From the outside I have most things that society would consider as being 'successful' in life - a good job, my own flat, amazing friends and a pretty good social life. So, why is it that I'm unhappy?
The answer is rather complicated - it might be a bit long winded but bear with me and I'll try to explain. In the summer of 2015 on a two week hiking holiday in Norway I was ridiculously happy. I was with the man that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with in a truly stunning country and having the most fantastic time. Coming home I definitely had a case of the holiday blues but I was also unhappy with my current job. So I handed my notice in, got a new job in a totally different industry and thought that that would be the end of it. I didn't quite work out that way however and over the next few months I had this niggling feeling of being 'not quite right'. I would have days where I would just feel overwhelmingly miserable for absolutely no reason. Never having experienced anything like this before I wasn't really sure what was going on and certainly at the time I didn't really think much of it but it was unsettling. I couldn't lift myself out of the low mood which left me feeling rather out of control of my own emotions.
Christmas came and went and my new job was going well but the frequency of the days when I felt low and miserable were increasing. I spoke to my boyfriend about it and he didn't have any answers either so life just carried on. By the beginning of February I was still suffering my low episodes and I think I had finally come to realise that I might have a problem. In a very frank conversation with my boyfriend I said to him, 'if it was anyone else who was telling me this I would think that they had a bit of depression'. That was it, the D word, right out of my own mouth. Surely I can't be depressed? What have I got to be depressed about, absolutely nothing! Well I bit the bullet and made an appointment at the doctors for a few weeks later and again life carried on.
The next week my world as I knew it fell apart. Very suddenly and completely out of the blue my boyfriend broke my heart and left me without any reason for doing so. I was plunged into a world where I really couldn't function. I attended my doctors appointment in a whirlwind of sadness and tears and he did indeed diagnose me with depression. To cut a VERY long story short I have spent the last year on medication having had many periods of feeling reasonably stable and also many periods of hitting rock bottom.
This is why I find myself making the bold steps I'm making this year. Last week I handed my notice in at work and I don't have another job. Those who know me would gasp at that revelation. The girl who is so organised and sensible doesn't have a job to go to! I do however have a plan, a plan to find happiness....
I suppose I'm lucky as I know what makes me happy, being outdoors on my bike riding through the countryside. It's something that makes me feel so alive and even the thought of an upcoming trip makes me smile from ear to ear. So for 3 months I am going to be the happiest woman in Britain. On the first of May I am setting off from Sunderland on my fully laden mountain bike and heading north for the bonny hills of Scotland. A bikepacking trip of epic proportions to explore the islands of the Inner and Outer Hebrides, the beauty of the West Coast, the magic of the Orkney Islands and possibly even as far as the Shetland Islands.
The vision of my trip can be explained quite simply, 'Bikes, Bothies and Booze'. For those who don't know, a bothy is a small hut that is left unlocked and is available for anyone to use free of charge. The Mountain Bothies Association maintains these buildings and there are about 100 of them in Britain, many of which are in Scotland. Scotland is also very well known for it's fantastic Whisky and there are within the region of 100 distilleries in Scotland, many of the most famous ones being on the islands. Now I'm not a big whisky drinker but my Dad is and so as a child I was brought up knowing about it and sometimes being allowed to dip my finger into his glass to taste it. I do love a good tipple so for me being in Scotland and not visiting their most impressive export would be a total sin! ;-) So it's quite simple really, ride my bike, find bothies and taste the amber nectar of Scotland.
It is in my nature to plan, I really am a planner. However for this trip I have made very few plans at all. The whole concept of my time away is to experience and live and enjoy where I am and what I am doing and the best way to do this is just to go with the flow. If I like a place I might stay for a few days and if I don't then I might just ride on through and onto the next town/island. The world is my oyster! I will have everything on my bike that I need to live - a tent, sleeping bag, cooking equipment and a few clothes. To wash clothing and charge my phone I'll use youth hostels or campsites but otherwise I will be totally self sufficient, footloose and fancy free!
The thought of what I'm about to embark upon fills me with excitement. I would be lying if I said that I wasn't a bit nervous but the overwhelming want and need to get out there and enjoy myself pushes those negative thoughts to the back of my mind. I want to feel the pain of those Scottish hills and the thrill of the wind in my hair. To see such beautiful landscapes and be able to pitch my tent and wake up to the most amazing views, now that is happiness.
If you are unhappy there is only one person that can change that - you! That is the most powerful and important thing that I have learned over the last year. You have to do what is right for you in order to be happy. Life is too short to just exist and to do what everyone thinks that you should do. I don't want to ever feel that I have wasted my time in this life and so I resolve not to.
So as I count down the days until I start my next adventure I will leave you with this quote, which for me, says it all....
"When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking." Arthur Conan Doyle, British author