It dawned on me yesterday, as we actually had a day off to celebrate my 55th birthday. The last time my wife and I celebrated our birthdays was back in Sept 2017, back then I had just retired from Fire Service life and we went on a yoga retreat to Bali. I had never done Yoga before, hey it can't be too different from Karate can it? What do you mean we don't hit each other? lol Seriously.
Wow, what an experience. A very humbling time on this beautiful island.
Since then we have moved Countries twice and home 4 times....haha! Living abroad has certainly got its issues. But ultimately we have lived by choice. We have been in a state of overwhelm and stress for 4 years. Blimey!
We chose to move to France and deal with everything that was thrown at us and then chose to move on. We are where we are today because we chose to.
Looking back I can easily see how much we have been through and how much we have changed and grown.
When in France, and it wasn't France's fault, we were just unlucky, shit happens right? But we reached an all-time low, hugely exaggerated by the very strict lockdown situation of 2020.
From rock bottom, there are only 2 options really!!
It's here you realise your resilience and strength. Leaning on each other when required, but openly voicing what was troubling us and why. Communication is key, being heard!
Here we learned so much about ourselves and everything we needed to turn things around was within us. Our mindset was key.
To use Nelson Mandela as an example, for whatever reason he was in jail, he had incredible strength of mind to remain free. He made this choice to stay free all the time whilst in a very confined cell. He chose his thoughts well.
From France, we both chose to move yet again, this time to POrtugal, and in turn, to better ourselves. Much self-studying by us both. For the first time in many years, I have a choice.
Whilst in Service, my choices were not really my own. I couldn't really decide when I would eat, sleep, or shower, you were literally whilst on duty or on call for 72 hours straight, at someone else's beck and call. You just grabbed it when you could. If I got called out, it was in any weather and at any time, day or night. It was expected of you and you just did. You are doing your duty and your job. This is the same for any job or parent. What I now have is a true, 'freedom of choice.' Including what I fill my head with and what I listen to and see.
I chose to change and do something about my health, both physically and mentally.
I chose to cycle and keep showing up, which has grown and now I find myself volunteering to cycle 164km/100miles across the Algarve in 1 day to raise awareness of PTSD and mental health and funds for charities. I thought about it and made it happen. I took action.
I chose to push myself a little further than what I would consider my level. My reasons for doing more than I am possibly capable of, well I am not totally sure and I am still searching for the answer within myself. Who am I proving it to? Still seeking the answer on this one. But I have always stretched myself beyon what I thought I could do. And in doing so achieved so much more.
Until we try, we won't know. You gotta try right?
Maybe because I keep showing up, people assume and expect it to be easy. I can tell you that training out on your own has been bloody difficult, but I also have the choice to think of all those who will benefit if we can complete it. Arranging the event is possibly harder than riding it lol. But I comfort myself by knowing others are joining me to ride it. It's about a coming together of people to help encourage and inspire others. Leading by example and showing we have alternative therapy methods available to us to change.
Today I chose to not ride. I now have this choice. After checking the weather forecast I have decided to ride tomorrow instead. Being informed of rain today and dry tomorrow, well I have the luxury of choice. If it rains on the day of the event or during training, well so be it, but I have the choice. I chose wisely today lol.
When we have been in a state of heightened alertness or trauma for a long period, this uncomfortable state almost becomes the norm, so adjusting and changing out of it feels awkward and strange. Trauma and stress energy is stored in the body. Don't believe me? Ok, maybe consider, IBS, gut issues, stiff joints, bloatedness, poor sleep, and irritability, hey the list is endless and different for us all.
Using physical exercise to help shift trapped trauma energy creates flow. The muscles and ligaments begin to move again and blood circulation increases. Endorphins and adrenaline are released, this time not as a fight or flight response. You are more in control, not reacting.
Liken this to starting cycling, it feels weird to put on the kit, uncomfortable or possibly painful sitting on the saddle. You feel a bit wobbly as you allow your body and mind to recognise and process the memory of riding. But within a few minutes, the brain and muscles remember and it feels good again. The downside is that maybe your fitness levels are not what they used to be.
It's here you have a choice. Continue and turn up again another day, or push it back down and forget it. It was too much like hard work right? We will justify everything by finding reasons.
But by not confronting the discomfort, we are still exactly where we were.
But what if by some crazy notion we could actually achieve what we set out to do?
Here I am 1 month away from the idea of having an FTE cycling team.
This came about after entering an 80km race in Portimao. Firstly what the hell was I thinking doing this anyway, especially in the intense heat of the Algarve, but now I choose to cycle across the Algarve?
Raising awareness of PTSD and mental health and funds for charity takes it to another level.
Here are a few things to ponder. What gives someone the drive to make things happen?
Does this person ever think of quitting? How often does self-doubt creep in?
How do they turn it around and see belief in their cause?
All these questions I can answer for myself. I am here doing it, but trust me I am confronted by my doubts and insecurities many times. Like the beloved strong winds, (my training partner, ) I say hello, accept it and its difficulties, embrace the uncomfortable feelings but I also keep showing up and making progress. Reframing my thoughts into positives and actions.
It make longer to reach the end goal, but as long as I keep showing up and moving forward, then progress is being made.
Having assistance from sponsors, support systems , makes a huge difference.
Don't hesitate to reach out for help.