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“Cycling made me feel alive like nothing had before, the feeling I’d craved for so long.”

Keen cyclist Harrison Read from Southampton has struggled with anxiety and depression from the age of 13. Last year he made an inspirational documentary interviewing people who had sought solace in cycling. Here he shares his story

Trigger Warning: Suicidal thoughts 

Hi, I’m Harrison and this will be the first time writing about my Mental Health in a blog format type thingy… Living with a Mental Illness is tough, its tiring and its terrifying. but to overcome the negatives we have to look at why we’re feeling the way we do and what can be done to help it. Overcoming this is often just the act of analysing why we’re feeling the way we do and asking what can be done to help tackle it.

I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety since I was 13, I’m now 24 and slowly learning to have more good days than bad. I’m experienced enough with my mental health to know when I have to take strategic action to prevent a mental breakdown. 

I can’t always stop it, but I know how to prevent 75% of them.

My darkest times have come in the last 18 months, the end of 2019 was particularly difficult. I was experiencing suicidal thoughts more than regular thoughts. Samaritans was basically on speed dial and I couldn’t really see a way out of my struggles, therefore deciding to lock myself in my room away from society for around two months. Combine that with innocuously dislocating my knee on one of my only solo ventures out of the house, I was then confined to my four walls once again.

We all know what happened next. Covid decided to disrupt everyone’s lives and I couldn’t comprehend what life was, I remember the whole period being so surreal. Nobody knew what was going on, even the UK Government. Those few months at the start of the pandemic were awful, the suicidal thoughts weren’t disappearing, and I was close to disappearing on multiple occasions, even once emptying my bank account in preparation, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. All I knew is that I wasn’t going to get better where I was.

It took an evening in early May 2020, almost 12 months ago, to the day. After horrible thoughts & countless tears I managed to somewhat divulge a plan. It wasn’t a big plan; it was just to find something to pass the time. A bicycle, why not? Nothing could be worse at this stage. 

The next morning, I woke up with one goal, find a bike and ride somewhere, anywhere, just get out of the house and experience fresh air. 

I came across an advert on Gumtree and on my arrival to collect the bike, I met a chap named Peter. He had been using the time in lockdown to repair and re-sell bikes with the money being donated to Prostate Cancer UK.

Having studied Journalism at University, my inquisitive brain asked why Peter was doing this. Peter had only recently overcome Prostate Cancer and wanted to give back to the charity that helped him in his most difficult period.

Peter spoke with such conviction about his love of cycling and it’s a moment that I’ll never forget.

I quickly fell in love with two wheels, cycling all day every day. It made me feel alive like nothing else had before, the feeling that I’d craved for so long. That new sense of excitement and adventure was additive. My curiosity leading me down any path I wanted, It granted me the freedom to explore as I pleased.

I carried on cycling all through the Summer, finding other similar stories to my own and Peter’s. That’s when I decided to do something positive that can help people, especially those who are sharing my experience. I decided to produce a documentary focusing on inspirational people who have sought solace in a bicycle. The stories in Braking The Cycle are all different and give the viewer an idea into some of the struggles we face day to day and how the story tellers reacted in the face of adversity.

If you are struggling with your mental health, give cycling a go because you never know what might happen. 

It’s not going to be an instant fix, as I’ve mentioned…. I still struggle but this is something that enables me to get out of the pit that is depression and get myself into a clear headspace. None of us are alone in this fight and you never know the story of the people that you cross paths with on a daily basis. Lending a smile or doing a good deed no matter how small it is may brighten up their day and in return, may even brighten up yours.

Videos:

Watch Harrison's Braking the Cycle Documentary here
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