Hello to you, and welcome, Dear Reader, particularly if you’re in the doldrums of any kind of depression. I’m glad you’re here with me for company! So no nonsense, but here’s the thing – I don’t want you to battle depression or compete to win against it. I don’t want you to try to combat or beat it by some hard-to-find force of will. I don’t want you to decide one morning to confront depression with what strength of spirit you remember, only to run headlong into it’s cold, sterile, breathless grip.
“A true warrior is invincible because he or she contests with nothing. Defeat means to defeat the mind of contention that we harbor within.” ~ Morihei Ueshiba (originator of the Way and the art of Aikido)
I want you to do something else instead. I want you to make a decision, that’s all. One decision. I want you to decide that you’re going to get up, and you’re going to get out on your road bicycle.
Will it really take that much more energy than what your negative self-talk has you persuaded you’ve got? Will we have to hear again the same silent words proclaiming all the same silent difficulties? Haven’t we heard it all before? I know I have. From my own malingering mouth, from the mouths of many, many clients. I get it. Sincerely, I get it. But sympathy is the fuel of depression. And worse, the ego is manipulative enough to turn even empathy, the counsellor’s roadmap, into a poster of depression’s propaganda. No placation, no sympathy, no empathy, no nonsense. It’s all bs that a bought-and-paid-for ego uses as spin to dupe you into the stagnation of a ceaseless depression.
What I say is that depression is not my landlord any more. A sleazy landlord condescending to allow me to tenant its squalid premises for a rent I never signed up for that leaves me always in debt. And I want you to say the same. Because depression wants you to believe it has the measure of you. It wants you to buy into its hype. Oh, nobody can do anything to help you! Poor you, you might as well atrophy to bone and dust in your filthy couch. Yes! That’s it, you’d better buy into my hype!
I want you to make one decision and nothing else. I want you to decide to get up and go out on your bicycle.
I don’t want you to think about actually riding your bicycle. I want you just to decide that you’re going to do it.
I want you to take one decision, that’s it. Because once you’re on your bicycle you don’t have to win against depression, you simply have to acknowledge that you’re going to ride out of it. Forever. There isn’t any more to it than that. Don’t buy into the hype that deigns to persuade your helpless little ego otherwise. Don’t buy the hype on your SSRIs patient information leaflet, the hype on the walls of the waiting room of your doctor’s surgery, the hype of your 6-session-allotment counsellor, and most persuasive of all, your own hype, all of which deludes you into believing it just isn’t that simple. It is that simple. Depression is a combination of physiological and psychological elements working in tandem, but in my experience as a counsellor behavioural activation such as walking or riding your bike is key to avoiding buying into the hype depression brings with it. Can’t you feel it wants you to fall headlong into it? But you have a choice.
You always have a choice. Even this one decision. Take it or don’t. All I can do is try to persuade you. But it’s your decision. And that decision IS yours. It’s not the depression that decides. It’s you. And while that puts the responsibility on your shoulders (which many folk can’t handle and would rather defer to the condition or the medical interventions) it also means that you’re the one that’s in control. All I can do is try to persuade you. But if you decide not to, does that mean you’re actively choosing depression as your preference?
It isn’t important how long you ride your bicycle for, nor how far. It doesn’t matter how slow you ride or whether you didn’t use enough energy to even break a sweat. For now, we don’t care. If you take this one decision to get up and get out on your road bicycle then I’m riding right with you.
I want you to take this one decision that you ARE going to get up and get on your bicycle and you’re going to ride a tiny loop to the end of your road and come back home.
When it feels as if depression could be lingering in your home for when you return, toss that nonsense out. That’s emotional reasoning. It isn’t rational. Depression isn’t in your home. It’s you! You can’t step in your home after this ride and set your bicycle against the wall look at depression and and point to it and say, “Oh, I’ve just returned to you again. What even was the point!” Each time you ride your road bicycle, you’re riding away from depression. With any major depressive disorder we may have just enough energy for the one thing only. It’s a choice. Everything is a choice. That one thing can be the maintenance of the depression itself. A depressive cycle of thinking can’t just maintain itself, can it? It requires energy. Your energy. Just look at us, what little energy we may have, we permit to be depleted by depression. But that need not be the only choice. There is always a choice. We can choose to use that packet of energy to turn the pedals on our bike. It’s a choice. It’s unlikely there’s enough energy for both can happen, right? To turn the pedals is to take away energy that is currently being depleted by a depressive system. To take away the energy from the depressive system is to leave it incapable of powering itself. Do you follow? Depression seeks to drain the life out of you. Which it is doing. It’s a runaway chain-reaction that can’t stop itself until all the matter is spent. That’s you. But there is always a choice. The choice is in the one decision to get up and get on your bicycle.
I want you to think about riding your bicycle slowly. Like VERY slowly…
… So slowly you can just maintain a balance. You can manage this. It’s a very slow speed. Like one of those slow races they used to have. But it’s fast enough to discharge all the reserves of energy that depression has taken from you and is storing up for when it thinks you’re gonna try to make a move by cover of night and escape its squalid hovel that you’re tenanting. It’s a very slow ride. But you’re the one riding. You don’t need any help. You’re doing this for yourself.
You’re riding your bicycle, one foot follows the other. Slowly around and round. It’s peaceful. It takes no effort on your part. Your breathing is calm, air moves softly into your body and is blown gently out again. You’re the one turning the pedals. Each turn takes away energy from depression and allows you to put a greater and greater distance between you and it. Your heart beats calmly in time.
The sound of the breeze or is it wind, or rain, birds or cars, your tires on the ground, riding your bicycle, one foot follows the other. Nothing is forced. Nothing is being resisted. The blood in your vessels moves at its own pace with no urgency. As do you, riding your bicycle.
Nobody wants anything here. Nobody demands anything from you. And you turn the pedals until they turn themselves. You turn them enough that you can even look up. Where are you? You’ve gone further than the end of the street. You are free to ride where you want. Or you can simply return home. Depression can follow. But it is depleted by the amount that you have cycled. You have deprived it of its energy to function. And you can do that any time you turn your pedals. It takes just one decision. One decision can be made right now. I want you to make that decision.
One decision, everything else will come from that…
Who even am I?
I can’t know your situation, Dear Reader. But do you really believe it matters? Were I to know your situation it’s certain I would feel compassion for you. But that creates the relating-to, and in turn the empathy. And therein lies the hoist that elevates the hype of depression and tries then to validate that hype. Nobody can truly empathise with you. Not truly. In your truest soul you know that. What is of benefit may not be the attempts to normalize your feelings, especially when those feelings are mediated on a vicious cycle of unhelpful and potentially irrational thoughts about you, others and possibly the whole world at large. What is of benefit is any direction to help you find your pathway out of that endless charade that you have been coerced by depression to act along with. I believe that’s what this simple decision is.
My view with regard to this article is informed by four things. Those four things are a). my love of cycling, b). my experiences as a CBT, Person-Centered, and Solution Focused counsellor, c). my practice of Aikido, and d). having, some years ago, been ejected out of the back end of major depressive episodes. I think that matters nothing at all really. Why would it? I mention only in case your ego, your depressed little ego, with its will to keep you entombed according to depression’s dictats, might goad you to inquire of the person who dares to challenge its supremacy within you!
What matters to me is that I care about you, Dear Reader. I think I know that for all the damage depression can do, that the real you inside is intact. I think I know the real you is safe from that depression. But trapped, walled-in to that hovel by that landlord. I know depression can put you in a place so disconnected that it can destroy even your own concept of how much strength and energy you do, in fact have. Depression seeks to dupe you into believing you have none: no energy, no strength, no wherewithal, no hope. But there is always a choice. I want you to make that one decision to get up, to get out and ride your bicycle.
The landlord may have left the hovel door unlocked. All that’s needed is your decision. I know you can take that decision
That decision is a decision to DO, that’s a given, right? If you’ve never any intention; if your depressed little ego has such a hold over you that it won’t let you DO this, then no decision will have ever been taken, right? If you delude yourself to thinking, “oh, I took the decision, I just haven’t gotten up and gotten on my bicycle,” well you know what’ll happen don’t you? You appreciate that your little Depression’s-Minion ego will only chalk that up as ‘A HOPELESS FAIL’. And you know what it’ll do then, right? It will hand you that so-called hopeless fail and persuade you that it totally belongs to you. It will command you to hang the hopeless fail sign around your neck and insist that you use it whenever you self-refer in private or public. So the decision is a decision to DO. And I still want you to take it.
How do I use my road bicycle to ride away from depression?
Had you the will to make this one decision, to get up and get out on your road bicycle that may be an honest question to ask.
I just wouldn’t advocate for overthinking this. Why? Because depression, irrespective of its source, relies on certain thought patterns. As you know, it can suppress any potential attempt you might take to ride out of it. It can seize and capitalize upon every reason you might have for not taking this decision, and it will turn that reason into an excuse. We want to provide no opportunity for that. Depression likewise thrives in an environment of you NOT doing. I want you to DO. It’s very important. And I want therefore to keep this simple. Best way.
I can’t see through your eyes, where are you? Urban? Busy? Or is your location an isolated location? How do you feel about riding there? Does it suit? If not, have you alternatives? Are you within a drive of somewhere with your bicycle tossed in the back of your (or an acquaintance’s) vehicle? It doesn’t have to be somewhere fancy. Doesn’t matter if it’s not a beautiful mountaintop road with fragrant mists. The only criteria is that it has to be somewhere that you CAN ride your bicycle.
Literally whenever suits you. Can you do it now? Why not? When is your absolute very next opportunity to get up and get out on your bicycle? What problems do you foresee? Is it too cold? Wear layers, a cap under your helmet. You ARE wearing a helmet right? Is it too dark? Have you lights? Can you walk your bicycle to a pedestrianized park area? Can you ride in the early hours when there isn’t traffic or people? I mean, there are reasons to prevent you doing. But only if you validate those reasons. In which case, are they reasons or are they just excuses?
The reasons to prevent you can all be surmounted. To stop yourself is an excuse. But you’ve taken the decision, so onto the action. You know you can.
Ride slowly like I said. Very slowly. Any slower and you couldn’t maintain your balance. Slowly slow!
How far and how long are not important. They have no meaning for the success of this task, because it is a task! Why what did you think? If you take this one decision, you have decided to complete a task, to get up, to get out on your bicycle. That is as far as the task extends. Distance, time, duration, speed, effort. None of these matter an iota to the success of this task. I hope that makes sense.
Practice cycling mindfulness
And what is that? For now, it is simply immersing yourself in the immediate riding of your bicycle. Check your body head to toe. How does it feel? Are you cool in the rain? Are you cold in the breeze or warm in the sun? Are you tense? Breathe it out, slowly slow. Are your shoulders relaxed? Just let it go. Have you not cycled in a while? Your sitbones might pinch after a bit. That’s ok, it’ll ease. Focus on adjusting your position on the bicycle until you’re comfortable enough to forget. Listen. What do you hear? Do you hear your breathing? Do you hear city bustle? Rural ambience? Does that come with a certain scent or smell? Is it a pleasant smell or not so much? It’s all good. Is your rear derailleur well adjusted? Can you hear the gentle click of the chain on the cassette? Just listen. And let it all go. Just let everything go. You’re just riding your bicycle. One foot follows the other. Around and round. Cycling slowly, there is only now, yesterday and last year and tomorrow and forever are nothing more than thoughts that you only have in this infinitely moving moment which is itself a thought. But that doesn’t concern us. We’re just here riding our bicycle. And one foot follows the other. Around and round: cycling mindfulness.
Bring your phone in case anyone needs to know where you are; in case you need to let anyone know where you are; in case you need a lift home, whatever. Bring your phone.
Lastly… This is crucial
I’ve tried to explain these ideas a bit more in this video over on the Cycling Questions Youtube channel. But in a nutshell…
- Acknowledge what you’ve just done. What have you done? You’ve just successfully completed your task. You decided to take one decision. You took that decision, you made good on that decision. You succeeded. Is this a major success? Does it matter? The same way that just because you fail doesn’t make you a failure, just because you succeed doesn’t make you a success. But every success, no matter its magnitude shows you your pathway to clarity. And every time you succeed, it’s the clearest demonstration that you are capable of at least one success.
- Congratulate yourself for having completed this task. You set yourself a goal when you took this one decision. Now you have completed this goal successfully, please congratulate yourself in the way you see fit for having achieved this success. Should your little ego try to convince you that you don’t warrant congratulations, please thank it for showing its true colours. It is not in your corner. It does not have your back.
“Never run away from any kind of challenge, but do not try to suppress or control an opponent unnaturally. Let attackers come any way they like and then blend with them. Never chase after opponents. Redirect each attack and get firmly behind it.” ~ Morihei Ueshiba (originator of the way and the art of Aikido).
I see the two Morihei Ueshiba quotations I’ve added here relating to depression in this way. We can, if we’re somehow minded, try to do battle with depression. But how on earth does anyone expect us to fight anything, to do battle with anything when depression has left us with so little emotional and physical energy? In my personal and professional experience, if we can accept that we’re actively, consciously allowing depression itself to take our energy, then by the same token, maybe we can decide for ourselves to redirect that energy into something simple, but freeing: turning the pedals.
I’ve made a quick vid outlining my thoughts on cycling and depression on my Cycling Questions YouTube channel putting an alternative point of view. All to give you further food for thought.
I appreciate you being here. I appreciate you reading. Sincerely and truly, I wish you well.
More soon. Make the decision, ride safe and mindfully,