Downer

When  you suffer with anxiety or depression in any of their various forms, it doesn’t take much to get you down. In fact it takes a lot to keep you up!

I find this with a million stupid little things that turn a perfectly good day into a gloomy do! Usually its something that I’ve done that I’m annoyed at myself for, and I just can’t let myself off the hook about it. My husband can just cruise through these things and flick them off, just like water off a ducks back, as the cliche goes; it also helps that he doesn’t seem to make dumb errors in the first place! We have a joke that he’s always right…and it’s nearly always true! But I find myself berating myself over and over inside my head, mentally abusing myself for being so idiotic, self flagellating for my mistakes and lack of memory, or of thought, or of judgement. That just can’t make for a happy day.

I spent a lot of time with a psychologist when I first got sick and one of the main points of therapy involved reframing my thoughts, and interrupting a snowballing chain of thoughts. Reframing means to look at a situation and how you usually react, and try to consciously change your reaction to it so that you put yourself through less stress and hurt, and therefore are more well mentally. Interrupting a snowballing thought process means recognising when you’re starting down a line of negative thinking that is escalating to the dramatic and trying to stop it early, while its something that can be dealt with, before you’re almost to the point of a panic attack. I spent a lot of time working on this, and when you consciously and deliberately look at your thoughts, you do recognise a lot earlier where you can intervene and save yourself a lot of drama! Having said that, it does take a lot of energy to do this at the beginning. It gets to take a little less effort as you get more used to it, and you have less of these thoughts because of dealing with them in a better way. Eventually its more of a habit, but as soon as you think to yourself that you do it automatically and don’t need to put so much effort in, it can creep back in.

It is almost indispensable to have another person around who understands the work that you are trying to do with your head, and who can remind you what to do when you’re working yourself (unintentionally) into a bit of a tizzy! Someone who can remind you to breathe, that the drastic thoughts you’re having are just that: drastic thoughts; and of the techniques that you’ve learnt. I say it all the time but I have the utmost admiration for people on their own dealing with their beast. Kudos, and I don’t know how you do it!

Today started out as a great day. I had a good ride with my Wheel Women. We rode from Docklands to the pink lake in Westgate Park and back, and I had a superb raspberry jam donut (apparently it’s a “bombolini” according to this bakery) to top it off! I also had one of those San Pellegrino chinotto flavoured sodas in lieu of my usual Coke; that was not a highlight! Tastes like medicine!

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I was planning on doing a bit of extra riding today. I had planned to ride from Hawthorn velodrome to the start point of the Wheel Women ride, and then ride back there after the finish of the ride to add in some extra ks, but a little glitch with snoozing the alarm prevented me! Sometimes that would be enough to get me down, but I smiled through that mix up. I mean, just the fact that I wanted to do extra ks is a pretty good indicator that I’m sitting well up on the scale of blue.

I got to the start almost on time, and marvelled with everyone else at how stunningly beautiful Docklands and the water looked in the unexpected sunshine and after the rain. I really expected to get a bit wet with rain today after 2 days of LOTS of rain, but we lucked out. It was beautiful through the whole ride, and we agreed we could just keep riding and riding on a day like this where it was cool so we wouldn’t overheat, dry so we didn’t get cold with wet, not windy…perfect! Shame about me not getting up on time to do the extra riding; it would have been the ideal day for it. Oh well, let’s enjoy the ride I’ve got going on right now, instead of worrying about what I’ve missed. And there is some great re-framing and preventing of snowballing thoughts! And so the ride was just lovely!

And then, the error. The trigger.

Stupidly (it’s always stupidly by the way) I put my phone on the roof of my car.

I know!

Always a first. And last. Then some other first. Or another first if I just haven’t learnt my lesson. And so on.

3 blocks down the road from my car park, I went to put my phone in the holder and an adrenaline shot went right through my gut! I instantly KNEW what I’d done! On the bonus side, I’d been creeping along slowly since leaving the car park, hadn’t cracked 40kmph, maybe not even 30kmph…maybe it was still on the roof?!?

No!

Dulp!!

So back I go to re trace my wheels. I couldn’t get there fast enough; itching at every red light and pedestrian crossing until I got back to where I had been parked. There was a ute there now, so I got out and checked under it for my phone, once, twice etc. Then I carefully drove even slower where I’d driven already, retracing, scanning the street and gutters, wishing, hoping and more.

And back around again, and a third time! Nothing!! ARGH!!

And that’s how it starts. The adrenaline shot depletes a bit of your good mood, the persistent bad results of looking and not finding get you down more, knowing this is all your stupid fault hacks away at your confidence and suddenly you’re berating yourself and the day is not the same day it was before. It’s plummeting down through the levels of good into mediocre and before you know it, it’s not a good day anymore.

Although lately, I’ve been well, and more resilient. I knew this about myself, but this incident proved it without doubt.

I was SO bummed out over this stupid accident which should never have happened in the first place! How could I have been so thick as to put my phone on the roof?? I knew it was a bad idea, and I did it anyway. Who does that?? Typical! I make a rule, and I break my own rule, and of COURSE this is what happens! It’s okay to put the keys on the roof, because you can’t leave without them. But your phone? Idiot!

This is how my thinking goes, left to its own devices. Berating, accusing, bullying, incredulous of myself, throwing insults.

This is where the challenge lies. Putting my psychologist’s knowledge into practice in this moment and not letting the snowballing of negative thoughts get off to a head start. Re-framing the thoughts: instead of calling myself an idiot and stupid and dumb, realise that accidents happen (even if it’s often and always to me!) and this was just that, an accident, and give yourself a break!

So, having proved that my phone cannot be found and doesn’t seem to be anywhere that it should be, I head home. On the way I think of half a dozen reasons why having my phone right now would be so good: to find out the best route home, to take a photo of the city shining in the sun, to pop a starter note for this blog into my notes section, to check my calendar for what else I’m meant to be doing today, to use the Optus app to put my phone plan on hold, to call my hubby and let him know about my phone!! It really is my right hand and its going to be a bit painful without it. Stupid, stup…no, we agreed: not stupid; unfortunate. Accidental. Breathe.

But then, halfway through sliding down the blue scale into the depths, I slowed up and stopped. I stopped. That hasn’t really happened before. And it wasn’t like I put a heap of work into it, into stopping my thoughts. But my head is just in a better place lately, and this didn’t seem to be as big of a deal as similar events have been before, where I could wrap myself in guilt and grief for a whole day. Now I was stopped somewhere around the “okay” mark, still realising the inconvenience and bother I’d caused myself, but not fatalistic like many times before. What is this new feeling? Is this being well? Could it be?

I got home and flicked a message off to hubby about being out of phone contact. Then got out one of my comforters and I was pleasantly surprised that before long I was smiling and feeling quite serene about the whole thing! What is this? It was still annoying etc but it didn’t feel like it was taking up my whole world with distraught stress but like it was just one part of the picture. I like this feeling!

I believe that this is how you know you’re well. You can recover from events that happen, instead of collapsing into various levels of despair and misery. I’m not sure how this state came about, but I feel like the chemicals in my brain are finally aligned and things are just easier. It’s very exciting!! To say the least.

As to what happened with my phone? Hubby told me all the things I could do and so I went through Google’s ‘find my phone’ function online (just search for it) and I used that to lock my phone, to put a message on the lock screen to say please return my phone and to give the number to call, and to track my phone. I have to say that was the most satisfying and frustrating part, watching someone driving my phone along. It travelled the Bass Hwy towards Phillip Island via the koala park, and then stopping at the Nobbies, and I was unable to do a single thing about it!! But it was awesome to be able to watch them in the first place. I made a full report to the police and they were very helpful. But then my husband got a phone call from the person who picked it up: turns out they were a coach driver who found the phone in Docklands super close to where I’d driven past, and they planned to bring it back the next day! How kind and honest! So all’s well that ends well in the end. My husband biked from his work into the city in his lunchtime to pick up the phone, and everything is as it should be once again.

Lessons to be learned:

  1. Do NOT put your mobile phone on the roof of your car in any circumstances!
  2. Do leave your GPS function on so that you can track your phone if you ever lose it, it was accurate down to 6 metres at one point
  3. Do be aware of Google’s find your phone functions
  4. Ideally always have your screen locked, but know that you can lock it remotely in an emergency
  5. One day, after so much pain, stress, medication, therapy and time, you will be well again. Believe.

Canberra Day Thirty Four

[Friday 14th October 2016]

Today was a great day! Not every moment, but wouldn’t that be asking a bit much in ordinary situations? But the not-so-great moments got turned around to become something good so all in all I’m stoked. I really enjoyed myself today! It started with a plan of what to do for the day. The last couple of days have been less than productive, which I don’t enjoy, and after all its day 34; time is cracking along! More than a month already, can you believe it? On days where I wake up and don’t have a plan for the day, they tend to be the days that I roll over and go back to sleep, because why not, and drift aimlessly through to early afternoon before making up my mind about what to do then having to rush about to do it, or missing the chance. So I decided Thursday night that before I went to bed I was making a plan, and when morning came I was sticking to it. The plan that Chester and I came up with was to wake up, get dressed in my cycling gear and ride my bike down to one of the streets in our new suburb that has a lot of eateries. I would go to Eighty Twenty café that hubby recommended and have breakfast, then check out the bike path that runs along Sullivan’s Creek, somewhere that I’d seen and wanted to check out, and that hubby has ridden part of, I think. And I did! Add in the bonus of remembering to call at the bike shop and get a bracket so I can attach my mobile phone to my handlebars for GPS on the go. Minus not actually navigating my way successfully to Sullivan’s Creek after my phone went flat and rendered my new bracket moot!! I haven’t really got my directions at this new place, and all the through roads around here have bends in them! What a crazy situation! So you just think you’ve gotten your bearings and the road take a 45 degree bend! Now where are you? But in the process I was in sensory heaven soaking up the lush green budding and leafy trees forming avenues over the roads, and the beautiful flowering gardens in all colours with some trees still blossoming, and well-kept front areas of houses in our neighbourhood, and probably the bordering suburbs as well; not really sure where I went! Eventually I hit Anzac Avenue which was somewhere well in the wrong direction from where I was meant to be, then my phone died, so I had a lovely meandering time trying to figure out how to get home! It was actually just so nice to dawdle around checking out the gardens and lawns, and taking detours wherever I wanted. Luckily I’d picked up some names of street nearby to ours already…remembering this is day 3 living in this new place!

I got home and felt like I could go for more so I did another street and luckily came around the block back again. All up about 9km but just a good amount to get going again. I haven’t ridden for a couple of weeks with rain, then wind, then pervasive disinterest! So it was good to feel like I can still do it, and still get that nice little spike of feel good from rolling around the suburbs on my bike. Plus the weather just turned any outdoor activity into sheer bliss! 20 degrees, chill breeze, blue skies making for great biking. That ride set me up for the rest of the day. Everything else good that happened after felt like it happened because of the ride.

I mentioned breakfast was at Eighty Twenty in Braddon on Lonsdale Street. Quite lovely, but I found the menu a bit challenging; not your standard egg and bacon! More your quinoa, nuts, almond milk, home baked granola type place, but in the end I did have their smashed avocado on toast with 2 eggs and 3 bits of asparagus on top and peas and feta around the plate. It was delicious actually, I’d have it again for sure. Just to show you can have eat-out breakfast without bacon! Sitting in the sun with my bike next to me did fill me with some feelings of accomplishment. Here I’d planned this thing that I’d been putting off really for the last week or two, and I was doing it! I can follow through. I’m not a wash out, a failure, useless. I can do it, and the proof is that I did do it! So nothing to stop me next time, hey? Except carrying my bike down the stairs from our level one apartment; that’s not an easy feat! I guess practice makes perfect.

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SO what else to do on a sunshiny day but tackle something I’ve been wanting to do: check out the Mount Ainslie lookout. I went once before you might remember but it was in a cloud and you couldn’t see a single thing! Today you could see forever or to the beautiful blue hills that border Canberra. Blue skies, sunshine, and the view is spectacular! Always worth the short drive up. I went planning on getting view photos only, but thought I’d walk along a short track back from the lookout itself, heard a bird and it was an hour and a half later when I looked up! Only two rows of trees, one on either side of me, one tree deep, but I got some spectacular birds! Great photos and extended views of a bird I’ve only seen once and got one muffled shot of that first time, a lifer in a Little Eagle soaring above (that was exciting, never forget to look up!), and other interesting birds being very conducive to photos! And I didn’t even have to try, they were all just there, going about their business. The best way to watch birds!

Went home for a nap, but was too excited to look at the photos from the morning. That was a task well worth doing because I found there were 2 different species of bird that I’d photographed but hadn’t realized what they were! Two more for the morning’s list! I knew they were something different but they were too far away; luckily my camera brings them closer J

It was all too exciting, so after a couple of hours I headed back to find the actual trail. Not the Kokoda trail near the lookout; that’s for mountain goats! So I headed down the hill looking for a trail. Not the old tip trail, it’s too rough and large gravel and steep; I’d do an ankle! Not the next one down; its appears to go into the shooting range from the back! So it turns out that the trail I did way back last year when we were here for our hosts wedding was the best one, and the one I should be doing. They need to make a brochure like they have for Black Mountain; it would save a lot of precious birding time, wandering all around everywhere. The first half of the walk was in the wrong direction really, but because there weren’t many/any birds other than the pesky Noisy Miners (!) I kept up a bit of pace and did a pretty nice 2km walk before (re) finding the best spot. So I had my eyes open to other things: rabbits, kangaroos, a cute echidna! And everlasting daisies, tons of them! They are all just about to open the buds; I’ve made a date to go back next week and check it out.

Two successes of my later birding walk were walking alone in the bush (although I have been building a tolerance to this with lots of walks lately, this one was a bit more removed from carparks and passersby) and walking alone in the bush at dusk approaching dark. My recent anxiety flare up has brought these closer to the front of my mind again which is a pest! I’d squashed them down nicely for quite a while. I’ve always been terrified of the monsters in the dark. We had an outside toilet as kids and whatever age I was I’d still wake one of my parents to go with me. But it didn’t stop me having to bite the bullet of the adrenaline rush that was running from the back door to the toilet door in the direct and utterly exposed lie of fire of those who waited at 2am on the other side of the green mesh wall to gun me down for some unapparent reason!! I was always terrified of gun men, and kidnappers, and rapists. I still am to a degree, but I’m more rational in questioning the reason: a) why anyone would want to shoot me, b) why they would wait in the cold all night right there near the toilet in case I needed to go to the toilet, c) how they would know the layout of our house and toilet, d) why they would shoot a child with a shot gun (the only gun I knew, and so assumed they had) and so on. If you start thinking like this it does all start to crumble, but you have to make that conscious switch to think like that, which is indeed the challenge. Anyhow, you’ll be pleased to hear that no thugs or bandits were crouched behind tree stumps in an enormous area populated by a whole 2 walkers waiting to loot us and so on. I returned to my car, by this time practically in the dark, unharmed, and with only a little adrenaline coursing through my veins. And so concluded my happy day! Exercise, the beautiful outdoors, challenging myself to eat outside my comfort zone, finding my way around new suburbs unaided, beauty and birds to be photographed; how lucky am I? A low key dinner and sitting on the couch to end a wonderful day.

Smiling!

You can hardly wipe the smile off my face! Just sitting here chilling out in a comfy chair at the end of the day, I’m smiling 🙂 No one’s making me, nothing is happened to draw a smile out of me, there’s just a good humour welling up out of me, and it’s delightful!

I suppose this is what they talk about when they say riding and exercise increase your serotonin levels. When I was unwell, exercise was just torture, even though everyone said how good for you it was supposed to be. I could never understand it! It’s only now that I’ve become fit and can do longer rides that I’m getting some of that effect. Ah well, better late than never!

So, what a great day!

The plan was always for a great day: the Wheel Women Christmas ride! What a cause for excitement, end of year festivities with all the fabulous ladies I ride with at one time or another! Wouldn’t miss it for almost anything!

A bit of a reminder to myself at this time: this is my first Wheel Women Christmas, because I only joined Wheel Women in March! March!! Can you believe it?? I can’t! What kilometers, what skills, what adventures, what misadventures have been gained in barely 9 months! Those who have been there for the misadventures only need these words: velodrome, baby ducks, emergency braking, whoops that hill and corner came out of nowhere! That last one? Today!

What a perfect way to celebrate the year of riding that Wheel Women across Melbourne have had; getting together for a large group ride from Kensington to Williamstown.

[Note: every time I say something like “what a perfect…” and it’s attached to something bike related, it gives me this little jolt, well not jolt, but just a little flashback to March, or was it April, when they told us we were going for a ride, an actual ride not just practicing stopping and starting, and 6 kilometers sounded like a death sentence!!! I have a little giggle to myself now, and have a little moment of wow, how far I’ve come so quickly! Not in a bragging way, just in a ‘Woah! How did that happen?!’ way].

So we gathered together outside Cyclic Bicycles in Kensington. And lucky for me that we did, because Dum Dum Dugan Danika here forgot her helmet! I mean, there are very few essentials in the world of riding, but a helmet you must always have! The day would have quickly soured if Evan from the bike shop wasn’t ready and willing to lend me a helmet! Lucky he opened the store an hour early just for us! A hat tip, and a recommendation that if you’re looking for anything bike related in the general area, he’s your guy!

Riders of all shapes and sizes (I mean that in the best way, and I should know!), and all abilities, with 4 wonderful coaches and great excitement for the day’s activities! There were jingle bells and baubles dangling off bikes, The Tinsel Bike shedding silver Christmas cheer all over the place apparently whenever the brakes were applied, coordinating glistening shoes covers for the coaches, Christmassy T shirts and earrings, and a sleigh bell dinging!! Hard not to get into the spirit with so much effort put in!

We were taking a new route today for me at least, up the hill (!) from Kensington, along the beautiful old Stock Route with cobblestone sections under the shade of huge old peppercorn trees and lined by the original post and rail fences of the stockyards. Then onto the gorgeous riverside bike path that follows the Maribyrong River more or less to Williamstown. I can never get tired of the stunning views we are treated to along this river and out into the bay; really they are such a delight each and every time I ride this way.

And the weather was perfect! It was meant to get hot, but it was overcast so it didn’t heat up and there was a breeze around; ideal conditions!!

So we got to Williamstown, partially along the road this time rather than all on the bike path. I have to say, I did enjoy it a lot more than the path for that section that we swapped because you don’t have to give way and face the rumble strips at every crossroad, it’s a lot smoother and I think I can go faster! Which is always fun 🙂 I know people are nervous of the road, but in that instance I would recommend it! There’s a good sized bike lane and all.

What can I say about arriving in the lush green park in Williamstown, with views of the marina and across the bay to the city?? Need I say more? A champagne toast followed (pink plastic cups!), Lyn’s delicious rumballs then a Christmas speech, and an award!!

This part I am so stoked about! Because…drumroll…I was the recipient! I am so so touched, and thrilled, and encouraged, and heartened by Tina and Tracey and Alicia and Deidre’s choice, and inspired to keep going further and further! What an absolute honour, and of course it would never have happened if it weren’t for Wheel Women and the hard work these 4 ladies put in to keep us riding safely and enjoyably every week!!

The award was for courage and bravery! Warrior status! And it even included a quote from this here blog!! Amazing!! I’m just thrilled over and over!! It’s incredible to have people believe in you, and see the effort that you put in and respect that effort! Every skill I’ve learnt from them has given me the ability to develop bit by bit. I never saw myself going this far from the beginning; I couldn’t see how I’d ever be able. Pottering around the suburbs was more of my vision. But I’ve got the momentum now, so 2016, let’s see what you have in store for me and my bicycle!

As if that didn’t cap the day off as pure amazing, we then had the arrival of Santa!! Dear Ray who is a great friend of all Wheel Women and brings life to every party, had dressed up in a great Father Christmas outfit with huge black boots and all, and was ready to distribute the Kris Kringle gifts! His wife Lyn had to go first, because she was his favourite, said Santa, then we all lined up for our gift and a kiss! Then Ray gave us another delight for the day, his alternate Santa hat that turned on, and the top and the bauble danced around on his head while it sang carols!!! We were in stitches laughing, loving his enthusiasm!! What a great friend, to give us so much Christmas joy!

All that was left was to head to the cafe for eats, drinks, chats and laughs galore! I do so love these ladies who have added such a great social aspect to my life from when I was bored stiff at home alone 5 days a week, right through til now when I’m working half time. It’s such a pleasure to meet up again at the next ride, and pick up right where we left off!! LOVE YOU ALL!!

Well if all of that doesn’t leave me smiling for weeks I don’t know what will! Of course our moods being fickle and subject to sudden change without notice, that won’t be the case. But tonight, I’m smiling!

Thank you to each and every person who made it so!

Oh, I did forget one thing. The award? Came with prizes! All of them exactly what I would have wanted for Christmas!! A Wheel Women riding backpack (now I’m part of the crew! Jokes), a solid high quality bike lock (YAY, out with the old fuddy duddy one!), bright rear and back lights (perfect because although mine allow people to see me, they don’t show me the path ahead!) and the smallest, most adorable set of tyre levers and patch kit!! Absolutely perfect! Couldn’t have picked them out better myself! Thank you, thank you, thank you!