Sat with Nat

on being publicly vulnerable

So first off, privilege checklist:

Cis-gendered, white, able-bodied, English as a first language & full time employed and like a ton of other privileges I have the privilege of not fully understanding.

I can be vulnerable and choose to share that vulnerability without really risking anything.

I had a REALLY SHITTY RIDE last Saturday. I was going out for a 40 or 60 km ride with my partner and our really nice friend Trevor who is just getting into cycling. (There are lots of good reasons to ride with all kinds of cyclists, Sam explains that very well in some posts. Here’s one of them.)

I clipped in and felt really shaken. It had been a couple weeks as the weather was snowy and terrible the previous weekends.

My partner reminded me that anxiety attacks only last about 15 minutes and I’d likely be fine by the time we met up with Trevor.

I took it easy. I kept going, gently clipping in and out as we rode south through the paths. The anxious feelings were so strong I felt like vomiting and my hands and feet were going numb. I felt dizzy. My breathing was shallow. I tried breathing deeply and talking to myself gently. It got worse. I admitted I wasn’t going to be able to do the longer ride and needed to head home. Michel and Trevor didn’t bat an eye.

As we rounded the bend about 5 km from home we had to stop quickly as a large truck was backing up sideways on the road. I simultaneously unclipped both feet and stood still. My knees locked in a lizard-brain induced panic.

I got off my bike, took off my shoes but could not get my nerves to calm down. I asked Michel to get the car and drive me home. There are no other lovely humans I would rather admit my feelings to. They are great.

As I sat next to the path nearly every running and cycling group in town passed by.

“Yes. I’m ok.”

My sister Anj called and kept me company while I waited. She’s awesome like that.

I wasn’t ok. I was a wreck but I wasn’t hurt. I posted this photo on Facebook, admitting I had to quit my ride because of anxiety.

When I got home I dropped off my bike then went to the corner bike shop for flats and rat traps. (Those $8 plastic toe loops.)

Sunday I had a short ride with Sam and Tara (you know her from our Kincardine Triathlon post last year). It felt good.

After coffee Sam invited me to her house for a soak in the hot tub. We chatted with her mum and son.

It was a holiday Monday so Sam, Rally David & my partner Michel met for a 60 km ride. I rode at 80%, it was less effort for everyone else but I explored pushing hard and stopping only once for snacks.

It was a great ride and we all had stuff to do in the afternoon.

Then something really cool happened. My friend Kim, who is super fit & awesome, posted a thanks on my Facebook wall for sharing my shitty ride.

I sometimes wonder if my posts are overly self-indulgent, I really don’t struggle in life, most things come easy to me.

Sometimes though, it’s nice to be able to model my resilience and persistence as many folks don’t have the luxury of being publicly vulnerable.

So I’ll take that and hope it helps buoy someone else on a crappy day.

5 thoughts on “on being publicly vulnerable

  1. Love this Natalie thanks for being honest. I have rides and runs like that. I tripped and fell hard running downhill yesterday and bruised and scraped both knees, both hands and one shoulder. I feel shaky thinking about getting on my bike now. And will do it anyway because there’s something in being with that anxiety that matters. But I feel you.

  2. My cycling is 90% for transportation, being in a one car household in a city where parking anywhere is difficult and costs a ton. Still, every time I go to get on my bike, I have a wave of anxiety and think, maybe I should walk (or drive) instead. Usually the bike wins out and I feel better once I’m on it, but it’s not uncommon for the anxiety to win and for me to choose another form of transport. I don’t think it’s at all uncommon, especially if you’ve ever been in a bad accident or know someone who has. And it’s a good thing to talk about, and to talk about anxiety that maybe isn’t even rooted in such experiences but is just generalized (for me also sometimes what wins out is not even leaving the house, much less on a bike).

    1. I agree that talking about it helps. For me it keeps me from feeling weird about feeling weird 🙂
      Thank you for sharing!

  3. I so appreciate your willingness to write about how this has been going for you. At least you’re out there. My fear has kept me off the bike, other than indoor training and my commuter bike and race day, for a full season last summer and so far this year too. This morning, I had a tiny urge to at least start thinking about getting on my bike soon. We’ll see where it goes. Good luck!

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