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The Moment I Stopped Feeling Sorry for Myself

My friend Brian and I rode our bicycles home from Memphis to Kansas City the week after Thanksgiving. I knew it was going to be a tough week because we only had six days to make the trip before I had to be at First Friday to do the rolling bicycle health fair display booth for Poetry for Personal Power. Even though some times I have trouble getting up in the mornings, I knew we would have to be on the road about daybreak since we were riding through some of the shortest days of the year. I also knew it would be tough because we’d be riding through the Ozark mountains. The mountains were a lot steeper than we expected. One time I got up to the top of one of them and said to Brian, “I want my mommy.” Brian laughed. Brian laughs a lot.

Sunset on Route 65 into Springfield, MO

On the fourth day we left Theodosia, MO and rode towards Springfield. We had planned to ride all the way to Carthage, MO and spend the night with one of my friends, Edward, but we got so tired that about sundown we decided to stay with Brian’s friend Tonya from Springfield.Here’s the sunset we saw while we were talking to her.

I’d been talking to my boyfriend every night on the phone (Brian is my touring partner and Rod McBride is my boyfriend.) I was so tired I told Brian, “I’m not even going to call Rod tonight.” I was so tired I was starting to have hallucinations.

Brian said, “Yes you will.” Brian loves to argue.

We got to Tonya’s house and when we walked in the door and hit the warm air, I instantly felt crawling on my skin like I have a fever. That’s one of the first warning signs that my mental illness is kicking in.  All the early mornings were taking a toll on me.  Then as we got settled in, Brian was right, I made a short phone call. My lungs were irritated from climbing mountains in 35 degree weather and breathing cold air too deeply. I was coughing on the phone, and Rod said, “Are you getting sick?”

I said,”Yeah, but it’s the kind of sick that happens when I don’t have enough sleep.”

The next morning I was so tired that I felt nauseous during breakfast and had a hard time eating much food. The road was pretty flat until we got around Truman Lake. I was still having hallucinations here and there and my lungs were hurting every time I went up a hill. I kept thinking, I’ve got to do this all day long. We still have 120 miles to go today.

Barn around lake of the Ozarks

Once we stopped to get grease and Brian said, “You’ve been pretty slow on those little hills.”

I said, “Nothing feels like a little hill today.” Then finally we passed Iconium, MO, where there is a convenience store across from a boy scout camp that sells soft serve ice cream that’s been stored in freezers. I got a cheeseburger and split Brian’s ice cream and was so hungry I almost ate it all without him. Then I went and bought another cheeseburger and scarfed that down. I was still feeling kind of sorry for myself.

We were on the same route that we’d taken home from Lake of the Ozarks a year and half ago and we recognized this barn that had been covered with these mysterious silvery leaves. In the winter all the leaves were gone, but I started to remember where we were. I knew that we’d be passing the smiley face really soon. Then finally we came to a big hill up the bank of Truman Lake and I was so tired and puny that I was afraid I have to walk it. I geared down and gritted and got angry at the hill. The hill hurt so bad to climb it, with the burn in my lungs and legs from five tough days of riding, that it totally pissed me off. I got to the top of the hill and passed Brian and said, “I want your mommy.” He laughed.

Smiley fast just past Truman Lake near Iconium, MO

I was so pissed off and fired up and proud that I’d made that hill that I completely stopped feeling sorry for myself in that exact moment. The hallucinations went away instantly. From that point forward I was able to put on some gas and really pull hard and Brian said my pace picked up noticeably. We got the 80 miles from Bolivar to Clinton with only three stops the whole way. We both wanted to make it all the way back to my stepdad’s house in Freeman, MO that night. I was fired up all afternoon and that day we both set our personal records, with 134 miles, fully loaded with touring gear. But it wouldn’t have been possible without the one moment that I stopped feeling sorry for myself.

I keep learning that the one thing that makes mental health problems worse is being scared that you might be really sick. This is one reason why I work so strongly against the medicalization of normal emotional problems.

4 comments to The Moment I Stopped Feeling Sorry for Myself

  • Bob Baxter

    Hi Corrina,
    The mileage you guys made each day just blows me away. I used to do an occasional 100 miler but that was on an unloaded bike. Thank you for the kind letter you sent and I’m sorry for not answering, I’m not very good at that. Needless to say I enjoyed your overnight stay, I probably profited more by it than you did.
    Happy Trails

  • gwen broz

    I’m so moved by The Moment I stopped feeling sorry for myself that I don’t know what to say so I’ll say I love you. mom

  • Beautiful story CW. It made me feel closer to you, which is saying a lot.

  • Corinna

    My friend Rachel shared this blog post on Facebook and started a really great thread which she gave me permission to reproduce here:

    Rachel: And while I’m giving kudos on other people’s writing, I read this post by Corinna West last week, and it just blew me away. This really resonated with me with regard to depression: “I keep learning that the one thing that makes mental health problems worse is being scared that you might be really sick. This is one reason why I work so strongly against the medicalization of normal emotional problems

    Hollie: thanks for the cool post. i used to tell my mental health teens who freaked a lot about the idea of being sick to work towards progress, but to accept some behavs as a part of themselves and “love the bomb”
    January 29 at 8:24am · Like

    Rachel: I’ve had enough experience with depression symptoms to be able to recognize them as symptoms rather than reality, and seeing them as symptoms makes them pretty powerless. The new idea for me in this blog entry was thinking of hallucinations as “merely symptoms” in the same way that I have things I recognize as “merely symptoms.” It really opened up my mind to greater possibilities than I had even imagined for people being able to take charge of their mental health.
    January 29 at 8:25am · Like

    Rachel: Hey, Hollie, I posted before I saw what you posted—I kind of like the phrase “love the bomb” :-)
    January 29 at 8:26am · Like

    Debbie: Thanks for sharing this Rachel.
    January 29 at 9:00am · Like

    Rod: I have really bad sleep apnea, and if I go a week or so without my CPAP working properly, as happened a couple months back, I have hallucinations. Nothing grand, just things like seeing someone coming around the corner in my peripheral vision, and turning to find nobody there, or driving along and feeling a car coming up in the lane beside me that turns out not to be there.

    But because the cause is so simple and so easily treated, I’ve been spared a diagnosis of ‘psychotic’ and nobody has suggested I quit my job and give up on being a productive member of society, and that’s, outrageously, the message a lot of people with schizophrenia, bipolar, etc. get.

    And ducking that diagnosis wasn’t a slam dunk: I wasn’t diagnosed with the sleep apnea and treated for that until my late 20s, but I remember driving to Denton when I was 18 for orientation at North Texas, there were a series of bridges that constricted as I approached them, narrowed from two lanes to one, and terrifyingly collapsed around the car until I was sure the railings would scrape the car. My Dad was asleep in the passenger seat and kept waking up as the car jerked on the road and I jumped trying to avoid these esophageal railings.

    All I really needed was some REM sleep, but if I’d told that story to the right doctor I could have been on Stelazine instead of air.
    January 29 at 9:32am · Unlike · 3 people

    Sophie: I combat depression, emotional fatigue, and those exhausting 3 AM regrets, with this line from Emerson: “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could.”
    January 29 at 10:48am · Like · 1 person

    Jill: There’s a good story on this by a Yale grad on depression there n everywhere in general. It’s in the Huffington P. I have to take Wellbutrin but mine has been chronic lifelong, not acute situational. It sorta helps, tai chi n walking help too.
    January 29 at 11:57am · Like

    Jill: I am a CPRS with USPRA. They embrace a pt. centered recovery model, not locking people up and overmedicating. See we have Peer Support Specialists where I work and they are a wonderful part of our team, they have been there and made it out the other side.
    January 29 at 12:07pm · Like

    Liz: Great post — I think there are a lot of good points that have been made in her post and this comment train. Some people need some medication some of the time, but if one only listens to the allopathic medical field, that’s where it all ends. I’ve resisted taking medication for anxiety (which for me has been far more troublesome than depression overall, although I’ve had moments with that too) and I’m happy with the result — a lot of the heavy anxiety meds have such bad side effects I’m glad I was never so overwhelming I felt I needed to try it.

    My partner is trained as a psychotherapist, and while she knows quite a bit about psych-meds and acknowledges they can be very useful in some instances, she would probably agree about over-medication and its negative effects.
    January 29 at 12:52pm · Like

    Rachel: It’s been 16 years since I was last on anti-depressants, and since then I’ve learned to combat depression with stubbornness and various strategies I’ve developed over the years (and no, I’m not depressed now—my “can’t” of Thursday was purely situational). There was a particular moment when I was 18 when I felt that I was at a crossroads and could make the choice either to get better or to continue getting worse. I decided to get better. It was still many years of therapy and medication before I *was* better, but I never would have arrived there without that moment of choice.
    January 29 at 12:56pm · Like

    Rachel: And I’m not trying to be down on medication.
    January 29 at 1:05pm · Like

    Chris: ?”Everyone, at some point in their lives, wakes up in the middle of the night with the feeling that they are all alone in the world, and that nobody loves them now and that nobody will ever love them, and that they will never have a decent night’s sleep again and will spend their lives wandering blearily around a loveless landscape, hoping desperately that their circumstances will improve, but suspecting in their heart of hearts, that they will remain unloved forever. The best thing to do in these circumstances is to wake someone else up, so that they can feel this way, too.”

    ~Lemony Snicket, Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid –
    January 29 at 1:54pm · Like · 5 people

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