If you’ve visited this site before, you will know that my posts usually take the form of short prayers that come out of my daily contemplation. However, today’s post is completely different, and tells you a bit of background about me and what I’ve been doing recently.
I’m 63 years old, and have suffered from agoraphobia all my adult life. It’s been a battle all the way. Every bit of progress is hard-won, and all of it can be lost with terrifying suddenness. Chronic depression and anxiety unavoidably come with the territory.
Agoraphobia is very much like alcoholism. Even an alcoholic who hasn’t touched a drink for years is fully aware that they are still an alcoholic. Similarly, my agoraphobia never goes away. No matter how hard I work to extend my boundaries, I never experience the unconscious confidence of those who go out without a second thought. Essentially, I always have to be prepared to face panic alone, wherever I go.
I also have physical health problems, including chronic fatigue and frequent, severe migraines, so over the years finding the energy to battle against agoraphobia has become a lot more more difficult.
Anyway, about two years ago, a friend saw an article in a local magazine about electric bikes. I followed up his suggestion that I look into them, met the dealers, tried one out, and placed my order without hesitation.
As soon as the bike arrived, it began to revolutionise my life. Building up both my confidence and my fitness, I started to go out on it as often as possible, gradually going further, and facing my fears with its help. Before long, I was learning to plan routes, tackle lonely country lanes, and even go up into the mountains.
The sense of freedom, independence and joy brought by even the simplest, shortest, most routine journey never wanes. Getting out on my bike also makes a huge difference to my chronic depression, so I use it as often as possible, whatever the weather. I take a car only if absolutely necessary, and am known locally for my familiar appearance in fluorescent, waterproof over-trousers and jacket.
A few months ago, I heard on the news that a cycle route had opened all the way round Morecambe Bay in the North of England. I longed to experience it for myself, but given both my agoraphobia, and my health problems, this seemed impossible. However, I slowly started to work on the idea, and my next blog will tell the story of that trip.