The past 6 months has been very difficult in so many different ways. But emotionally it’s been a dumpster fire. Being physically ill was hard. But I’ve never lost hope that I would recover – eventually. Yes, I’ve had tough days when I questioned if it would ever end. But I kept going. I knew I could make it. Maybe it was magical thinking. Yet it’s the emotional side now that has had me really struggling. But how to solve it. I didn’t really know.
I am a problem solver by nature. I don’t like to remain planted in indecision or to allow inertia to set in. Forward is better than back. Its how I’ve lived my entire life. But what do you do when forward isn’t arriving? When you take one step forward only to find you didn’t really take a step at all? Jeff knows me better than anyone. He’s watched me take on a ‘fake it til you make it’ and we’ve both seen how that’s worked out. He’s gotten angry with me for pushing things. ‘Rest. It’s not a crime.’
But I couldn’t allow myself to lay in bed or on the couch on a day when I felt even slightly better. But I could feel myself losing strength in every area. And I didn’t like losing strength because it felt like I was losing myself. But I couldn’t keep up with any kind of pace. And it felt like the more my body seemed to slip, my emotions did too. Have I been depressed? I think so. Have I tried to pull myself out of it? Constantly, like a salmon swimming up stream. The more I struggled against the current, the worse it got. Until one day, sitting at the house in Portugal after we determined we would not go through with the sale, I just sat down and cried buckets. And finally I said to Jeff ‘I’m struggling’. And he said ‘I know. I’ve known it for a long time. But now you’re ready to admit it.’
It’s funny. Just saying the words was like the million pound elephant that has been sitting on my chest decided to move to other lodgings. And I took the first deep breath in a long, long time. But what to do now? We came back to Valencia and one of the first friends who reached out to get together is a friend of mine from the UK who is a therapist. She also does mindfulness training and was the one who initiated the abundance meditation group we all did before I really went downhill with Covid at the beginning of April. She had finally returned to Valencia in August after being stuck in Newcastle in the North of England. Sometimes the universe sends in the angels. There are very few fully fluent English speaking counselors in Valencia. Spanish National Health, and even my private insurance, had no one. But she referred me to someone in the UK who will be happy to see me over Zoom. She can’t be my therapist because she’s my friend. Check.
And I decided that I needed to start – very slowly – trying to get back inside my body. A body, I now realize, I’ve been afraid of for more than 6 months. I did purchase all that gym equipment last Spring. So I got out my yoga mat. And I also decided that I needed some physical goals. I find when I’m challenging myself physically – however small – I feel better. My brain goes to a happier place. But how do you do that inside an apartment in the middle of a pandemic?
So I sat down and mapped out some rides. I would challenge myself to complete specific trails on the stationary bike that I’ve been on before. No matter where they are in the world, I can imagine them. Places I remember well on days of sunny weather and cool breezes. Shady rides where there was no hurry. And if it took me all day I would happily take all day to complete them. So I’ve been doing one every day. The first day was just a few kilometers. And it wasn’t easy. I did a few more the next day. Then I increased it the next. Each day I try to do a bit more than the day before. Last night, I rode 20 km. At about 10 km I got off and got a glass of water and sat down for a few minutes. Jeff came in.
‘What are you doing?’ he asked.
‘I’m drinking water in a cafe.’ I told him. ‘Look at the sky. It’s beautiful here.’
‘Where are you headed?’
‘I have a bit more to go. 10 km. Come back and meet me in Pamplona.’
He smiled. ‘Ok. Keep going. You can do it.’ Then he went back into his office.
Its funny how you can trick your brain into something. You can make a decision, start small, and your mind – through some wizardry – is so hungry to feel better it decides to go along for the ride. And I’m lucky. Jeff has decided to go along, too. And it’s working. A little more each day. And at the end of my ride last night, Jeff did indeed meet me in Pamplona. Because of course he did. My biggest cheerleader never lets me down.
These rides are helping me feel strong again. Giving me hope that there is a light at the end of this tunnel. This long dark tunnel that, by hook or by crook, I will ride myself out of and into the light. I just have to keep going.