I came across Lou on Twitter about a year ago and liked her immediately. Very witty, sweet, and evidently adoring cycling. I also spotted that she rides in the area that my wife is from, the Trough of Bowland . Lou set up a lovely, heartfelt blog called Patisserie Cyclisme, providing a fun resource for lovers of CAKE! The most vital of cycling pit-stops.
Here she talks very bravely and funnily about how cycling has helped her with depression. Her writing is deeply affecting and inspiring.
Depression is a disease that has altered my family. I am lucky enough not to have suffered from it, and I hope never, but I have seen its effects in all their horror. None of us are immune. On a far tinnier scale, I can relate because I find cycling a great escape from the worries and stress of life. The movement and effort is ‘cleansing’.
You can find Lou blogging further on Patisserie Cyclisme Here. She is also on Twitter at @Patisserie_cc
If you have a cakey bakey cafe review you’d like to send in, it’ll appear on the site! Go on go on go on.
She gets married in 5 weeks. All the best Louise McCake!
A while back Nick asked me to write a guest blog, the subject of which could really be anything of my choosing as long as it was cycling related. The thing is, the subject of cycling is somewhat overwhelming for me, emotionally.
I’ve ridden bikes since I was little, to have fun on and to get around on. My cycling ‘career’ didn’t really get off to a great start, the minute my stabilisers came off I rode straight into a lamp post.
I also had a thing for trying to ride down the steps of Blackpool prom on my racing bike, and crashed many times. The best crash by far though was the day I came off my bike as a result of being startled by the Red Arrows flying low, knocked myself out and awoke to see a hearse and two funeral directors had stopped to help me. Surreal.
Cycling not only gave me freedom to ride to see friends, it also gave me the chance to escape from everything. I adored riding as fast as I could along the promenade, for miles in the invigorating sea air. As I grew up the bike was still a means of transport for me, until I started mountain biking. Me and off-road never really got along that well. I preferred the sense of speed and going as fast as I could, rather than tackling tricky descents and relying on skill.
After a brief distraction (around 5 years) of playing at fighting (I did Muay Thai and Mixed Martial Arts) I happened to fall back into cycling, but this time on the road. My Fiance got a job in a bike shop and that’s when I rediscovered my passion for riding bikes as fast as my legs and lungs would allow me.
Louise Heads Towards Further Patisserie, Somewhere in Lancashire.
I began a battle with serious depression last year and had a lot of time to think about what made me tick, what I loved and what could help me to get better. The answer was cycling.
On the darkest days of the winter I would get wrapped up, get the winter bike out and pedal. Sometimes I would end up by the side of the road in tears, while others I would be riding along grinning manically, briefly forgetting the torment my brain was putting me through. I managed to stop at the occasional cafÃƒÂ© and have a coffee and some cake, and these rides were what kept me going.
No matter what the weather I would get wrapped up and ride, even if it were only for an hour. I battled with my demons while I was out on the road and I never failed to give myself a hard time, although sometimes there would be respite when the brain couldn’t think about anything other than getting me up to the top of a climb.
As the winter dragged on I started to think about what I could do when the spring came and I signed up to try racing. With hindsight this was a premature decision as it turned out I was in no way ready, neither physically nor mentally.
I did achieve things though, winning women’s races in several time trials and getting stronger and faster. By mid season though I had cracked and realised it really wasn’t the right time to be putting this pressure on myself. I had also started a website dedicated to cycling cafes and it had really taken off, I was getting fantastic support and it was good to be focussing on something positive again.
What is it about cycling?…
What is it that makes us go out in all weathers and pit ourselves against our own demons and the hills that seem to go on forever?
What is it about riding a bike that seems to both help and create anguish at the same time?
What is it that attracts those of us with mental health problems?
Is it the sense of escape, the feeling of exhausting yourself so you forget about everything else?
I think so, or the feeling of being at peace, of simply concentrating on each rotation of the pedal, being completely involved in the activity, the complete feeling of mindfulness on the bike.
To me, it is also the camaraderie, of sharing the joy and the pain, the experience after the ride in the cafÃƒÂ© with the cake and the piping hot coffee. Of sitting outside in the glorious sun after a long meandering ride, or inside a nice warm cafÃƒÂ© after hours out in the freezing cold and rain, hands round a steaming hot mug and the sugar injection that warms our hearts.
This is the very core of what Patisserie Cyclisme is about. It is about cycling helping me to escape, to battle with my demons and to share experiences with fellow cyclists. Its something that made me want to carry on, something that helped me realise I wasn’t a failure and that there was a future beyond depression. It also made me realise that there are people out there who want to help and be involved, to share their love of and passion for cycling.
Cake, Tea, Coffee & Water Bottles. The Archetypal Cyclist’s Rest.
As well as spreading the word about great cycling cafes, I want to share the fact that depression and mental illness is something so many of us have to deal with and that it is ok to talk about it.
I don’t want to dwell on the past, but I acknowledge that it has changed me for good. It appears that a lot of people who suffer from depression go through a similar thing. They have to take stock of their lives, look at how they are going to move forward and live with the potential recurrence.
It forces you to think about how to eliminate as many of the "triggers" from your life as possible and I think this often leads to people having a go at chasing their dreams more. Time off work, even when battling with the illness itself can give you the breathing space you need to think about what to do in the future. Something which is virtually impossible to do if you are attempting to lead a normal life whilst ill.
I also believe that something positive can come out of all of this, long term. That once the need to change has been identified, you look with clarity at what you can do to live your life and try to get better. For a while as I recovered, I didn’t dare do anything that might trigger it again. I hibernated and lived in my own world, one which I had complete control over. This was only possible for a short time though. If I’d carried on I would have become ill again, as I was obsessed with being in control, that if I did something that may make me exhausted physically I would enter the downward spiral again.
I was shaken out of that though. I realised that there was no point sitting and watching life pass me by, just in case the black dog came chasing again. It would be possible to do what I wanted, if I went about it carefully and didn’t take too much on at once. Gone was the random approach to life, of making rash decisions. The funny thing is though I am back to doing what I was earlier this year, but in a far more controlled manner.
I am now back in work (a different job with less stress), looking at applying for a PhD…cycling related of course! The website is coming on, albeit slowly, but to a plan.
I am going to race again next year. I now have a coach who knows me and who I trust, so I can work on the psychological as well as physical development. I also get married in 5 weeks time!
So much has changed since before I got ill, but it is all positive. I am sorry that my loved ones were put through so much, but I have renewed vigour. I love what we all call the ‘simple’ things in life, sitting and reflecting, listening to the birds, watching the clouds, going for a walk. These are the things that make our lives more liveable.
Lou and The Beloved Willier Mimosa. (I can remember how Lou
was deliriously in love with it when she got it! -Ed)
The joy and hardship of cycling reflects glorious life, and the cafÃƒÂ© stops are the icing on the cake.