My body is currently a mass of bruises and gashes, scratches and scrapes. So much so that, on a routine visit to my GP, she delicately enquired whether “everything was all right at home?”
In between stifled laughter, I cheerfully explained to her that the harm was entirely, and happily self-inflicted. And it is. But how life has changed in just one year and how I’m grateful for that pain.
I recently went for a day excursion to Exmoor with some MTB friends. The 20 miles or so we covered did absolutely no justice to the bloody massive hills we climbed that day. Six+ hours of cycling and over 4000 feet of climbing up tracks at an angle of some 45 degrees (or less).
It was the kind of day that involved the gritting of teeth and the pushing of bikes as well as buckets of curmudgeonliness to the world in general after climbing for hours through deep mud and thick brambles.
Near comatose in the bus on the way home though, reflecting on the ups and downs of the day, I found myself stupidly, ecstatically grateful to feel so beaten and knackered. Why?
Exactly one year ago my life was looking very different. An insidious, recurring illness had left me house-bound for months. Dealing with this second, frustrating, demoralizing episode the following is an excerpt from my personal diary at the time.
This is nowhere near tired or weary, it’s beyond even exhausted. I could no more make my body move than I could make it fly. Going the few feet to the bathroom feels akin to an Everest expedition, climbing stairs, a ludicrous challenge.
Everything hurts, light and noise are excruciating, my eyes throb, sounds are like a hammer blows smashing down on my skull. Skin feels raw, sheets and clothes chafe like sandpaper whilst my body temperature swings from uncontrollable shaking and chills to feverish, sweat drenched.
Today for example, the ability to move from the bed, to change positions from lying to sitting is just impossible. It will take far more energy and ability than I possess. As impossible as a marathon? Did I really run one of those once. Did I really go running at all, cycle, go for walks, function like a human without thinking about it?
And now, today is the same as yesterday, the same as the day before, almost certainly the same as tomorrow…
It’s not something I ever thought I’d publish, but, one year on, it’s a joy to be able to look back from a much happier place along the road of recovery. It’s been a journey, but one of hope and, looking back now, the ability to see how far things have come in just one year is magical.
Now, not a day goes past when I don’t feel entirely thankful to be aching all over, but this time it’s because of a long bike ride, or a run or a night out.
That indescribable feeling of being able to cycle again, being able to bounce out of bed each and every morning and be active, to work, to visit friends, to swim in the sea, to go running and enjoy life. Knowing I can get up again the next day and do it all over again is priceless beyond measure.
So today’s post, for me is a small, very personal celebration. One year on, recovery has been a journey in so many ways. One which I could never have made alone and haven’t had to thanks to wonderful friends and family. I’ve also made and cemented friendships which have carried me through the bad times and blossomed beyond. I’ve an utter respect and empathy for the impact of illness and injury and a total admiration for those who overcome so much more than I to achieve amazing feats everyday.
Healing has also come through wiriting, by resurrecting my old travel blog on WordPress, through the joy of words I’ve connected with people from across the globe, a community who are just as passionate about life and about bicycles. I’ve learned the art (tenuously) of cycle maintenance, I’ve started a community cycle scheme, I’ve bullied, cajoled and badgered friends, family and perfect strangers on to bicycles. Best of all I’ve discovered the joy, mud and madness of mountain biking and for now, that’s why I’m entirely happy to be bruised and battered because it means that I’m living – every day. Health is precious gift and one that I will never take for granted.
And to prove it I’m off to France next week to cycle up and down mountains, beacuse I can! More about that to follow of course!
Thanks Martine for the lovely photos and even lovlier first aid!