I love horse racing. I love the spectacle. I love the culture of the sport – much of which is deep in the Irish bloodstream. I love the setting and the scenery. I love the characters involved in the game. I love the language. I love trying the solve the mystery. I love getting it right.
At the weekend, I joined millions around the globe in trying to solve a forty horse mystery, in an attempt to pick the winner of the world’s most famous horse race. My head told me that Tiger Roll would win and my heart told me that Magic of Light would triumph.
This is the classic betting or predicting dilemma. Do you follow the form or do you follow your gut? My belief in Tiger Roll was based on his recent record, his Aintree pedigree and a rational assessment of his chances. My instinct to support Magic of Light was based solely on the fact that Mrs Jessica Harrington – one of Ireland’s shrewdest trainers and one of my favourites – was making this mare her first ever Grand National entry. It was blind faith in her ability and judgment. Heart or head. History repeating. Fate. Fortune. Destiny. Who knows.
Last night, I posted a blog reflecting on my successful weekend in Ireland, managing my anxiety and depression despite many possible obstacles that arose. I concluded that those of us who write or talk about our mental health are often reticent to share the stories of our successes as “we don’t want to take recovery or successes for granted for fear of falling down to earth with an bump.”
Today, I suffered such a fall.
I had a poor night’s sleep, partly hay fever related. Dry mouth in the night. Sore throat. I woke not feeling physical or mentally great. The heaviness. The butterflies. The edginess. I received an early morning work phone call. Miss J was still slight off colour with her tummy and a little upset. I had an evening out ahead – at Anfield. It all escalated very quickly and despite my best efforts a poleaxing panic attack followed – my first since the start of the year. It passed as it always does and I was able to get a handle on myself quickly – with a hug from my wife – as she was trying to get out of the door for work, via holiday club for Miss J.
I was able to contact my boss at work – who has been incredibly supportive of me and is a joy to work with – and my team, which whom I have been very open about my health issues – and work at home today. Just to have some space. To give myself a little time to recover. I have been able to work effectively and function at around 80%. This helps. It helps restore the confidence that gets shattered by the unexpected appearance of an episode; a wobble; a moment.
Depression and aniexty is such a cruel beast. It can creep up from nowhere. It arrives often without warning and without obvious cause. It arrives even when you write about not writing about it for fear of taking good health for granted! It feels so unfair that it appears when all has been good and you have been doing all the right things that keep you well. I feel a little cheated this morning. I feel hard done to. I feel badly treated.
But I know that I must try to stay positive. I know I must try to stay in the present. I know that this is not my fault. I know I must look forward and not back.
I have learnt a lot about myself over the last few years – sadly much of it as a result of great pain and anguish – but every day truly has been a school day. Today is another chance for me to build up my resilience and further develop my toolkit to help me handle these tough days. These days have been fewer and less difficult recently – certainly since medication became part of my coping strategies – but I know I will still have them. There is not a off switch to reach for with my depression. It is part of who I am; it is within me; it is me.
And I also know that just like the weekend’s steeplechase, some days you win and some days you lose. Some days you fall and some days you stay standing. Some days your head wins and some days your heart. Today is a tough day for me but I know there is always tomorrow; a day to get back on the horse and go again.