As part of our support of Heads On and raising awareness of Mental Health Awareness Week, we’ve teamed up with Jonnie from @centuriescc (Instagram) to talk about Mental Health. Jonnie was kind enough to share his story to highlight the importance of self-care.
Words from Jonnie @centuriescc
It crept up on me really. I didn’t have much of a clue about mental health, I certainly didn’t think it had anything to do with me, let alone that I would soon be diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
Over a period of a few months, I became increasingly aware that I was feeling pretty down most days, more than just what might be considered “standard”, and that I wasn’t unable to bring myself up. Things became more and more bleak, I started to not see much hope in life, lost the enjoyment in things that I normally revel in, became distant and irritable and struggled to find any motivation or even the cognitive ability I needed to put a coherent conversation together.
Then one day whilst at work it all came together. I was thinking over and over about what I was feeling, ruminating on how long I’d felt this way when all the dots joined up. I wasn’t sure as some had jokingly (although this really upset me) labelled me, this was something more, something real. But what? And how do I fix it?
The next morning, I woke up and just couldn’t’t do it, I couldn’t’t face going back to work, it was all too much. After a conversation with my doctor, he told me that I had acute depression and anxiety. It had a name at last.
Initially he signed me off work for a fortnight, but this turned out to be a few months. My days were spent in states of inertia where I felt like I didn’t move forwards mentally at all, sometimes even doing the simplest things was a struggle. I pulled away from friends and family and sat on my own crying, listening to music that I felt spoke to me, but in reality, only further entrenched my emotions of loneliness, inadequacy, self-loathing and emptiness. It felt like there was no way out.
At times I’ve felt suicidal, contemplated what would really be the impact if I wasn’t here, and how people would be better off without me bringing them down with my stupid brain, not to mention how it would end the enduring misery I was living with. On one occasion I’ve stood in the middle of the A27 watching the traffic racing towards me, waiting for them to do the work that I was too much of a coward to do, before the shame made me scurry to the other side.
But the road to recovery is a meandering one, with climbs and descents and there are times where I haven’t felt like this, where I’ve had fun, enjoyed being with people, loved my job (still do) and got some real, genuine fulfilment from life. Each road to recovery is also unique to each person, it takes its own course, in its own time. Aside from learning about symptoms, about triggers and about communicating to friends and family about what I experience I’ve also learnt not to rush things, that you move to the next phase, or the following moment when you’re meant to.
Gaining these insights and understanding depression and anxiety more has helped me greatly. I’m able to understand why I might be behaving or thinking in a certain way. But there is something else that has been vital to me in managing me depression and anxiety. Cycling.
I’ve been cycling for almost ten years, however it’s only recently that I became aware how much I needed it. More than just a hobby or weekend pursuit it has provided me with a tangible way of processing what I’m feeling, given me time to reflect on thoughts and try to rationalize the intrusive negative ones, to just escape the world and its noise and ugliness, and enabled me to connect with nature in a way nothing else can, in itself a hugely powerful way to re-center myself.
I can happily spend hours on the bike cruising along lanes or trails, enjoying the countryside or the speed or the smoothness of my pedaling or just looking forward to riding to a coffee stop and escaping. My bike gives me something to look forward to and this is where my recovery began, and where I still go to when I have that black dog creep up from behind and bite me on the arse.
It’s also a great way to get talking. There’s something about being on a bike that just encourages conversation unlike other arenas - especially in men. Spinning the legs and opening up is something that seems to go well together. Perhaps it’s that you can’t get up and walk away from the conversation, I don’t know, but there’s something there.
I love riding my bike, whether that’s on my own or with mates. Exploring new roads, new trails and experiences, connecting with the nature around me, and of course enjoying a coffee and cake!
It was whilst I was experiencing a depressive episode that I decided to reposition my Instagram account, @centuriescc to show how cycling can help tackle mental health challenges. On there I brush away the fake, filtered veneer that social media can bring to engage in an open and honest way about mental health, how it affects me and how cycling helps me live with my depression and anxiety.
We all have mental health, sometimes, just like with our physical health, we can experience ill mental health. It may be for a short period, it may be longer, it may never go away; personally, I’ve found that by being honest, communicating when I’m feeling and thinking negative thoughts or emotions, supporting others, and by riding my bike I am able - more or less - to build an environment where I can my whole self. Sometimes I might feel worse than others, but I’ve got the bike and people around me who understand, and really, that’s the most important thing.
A huge thank you to Jonnie for taking part in sharing his experience with Mental Health and helping to bring awareness to this very important subject.
All week we will be trying to bring awareness to this subject and donating 50p from all can sales to Heads On to help them continue to provide the brilliant support they offer.