On a bike, chains don’t hold me down, they set me free. Free from my stresses, free from my worries, free from the pressures of everyday life. On my bike I just have myself and the outdoors and the constant rush of endorphins.
If I wake up in the morning, and I am depressed, it is a worse feeling than I can possibly describe. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I open my eyes with my fingers shaking, a dreadful pulling of my gut, and the thought that my life and who I am is meaningless. My mind tells me to get back to sleep, that life isn’t worth living, and to just waste away. With every fiber of my being I force myself to get up, I force myself to put on my gear, I force myself to put on my headphones, and I force myself to get on my fucking bike.
The first hill is always the hardest.
My mind tells me that I should just go home and smoke some pot and eat a shitty meal. My mind tells me that it would be so much easier to just lay in my bed. Something inside of me keeps me going. Something inside of me lets me know that this pain is worth it, that once I get through this hill it will all be better. I keep on pedaling. Now I start coughing and choking. That’s the cigarettes I smoke, the poison I use to heal my mind. Biking reminds me how silly that is, how fucking stupid it is that I need these horrible cancer causing sticks to get through the day. I continue coughing, enough that tears now stream down my face and I can barely breathe. I am wheezing now.
But I keep on pedaling.
As I continue, I think of the horrible heartaches that I have been through. I think of the abuse I suffered as a child, the horrible upbringing which affects me so deeply, straight to my core. I wonder if I will ever be able to shake the pain that has been rooted into me as a child. I think of how I was thrown into a closet by my hair and beaten—told to sit there for the rest of the day, forced to urinate in my trash-bin because I was too afraid to leave my room to use the washroom. I think about crying until I couldn’t cry anymore. I think about making up imaginary friends, not to play with, but to have someone to talk to as I sit in a corner, beaten and bruised.
But I keep on pedaling.
I think of the relationships I have ruined in my adult life. I was lucky to be with a wonderful girl who loved me. I opened up to her and she to me, and we fell in love. For those of you that know abuse and depression, it comes back, and when it’s gone for a while and you don’t keep a check on it, it comes back in full force.
The relationship ended in shambles.
I decided to buy a bike.
I hadn’t ridden a bike at this point for over a decade, and even then, the last bike I rode was a kids bike from WalMart. For some reason, something inside of me told me to do this. I was so depressed I could barely pick up my phone to answer the ad. But I did. I was so depressed I could barely get up and drive to the address, and I was just about to say “fuck it.”
But I didn’t.
The bike was a 1970’s BRC, hi-tensile 10 speed. Heavy as all hell, just like I was at this point. I paid $25 for it, I had no idea what to make of it, I just knew I wanted to get it running. The lady I bought it from said she got a bunch of responses for the bike, but selling it to me felt right. I ended up enlisting the help of a friend who helped me take the whole thing apart. I degreased every single part. I took steel wool and made sure every surface of every part, no matter how small, was cleaned up. It was therapeutic. All these years of thinking all I do is ruin things, and now I am bringing something back to life. I had no idea what the parts were named, and my friend put all of it together, but by the end of it, I had a bike.
It was my bike.
And I rode the fuck out of that bike. I rode it through the breakup. Through my grandfather’s death. Through my family disowning me. Through the pain and misery. Don’t get me wrong—I was an out of shape two-pack-a-day smoker. Riding was tough. I fell constantly.
But I kept on pedaling.
And I never stopped.
I still have all of my issues, but one thing has changed. I now have something more substantial than anti-depressants, more substantial than cigarettes or booze, I have the physical pain of a bike. And though going up that hill is fucking shitty, and I hate every minute of it, I know there’s a peak. And when I reach that peak, when I finally get on top, I conquered everything.
I look down and see another hill.
I put my foot on my pedal, and with the momentum of the hill I just conquered, I make my way to a new peak, and the possibility of another moment of clarity, another moment of peace, another moment of self-empowerment, and that beautiful feeling that you get when you’ve pushed your body to its limits and won.
Sorry if that was long, just needed to get it out of my chest.
The 5 percent solution for depression. “Moderate exercise not only treats, but prevents depression: This is the first longitudinal review to focus exclusively on the role that exercise plays in maintaining good mental health and preventing the onset of depression later in life”