Biking the Euros – Moral Support

Biking the Euros is about my personal quest to push beyond my fears and perceived limitations and accomplish something “big.” It’s also about raising money to help people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. It’s about telling my story and helping others discover and share their own stories of discovering beauty through struggle, hope and connection. And it’s about having a ton of fun along the way! Yeah, at its core the ride could be viewed as just a ride. But, for me, I’m hoping it’s much more.

My ride is about “connection,” which is why I need you, and why I’m hoping you will choose to connect with me, the ride, and perhaps with others who’ve also chosen to get involved. You’ve probably already read that I’m asking for financial help, both to reach the $10,000 pledge for To Write Love on Her Arms and to help fund portions of my ride. But what I want you to know is for me to accomplish my goals and complete this ride, I’ll be depending on your moral support as much as, if not more than, any money you choose to give. Learn a little of my back story in the following paragraphs, then please keep reading to the end where I give concrete ways for you, if you choose, to also lend me your vocal support and encouragement.

The doubts about my capacity to complete this ride, and why I need you, are mostly of the mental variety. I’m not saying I’m thoroughly confident of my physical ability to accomplish this – I have worries when it comes to my body and stamina, too. But, for me, my fears are mostly related to my emotional and mental health. Over the past couple of years, ever since my separation and divorce, I’ve been walking an especially bumpy road. Periods of joy, gratitude, discovery, and adventure have been coupled with struggles to get out of bed, days of hopelessness and moments of crippling fear. And a lot of loneliness. One goal I hope to accomplish through this ride is to explain my mental health condition, to describe it and define it. We hear every day about depression, PTSD and anxiety, people battling extreme loneliness, and others struggling to move forward amid loss, addiction or profound sadness. We share in the immense grief of loved ones or public figures whose challenges were so intense they felt the only option to escape their pain was to take, or attempt to take, their own lives.

One of my goals during this ride is to share my struggles, to give voice to them, to put them out into the open. To share specifics in hopes that my story will answer questions, or clear up some confusion, you might have about mental illness. Or that maybe by hearing my story you can come to a better understanding of the difficulties others in your life are going through. Or that if you’re also grappling with emotional challenges, maybe my openness will help you feel less alone. That you might find comfort in our shared struggles. And that perhaps you’ll even find the motivation, strength and courage to share your own story.

For now, let me begin to illuminate a little of my story this way. There’s a scene from the movie Sideways. It’s the hilarious, “I’m not drinking any fucking merlot!” moment when Miles and Jack, on a road trip through California’s central coast wine region, are getting ready to meet two women for a double date. Beyond the famous “merlot” outburst, there’s a line from this scene that has stuck with me even more, and one that reminds me how my depression and anxiety can sometimes rear their ugly heads. Miles is coming off a recent divorce and dealing with a whole host of personal demons. Jack, fully aware of this and not wanting Miles to “sabotage” his chances to score with the beautiful Stephanie, makes the following plea. “I don’t want you going to the dark side, Miles. No going to the dark side!” It’s a notoriously funny scene, and I’m glad I can laugh at it. But the truth is, sometimes, when I least expect it or least want it to happen, my mood can take me to the dark side. And it sucks. Almost as much as merlot.

Another scene is one from the television series Modern Love. In it Anne Hathaway’s character, Lexi, who’s bipolar, is at home, prepping for a dinner date she’s about to have with the exciting, handsome new man in her life. She’s dressed to the nines, she’s smiling, gliding across the kitchen, gleefully anticipating what she hopes will be a wonderful night. But then out of nowhere, her mood takes a radical shift. Her hope, joy and anticipation quickly, and intensely, turn to gloom, hopelessness and fear. She collapses onto the bathroom floor, in tears, unable to move. I’m not bipolar. But, I’ve experienced this shift. When one moment I’m excited and happy and bubbly and the next I feel numb and hopeless and depressed. Sometimes this mood shift happens over the course of a day, or several days, but other times I’m like Lexi, and the shift is like the literal flick of a switch. The snap of the fingers. Seemingly completely out of my control.

I’ve experienced panic or sudden depression dips on travel adventures before. In an idyllic Austria mountain village. While on a retreat in the Minnesota north woods. Along the beautiful Adriatic coast of Lopud Island in Croatia. And most recently, in a claustrophobic hotel room in Bad Soden, Germany. There’s a bit of a pattern to these episodes, often occurring away from home and a safe space, often when I’m apart from the loved ones I feel closest to. The feeling is like intense culture shock or extreme loneliness or homesickness. Some experts might define it as a form of agoraphobia. It’s something I’ve learned to deal with, and I’d like to think I’ve gotten better over time at responding to these moments. However, for this ride, my greatest fear is that this metaphorical switch will get flipped. That the fingers will get snapped, and my mood will take me to Miles’ dark side or to Lexi’s bathroom floor.

So, the question is, “Why the heck are you planning a trip like this? Why are you willingly putting yourself into a situation similar to those that have triggered you in the past, that have caused your mental health to suffer?” The answer is…because I can’t live by these fears. I can’t let them dictate my every move. And I want to continue having travel adventures, especially the kind that have elicited the huge feelings of awe, wonder and gratitude I’ve experienced before and those I hope will do the same in the future. Yes, I’m scared, but I need to honor the kinds of ideas and experiences that lift me up, that make life truly worth living. Spain with the family, Wimbledon, The World Cup in Russia, The DC Women’s March, Greece, hiking the Alps, Hurricane Katrina relief work, service trips to Honduras, Nathan and Emily’s wedding in Namibia. I want these kinds of moments to continue, for as long as possible, mental health fears and challenges be damned.

There’s a final scene from the same Modern Love episode I mentioned earlier, a scene when Lexi, for the very first time, opens up to a friend about her bipolar diagnosis. Try watching it without crying. It’s powerful, and in it Lexi, through voice over, states, “I promised myself no person would not know the full story of me. The good, the bad and the mad.” This is a bit how I feel and why I have this strong desire to share my story. So that you, so people in my life, can see me. And that perhaps by me sharing my story, connections will be made and others will find their voice, feel less alone, and be inspired to be fully seen as well.

Here’s the part where you come in… While I’ve learned many strategies to address my anxiety and depression, and while I’ll be checking in with a therapist during my ride, and while I know I can’t rely too heavily on others to manage my condition, I still feel I’ll need the moral support of loved ones to complete these 1,200 miles. If you’re able and willing to pitch in with some of that support, the first step is to complete this form. In it you can pledge to send me encouragement prior to and during my ride, or read and comment on my blog, or send me a Spotify playlist I can listen to for motivation, or share your own story of finding beauty through struggle, hope or connection. Beyond the form, visit Biking the Euros or follow updates on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. And if you do follow, please chime in with a comment or two from time to time. Beyond that, any other ways you can think of to let me know you’re with me during my ride would be hugely appreciated and would give me that symbolic push of the bicycle seat I’ll need.

Thanks for making it this far. And thanks in advance for choosing to get involved. I absolutely cannot wait to receive your feedback, hear your words of encouragement and feel your support along my ride. I’m expecting this will be an experience that will forever shape my life and I’m hoping maybe, in some small way, it will positively affect yours, too. Let’s go!

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