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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I can’t seem to find my balance

I can’t seem to find my balance, by Danika Sanderson, written 28/1/2014

I can’t seem to find my balance.

Between living and dying, between singing and sighing,

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

Between coming and going, from keeping to throwing,

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

Between laughing and crying, between loving and fighting,

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

From grinning to frowning, from swimming to drowning,

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

I’m here and I’m there, “have to” be everywhere,

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

I’m up and I’m down then I’m flat on the ground,

I’m carrying the weight of the world around,

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

From gorging on food to soothe my mood,

From guilting myself about eating that food,

From kicking myself to the curb and back

For eating too much and getting too fat,

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

From “too tired to care” and “life is not fair”

To “how lucky am I to have such a great guy”

To “what if I fail?” and “what if they hate me”

To “I am so happy” and “they must all rate me”,

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

From being a friend to hiding away

And avoiding the customary “how was your day?”,

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

From confident speaker to introvert girl,

From stomach of steel to wanting to hurl,

From conscientious to “that’ll do fine”,

I’m “stressed out I’m late” but still never on time,

From anything for anyone to “sod them all”,

From standing up straight to curled in a ball,

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

My logic says go but my heart rate is thunder,

My sane brain agrees but the renting asunder

Of nerves once so stable but now run amuck,

Is leaving me feeling like one sitting duck!

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

Can’t walk in the dark, but running’s okay,

“Just push through the barriers and all’s well”, they say,

“Just exercise, eat well, sleep well and drink tea”,

“Avoid caffeine and sugar and alcohol’s three”,

“Just keep a good attitude, you’ll be alright”,

But what if they’re wrong and I lose this huge fight?

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

“What if…?”, “What then…?”, “What next?” I wonder,

The evils, the outcomes, the dark side I ponder.

I can’t see the good, the pleasant, the happy,

But then all at once, I become happy chappy!

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

I’m inspired; I’m keen as mustard to learn,

Then gloom, disappointment, my hopes they burn,

Again motivated; success I now yearn,

But failure still looms at every turn.

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

Why cannot I just for ONE day be level?

What would it feel like to sing and to marvel?

Instead of dwelling on doom and gloom

And walking around restless from room to room,

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

I can’t seem to find my balance.

I remember now often the days gone past,

When balance was normal, expected to last

All day every day and all life through,

I’d never have thought I’d be like this, did you?

I can’t seem to find my balance.

 

And yet there’s still hope at the bottom of the jar,

That “one day”, “ONE day”, maybe not far,

Maybe real close, maybe real soon,

I’ll be singing my song to a different tune.

 

A tune that thrills, and lilts, and strains,

To glorify One who holds the reigns,

Who shows to me His Love and Care

And helps me realise the burden’s to share.

Who shows me that balance is always found,

When God comes first and is followed around,

By everything else, that’s solid ground

For finally gaining my balance.

Copyright Danika Sanderson, 2014 – reproduction only with written permission from the author.

I wrote this poem all in an afternoon on my way home from work one day.

I was getting sick of my mood swings, of depression, of anxiety, and was dearly wanting to go back in time to when life was running on an even keel.

I’d never realised what a privilege it was just to live life with regular emotions, regular response to stress and plenty of serotonin and noradrenaline.

So I started thinking this thought in my mind; I can’t seem to find my balance.

I can’t seem to find my balance. Sometimes I’m full of life and running around, sometimes I’m suffering from suicidal thoughts and wanting to escape life. But I seem to be missing the middle ground where life is straightforward and easier.

I started thinking, I can’t seem to find my balance – I’m up and I’m down…what rhymes with down? Around, ground, mound…what works with I’m up and I’m down? I’m flat on the ground! Boo Yeah! I’ve got myself one verse.

And so it went on. I raced home and grabbed out an old school book and started scribbling. I wrote most of this poem exactly as it appears here; somehow I just got on a roll. Some verses needed some tinkering to make more sense. Some verses got put together, some got taken apart.

I’m really proud of this poem. Not only do I find it a fun rhyming scheme, based partially on limericks and partially on Dr Seuss-type rhyme, but I’m really pleased with how the lines came together to tell the story of where I was at this time. The fun rhyming contrasts with the serious content, and helps me feel better about how I’m feeling.

I’m still kind of in this space now, even though it’s nearly 4 months later. Balance takes a long time to achieve, as it turns out. I have good days, I have bad days. I had a couple of weeks up to last Sunday when I got ahead of myself with how well I was feeling and how much I was achieving and thought I was cured! Then the last week sucker punched me and landed me in bed for most of the week, having 2 naps a day every day!!

So balance, a tricky thing to achieve. Elusive, delicate, difficult, like walking along a fence or tightrope. A fickle wind blowing one way, a strong breeze blowing the other way and off you go smashing down and breaking apart on the ground! Then it takes time and effort and emotion to get back up, brush off the debris, clamber all the way back up onto the fence, gather together your scraps of confidence and faith that there is a happy ending awaiting up ahead, and take the first step again! Nursing your injuries and disappointments, carrying baggage from previous attempts, trying hard to have hope and enthusiasm again.

So today is Day One after that long week of tiredness, total lack of enthusiasm and motivation, crippling lack of energy and a fat lot of blergh!!

We’re putting that behind, pushing on to find a new plan, a new way forward to try to get up on the fence, hands out balancing my weight, eyes fixed forward, trying for hope.

A great friend gave me this awesome print to go with my poem that I now have framed next to my dining table:

just balancing, girl on rocks in heels

A gorgeous print that I have framed in my living room

Onwards and upwards!! Balance, it’s time. I’m here waiting, I’m ready. Let’s go!!