Christmas Thank You’s
July, August, September… where does time go? … December.
Almost exactly six months ago I crossed the line of a half distance triathlon in Northern France. It was to be my last race of 2017. Having clearly been a little too enthusiastic with training and racing during the first half of the year, I joined the ranks of injured triathletes and told myself that positive thinking and a stiff upper lip would get me through.
My 2017 highlights so far – Challenge Wanaka (seriously, if you’re looking for a bucket list race, I cannot recommend it enough), Cannes triathlon and Deauville – were motivation to keep believing all would come right.
Challenge Wanaka – bike leg
Yet as I went from doctor to physio and back again, as my bike gathered dust and my foot continued to ache, frustration and doubt crept it. My mood went up, it went down, it swung and it swooped. The doctors frowned, autumn stole the sun and my friends wondered where the hell I’d disappeared to.
I don’t want to be melodramatic, it’s Christmas after all. But I’m not going to lie, it was a tough time. I suspect as much for those around me as much as for myself.
A lot of elite sportspeople and influential personalities have talked about depression. I never really wanted to be so vocal, because essentially it’s a self-indulgent, first-world problem: you want -> you can’t -> you get upset. Even though you can do nothing about it.
I wasn’t fighting daily to find food or fleeing a war-torn country yet I could see no sense or future in my existence. There is unbearable shame and guilt in feeling like nothing is worth it, when in fact you seem to have everything. So you beat yourself up, and silence reigns. The reason I am breaking that now is because I would like to thank all the people who were there for me when it really mattered, when all my brain could think about was which was the easiest way out. When all I wanted was to run and race and blog about falling off my mountain bike, yet couldn’t even summon the energy to leave the house.
The expression “to hit rock bottom” is lost on me. Firstly it suggests an uncontrolled vertical movement, and secondly a physical surface which will stop that fall. Yet my world of depression never had bottoms or walls or any kind of finite definition, and I was certainly never moving. I was panic-stricken, paralysed like a helpless deer caught in headlights as life continued to act out all around me.
Rather than a pit, my universe was an immeasurable void; a blackness which slowly suffocates the light and engulfs you; an echoing, mocking laugh as you helplessly try and keep sight of whatever tethers you to reality – until the darkness finally forces you to curl up in defeat and in a strange way, welcome the numbness of your senses. The outside world is barely a haze in the distance.
Detached from reality
I was very lucky to have an incredible family and a few close friends who stuck with me through the worst of it and helped bring me back to myself. Slowly the black turned to grey, shadows and outlines appeared, things started to take shape again. As light gradually dawned, paths appeared and I consciously began to move around again in the physical world.
When your sister puts her own life on hold to come and drag your out of your misery
I lost myself for a short while but I am back on track, back in training and looking forward to racing again sometime in 2018. My foot has reacted to the return of positive energies in the magical way the body can. I am endlessly grateful for what I have, the life I am privileged to lead, the shoulders I know I can lean on.
Christmas is so often about unnecessarily expensive presents, yet stop for a second and you realise gifts come every day of the year, in so many shapes and forms. Mum & Dad, Kirstin, Kath, Guilhem, Denis, Maurice… you gave me all I will ever need.
To all those of you out there struggling through rough patches, it’s OK to accept it, to admit to it, to reach out and hold on to others until things get brighter. Because they will.
Every day is a new opportunity
Last but not least, a massive thank you to my sponsors Skinfit, Keforma Switzerland, Bike’N Joy, Asterion Wheels, Saucony Switzerland, Visilab Montreux, Bliz Eyewear for sticking by me, and to all of you who made me smile over the last six months.
I realise as I finish typing that this is far from the joyous Christmas blog I actually set out to write. My sincerest apologies for the heaviness and total lack of humour, I guess I just wanted to say look around, enjoy the small things in life and appreciate the people around you!
Honestly, it’s worth it
Here’s wishing you a very Merry Christmas and all the best for 2018! See you out there!