Facing my Fear

In case you missed it, I decided that 2020 was going to be the year that I face my fears and try to overcome the anxiety I have since my brain injury. I want to get my confidence back.

So, the first goal I set myself was to get back on a bicycle.

And I did it! I cycled my bike!

It was terrifying, overwhelming, exciting, exhilarating; too many emotions to list them all!

I’ve wanted to get over the fear for a couple of years now. I kept thinking “I want to be able to teach my kids how to cycle and not be too terrified to even let them near a bike.” It’s part of growing up really isn’t it? Learning to ride a bike. So that was the primary motivator to get over the fear for me really. Plus, if I can do THIS then hopefully, I can do ANYTHING!

So, here’s how it played out… massively summarised!

Step 1: The Bike

I have no bike anymore, I got rid of the last one straight after my accident as I thought I’d never cycle again. I didn’t want those negative vibes around me as a reminder either!

So, I had to buy a bike! It seems obvious and it sounds relatively straight-forward, doesn’t it? But this was actually the hardest step!

But, how do you buy a bike when you’re too afraid to sit on one? When it comes to bikes, you’re highly encouraged to ‘Try before you Buy’, so getting onto the bike was actually going to come a lot quicker than I thought!

In the end, I couldn’t get myself to cycle it before I bought it, but I did sit on it and get a feel for it in general. Even sitting on the bikes made my stomach do summersaults and my throat close over. My head even started to throb just from the association and memory!

I did this a couple of days just Noel and I before eventually picking a shop and explaining about my accident to the shop-assistant. He directed me to the best ones, and I sat on a few and eventually landed on ‘the one’. A Kelly Clea 70 Hybrid.

Step 2: Accessories

The 2 most important items for me were:

1. Helmet

My helmet saved my life in my last accident so I was making sure I had the best helmet I could buy in case anything ever happened to me again. I bought the Bontrager Ballista MIPS Road Helmet. It cost me €200 but to me it’s worth it!

2. Mudguards

My accident had been caused as a result of my mudguard coming loose and jamming in my spokes, so I got ones that clipped on as opposed to being screwed in. Also, the way they clip on my bike means they can’t come off the front and catch the way they did before. I don’t have the brand name, but I’m sure your local shop can assist with a good brand.

I walked out of the shop terrified and excited. I couldn’t believe I had picked out my bike and it would be ready in a few days to be collected! There’s only one thing left to do… CYCLE IT! But first, I needed a nap – that took it out of me BIG time! It’s crazy how such seemingly small activities can still wear me out so much. But it was a lot for my head and emotions.

Step 3: Moving

Noel brought the bike home and I straight away said I was going to get up on it – just around the house, no roads for me just yet!

I sat on it and my feet would not physically lift off of the ground. No matter how hard I tried they wouldn’t lift. So, after a while, we decided to just use my feet to push me along – like a child starting off. That helped massively! You can tell Noel used to work with kids, he’s brilliant!

Then I went for it – both feet off the ground, on the pedals, one rotation of the wheels…. STOP! I was shaking so much I couldn’t keep going. But I did it! Feet of the ground and I used the pedals to get forward momentum! However briefly it lasted, I still did it!!

And now? I’m wrecked again. Inside we go.

But I felt so proud of myself  🙂

Step 4: Back on the Bike

Noel thought it would be a good idea to go to Killarney National Park to try again. It’s huge, has no traffic, has cycle paths and has nice flat areas. So off we went. We found a quite stretch with nobody around (I’m not sure how we got so lucky because the rest of the park was super busy) and off I went again.

Using my feet first…

then lifting my feet onto the pedals… and PUSH!

I did it.

I couldn’t believe it.

I was cycling!!

Noel has a video of me cycling towards him and I look in my absolute element. As soon as I stop, the video stops, and I burst into tears! I was so overcome with emotion I just cried. It was a mixture of relief, pride, happiness, disbelief, and many more emotions that I can’t describe. They were happy tears though 🙂

I went up and down about 10 more times, building my confidence slowly. We stuck to our little patch of path and I was just delighted with life altogether!

Step 5: Keeping the momentum going

We went straight out again the next day, but this time Noel cycled with me and we went all around the National Park. There was a couple of hills that absolutely terrified me! But there were no tears, just a lot of brave (or what felt brave to me) moments. There were other cyclists, pedestrians, hills (and when I say hill it was more a big slope) and even a raised cycle path that ran along a main road.

I was so proud of myself that day and wrecked!

Step 6: Practice, Practice, Practice

The weather hasn’t been great, but I’ve tried to keep on top of it so I don’t lose the little bit of confidence that I’ve gained. I cycled around our estate one Saturday when my Mum came to visit and it literally felt like I was 5 again! I loved it!

My 2020 Challenge

I can’t believe how quickly I’ve managed to build my confidence and I want to keep the momentum going. I’ve been thinking about doing some kind of a cycle challenge to raise awareness and money for people with brain injuries. I’m working on a plan for this at the moment, so hopefully I’ll be able to share it with you all soon!

I know I’ve summarised this quite a bit, but I hope you can apply the steps I’ve taken to help overcome any fears you may have. Don’t be afraid to go back to basics. How would your 5-year-old self have faced it? The steps I took had me right back at basics. And an 8 year old could probably cycle better than me, but I’m getting there! It’s all about taking that first step and building from there.

If you have any questions on any of my steps, or would like tips on how you could maybe apply them to your own fears, just get in touch! I always love hearing from you and helping in any way that I can.