Many of you will have detected a rise in the articles on mental health recently in the run-up to Mental Health Awareness Week which commenced today.
I had just hit publish on a post but it seems to have been eaten mid-update or my wifi dropped out or something. I’m trying not to be too frustrated about losing text I’ve spent the some hours coaxing into a timely piece on MHAW, body image, an upcoming series of programmes on MH and an event run by Bella Velo on Thursday 16th in SW London. Forgive me if this post seems a little brief in places. I may go back and pad out paragraphs again as I remember what I wrote originally.
So, this year MHAW is focused on body image. I think this may be very relevant for many of us, particularly perhaps those of us who came to cycling later in life may have experienced significance physical changes and become fitter and healthier that we have ever been. There have been various ‘cycling changed my life’ stories that have focused on weight loss but what happens when these gains slip away with injury, illness, pregnancy, or changing life commitments? How do we adjust to the changes in our own body image and sense of self? How do we manage when our peers seem so much stronger and how often do we unhelpfully compare ourselves to them? How can we direct our energies when we can’t get on the bike at all? I spoke to Anna Glowinski recently about her fibromyalgia and how it interferred with her life – more on this in due course.
Those of you who have attended a Bikes and Brains evening event or who have been reading the blog for awhile will know I’m not a fan of simplistic motivational cycling posters. Cycling is not a cure, it is a great tool, a practical coping mechanism, sometimes a crutch, perhaps even an obsession. If you wish to move forward you need to look at the Why? What’s behind it all? Working on self-awareness and (know thyself!) will prepare you for next time. Great if cycling has a considerable therapeutic impact but… it isn’t therapy. Having said this, I had a group turbo session a few days ago after a few stressful days at work and the intense physical effort of 15 x 30 sec pushes, with 1:30 recovery absolutely hit the spot in terms of turning my mood around. I’m also a bit fan of accessing counselling, therapy, mindfulness, yoga, or whatever helps you get to know yourself and better help you manage mental ill health. Mental health awareness of self.
This week there is a series of three programmes on BBC1 to coincide with MHAW, the first one on anxiety with Nadiya Hussian, with subsequent ones with David Harewood on psychosis and Alastair Campbell on depression. I see the value in those with a platform highlighting this issues. I think it’s helpful to be reminded that we *really* aren’t alone and many other people have similar experiences. I’m all for activities beyond just awareness though, and trying to do something practical whether supporting people close to us or more generally through support services. I think I’ve said before that it’s pretty easy for me to talk about my mental health, I’ve been doing since before I started working in mental health, but I’m all to aware that this is not a given for everyone. Hence why I’ve been hosting the Bikes and Brains evenings IRL. Re the BBC focus on MH this week, I think the first programme in the series was the one I was interviewed for about 18 months ago. It was my understanding that Miranda Hart was attached to the project but it seems that Nadiya Hussain has stepped in since. I don’t know whether I made the final edit but I’ll be watching regardless!
I’ve been chatting to Bella Velo in preparation for their evening event on Thursday in SW London. There’s a great line up and the evening is hosted by Adele Mitchell. It’s open to everyone, not just Bella Velo members so if you can make it to Richmond on the evening of 16th May please come and join us…
Awareness is not enough…
ADD YOUR VOICE… You may not be able to make the Bella Velo evening but you can always write a guest post for Bikes and Brains! There’s a page on submitting a piece (with a few guidelines) but if you have any questions you can always drop me a line through the contact page or on Twitter @bikesandbrains if you prefer. I’m happy to chat about how your particular experiences might be represented. Did cycling come first, and then mental health issues appear later on? Did you take up cycling as part of recovery from depression? Do you find that anxiety gets in the way of achieving what you want to achieve? Does pedalling relieve the symptoms of OCD or PTSD? Is the bike more of an all-round wellbeing thing for you? Are you and ultra-distance rider who endures intense lows after a race? Is the bike a way of facing your issues or escaping from them?
On the blog I’m hoping to build up a kind of Library of Experiences, if you will, to being able to record how cycling can interact with mental health and vice versa. It’s also to be able to provide moments of recognition; that others can read and know that others travelled similar paths. Some may wish to highlight what they’ve learnt along the way, raise the issues that have arisen. If you have concerns about having your name searchably associated with the blog I can publish your piece anonymously – you can identify yourself as much or as little as you are comfortable with.
The cycling social circle
Some of you may have read the interview with Jools Walker in the Observer yesterday. I’m proud to know Jools and she was kind enough to be part of the first Bikes and Brains evening at Look Mum No Hands about 18 months ago. Do check out her blog if you haven’t yet. Also, look out for her book which is published in about ten days! Exciting! It covers, amongst other things, her depression and her love for the bicycle. I’m looking forward to getting my mitts on a copy 🙂