Friday, January 23, 2015

bicycling and depression: an update

Some time back I talked about menopause. Specifically, about bicycling and how it can help manage some symptoms of peri-menopause.

Since then, it has become clear to me that my mood swings are more than simply peri-menopause. In fact, the peri-menopause is connected to an onset of chemically-based clinical depression, diagnosed by my doctor and now being treated with counseling, medication and acupuncture.

It has been a very hard road.

As near as I and my doctor can tell it came on around the same time as my career change; peri-menopausal symptoms showed up about six months later. So in a way, they're all connected. Still, we often struggle without knowing that we're actually struggling, and it has been a very difficult time for me. During the last two and a half years I've walked away from one job, lost another, and since then have struggled to build a career for myself in a field where I don't have the deepest roots. Throughout this time, I've stubbornly remained in bike-friendly Portland, Oregon. My Sweetie and I continue to live in our little fixer-upper house, and when i have work in town I try to get there by bicycle. Even when I don't have work in town -- which is more often these days -- I try to go out for a bike ride each day if I can. Even though depression has left me feeling sometimes unbelievably exhausted, even though my psyche and body want to crawl back into bed and stay there, I try to go for a ride. Even if I end up tossing my bike on the bus part of the way -- and this happens more often than not these days -- I still try to ride at least a little.

Riding my bicycle is the one physical activity I can still do without fail. And even though it won't help me lose weight or bear weight or whatever it is the experts tell me I ought to be doing with my body, riding my bicycle is the one thing that still helps me to clear my head and stay closer to sane.

Every doctor out there will tell you that physical activity elevates endorphins, and that regular physical activity can be a helpful component of treating depression. I can tell you it's true. The endorphins may not last more than twenty minutes after I stop riding, and my mood can still plummet by the time I've hung up my bike, but I am still better off for having ridden my bicycle on any given day.

And so, while my moods continue to flail wildly (at least, hopefully, until the meds start to really kick in) and my weepiness returns again and again, while I'm in the throes of a depression I may have to live with the rest of my life, I will ride my bicycle and hope that tomorrow might be a little bit better.
All I can do is keep pedaling, at any speed and any distance.

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