Back in the Saddle

By Karen Edwards

I have already shared a little about my Postnatal Depression but it occurred to me that there was a point last year where I felt as though the cloud had lifted. This realisation has inspired me to share a different aspect of my own mental health battles, in particular taking control and climbing out of the darkness that had been my depression.

Prior to becoming a mother I had been a keen motorcyclist. Unfortunately a horrendous road trip resulted in me losing my confidence and the subsequent pregnancy and PND meant that I hadn’t ridden in four years. The depression had left me feeling numb and unable to enjoy all the things that had previously brought joy and excitement to my life. I was existing in a zombie-like state, unable to feel anything but exhausted, struggling from one day to the next. As I gradually started to feel better with the antidepressants and the CBT, I did more of the things that I used to do. I felt less guilty about going out without my baby and actually enjoyed the activities that I so used to love doing in my spare time. It felt as though I was waking up and starting to live again.

I soon realised though that I had to make a decision about one of my hobbies that had gone by the wayside. The motorbike had been sat in the garage hardly used for four years and my husband would ask if I was ever going to ride again. I wanted to but I really hadn’t enjoyed the brief trip out that we had taken and felt really guilty that something we had loved doing together now held little pleasure for me. I thought long and hard and realised that if I was going to ‘get back in the saddle’ it was something that I had to do on my own, that, as well-intentioned as my husband was, he couldn’t help me.

So I took the plunge and found a motorcycle school that did refresher courses on a one-to-one basis, tailored to the needs of the student. It was the best thing that I could have done. They really built up my confidence and I actually enjoyed being on the bike again. I did, however, face some challenges with getting on my own bike. I realised that I had been making excuses for not going out, like my gear didn’t fit properly, or I couldn’t get the bike out of the garage on my own. It had been the depression talking; telling me I couldn’t do it so I was never going to.

One morning, my little one was at nursery and I had no other plans. It was a bright sunny day, perfect biking weather, and I told myself I should get the bike out. It took me an hour of manoeuvring backwards and forwards centimetres at a time, but I did it. I had overcome the biggest hurdle; getting the bike out of the garage. I didn’t have time to ride far but the following week I did go out on my own. It was one of the most liberating experiences I have ever had. A lesson in mindfulness, because you have to totally focus on the feel of the bike, reading the road and concentrating on the task in hand. I got back and saw someone I hadn’t seen for a few weeks and their words to me were: “You are positively glowing, you look so happy!” That was exactly how I felt: happy, exhilarated, for the first time in months. It may have been down to the adrenaline but it didn’t matter – I felt alive!

Unfortunately, life events led to a small relapse in the depression, but it was a defining moment in my recovery. Since that day I have taken control, lost three stone in weight, rediscovered my love of swimming (another fantastic form of therapy!) and I go out on the bike at every opportunity. It has given me the courage to tackle some very difficult issues in my life and also get back to work. I feel like I am me again.

Sometimes taking the smallest steps can have the biggest impact.

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