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Updated: Jul 5, 2019

Rather than hyping myself up before the start of the Tour of Japan, I needed to calm myself down.

Anxiety has been fairly consistently up lately, so before the prologue, whilst everyone around me was pumping tunes through their headphones, I was doing a guided meditation. Getting anxiety down.

Our mechanic commented afterwards on how focused I looked, “ha!” My thoughts were 1000 bouncing balls simultaneously flinging themselves from side to side across my brain!

However, the meditation helped enough that before hitting the trainer for my warm-up, I threw down a caffeinated shot and put some pumping tunes on, to hype me back up.

Yes! The thought did cross my mind – “caffeine and serious anxiety. This could end badly.”

I finished the prologue and went straight to hitting another meditation session. At first, it was all good. But 15 mins in, I lost all focus. I put down my headphones thinking “not today, but that’s OK” (even amongst the stress, I had a smile thinking about my impressive rhyming skills). I tried to distract myself by grabbing a banana and a chocolate milk. I half peeled one corner of my banana before the realisation hit.

“F$#k, I’m having a panic attack!”

My heart pounded, my chest tightened, my vision blurred, I thought “I want to sit down, no, I want to run. No. Oh, damn it! I don’t know what I want!”

I made a b-line for some trees not far away. I lent against one for a second, before thinking “na, this is no good”, so for some reason decided to squat down. Then I thought “na, this is no good either.”

I was too far gone to move again, I had to ride out the attack squatting under a tree (at least this seems fitting for Asia).

My milk and quarter peeled banana hit the ground. I looked at my hands, they were shaking, then shaking more. I couldn’t have held the banana even if I wanted to. I was a bit pissed about that, I was hungry and could have done with a banana.

Shit! I’ve just realised that the clearest thought I had during the panic attack was – “I could do with eating that banana.”

The point is – part of me doesn’t want to face the next 7 days, part of me wants to get on a plane and go home. But – another part of me says, “Bring it on!!”

I’m not going to learn how to manage this better by sitting on a couch.

Not going well mentally is exactly what I need (I feel half crazy saying this). It gives me a chance to see if I can accept it and adapt on the go.

Racing when I’m mentally well is definitely more enjoyable, but, this is why I race, to learn to manage better and better. That can’t happen unless you face it when shit is raging as well.

Cycling is all about learning to relax when everything about your environment is telling you to be on edge. It’s also about firing yourself up at necessary moments (and knowing which is which). It’s dynamic, not static (a little like our brains).

On my good days, I can be bloody good at utilising skills I’ve learnt in managing my focus. On bad days, well, I’m constantly getting better.

Mental health issues are not death sentences – they are opportunities. Not opportunities you would choose, but, opportunities none the less, to understand yourself and the world a little better.

You don’t have to have it sorted today, you just need some tiny part of you, even when everything is screaming at you to run, to say “bring it on!”


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