Cycling as Therapy
A well known member, who wishes to remain anonymous, has written this interesting blog
I apologies from the outset, but this probably isn’t very interesting and certainly not amusing, but if it helps raise awareness, then job done. Some of you may be able to work out who I am, please be discreet, but I am happy to discuss and even offer help/suggestions for anyone else.
Like most people I cycle for many reasons, my main ones are;
- Personal challenge
- Social interactions
- Therapy for my Agoraphobia
Yes, I appreciate the last two are counter intuitive, but nonetheless, I need to work on both! I’m only going to deal with Agoraphobia here.
Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder, commonly mistaken for fear of open spaces, but Agoraphobia is a condition where sufferers become anxious in unfamiliar environments or where they perceive that they have little control. Triggers for this anxiety may include wide-open spaces, crowds (social anxiety), or traveling (even short distances). Agoraphobia is often, but not always, compounded by a fear of social embarrassment, as the agoraphobic fears the onset of a panic attack and appearing distraught or ill in public.
I’ve had this now for many years where in the early days I could barely leave the house, but I have gradually developed plenty of coping techniques, generally fairly successful which allow me to continue with most of my daily activities, working life and now allows me to ride my bike, even with other people.
My particular attacks come in many forms from very mild to quite worrying; palpitations, rapid heartbeat, sweating, trembling, nausea, dizziness, tightness in the throat, shortness of breath and blurred vision. Admittedly it would be difficult to distinguish these from the normal effects of riding for most people, but as a sufferer I certainly know the difference.
I rarely have attacks when I am out riding my bike on my own, but often do with club rides or even the thought of a club ride or social gatherings. Hopefully most of the time nobody even knows I am having an attack, but that’s the “beauty” of mental disorders.
How do I manage my attacks? I may drift to the back, I may go quiet, I may put a spurt on, I may appear to zone out, but eventually I get it under control.
Riding itself is an exposure therapy for me where I deliberately put myself into situations likely to cause an attack where I then use various techniques to bring it under control. Relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques on a bike? Strange but it’s possible! I also use misdirection techniques where I concentrate on a part of the body that isn’t involved in the attack, often deliberately cramping and relaxing my toes which takes my mind off of the real symptoms, but is quite a challenge whilst pedalling. Or Just simply wait and hope it passes.
Why have I written this? Awareness, Awareness, Awareness. Everyone has a personal story they are dealing with and I don’t want you to treat me any differently as a result of mine, but the more people that are aware of this and how people feel and cope, the easier it may become for us sufferers in the future.
If you made it this far, I thank you. See you on the road….