Getting Back in the Saddle

This is a far, far longer and more heartfelt blog post than is normal, but on the plus side there are some mixed metaphors about fishes and cycling, dramatic stories of near-death experiences, a child falling over and a conga chain of dogs riding bicycles…

fish riding bicycle

Images via Wikimedia Commons: Stout beardfish (brilliant name) and 1990s ladies bicycle, put together by yours truly

What’s that expression about a fish riding a bicycle? Well, if the break-up clichés are true, not only are there plenty more fish in the sea, but apparently at some point you also need to get back in the saddle. In order to find those fish. In the sea. See, that’s where the metaphor gets confusing.

It’s easy to focus on the positives in life when it comes to blogging, maybe because this online world can be whatever we choose it to be. We create our own personas and will be judged only on what we choose to show. I love blogging, and that’s partly because I can be the version of myself online that I want to be all the time. Blogging about interesting or exciting things pick me up when I’m not quite myself in real life. But it’s time for me to be real: life is hard right now. I am struggling with the day to day. I am struggling to see a future where I will be ready to get back in the saddle, let alone be in the kind of state where I could find a new fish. Because I’m not sure I’m a whole fish myself right now.

Ok, am I stretching the metaphor here? I can’t tell. It’s making me feel vaguely Little Mermaid-y.

My break-up happened almost three months ago, but I’ve only really been able to process everything that this means since I actually moved out of our shared flat a couple of weeks ago. And some days the absence of this man I loved so much is almost too huge to bear. When I was younger I suffered from depression for a few years – and despite those being pretty key rites of passage kind of years, that whole stage of my life is a blur; hazy memories of friendships and half-hearted studying and a physically repressed feeling, kind of similar to claustrophobia. When I look back on what I remember from that time now it’s like watching a TV show from underwater. And I have been so scared – and still in fact am – that that feeling would return to me now. So I am working hard (with the support of really lovely friends and family) on keeping myself positive and physically healthy, as well as sharing and communicating, to pull myself out of this. This rare ‘what I am actually feeling right now’ blog post is a part of that.

I am not good at being brave. Which is possibly why this break-up is hitting me so much harder than I had expected, and so much harder than other break-ups over the years. Because in this relationship I had been brave, and totally let go. I was entirely convinced that this was ‘the one’. And now with the wise old eyes of hindsight I can see that the relationship was far from perfect, and I was not entirely myself while I was in it. But at the time I was totally trusting in it. I was this girl:

So, to return to the metaphor… almost two years ago I had a bike accident. I was mountain biking with a couple of guy friends at the bike trails at Glentress Forest in the Scottish Borders. Being a not particularly brave person, I took the rear in the exciting down-y slopes so that I could take a moment to sum up the courage for each big drop and retain some vague feeling of control, which actually helped me let go of being scared and just enjoy it. After a while I got into the swing of it. And then, as we flew down quite a steep gravel track running between the woodland trails, a stranger in front of us braked suddenly. My friend Mike went into the back of him, and flatmate Chris crashed into him. I remember seeing this pile-up of bikes and cyclists and thinking I had to brake. And that’s the last thing I remember.

For the next half hour, I had goldfish brain – I would ask Chris why we were in the forest, why there were other people’s clothes laid on me, who was this stranger sitting next to me, and then about 40 seconds later I would ask him the same questions again. Gradually I began remembering the answers  he was telling me – we had been mountain biking, we had had an accident, I had hit my head pretty hard, I was in shock and had become very cold, this was a park ranger, paramedics were coming… My bike helmet, split up one side, was in my lap. Eventually an ambulance came and asked me where I lived (no idea), who the Prime Minister was (Nick Clegg? – haha, clearly even head-injury Debbie couldn’t stomach the idea of a Tory Britain) and gave me some gas and air. I was kept in overnight for observation and released (still in my bloody mountain-biking clothes) 24 hours later to return to the flat which I now remembered clearly. It took me a couple of weeks, but I recovered. I got to keep my cracked helmet and my discharge papers have ‘amnesia’ written on them, which makes me feel pretty soap opera-y.

scraped up bicycle helmet

But, here’s the thing: while the tale eventually had a happy ending, I haven’t cycled since. I was never a particularly frequently cyclist, and I hate trying to cycle in a country covered in hills, but I actually enjoyed riding a bike. I used to au pair in Italy and an afternoon cycle became my absolute favourite thing. Even though this wasn’t my first near-death cycling experience! A 19 year-old Debbie once took a seriously wrong turn cycling along a busy Italian road and I found myself riding an old fixed-gear granny bike with a basket and no lights through a major Italian galleria (a tunnel through a mountain) without road lights, pavement or hard shoulder. I had to cycle for about fifteen minutes as cars honked at me while zooming past , and I honestly believed I would die. The expression “light at the end of the tunnel” has never been more appropriate than when I finally rounded a corner, saw daylight, and realised that I was going to make it.

So, following my second near-death cycling experience,  this lack of bravery has now stopped me from getting back in the bicycle saddle. But I desperately don’t want it to stop me getting back out there socially, to be confident with new people and one day find a new fish. I’m not exactly searching for one yet, but in true rebound fashion, I am instantly developing major crushes on any eligible bachelor I speak to. But I find myself nervous and awkward. I went out this weekend and our small group of normally-dressed females in skirts or jeans and regular colour skin was surprisingly popular in a club full of teeny tiny dresses, push up bras and orange faces. So I talked to a few men. And I either mocked their outfit choices (drunken Debbie is MEAN!) or made incredibly awkward self-depreciating jokes. I think I need some practise here.

I don’t believe that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. (see, I remembered it eventually). Because I know how amazing it feels to be with someone that you consider a partner. I guess I have to keep that in mind when I think about the future. But right now I need to focus on being a whole me… a whole fish. And stop falling in love with strangers. And maybe start cycling again? After all, if these dogs can do it, what possible excuse can I have?

So after all that, I think what I am saying is: I’m going to be brave, I’m going to persevere, and the bicycle is there, so when I am ready I will get back on it.

And also: always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. Seriously.

  1. emmaed said:

    What a brave, honest post! Your blogs are great – well written and funny.
    I spose the only thing that occurred to me reading your post is that it is the lows that you are going through now that make the highs so much sweeter.
    I too have had a bit of an epically nasty period in my life (bereavement, depression of partner, his loss of job, financial worries, losing the man I knew and loved for a while, quite a long while actually) just recently and hoping it is ending. The thing that helped me through was yes, having a cry in the car sometimes, but mostly, surprisingly, denial was very effective. Refusing to face what I didn’t feel strong enough to face until such time as I did feel strong enough – or the time when whatever the worry resolved itself on its own – was liberating. Read about it on a bereavement website about how to talk to people with terminal diagnosis and how sometimes some people prefer denial and really, why not? They don’t want to dwell on how crap their life is and why should they be forced to, what good does it do?
    Anyway for a compulsive worrier and neurotic I found this great advice!
    Love your blog!

    • Hi Em,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment, and sharing a little of your own story. It sounds as though you’ve been up against a lot, so it’s great to hear you’ve come through it and can see that an end is hopefully in sight. I really hope things take a turn for the better for you and your partner. I can imagine how hard it’s been for the both of you while he’s not been working, and know how much a job loss can affect someone’s confidence and sense of self. Hopefully you can see your own light at the end of the tunnel!

      I haven’t heard of people embracing denial in this way before – while I’ve definitely been through that part of the process a few times during difficult periods of my life, I’ve always thought of it as being unhealthy for the soul in the long-term. I am quite bad at ignoring something I don’t like in the hopes it’ll go away, (particularly if it’s an unpleasant task I have to do!) and that often merely exacerbates the problem. I can definitely appreciate your thought that denial may help you to hold off facing the problem until you feel stronger again though – I suppose in a way I was doing that while still living in the same flat as my ex (through circumstance, rather than choice). It was too easy to forget that it was all over while we were still cohabitating, and sometimes it was easier to cope when I didn’t remind myself of the reality.

      I think there does come a time where denial doesn’t make things better though – right now for me, I don’t want to be the emotional wreck that I have been in the last few months, and the only way not to be is to move on and take action to change things myself. Sometimes it’s totally exhausting, emotionally and physically, but I do want to focus on rebuilding myself, and each day I’m feeling more in control of my own life. Still a way to go towards that though! I hope your circumstances put you in a positive position soon where you can put the difficulties behind you too (as well as the compulsive worrying!).

      Sharing definitely helps too – I am SO grateful that I can unload all this here and nobody comments “Ugh, shut up, move on, get over yourself” (bring on the trolls!). Do you blog yourself?
      Debbie x

  2. Hi Debbie,
    break-ups suck but you sound like a brave one after all, so I really think you should get back on that bike! Sometimes I wish to get a treatment like in the movie “eternal sunshine of the spotless mind” to erase those memories. You have tried real amnesia, so you will know what I can only guess: it was probably not so much fun. I really think that what we have to go through makes us stronger (yes, one of those sayings like the one with the fish in the sea, yadiyada) but I also think that we should not have to work it all out on ourselves. Make sure to use your friends, family and total strangers to set things into perspective for you some times!
    You should come to Copenhagen for your first ride on a bike after the long break, no hills anywhere to be seen here! Love the fish bike!
    All the best Kristina

    • Haha that Eternal Sunshine treatment might be better than amnesia! I like your thinking. Copenhagen sounds like a good place to cycle – somewhere flat is definitely required. With lots of dedicated cycle lanes and no tunnels! 🙂
      Thanks for your comment Kristina x

  3. Felica said:

    That’s why; dieting hungry all the time is not going to start exercising until I hit 220lb. Instead of a frozen dinner, heat up the whole thing in the world as a great product for weight loss VERY clear. The food you eat can prevent this from happening.

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