anxiety · cycling · depression · feminism · immigration · mental health · mindfulness · PTSD · recovery

Cycling For Muslims

I wrote this just before starting this blog last year…

As depression threatened to debilitate me chronically again, yesterday morning I fought it and got my bike out. After weeks of anxiety building up (I naively stopped taking my antidepressants before I was assigned a new psychotherapist) and feeling worthless and hopeless again, the fighter in me resurfaced. I decided to give the finger to all the voices in my head and do something that has always proven to make me feel good about myself: cycle til I could no more.

When I got back home, as predicted, I was energised to do my chores and much more willing to let bad thoughts go. Still, when I sat to write the next bit of my story here, I could only think about what cycling meant to me as a child, even though we are not yet chronologically there yet. I was stuck, so I didn’t write. Having slept on it, I’ve come to the obvious conclusion that I can’t tell you this in chronological order when I am living a present constantly interrupted by the past (compliments of PTSD).
So, although I will come back to where I left off in my story, I will now jump forward a few years to 1993.  At age 7 I was newly and permanently back in grey London and the main feeling that plagued me was longing for the freedom I had in my Cypriot village. After being free to roam the village unattended and playing amongst trees and crops, being stuck to the confines of a semi-detached house was so frustrating.
On a sunny September day my younger sister had asked for a bike for her birthday and was crying having been told it was too expensive. A visiting uncle took pity on her and ordered one for her. When it arrived, the true reason behind my parents not wanting to buy the bike emerged. My dad sat us down and told us that bikes weren’t really for girls because it could “spoil” their virginity. Until I actually understood what virginity meant later in my teens, this fear nagged at the back of my head. I didn’t understand how or what would happen, but he made it clear it would be the most shameful thing that could happen to a girl. 
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You see, in London, thousands of miles away from our village mosque (only really used during funerals and Eid) Dad had found Islam. Well, at least he thought he did. Having been kicked out of my mum’s by police following yet more violence in 1991, he made friends with some practising Muslims. In his most needy time, having lost his wife and home, they picked him up, helped him and told him about their version of Islam, which he then combined with his existing thoughts. 
 
Well, Dad worked long hours, and Mum wasn’t bothered about bikes.  The bike was too big for my little sis and she got bored of it soon. I kept falling but I learned to ride it. I would use the downhill alley running down the side of our garden as a starter and ride down and up that cul-de-sac, dreaming of being able to actually go somewhere. It was the first tool that enabled the daydream world I would later create to help me escape the reality of my childhood. 
 
So for me, cycling is escapism. Not ignorism.  It keeps me sane and calms me so I can go back to concentrating on the main plan. When I was a child, the main plan was running away from my parents physically. Despite all the odds being stacked against me, I eventually did that. 
 
Now I need to get them out of my head. 
anxiety · depression · mental health · mindfulness · recovery · self-help

I didn’t write much

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So 11 months after I wrote my first blog, I received an email that my domain was expiring in a month, and I realised that I haven’t written much.  I then started to feel really sad and disappointed thinking of all the intentions I had and the accomplishments that never happened.

But then I started reading over my first blog, ‘Freedom’ and decided to check myself.  OK, so I didn’t ‘write my heart out’ as planned, but I wrote and I did a lot of other things.  I knew that in order to want to keep coming back to writing, I needed to give myself stuff to look forward to writing about.

I’m going to try and come back to writing by reviewing the goals in that first post.

  1. I want to write my heart out- OK, so I didn’t write the next big novel, but I continued with my poetry when my concentration would allow, so actually, I have stuff to share on here and that’s something to look forward to.  I just need to reorganise myself and make regular time for writing.  I’ve finally found a job that I enjoy and that leaves me time to write- that’s a huge accomplishment.
  2. I must get physically healthy- so I’m not Miss Universe, but I’ve come a long way.  I now walk to and from work every day, I’ve gone down a dress size since last year and am sticking to home-cooked food.
  3. I will focus on my mental wellbeing- I completed my Narrative Exposure Therapy sessions and the experience has been life-changing.  I am by no means cured of PTSD, depression and anxiety, but they no longer dominate my life and happiness is not some distant dream anymore, but a regular feeling I experience.
  4. I need to show my partner how much I appreciate him and have more fun with him- this has been difficult without any real disposable income, but I’ve tried.  I have to admit that this is an area I need to keep working on- I just haven’t quite figured out how to do it without money yet.  I try to tell him how much I appreciate him and the things he does for me at every opportunity and offer to help him with what I can.
  5. I need to reconnect with my family- at one point, I thought that this would be impossible, but my therapy really prepared me for it.  I keep my family meetings brief and try to keep conversations with my parents superficial in order to avoid trigger topics.  It has been amazing building a relationship with my baby niece and being more involved in my sisters’ lives.

So actually, I didn’t write much, but I did a lot in the last 11 months and I’m proud of myself.  I managed to finally believe that I can do better.

Here’s to doing!