoses and I have my ups and downs. I’ve had teary days but then I’ve had really good weeks. Every day can be different and every week can be different.

S: I was vigilant about the exercise post surgery and believe I’ve had a reasonable outcome as a result. Most people have about 3 months off following knee replacement. I went back to work after 6 weeks (office based) – more for my own sanity than anything else.  That was 6 years ago.

B: Getting diagnosed wasn’t the problem for me, getting on top of it and the ongoing management has been the hardest. My progress was two steps forward and one step back. I’d feel like I wasn’t getting better, but my support network would assure me that I used to be a lot worse.

 

What are the highlights and lowlights of your journey so far? Were these different than what you expected they would be? What timeframe did these occur in?

D: I have been told my recovery from the bled out will take twelve months.  I have to have another colonoscopy in March, six months after the first one…and one annually.  I have realised that I was scared.  I was anxious about riding.  About looking like an idiot.  I was scared to push myself because I didn’t want to blow out and end up in hospital again.  I don’t have a good immune system.

S: The highlight is that I can walk and do most things – I have some limitations that include inability to kneel, I can’t walk for much more than an hour and the knee is permanently swollen. I also know that I will need at least one, possibly more replacements in the future as my non-sedate lifestyle will wear this one out in a few more years. I probably thought my knee would be better than it is – somewhat naively I think. Stairs are becoming a real challenge now, especially when carrying anything a little heavy (like bags of groceries).

J: Lowlights – since the initial diagnosis I have had PND 3 times and had a relapse of ‘general’ clinical depression (I suppose you would call it!). Highlight would be discovering that I can adequately manage my depression, excluding extreme triggers, with diet and exercise. After having my third child, I starting focusing more on exercise and diet and it got to the point that even if I missed a tablet here or there, there was no effect. My body was doing what it needed to to keep the chemicals in my brain stable.

L: The best highlight was crossing the finish line at the Sunshine Coast 70.3 in September 2014. I did this while have the full effect of RRV. Swimming 1.9k with fatigue and limited energy in the ocean, cycling 90k with a head wind and then running 21k in 35-degree heat with aching joints. That was a very emotional day for me. I honestly didn’t think I was going to get to the start line. Before being diagnosed my goal was to complete the half ironman in 6 hours. Unfortunately, I was well over but my mind set changed when I was diagnosed with the virus so all I wanted to do was to finish before cut off. I finished in 6 hours and 56 minutes. This was the last event of 2014, then in 2015 I did the Moreton Bay Triathlon, Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, Noosa Triathlon (I did the bike and run leg) and Kingscliff Triathlon (I did the run leg)The best highlight was crossing the finish line at the Sunshine Coast 70.3 in September 2014. I did this while have the full effect of RRV. Swimming 1.9k with fatigue and limited energy in the ocean, cycling 90k with a head wind and then running 21k in 35-degree heat with aching joints. That was a very emotional day for me. I honestly didn’t think I was going to get to the start line. Before being diagnosed my goal was to complete the half ironman in 6 hours. Unfortunately, I was well over but my mind set changed when I was diagnosed with the virus so all I wanted to do was to finish before cut off. I finished in 6 hours and 56 minutes. This was the last event of 2014, then in 2015 I did the Moreton Bay Triathlon, Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, Noosa Triathlon (I did the bike and run leg) and Kingscliff Triathlon (I did the run leg).: The best highlight was crossing the finish line at the Sunshine Coast 70.3 in September 2014. I did this while have the full effect of RRV. Swimming 1.9k with fatigue and limited energy in the ocean, cycling 90k with a head wind and then running 21k in 35-degree heat with aching joints. That was a very emotional day for me. I honestly didn’t think I was going to get to the start line. Before being diagnosed my goal was to complete the half ironman in 6 hours. Unfortunately, I was well over but my mind set changed when I was diagnosed with the virus so all I wanted to do was to finish before cut off. I finished in 6 hours and 56 minutes. This was the last event of 2014, then in 2015 I did the Moreton Bay Triathlon, Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, Noosa Triathlon (I did the bike and run leg) and Kingscliff Triathlon (I did the run leg).

B: The highlights for me have been finding an awesome Psychiatrist (around 2003) and Psychologist (around 2008).  I see only the Psychologist now, but I find those sessions extremely helpful. Another highlight has been joining BCWRB. Some of the lowlights have been having been diagnosed with (2003) and living with a hearing loss, almost jeopardising relationships with family/friends, having panic attacks in public places and feeling the need to check details and if doors are locked a gazillion times.

 

How did cycling impact your illness, your mental health, your physical health? How has your life changed because of cycling? Did your doctor agree with you riding (or taking up riding?)?

Loren: The greatest lessons in life I have learned through sport. Perseverance. If there is one thing cycling has taught me, if you continue to persevere, you can honestly achieve anything you put your mind to. When I say this, obviously we can’t all be world champions, but that’s about setting realistic expectations of one’s self. For me, cycling has made me a stronger person. The pain and suffering I have experienced on the bike; the disappointment of failure and having to pick yourself back up and carry on. Setting new goals. Realising it isn’t the end when you fall short of your targeted goal. Just another opportunity tolearn from the disappointment and ise it as a motivator to do one better next time round. Cycling has changed my liufe. I would be nothing without my community anfd for that I thank them.

D: I missed my bike.  I missed the freedom from life that the bike gave me.  I missed my riding friends.  I missed the sore muscles.  I was scared the doctor would say no riding.  Not long after my episode bleed out I hurt the muscles in my back.  After an x-ray I was diagnosed with scoliosis going both ways…I zig left then I zag right.  As well as arthritis in my L4 and L5.  I have lost the natural arch in my back.  I asked my doctor about running and she said nothing over 5 k….she recommended to continue swimming and riding.  Riding forces me to maintain the arch in my back.  Some days it hurts, other days it doesn’t.  It’s all about building muscles and maintaining movement.

S: I had done a little riding previously, mostly little weekend jaunts on the bike path every few weeks. Three years ago I began cycling to work in the city every day and loved it – 15kms each way after finding a safe route that involved only short on road sections. I retired a bit more than a year ago and am now riding with a great group of fellow retiree/semi-retirees. We ride Tuesdays and Thursdays and usually do about 150 kms each week. I also ride occasionally on weekends with my partner (who is being encouraged to ride more). Hills are still not my friend as they cause some pain but other than that I love getting out in the early hours and experiencing that fresh morning air. I can ride for hours and enjoy the conversation along the way. We also stop for coffee before the return ride and that’s always a great social aspect. I’ve met some great people and we also get together with our partners/spouses at times on a weekend. I always feel very satisfied after a ride and pleased that I’ve exercised. I’ll admit to being tired after the 80 km ride but wouldn’t want it any other way. Cycling is the exercise that I can do because it’s not weight bearing and doesn’t require me to pivot the knee with any weight. (I tried swimming but it was too solitary for me). It’s become a very important part of my life from both the health/exercise and social perspective. I feel really satisfied when I’ve ridden and sweated. I don’t know what I’d be doing if I wasn’t riding – but it certainly has improved my quality of life from a number of perspectives.

J: I really only discovered cycling about 3/4 months ago at a point where maybe I borderline needed to go back on to anti-depressants after not paying enough attention to my diet and exercise. I joined a new workplace where there is a strong cycling culture and decided to layby a bike from Anaconda (how naive I was!!!). At the suggestion of the blokes at work I looked at a road bike from 99 bikes and I haven’t looked back. Since I have been riding I haven’t had a need for tablets. Again, through exercise and diet my body does what it needs to (note that this is not for everyone and I can only speak for my own experiences). I love the feeling I get from riding and have also started doing triathlons. Not only has it helped me mentally but also physically – losing weight has been a bonus! My GP thinks it’s great that I can manage my depression through exercise and diet. One thing that is really important to me is having a good relationship with my GP. Even if I am only visiting him for the kids he makes sure to check in with me. I am also really lucky to have a supportive husband who (thankfully) doesn’t ride – I don’t want to have to share ride time! He manages the household and the kids while I train.

L: My bike became my best friend through the illness. It gave me a sense of freedom. As I did most of the training solo I totally relied on my bike and the open road. There was less impact on my joints when cycling and it help my physically and mentally because I knew swimming and running was going to hurt me the most. I cycle nearly every day. I ride to and from work. I meet up with friends during the week and on weekends for rides and most importantly the coffee and the chat. My bike never leaves my car. For me cycling is my time to unwind, clear the cobwebs, re-evaluate what has happened and how I have dealt with the illness. Even though my doctor said only moderate exercise and plenty of rest, I felt I had to push on as best as I could and do what exercise I could, that’s where cycling took over for the most part of my illness and still does. I feel like I could ride for hours. Some days I feel like riding all day.

B: Cycling is the best thing for my mental health, and my Psychologist and GP agree. I’ve always loved cycling and have been riding since I was a kid. It gives me a sense of freedom and a chance to unwind. I’ve also been doing HIT (High Intensity Training) on the bike trainer for 2 years and my personal research indicates that doing HIT can help with anxiety, etc. There have been days that I have forced myself to do HIT when I’ve been feeling really low and it’s like I emerge a whole different person (energy, positivity, etc).  I notice in myself that my anxiety gets worse when I don’t exercise. The problem was that I used to just go riding when I was in a good mood, but the days I really needed to are those when my anxiety is telling me that it would be a bad thing to do (something bad would happen, that I’ll take it out on everyone I’m riding with). Often it would just be too hard to deal with the anxious voice and I would go to sleep instead of cycling. On one such day, I was about to have a sleep in the afternoon and I opened up my ‘Ride On’ magazine to read before I intended to dozed off. I noticed a quote by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. “When the spirits are low. When the day appears dark.  When work becomes monotonous. When hope seems hardly worth having. Just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking”. I got up out of bed, on my bike and went for a ride. It sounds simple, but it worked and made me feel better that day. Sometimes, I have to make myself go for a ride when I’m anxious and eventually I’ll settle into it and I’ll be ok. BCWRB helps with this too. Having regular rides like Coothy means I make myself ride regardless of whether I’m anxious or not. A bonus is riding with new friends and having done a ride before work that boosts you up for the day. Cycling has also presented the opportunity to set goals (Coot-tha Challenge 2015, Chicks in the Sticks, Bayside Blast, 40 Coothy ascents) for me to achieve to keep me out riding, especially on high anxiety days. My MTB helps as it forces me to be a confident rider and to get confidence. Climbing Coothy and mountains in general is therapeutic as it forces you to focus on what you’re doing to get yourself to the top. I’m fitter and happier now than I was when I was 18 and first diagnosed.

 

If there was someone out there going through what you went through, what advice would you give them? What would you tell You at The Beginning to make yourself feel better about what was to come?

D: I have a strong belief in God.  I know there is a reason behind all my medical challenges.  I see it as a firecracker under my ass…..I have to work hard, look after my body and achieve my goals now before I can’t move anymore.  I began having skin cancers removed when I was 24 years of age.  At one stage I was having 3 removed every six months.  Hearing the word cancer at 24 freaked me out totally.  Everyone in my family has died from cancer or suicide.  If I had not gone to my doctor and had the colonoscopy I would have had bowel cancer within the next couple of years.  I didn’t know my family history of bowel cancer. My favourite riding quote is “Ride as much or as little, or as long or as short as you feel. But ride.” Drop all the bullshit stats.  Wear what you want.  Obey the road rules.  Smile, laugh, look at the world, explore new places. No one is laughing at you.  I start to analyse and process what a ride requires…I get overwhelmed with all the things that could go wrong.  I think about the sound of my bones breaking….then I say to myself, “STOP, JUST RIDE!” And I do just ride.

J: Talk to your GP. Don’t bottle it up. Get outside and get moving. It’s only temporary. (and all those crazy people in lycra? you are going to love being one of them!!!)

L: My advice would be don’t be too hard on yourself.  You will have set backs in life especially when you are struck down by an illness.  Yes it is frustrating and you feel like giving up but the best thing to do is take one day at a time.  You will find you will always take two steps forward and one step back.  Just remember there is always someone out there going through the same thing or even worse.  For me personally, yes I’m tired and my joints are aching and the headaches are not always nice but I’m still breathing and I tell myself that there is always someone out there worse off than me so the best thing is to get on your bike and keep cycling. I have several quotes given to me by my one particular work colleague who has supported me through my illness and who cheered me on at the most gruelling event whilst having RRV. I keep these quotes on my wall at work to remind me to keep going:-“I can be changed by what happens to me but I refuse to be reduced by it”, “It doesn’t matter how you get knocked down in life because that’s going to happen. All that matters is that you got to get up”, “She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her away she adjusted her sails” and “If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run, then walk, if you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”

B: So many. Get a good Doctor or Psychiatrist or Psychologist or counsellor. Basically, get help and don’t go it alone. Don’t be afraid to ask someone you trust for a recommendation. If you don’t find one you like, shop around more. If you’re doing something that works to lessen your anxiety, keep on doing it, even if you’re feeling well. Anxiety can creep up at inopportune times and the result of not something that works is often why. See your specialist even when you’re feeling fine. My psychologist says to treat my visits like I would like getting my bike serviced. You do it to keep it in working order and not just when it’s broken. Keep exercising, even if you don’t feel like it. Get adequate sleep – I find I struggle more with the anxious voice when I’m tired. Praise yourself when you try something new as it takes a lot of guts, especially when you have anxiety. Practice gratitude – It’s very easy to find negatives in your day, even though there were positives there too. I keep a gratitude diary and write down at least 3 daily. I get a lot of benefit practicing ‘active gratitude’ – when I go for a cycle or walk and find gratitude for what I see, the lovely day, etc. It feels less fake on those high anxiety days. Research indicates Gratitude is helpful for mental health issues. Be honest (if you feel you can trust someone). Telling someone you have anxiety, that you’re feeling anxious or having a panic can often be helpful more than not. You’d be surprised how many people are feeling anxious or have anxiety. A lot of famous people in history had mental illnesses. It can make also you more empathetic and creative.

S: I love riding and would highly recommend it to anyone with knee issues. Advice: build up the kms at your own pace, find a group of like-minded people to ride with, do a ‘She Rides’ course to gain confidence if you need it.

It’s my hope that those reading will see that they aren’t alone. Whether it’s psychological or physiological, you don’t need to suffer in silence.

If you are worried about your health, #talkitup. Whether it’s to your GP, a counsellor, someone in your cycling community or your local hotline – reach out.

*Names have been changed to protect identities*

About the author: Jordana Blackman

Chief Chick @ Chicks Who Ride Bikes. If it has a coffee stop in the middle and a beer at the end, count me in.

Invite some friends!

Thanks for inviting your friends. Please try other network if you wish.