Anxiety and why I love my bike
photo credit: monikahoinkis via photopin

OK, it’s time to come clean. It’s time to tell you my secret. To be honest and tell you the real reason why I love my bike.

When I was a child my brother was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Back in 1984 there wasn’t a lot the neurosurgeons could do with a brain tumour. They tried to remove it, but it was the size of satsuma in a three year old’s head and in a very precarious place, so for any surgeon removing that successfully and without causing damage, was not going to be an easy job.

Sadly, after the operation my brother slipped into a coma and two weeks later he passed away.

I was six years old and yes, I remember him. That’s the one question I always get asked. I remember the games we used to play together. I remember the sickness he experienced before he was diagnosed, the falls he had because he couldn’t keep his balance. And I remember the weeks he spent in hospital when I was considered to young to be allowed to go and visit him. I waited for him to come home, to come and play again. When I was collected early from school that October afternoon in 1984, I knew he wasn’t coming home to play any more.

Why am I telling you this? Well, understandably this had a huge impact on my parents and us as a family. Back then, bereavement counselling wasn’t something that was readily offered. You were expected to cope – to get on with it. And that’s what we did.

But I believe it led to a lot of family issues. As the surviving sibling I tried to be strong. For a very long time. Then after completing two degrees, working a really stressful job with some very challenging clients, I couldn’t take any more. There were family tensions with my parents which had been going on for years and after I married and the birth of my children, especially my second child, they escalated.

My husband was focusing hard on his surgical career and I was juggling my stressful job with the pressures that brought, with bringing up my daughter, settling her into her first year at primary school, and caring for my baby boy who refused to sleep longer than two hours at a time for ten long months.

I was exhausted. Literally on my knees. My parents lived a couple of hours away and things were so bad at this point I had no relationship with either of them. I wasn’t sleeping, even when my son was, I couldn’t switch off from work or from the issues in my family and I was running on empty. Other than the nervous energy which I felt there was no escape from.

Everyone gets nervous. It’ll pass – me

Then it got out of control. The anxiety started. Like a tidal wave creeping up on me. I thought I had it under control. I was nervous – that’s all. “Everyone gets nervous. It’ll pass,” I told myself. But it didn’t pass. It just got worse. Until it had a grip on my every thought, on every aspect of my body.

I tried to continue with work, with managing the children, supporting my partner with his challenging job and long hours – he was after all at work saving lives! I was bringing work home because of immense workloads and staff shortages and shutting out everything that was going on with my folks.

Then night time would come. I’d climb into bed desperate to sleep but my brain had other ideas. It would switch on brain, bright like a halogen spotlight. Illuminating every fear, every thought. Twisting them and manipulating them and I couldn’t switch it off.

That’s how my generalised anxiety disorder started. This week is Mental Health Awareness Week 2014 focusing on anxiety. Until you’ve suffered with some form of mental ill health, you’re not in a place to pass judgement.

Like a knotted ball rolling around my insides, swamping my breath, my thoughts, stopping my appetite for anything. That was an awful couple of months in my life. A period I won’t ever forget. I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone how I felt because I had to be strong. That’s what people expected of me. That’s what they knew of me. If you’re honest with them, you worry they’ll think you’re weak and that you can’t cope with life. And then there’s the stigma that brings.

The floodgates had finally opened

Years of being strong and the floodgates had finally opened.

I did eventually speak up – to my husband and to my GP. They were both fantastic. Thank God.

The ‘beautiful red one’ had been sitting in the garage for a good few months at this point, untouched. And this was when I took to the saddle.

Cycling takes you away to a different place. It gives you time away from everything. Away from all the worries you think you have, time to be you, to think – if that’s what you need to do – or escape from your thoughts – if that works better for you. It gives you time to absorb the scenery around you, absorb the peace, the quiet. And then comes the endorphin rush, the increased serotonin levels, that fabulous feel good feeling!

Cycling helped me through that tough time. It didn’t cure it, but it definitely played a part. Anxiety is something I have learned to live with. It’s part of me and I think it always will be. Generally, it’s under control now. I don’t need medication at the moment and I’m hopeful I can manage it without any more medication in the future. But I do need my bike. When things are tough, when life is getting a little too hectic or for some reason, I’m just not feeling myself, I can guarantee a ride out on my bike will go a long way to putting things in perspective and giving my body that boost it needs.

I love my bike.


You can find out more about living with anxiety here.

30 Comments on Why I love my bike? I’d be mad not to

  1. Thank you for sharing your story and about all the reasons what led you to your GAD. I’m sorry to read of the loss of your baby brother – which clearly had an impact on your childhood and your life moving onwards into adulthood and your own family. I’m glad too read you’ve found a support network and that getting on your bike has really helped you xx
    Michelle recently posted…Characters in Flight at Downtown Disney | #100DaysOfDisney – Day 10 | Wednesday Around The WorldMy Profile

  2. weldone you, i used tolove riding bikes but havent been on one for years, wonder if its true that you never forget how x

  3. What a moving and important post. You have been through so much and it is fantastic that you have found something that helps and that you were able to speak to your husband and your GP. I really wish that as a society we focused more on sport in schools as it is the key to some lifelong skills and can really help many people find some sense of freedom,even if it is momentary x
    Kirsty recently posted…The Dot by Peter H. ReynoldsMy Profile

    • Thank you, Kirsty. I appreciate your kind comments. Sport is a great way to ease stress and I agree that more focus in schools on activities like sports, or arts even for those that aren’t so keen on sporting activities, would be a great way to teach pupils a coping mechanism for when times feel a little bit tough.

    • Hi Cass, thank you for your lovely words. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. I don’t know about you, but I have found that sibling bereavement is not something which is often discussed. I’d like to see more out there about it to support those who have experienced it. It’s 30 years ago this year for me and like you, there’s not a day that he’s not in my thoughts. Memories are a great thing to have. X

  4. It’s been said already but what an inspirational post. I’m so sorry to hear about your brother, just tragic. I’m sure the journey from where you were then to where you are now has made you a much stronger person. The way you describe cycling is how I feel about photography, it’s a kind of release I guess. Fabulous post, I can’t imagine it was very easy to write x
    Charly Dove recently posted…Alphabet Project | A is for abandonedMy Profile

  5. Such a moving post, one which I can totally relate. I lost my brother in a car accident, biking was something we always did together. Been 38 years now, and I have been riding the whole time. Helped me through difficult times then, and now, for the same reasons. Clears my head, relieves stress, and can be alone with my thoughts or not think at all. I love my bike too.

    • Peter, thank you so much for reading. I am so sorry for your loss. Thanks for taking the time to comment; it means a lot to hear from someone who can relate so well to my story. Cycling is a wonderful thing – may it continue to be your solace too.

  6. You must have been / still are devastated – I lost my sister a couple of years ago and I wonder if we could have done something. I love cycling too – the wind in my hair and exploring the beaten track…….want to get out more on the bike but I can only take one child at a time
    Kara recently posted…Act on RedMy Profile

    • Hi Chelseamamma – thanks for reading and commenting. I’m so sorry to hear about your sister, so very sad. Cycling with the kids can be great but if you can find a way to get out on your own, it’s those moments of peace which are so magical.

  7. So sorry for your loss I can only image how you felt at the time. My husband suffers with anxiety on top of other mental health issues and is about to get a bike. He says its to help him lose some weight but I believe it will also help him in other areas too.

  8. Hi Donna, wow I cannot imagine how much stress you must’ve been under dealing with a high flying career and very young children. Would seem pretty much impossible to me and no wonder you crumbled! I lost a brother aged three. I wasn’t born at that time so of course I don’t remember him as such but I lived with his memory and the pain that loss caused, especially through my Mum who never got over it. She talked about him all the time and sometimes I used to wish she wouldn’t because I couldn’t bear to see her cry, but she needed to talk and remember. She didn’t always cry, she would smile too. It wasn’t until I had my own children that I fully understood 🙁 thank you for sharing your story x
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  9. Thanks for sharing your story, I know what it is like to suffer from anxiety and it can be crippling when it takes hold. I so pleased you found support and you channeled your energies to cycling and I’m so sorry for your loss of not only your brother, but your relationship with your parents.x
    Lori recently posted…WINDOW INSPIRATIONMy Profile

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