Fun and games

I have been having a really happy time lately. Somehow things have been going really well for me. And for the first time I do believe that my bike riding has something to do with it.

I’ve been cynical of the supposed serotonin-increasing effect that exercise is meant to have on a person. I have experienced severe depression and so many people have told me to exercise, encouraged me to exercise, told me how exercise would help, and asked me if exercise was helping, and referred me to endless articles that supposedly prove how exercise should help me and would help me by increasing my serotonin.

I never got it.

I never felt that I was “better” after exercising, and specifically after riding my bike. I think this is mainly because in my lethargy and weight gain, exercise was so difficult to get started and to maintain that the sheer effort of exercise was greater than any benefit that may have been lurking way back there in the background. I didn’t feel a buzz, I didn’t feel elated, I wasn’t flying high or whatever it was that I was meant to be feeling. What exactly was I meant to be feeling, after all? Exercise was meant to increase my serotonin, yeah? What was the effect or end result of that increase in serotonin meant to be, exactly? What would it feel like if I had it? How would I know I had it? Would it be a direct effect? Would it occur at the time or would the effect be cumulative? I’m sure there are some answers out there but I’ve avoided looking at them, because for a good long while my bike riding was harder than it was anything else, and I just didn’t believe in the serotonin thing.

Until now. I haven’t lost any weight as yet, but half a dozen people have told me lately that they think I’ve lost weight; I’m hoping that means I’ve put on muscle and lost fat but time will tell. I’m a lot less lethargic thanks to returning to work, and having a regular schedule, and places to go, and people to see. Regular bike riding has definitely built up some kind of stamina in me, more than I would have had 13 months ago when I did my first ride with Wheel Women, and thought I would die from it! I view bike rides a lot more optimistically these days, I’m happy to say. This is based on my cumulative experience of so many rides; 60 rides in 59 weeks since March 2015, when I first got back on my bike.

This increased stamina has been improved on recently when I did a 4 day bike riding tour with Wheel Women through central northern Victoria. Anyone who is friends with me on Facebook will have seen the photos! To prepare for the tour I rode every day for 3 days over Easter in the week prior to the tour. I did this to prepare for the anticipated soreness I might experience when getting back on the bike day after day, and to try to build up the endurance that I would need on the tour. I didn’t ride long or far, but riding every day really did something. Then riding 62km, 43km, 37km and 28km for 4 consecutive days  on tour built up another kind of stamina. Arriving at this level of stamina has brought my riding up to another level, and since I got back its been like I’m riding on a cloud. I think it’s because the 3 rides I’ve done since I got back to town are less kilometres, bar one 40km ride, and less strenuous, also bar one ride with a few “gentle” hills, but overall they aren’t as tough as the rides I did while I was away and so I’m riding within my limit, inside my reserves and so it all feels easier!

And I love that!

There’s a saying in cycling, and probably in all sports, and maybe in life too that a certain thing doesn’t get easier as you develop your skills in it, you just get quicker at it. But at the moment I’m not only quicker at riding, but it feels like it’s easier too. And that feels awesome! Not all of it of course, hills are still a bit of a nemesis but I’m even going easier up hills! And I’ve changed my philosophy about hills since the tour. We did 40km or so one day that was more or less flat; my ideal situation, I thought. But now I think differently. Flat terrain just means that your legs go up, go down, go up, go down, rub in the middle on the bike seat, chafe from the bike shorts however comfy they are to start with, get tired, have no chance for a break unless you want to slow down, and it all gets tedious! I thought it was ideal, but now I can see the downsides to flat, and the upside to undulating and even hilly!

At least with undulations or little hills, you get a break while you’re rolling down the other side. It can be quite fun actually, a little up then a little rest on the way down. A little extra work for a little less work; it feels worth it. Plus it’s kind of a challenge for this girl from Flatlandria to operate the gears correctly to get up the incline without changing pedal rotation speed…it can be one way to keep your brain going when your legs aren’t loving the effort.

So here I am, having fun and games on my bike 🙂 I’ve even recently bought a T shirt that says ‘I want to ride my bicycle’. And I’m even heading out on my own after publishing this to do a ride that really sucked a month ago, just to test out my new theory that with the new stamina I’ve built up lately, it’s gonna be a whole heap easier, faster and more fun this time.

Wish me luck!

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Checking in

Well another day, week, month, and another blog post. This one comes from a very different place to the last, and makes me realise how it can be exhausting caring about someone with a mood disorder. You see them so down so you feel for them, want to understand, and try to help them through it. Next thing, while you’re still trying to help them up, suddenly they ARE up and perfectly fine, needing no assistance! It’s confusing, and hard to keep up with, and I don’t envy you!

How am I? I’m good. I’m great! I’m happy!! And it feels nice. I keep checking to see if I’m TOO good, too great, too happy, a bit manic…but it feels solid. It feels real, it feels like I might just get this one without the downside.It feels like it could last, like I could have reached, finally, that fragile point of true balance. Did I mention it feels good?

Three things this week have proven my progress for the better.

I live a kilometre from our local shopping centre where there are loads of nice places to eat. When we first moved here we would often walk up there for dinner after work, or during the day for groceries, or for ice cream, for scripts. As I got sicker and fatter, my walking got slower and was harder to start and hurt more and eventually I stopped. Stopped walking anywhere voluntarily at all in fact! More on that later. But this week when for the umpteenth time my long suffering husband not very hopefully asked if I wanted to walk up and grab tea, I said yes! And surprised myself that I really meant it, and was actually happy to go for a walk, even up the hill!

My husband was more than surprised, I think he thought it was a set up! Really? he asked, for real? You want to go now? For tea? Um okay, let’s go! Are you sure? Okay, let me get my shoes on.

Success! It wasn’t much, but it was progress. And I felt good about it. And, it wasn’t so bad. Really it was okay. Just one foot in front of the other, talking away, and it was over soon enough.

And even more surprisingly that wasn’t the end of my walking. I had to go for a blood test on Thursday morning which was a third of the way up to the shopping centre. I had scripts in my bag to get dispensed later, but on the way out the idea popped into my head that I could walk up and get them done right now; forget driving up later and fighting for a car park.

What?!? This never happens! My brain never suggests doing more physical work than what is essential for life itself! And I certainly would never agree with it! But it did, and I did, and off we toddled up the hill once again! It’s all kind of amazing; I’m kind of incredulous at myself as I write this down! Maybe my time has come to get up and going; who knows? But once again I survived the effort, and I actually felt pretty good about myself. This is definitely a good week! I mean all I did was walk 2km with a 30 minute break in the middle…but that’s big for me. Sad, but true.

The second thing that I was pleased with was about my job. Something that gets under my skin a bit from time to time is my work status. I started back at work on a 4 month contract which was fine for getting back to work. Then I interviewed again and won a 2 month contract, after a period of a month when I was out of contract but still working, semi-casually. I didn’t have to interview the third time and got a one month contract that had nearly expired by the time I was given it to sign! So after a total of 8.5 months of work, I’ve had 7 months work officially although I was paid for all 8.5 months. And now I’m out of contract again.

The difference this time is there aren’t any hours left over so that I can just keep working. My contract is up, I don’t have any rostered shifts for next week, and I’m kind of officially out of work. Sort of. They’re getting back to me. I wasn’t sure of the exact date that the hours were up, so on Monday after a week off work and not having heard anything, I decided to turn up anyway; I could always go home, right? But I got 2 days work so all’s well that ends well. But now I’m in work limbo until I get that decisive phone call sometime. It was meant to be Monday, then Tuesday, then I’ll call you. But they never did. We’re meant to be having this sit down chat about what’s available etc, and I have interviewed AGAIN for the 3rd time since June 2015…but there’s obviously something going on.

But instead of freaking out and wondering what I’ve done to make them not like me, or stress about whether I didn’t answer the questions right, or whether the practical question didn’t go well, I’m kind of philosophical about it. Of course now that I’m back at it I’d rather work than not, but if this waiting for a contract means a couple of weeks off then I’ll definitely be making the most of it. Catching up with friends, birdwatching, doing stuff around the house, riding my bike…I’ve got a bit of a list building up. Most importantly I’m calm and okay with it all. It’s not ideal, but hey, gotta make the most of any time to use as I like.

There’s a third item that’s in progress. I’m starting to feel like I can get tea again. It’s been forever, but the other night, if it wasn’t for my hubby’s superb timing I was going to make a start getting the dinner. It’s a sign of how things have been for so long, that me making dinner is something to write home about! Neither of us can remember when I last cooked a meal, or cooked anything for that matter. I used to love cooking, not meals so much, but I did it all the time. Then, like walking, it got later and less and eventually stopped altogether. My husband is the hero who took on all of the kitchen, as well as working full time, and he has single-handedly kept me fed with good food. I hate to think what I would have been eating left to my own devices! This is another moment where I think about the people living along fighting their battle and having to get themselves fed; my heart goes out to you and I admire whatever success you have in doing that.

I need to share with you that hubby is quite the chef now, a very good cook. I’m certainly not going to take away all the cooking from him as I tentatively return to the kitchen, but I feel like I’d like to get back into it. I feel like I’d enjoy it and it’s something that would be good for me. But I’ll still be leaving him plenty of space to fill.

There’s now a P.S. On Thursday we had something on and had to leave the house by 7.15pm. Hubby got home around 6.30pm or more and wouldn’t have had time to make dinner so that we had time to eat sensibly. But I’d gotten my head into the right space and gotten all the ingredients out before he got home so I was straight into it when he walked in, to his amazement! And kind of to mine. I mean it was lamb chops, with steamed carrots, broccoli and corn; nothing complicated! But I did it, I cooked a meal, I contributed to the household in some kind of meaningful way!

I know, I get it. For the rest of you housewives and working wives these are basic things that you do in your sleep! But it’s a sign of where I’ve been that walking any distance, dealing with life’s uncertainties and cooking a meal are milestones on the long path to recovery.

Well, what a week, what a time in my life. I know that it’s not all about me, but if it were, this is what you need to know about me right now. I don’t know if it will last; I don’t need to. Right now I’m happy, and it’s lovely, and I’m a-gunna enjoy it!!