Woke up feeling like the dinosaurs post-meteor. Hoped it would good away with time and/or food, but it turns out that 45 minutes and a bowl of dry raisin bran isn’t the cure all one might expect. Realized I had to go in the van because I could barely process what was happening around me, but was told that everyone was tired and I should just keep going, one pedal stroke at a time. I responded that I needed to sit down. Kevin came over to me and told me he was nervous for me, that the day he had ridden behind me for the last leg of our century I had looked as if I was about to pass out, and that despite continued conditioning, it was still only going to get harder when the mountains came. He suggested I consider going home. I started to.
After a while, people realized I just was not getting dressed (my biking clothes seemed repulsive) and told me to take apart my bike, so I knew I had made it into the van.
There were eight of us in the van that day: the driver (Sarah J) and Safety Navigator (Zoe), who were both meant to be there, but also Melissa (knees), Sarah W (sinus infection), Alex (stomach), Alessandra (knees), Maddy (concussion), and me (generally weak but without a glamorous, specific injury). Despite the packed house, I tried my best to remove myself from Bike and Build, physically and mentally. I mostly did this by not talking to anyone, which was less effort than talking since I felt so awful.
When we got to the host site (Episcopal), I called our program director, Natalie. Despite being in Providence for the Providence to Seattle trip’s orientation, took 50 minutes on the phone with me. She surprised me by being incredibly understanding. She said I could get in the van whenever I wanted; that’s what it’s there for. She told me that she respected people who went home for recognizing what they needed, and that they were still full alumni. When I wistfully, forlornly said that I was pretty sure I could complete the trip if I biked just every other day, she surprised me by saying I could do that, and could work out with the leaders a schedule of preplanned days for me to ride in the van so that I didn’t have to fight my way in or disrupt anything. She also suggested going home for a few days and returning, or getting a hotel along the way and meeting up with the group after a few days of mental and physical rest. When I told her that I wasn’t loving my social life, and that I was sure that when I felt lonely or anxious it showed up on my face, making people even less likely to approach me and furthering the cycle, she suggested I tell everyone just that.
Later that evening (after red beans and rice and my writing personalized, bike-centric pickup lines for each person for sweep stakes), we had Town Hall meeting. I snuck “Fun PSA” onto the agenda, and so when it was my turn, made my personal service announcement that people might have noticed me looking miserable, and it’s not because I’m mean but because I am often anxious and hard on myself, and that I’d love to hang out but sometimes I need an invitation because I won’t otherwise assume I’m wanted. I added that asking people to ride with me in the mornings was stressful, at which point the conversation got hijacked and turned into a heated back and forth between people who felt similarly pained by the process and other, faster people who maintained there was a reason for such exclusivity. Granted, I never even ask the truly fast people, I was focused on the social effort part of it, but at that point I knew whatever else I had to say, the moment had passed. Afterward, several people told me how brave I was to speak up, and since then I’ve noticed people making an effort to approach me and ask me to ride with them. I wasn’t convinced that speaking up would do anything other than make me seem weird, so it’s pretty amazing to see it bring out compassion and empathy in so any people, many of whom have been coming up to me to discuss their own experiences with anxiety and other difficulties.