Monthly Archives: September 2012

Two steps forward, one step back

I’ve always believed the only way to conquer fear is to face it but I was snookered  today because, to do that effectively, surely we need to know what it is that is scaring us! Try as I might I just didn’t know why  I was hyperventilating and  shaking as soon as I started cycling on the canal path.  But, let me backtrack a wee bit……..

After a gap of about 15 years I have started cycling with the help of an Ageing Well project along with my partner, Walter and our fellow ‘Intrepid’ Sid.  I wrote another blog about how scary this was for me – see .  After 5 weeks we felt gallus enough to try a ride from Glen Ogle to Lochearnhead and, despite initial waryness, I had a great time, as did we all, and my confidence was increasing leaps and bounds.  I even manged to “weeeeee!” down about a third of the steep slope at the end.

Photos: Sid and me at the start of the route /   Walter and Sid on the Glen Ogle viaduct. / Me on the steep path down

After this adventure we all all made good progress at the next Ageing Well session, especially me because I eventually got the hang of pushing off properly instead of scooting first.

So we agreed to go on the Union Canal path, a section of which started very near Sid’s place.  I admit I was doubtful right away because I knew the canal path was narrow with water very close (sic!) but Walter pointed out there had been a massive drop on the Glen Ogle route which I managed fine – so we scheduled it for today.  This morning the wind was quite brisk so I felt even more uncertain.  My main reason being that I wobble a lot and if blown by the wind as well – on a narrow path with water alongside…….you get the idea maybe.    As a result of my doubts, the boys initially agreed to cancel the ride but then I felt really mean and cowardly so I changed my mind and we set off.

On the side roads to the canal I was OK but as soon as I started on the towpath the horrible fears started – but they were nameless!   I tried so hard to reason with myself…  Am I afraid of falling?  No, not really cos I’m going slowly enough to stop easily.  Is the wind too strong?  No, it’s not having much effect.  Am I afraid of other people on the path? Yes, but I can slow right down or get off if necessary.  Am I finding it too much physically?  NO, I am quite fit – I can walk for miles and not feel any effect.  Then what the ***k is the matter?!!!  I don’t know!  All I know is my heart is pounding, I can hardly breathe, my mouth is completely dry and my hands are shaking.  To be honest, I was finding the actual riding difficult because my arms and hands were so tense I was wobbling all over the place but this was ‘chicken & egg’ – the more tense my arms, the more I wobble, the more I wobble, the more tense…..

I can see the tension in my face in this shot taken as we stopped for a drink and as I walked across the aquaduct the first time.

Eventually I just had to stop – my system was protesting so much.   I realise the problem (whatever the heck it is!) is mental and emotional but it becomes physically inhibiting.  I suggested the boys finish the trip to Ratho while I went back on my own, but they were both adamant that it is “All For One And One For All” so we made our way back.  Now – surprise, surprise…not!…I was nowhere near as stressed going back – by gum the mind’s a funny thing.

I can see the stress in my face here as well, even though it was far easier by then because we were on the way back. We covered about 4 miles in total.

Walter has suggested that one of my problems may be not looking far enough ahead, hence making me wobble and starting the whole viscious cycle (pardon the pun).  So at the next Ageing Well session I shall concentrate on rectifying that. Then the boys and I will have another go at the Sighthill/Ratho Union Canal ride next week. The debilitating fear has to be conquered. It was two steps forward, one step back this time but stay tuned – I shall overcome.

The end of the route – phew!

Pardon? Everyone mumbles nowadays!

Pardon?   What did you say?  Sorry..?   Eh?   Come again?     By gum, everyone mumbles nowadays……

Over the past decade or so I have made a few faux pas hearing-wise:-   I thought the President of my drama group said “The most important thing is Celtic”….it transpired to be “The most important thing is to sell tickets”.  I could have sworn my grandaughter was singing along to “Go recycling”  (turned out to be ‘Go Greece Lightning’).  There have been umpteen of them over the years – all laughed off.  Then last week I honestly thought my partner was using the wrong word as a joke when he announced in response to my query about how he’d got on with his bike “ok, no trouble with my vagina” ….a split second later I realised he had said angina but not after I had almost choked on my coffee and everyone else in the room became aware of my mistake.

I know everyone mishears, I do not for a moment think this is anything much to worry about, but people have been mumbling a lot more lately; at the theatre  I’m always saying “I can hear the sound but can’t make out the words” and I find it almost impossible to tell what someone is saying if I’m not in the same room as them.  So, when I received an appointment for a check-up at  Hidden Hearing I went along.  I have had these check-ups for the past three years and each time have been told I didn’t require assistance equipment, but this time my results were much poorer and I was advised to think seriously about wearing a hearing aid.

If I do decide to get one it won’t be a big thing like those NHS hearing aids, mind you, I understand they have improved in recent years!

Seriously, it’ll be the teeny weeny computers with an almost invisible wire that I choose but the trouble is they are not inexpensive. 

So, I think my next step will be to see if I can get a second opinion re the need for assistance by asking my GP to refer me to the hospital, then, if they agree I need help I will go back to HH and bite the financial bullet.

Ach weel – they do say old age doesnae come itsel’

Wheelly, wheelly scary stuff

See that phrase “It’s like riding a bike – you never forget” ?? Huh! That is SO not true!   I never rode a bike as a child (yet another totally unnecessary  restriction imposed on me because of having epilepsy) and don’t  recall any particular trauma learning for the first time in my early 30s, but I do know my bike didn’t have gears and I never went far.

I didn’t cycle again for another decade and getting used to it that time round was horrendously traumatic.  Eventually I coped and my late husband and I went on cycle tracks all over Scotland and a couple in England.  I managed the gears OK though was never too keen on anything very steep, and could even signal (!) but very rarely went in traffic .   I loved the Sustrans tracks where there was a scupture every mile – it made the rides so enjoyable.  I have such fond memories of those journeys.  Here are some scanned images from those days – Cycle Route 75 .  I had forgotten where the foot soldiers and centurion could be found but a friend told me they are between Bridge of Weir and Kilmacolm .  The other one was taken the same day but I’m not sure exactly where.

We did a lot of the long distance tracks in all seasons.  I used to go shopping occasionally with panniers on the bike and have toured along English waterways, again with panniers and with a rucksack on my back – so I did get fairly competent.  We highered my saddle over the months until I could cope with just toes on the ground which made pedalling more physically economical.  By gum, I need my full feet firmly on the ground now and cannae even push off, I have to scoot to get going!  That is what hurt me so much when I found myself back to square one when it came to riding this last time.  Thank goodness for two albums of photos proving that I had been on these trips – otherwise it would seem like I was completely havering.  I suppose that was my biggest problem – it hit me really hard when I realised I had lost so much confidence that it belied the belief in my own history and memories.

You see I had a very nasty fall from my bike early 1999 on the Bathgate to Airdrie cycle track – out in the middle of nowhere.   Although I had to get back on my bike to cycle back to my car thence drive myself to hospital – I  hadn’t ridden since. I did not realise how severely I’d been affected by the accident until a few months ago when my partner decided to get a bike.  I knew I would need to get back in the saddle if I was to join him but when  I accompanied him to the bike shop I felt physically sick and had palpatations – just in the shop – how pathetic is that!   I tried to brazen it out and get back in control by getting my bike serviced but inside I was terrified.  Anyway, another friend told us about cycling training sessions being run for older folk by Ageing Well at Meadowbank so we registered for them and went along. (It puts a whole new perspective on ‘recycled teenagers’ ) .
The tutors understand how hard it is to get back to cycling after decades away from it and take things from absolute basics. I borrowed one of their small bikes and spent ages just scooting with it before being able to pedal but, once I did, I was proper chuffed and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  At home I enthusiastically got my bike out of the shed but I couldn’t even mount – I was completely inhibited by it.  So….I decided to buy a folding bike like my partner’s, so it’d be convenient to carry in the car and more importantly, easier for me to ride by having a smaller frame.

At Meadowbank the following week  I reverted to feeling very stressed by the effort of cycling with my new bike but I kept control of myself……just.  Walter’s bike got a puncture so he took the chance to get some snaps – here I am attempting to steer round a slalom. (that’s me on RH side in a blue top)

However, gradually my voice was becoming higher pitched again – a sure sign of stress.  I didn’t go back to squeaking but it was noticeably higher.  Then, this last week the tension built up to boiling point and I had to let go.  It might seem embarassing for a 65 year old to be in tears about riding a bike but I wasn’t fazed by that happening per se because I know now that repressing it is what does the damage. Walter was so supportive and the others all understood because they had fears of their own to tackle.  After I had ‘let go’ I did my own thing  rather than join in with the exercises.  The previous week I had so much tension in my arms and hands that it caused quite a lot of discomfort/muscle pain so I practised riding with relaxed hands and very soon I felt a whole lot better.  And low and behold my voice went lower too!

I am fairly sure that next Monday I will be able to ride far more confidently.  In any case I won’t give up – I am determined to conquer this.  It may be wheelly, wheelly scary but there’s only one way round it and that’s to push on through the fear barrier.