The climb to the intersection of trails is a hard one. I’ve done it a few times. I feel the burn in my thighs within moments of starting it and by the time I climb to the top of it I want to give up, turn around ride down and never look back. There is this one spot just past the signpost I gaze at, and the few times I’ve ridden that trail it has caught my attention. It is perfectly ordinary and entirely enchanting.
It was suggested and encouraged that I try leading on a trail. Leading is something I don’t do because I like to keep myself safe and maintained behind where I can double check my form and I haven’t ridden for very long. Feeling disgruntled, I know I need to get used to being in front of people so off I go, nodding to the captivating spot as I pass. I feel the sensation of the roots and rocks under my tires as I glide over them. I feel the coolness of the morning mountain air fill my lungs. I hear a sound behind me and I remember I am in front. There is a man there. I feel my heartbeat quicken. I shake my head and continue. Another noise from the man behind me. That did it. The arrow was loosed.
I take off as fast as I can, terror flowing through me, moving my fingers from the brake, my hands tighten on the handlebars. The cool air whipping around me, I notice the trail seems to darken & become menacing as I manoeuvre my bike at speeds I am not accustomed to. My chest tightens, I feel the weight on top of me, pressing down on my chest, the air escaping from my lungs as the pressure increases. “It’s your mind I tell myself. This isn’t real” Hot tears are in the corners of my eyes. I blink, I see another pair eyes boring into mine, I begin to gasp for air but I can’t catch another breath. The panic tries to set in.”It’s not real, it is your mind causing your body to react. ” I focus my eyes again on the trail, I see the needles on the pine trees and the texture of the bark, the colours of the scarce wildflower in all but a blink, I try to take in my true physical surroundings. “Stop” I tell my mind. I struggle to maintain in the present.
A voice calls out from behind me. My feet hit the pedals again & I bolt. I feel my heart pounding, it seems as though it is tied up with a thousand ropes being pulled by a thousand people. “Stop,” I say to myself and an inside louder voice screams “RUN.” I feel the pressure of a larger body pressing down upon mine, the air being pushed from my lungs and I gasp to breathe only the weight stops the breath. A plethora of reactions surges out of me fear, anger, hatred, pain, rage, panic, while control is completely lost, the dystopian mind took the reigns while my lungs were desperately wheezing for air. Time passed, though I’m not sure how much but I finally stopped after I regained control. Frustrated and angry, words spat from my teeth like acid rain. I felt nothing but hatred.
I struggled through the few meters that remained which dissipated the anger. Humility set in with frustration as I dealt with a body pumped full of adrenaline and too much oxygen. Woozy I paced and pushed my bike for a while unable to stay upright. I muttered shame to myself. I started a trail I had never been on before. I saw the climb over loose boulders, riding was out of the question, I had no idea how to ride over it. After that rough start, the trail turned and hit another incline only this time I mounted my bike.
As my legs and body propelled the bike up the hill I felt the remainder of the panic attack slip away and my authentic being return to encompass my body. My brain happily cooed welcome as it stretched itself into my bones and coursed through my bloodstream. My soul chattered happily away to it as my physical body poured out sweat and began to regulate itself back to normality.
Humility seemed content to remain beside me for the remainder of the day watching m with a cool smile as I sheepishly packed up my bike, turned the music low and went for my traditional mini homemade chocolate chunk cookies dipped in the whipped cream adorning my mocha.
It took 4 more days for all the side effects of that panic attack to melt off my body. It was the first but not the last of a series of a mental health crisis that experienced on the trail. They take a huge toll but I learn from them each time, a new trigger, a new reflection & insight into my mind.
I struggle with these every time I ride, trying to maintain focus and the reality of where I am going. There are days I don’t feel worthy enough to even ride, that I don’t belong there and that I am a joke. Other days I can’t get to the trail head fast enough to shut the noise up and breathe mountain air. Finding a balance navigating the strange world of mental health, softening triggers, & the mountain biking community is challenging but worth every second.
There were taken on my “break” that day