Two weeks since we finished on that hot Singapore afternoon, two weeks that has seen us both go through a period of major readjustment. It’s not been easy (although after writing this a few days ago, the Napalese earthquake then struck – so all in perspective).
With bodies and minds firmly institutionalised to grinding out miles, being thrown back in to work and the daily routine, without any real time to think, has been difficult to take. It’s like being repeatedly beaten around the head with a large fish for a few weeks and then being made made to sit down at a desk and asked to make adult decisions. For a few days it was almost impossible, almost.
What is becoming clear is that now it is over, despite the excitement of being surrounded by loved ones in comfortable surroundings, without the monotony of cycling the deep whirring of over-thinking has once again started to rear its ugly head.
I genuinely find it strange. Our event should have necessitated deep anxieties; cycling through dangerous conditions with no idea where we were staying, travelling through politically volatile areas, heavy vehicles driving erratically, being chased by big dogs – all situations that should have brought on the usual butterflies in the stomach or sweaty palms. Instead: nothing.
Coincidentally, back in the familiarity of the UK; an easy life of a great marriage, brilliant friends and good food, the deep anxieties once again surface like a returning bunch of World War 2 German bombers ready to repeatedly batter Coventry again. It makes little sense. Just leave it alone, it’s already been flattened.
Thankfully, they aren’t particularly depressive thoughts. I’ve been through those dark scenarios in the past and it’s a very different battle.
For now it is stopping the mind from running away with itself. Personally, it is something that has been a constant theme for many years. Which means keeping busy, healthy and rested. Without it the internal monologue sweeps into action creating a number of simultaneous internal conversations. It is exhausting.
Concentration is, and probably always will be, the one thing that is most effected.
Talking to friends, trying to work, watching films are all things that become a battle to keep focused rather than drifting away. The staring into space, the shaky legs, unable to hear your name being called – it is so easy to slip into that trancelike state where your face looks a bit like Jim Bowen’s – contorted and confused.
However, one of the more interesting aspects of over-thinking is the obsessive behaviour that comes with it.
I’d never even thought about compulsive behaviour before, not personally. I mean, OCD is thrown around nowadays as if it’s some light-hearted disorder that sounds funny in a film script. Flicking light switches on and off, checking and rechecking locked doors – they are actually potentially serious indicators of a paralysing illness that can debilitate and severely limit the quality of life of millions.
I never thought my own particular set of problems had anything to do with these issues but you soon come to realise that most mental illnesses are in some ways interconnected.
I was thinking back a few days ago to when I was younger, maybe 11 or 12 years old, when I used to walk to my best friends house who lived a couple of streets away. Whilst walking I would, for no particular reason, have to reach a certain point on the pavement ahead before the next car drove past. I remember sometimes physically running as hard as I could just to get to that particular point before the car did, for absolutely no reason other than that it was what my mind told me I had to do.
Thinking back now it sounds freakishly weird. I mean, your 12 years old, your life revolves around football, crisp sandwiches and Gladiators on a Saturday night but every time you go anywhere you are afflicted by what I now know as some of the first signs of my own issues.
Back then I didn’t even think about it. To be honest, it’s only recently I’ve even remembered it. However, the parallels between obsessive actions, anxiety and over-thinking are clear. It is low lying behaviours with the potential to become problematic issues in the future.
I think most people have a tendency for compulsive behaviour, however small that might be. Sometimes though it is an emotional trigger which manifests those low-lying issues into something bigger and harder to manage. In my case it was, I believe, post-traumatic stress brought on by delayed acceptance of grief.
Whatever it was, it took a long time to figure it out, then to come to terms with it and finally to actually manage it.
However, not everyone is able to follow such a linear acceptance of their issues. More importantly, not everyone has such a strong support network to help them through their problems.
It is for this reason that we must be vigilant and learn to recognise the signals attached to those who may be suffering.
According to ONS data, 78% of all those who committed suicide in 2013 were men. Particularly concerning was the increase of men aged between 30 and 45 who chose to end their lives.
It is a national tragedy.
We can blame the relevant authorities for funding cuts and lacking purpose in their promises to fund the necessary services, and rightly so. However, we all have a responsibility to look out for each other.
We need to know and understand the signs connected with mental health issues so, first and foremost, we can look after our own friends and family.
Sufferers need need an understanding ear as much as they need a voice.
And so, without any Winston Churchill quotes left to fill the void between our everyman prose, it is high time we left you on a quote, one that I keep coming back to time and time again. Something which will always keep me going:
“Most of the important things in this world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”