Off the Rag

Mental Health and the Motorcycle

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In the wake of recent celebrity suicides, this seems like a good time to talk about the motorcycle and mental states. This isn’t really a secret, but I have clinical depression and anxiety and I have been on medication for it since November 2016.

Mental illness is a serious issue in the modern world, and I know I’m not alone in my struggles with it. Unlike other chronic illnesses like diabetes and Crohn’s Disease, mental illness tends to elicit a more dismissive attitude from others, though ignoring it can often prove just as fatal.

Depression for me is this deep, dark inability to love and like myself. It was so deep and so dark that it never even occurred to me that I just genuinely didn’t have any love or appreciation for myself until one day (post-medication), I did. I also just assumed that everyone was like me – because that’s the human condition I guess. I would get the warm fuzzies for other people, dogs, books, all kinds of things. But I never once had a positive warm emotion toward myself.

Anxiety for me is a brain that won’t shut up. My brain is constantly going and going and going and taking these crazy turns and trying to absorb and anticipate literally everything.

These two things together is like being the odd couple within your own self. One piece of me won’t ever stop or shut up, and the other piece of me completely despises everything about me. It’s this almost constant feeling of Go-Go-Go-Look-Look-Look-Shut Up-Shut Up-Shut Up.

Lucky for me, the first medication I tried on the advice of my primary care doctor offered me incredible relief. With the guidance of a psychiatrist, I’ve adjusted my medication levels to a place that is working and we check in to keep it working. But before that, I was trying to live like that with just occasional therapy (with mixed results).

So – what does this have to do with motorcycles? WELL, LET ME TELL YOU.

Something about being on the bike shuts up everything – with and without medication. I have to be so present in what I’m doing that I feel at peace with myself. My anxious brain is busy watching traffic and carefully anticipating the road. My depressed brain is too absorbed in the activity to dwell on anything but the ride, and the adrenaline shocks it out of its self-loathing. It’s this pure, meditative experience where I can just BE.

This is what brings me back to the bike again and again. It’s something I know will relax me when I’m feeling frantic. It’s something I know will perk me up when I’m feeling low. It’s something I know will bring me self-confidence when I doubt myself. I commute by bike because I know it will be moments of peace and the beginning and end of my day – regardless of what comes before and after it. I know I can get off the bike and feel refreshed, free from my messy brain for as long as my ride is.

Even on medication, I still experience depressive episodes periodically. I’m lucky to have a strong network of support and people I know I can turn to when my world feels to dark. If you or someone you know is suffering, I urge you to reach out to one of the myriad organizations dedicated to helping people cope with the deepest and darkest moments of this illness.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Katie is somewhat obsessed with dogs and motorcycles - she has 3 of each. She rides a 2017 Triumph T-120 most days, and has a 1972 Triumph T-120 and a 1975 Honda CB360 to keep her busy on the weekends. She also has a deep love for vintage vans, mostly her 1967 Dodge A100.

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