Mastering The Dangler

Monica Fee. DER0815-149KM
Monica Fee. DER0815-149KM

Part 1 of a blog by Monica Fee who aims to take part in Cycle Against Suicide in memory of her brother Kieran, who took his own life. Here she tells of her first outings on the bike she has nicknamedThe Dangler

Post 1

There’s no such thing as failure because we learn from failure .

Losing Kieran has woke me up; it’s made me realise that we can let things saunter on in life and turn a blind eye on what is really going on.

I knew Kieran was at risk of ending his own life and felt there was nothing I could do but there is always something that can be done but I took the easy road , I stuck my head in the sand.

It’s too early to think what have I learned from Kieran’s death but I’ve learned that we need to talk more about depression and we need to be able to forgive. We need to not stop speaking to our loved ones, if we truly love them we will find a way. In taking the easy road I didn’t do enough I am now on a detour in my life, my crazy head is in control; I need to change that. I need to put myself back on the right direction and I hope the two week cycle will help me do this so I need to focus on preparing for it.

We bought a secondhand spin bike and I have downloaded the Cycle Against Suicide 2014 training program so here goes.

Friends and family know I am going to take part in a leg of the cycle and some have said I’m mad, that’s made me even more determined to do it. Taurus the bull has taken control and I’m now thinking I might do the two weeks.

The weather is a bit better so Adrian and I decide to go out on the bikes, mine is about 20 years old and rarely used. Adrian has purchased all the gear (as he does for every sport he take up). He chose white, it’s a little on the small side, he’s put on a little weight over Christmas, not a pretty sight. I hide my giggles and off we go or should I say off he goes and I brake down the hill shouting at him to wait. I am terrified and seem to be way too far off the ground.

In all the years I have travelled the Ardmore Road I never realised there was a hill on it, by the time we get to Berryburn I am ready to thump Adrian as it is not the romantic cycle I imagined. I thought we would cycle along side by side but he had other ideas. I pretended all was well I till I passed McCourt’s Bar and Ardmore Village then I threatened if he didn’t wait for me I would never come out with him again. By the time I caught up with him we were at Drumahoe; he had stopped for a drink. It was then that I realised his new gear was see through,far too tight and the laughing started. He had to cycle behind me otherwise I never would have got home again because I couldn’t stop laughing. At Ardground junction I had to get off the bike I had no idea what I was doing, was totally unfit and couldn’t work out the gears so I gave up and walked home. I regretted signing up for the CAS cycle even though Adrian assured me it would get better. Feeling deflated - today isn’t a good day.

Post 2

Adrian restores the old bike. He changed the tyres, put on mud flaps and sixteen gears.

I could cry; I can’t work three gears and he puts on thirteen more but I know he means well so give a nervous smile. He assures me everything will be much better, that I will fly like the wind but I don’t want to fly anywhere I just want to master riding a bike and know what gear I should be in, where and when they need changed.

He talks about high and low but it’s all Swahili to me. We go out again in agreement that he stays beside me. He doesn’t. I start the blubbering and sit down on the Ardmore road and cry hard. Again it’s all about the high and low , I can see he’s frustrated, it’s like driving a car he says. I can drive bloody anything even a bus but I can’t work out what I am doing on this bike. The bike seems to feel a little better and I tell Adrian he’s done a great job.

My butt is sore and we go the short way through the Bleach Green, life is a bitch, what have I got myself into? I am feeling very sorry for myself and all I can think of is, if Kieran was alive I wouldn’t be torturing myself and pounding the roads on a bike. Today is a bad day.

Post 3

Friends and family are saying my Facebook status updates about my cycle journey are funny.

They aren’t meant to be, it’s how it is. I didn’t realise I would be so scared and there’s so much to learn and lots to take in. I am beginning to like it which is good and I think I can see my shape change. It’s good therapy as it is stopping me consuming my day thinking about Kieran and what I should have done to prevent him from dying. Now I think more about where I am going to cycle and how far I can go each day. When I come home and write about my day it’s a distraction, mainly because it takes me hours as my grammar is the pits and I have to keep rewriting it but that keeps me busy and distracted. It makes me laugh at myself and the comments people make under the status make me laugh out loud and Adrian is happy to see me laugh.

We had two Robins who fight in the garden and a third arrived the morning after we found Kieran. I am followed by Robins everywhere I go. Adrian said I was talking rubbish until he joined me one day on a cycle and he couldn’t believe it, he says it’s the same Robin but I don’t think it is, maybe they are increasing in numbers. I started asking everyone did they think there were a lot more Robins about this year and when I mention it in work someone said Robins after a death is the loved one popping by to say they are ok .

That freaked me out and the blubbering started. I don’t believe in signs or white feathers, my house is full of white feathers. I have feather cushions and pillows, they are just feathers falling from soft furnishings. Seeing Robins always makes me happy but now when I am struggling physically and they fly in front of me it makes me smile and I see Kieran’s happy face which is what I want to see. For a long time and mostly still, all I can see is how we found him; that haunts me at night, the way I reacted to his death haunts me. Why didn’t I cry, why didn’t I comfort Kevin who was so distraught, why did I laugh telling my lovely sister Kieran was dead? That for me was the worst part and I still beat myself up for doing that but I have no clue why I did it.

Almost 22 miles today on my own I stayed mostly on the flat. This is what I will be expected to do in half a day and another 30/40km after lunch. I forgot my little Garmin gadget for recording and used my iPhone instead.

I would have done more miles only my phone ran out of charge, OCD took over and I thought it pointless cycling without knowing what I was doing. I listened to The Dangler today and I now think I understand the big and small cog gears. Big for downhill, small for uphill. I just need to work out which lever works each of these gears. Every time I thought I had worked it out I forgot when it came to climbing up a hill and I stopped but I think on the last climb it clicked.

Lots of manageable nose blows and the wobbles are less as I master this simple task. Was able to drink from bottle get a banana from my butt pocket and eat it while I passed a girl pushing a pram. She laughed as I passed wobbling shouting “Big girl coming through” because I couldn’t multiple task and beep my bell (which is pure useless anyways). She said I made her day so that was nice. Remembered what Philip told me and got off the saddle to wiggle my butt about, he forgot to tell me the bike wobbled as well so I stopped that craic, enough bravery for one day. If I ever thought I have taken on too much doing this cycle I changed my mind today when cycling under the Foyle bridge, it’s so far up.

I thought of all the poor people who jumped off it over the years because they couldn’t see a way out of their desperation, their sadness and that they thought they had nowhere to turn. Maybe they were ashamed to admit they were depressed or suffer the stigma associated with depression. It has made me think a lot about Kieran and how he chose to end his life, had he it all worked out in his head? I think he had. A few days before he died he bought new clothes and a trailer load of turf; he was planning to be around for the winter . 
What changed? What triggered his end decision, what was his stresser, what changed his mind, if we had gone and visited him or kept him busy would he still be here? We will never know.

I do know the date he chose was significant to him and we have to be thankful that he did it at home, that it was clean and he didn’t jump into the river and we weren’t searching for his body for days, weeks or months or maybe never get him back at all.

Today I am more determined than ever to raise money for Aware Defeat Depression and Foyle Search. If it saves one person the pain will be worth it. Today is a good day and even though I still don’t know the difference between the high gear and the low gear I think I know which one takes me uphill as I now have written it down.

Today is a good day. Onwards and upwards.