Depression: Pedaling With The Brakes On


The following is a guest post by Lex.

I learned to ride a bike when I was a child, but didn’t have much opportunity to practice during my teen years. So the next time I had the chance to go on a ride, at eighteen years old with a small group of people, I was nervous about starting again. I also didn’t have a very clear frame of reference about how easy or how hard it should be.

So I borrowed a bike. I took some time to adjust the saddle and then my group left. After a few seconds, they turned back, realizing I was lagging behind. They asked if anything was wrong. I said that it was just hard to go very fast. They laughed and said it wasn’t that hard. It’s just riding a bike and you never really forget how. And so I tried my very best to keep up. At the halfway point we all stopped to do some birdwatching. I said I was tired and not sure if I could keep going. They told me to stop whining and enjoy the ride. Wasn’t it a beautiful day? Then they suggested that perhaps I really needed to get some more exercise. I didn’t think I was less fit than the others in the group. Sure, I didn’t exercise much, but as far as I knew they didn’t either and yet none of them were struggling. So I pressed on. Not only was I the last one in the group to arrive, but when I did, I was huffing and puffing and my face was red. I complained again. So someone checked my bike out. One of the brakes was broken and basically on all the time, for the entire ride. Just looking at me, people assumed I was riding a perfectly functional bike and that something must be terribly wrong with me for being so slow, so exhausted, on such a simple bike trail.

I think this is an apt metaphor for what it feels like to be depressed. It isn’t necessarily about being sad all the time, or about having a terrible life. It isn’t about being lazy. It isn’t about not being able to handle responsibility and the pressures of adulthood. Everything is harder. Everything is a struggle. Even the things that aren’t supposed to be.


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