Lighting Up Train Tunnels

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

I have been talking about hope a lot lately, and somehow that’s made me think more about trains.  You can read my last post about trains here.  Perhaps the thought of trains links me to hope because of the whole ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ thing.

Some years ago in my younger, fitter, more healthy days (they did once exist) I did a weekend mountain bike trip with a couple of girlfriends over the Rimutaka Incline Rail Trail, just north of Wellington (where I was living at the time), NZ.  It was fantastic.  One of the best weekends of my life.

Location map of Lake Wairarapa, Greater Wellin...
Location map of the Wairarapa area, Greater Wellington, North Island, New Zealand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Rimutaka Hill is pretty steep, and I certainly wouldn’t have been on to bike it by road but the Rail Trail, based on the track used for Fell engines from 1878 to 1955, makes it a great bike trip over to the Wairarapa region.  From there, we biked down to the south coast of the North Island and back around the Pencarrow Coast to Wellington.  Two days biking was made easier by a truck carrying our gear (the easy way!).  At the time I didn’t have my own bike but my very generous flatmate (room-mate) leant me his.  He didn’t even mind when I brought back what was a perfectly clean bike, totally covered in mud.  What’s more, if memory serves me correctly, it was him that cleaned it down.  But hey, I had fun.

The Incline included three decent length tunnels.  The good thing is that if a train can make it up there you’re fairly sure of making it up on a mountain bike.  What I remember though was that each tunnel I rode into, I had an irrational fear that a train was going to come the over way.  Trains hadn’t been on the route since 1955 but I still wondered what I was going to do when one approached.  I had the idea that ‘what if the light at the end of the tunnel was simply another train’.  This was well before my days of diagnosable mental illness but it does show a certain pessimism creeping in.

There were no trains coming the other way.  I didn’t enjoy riding in the dark much, our bike lights did little to light our way, but as there were many of us there was a decent amount of light provided.  It reminds me of something I saw this week:

“Believe that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Believe that you might be that light for someone else.”

 – Kobi Yamada

English: Cross Creek yard, showing start of th...
The start of the Rimutaka Incline and shelter shed. Photographed by Matthew25187 on 2006-12-28. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My friends biking with me, provided light for me.  The light I had on my bike wasn’t enough to sufficiently light my own way through the tunnels and so their lights helped me to feel safe.  I have to say that shortly after exiting the final tunnel we had reached as high as we were going (for then anyway – one steep climb the next day) and it was all down hill.  What a ride!  I had so much fun and any fear I had in the dark of the tunnels was gone by the exhilaration of speed.

As regular readers will know last week I changed the name of my blog to highlight the role of hope in my journey.  There have been a few hiccups along the way, and I apologise for that.  I still not sure that a hiccup-less (new word!) way is a possibility but what’s done is done, and hopefully readers have managed to find me.  What has been really nice for me has been the feedback I have had both here, and through other avenues.

Firstly, there has been the encouragement of people pleased for me that I have got to a point in my journey when I can feel hope.  That’s so nice and quite beyond what I expected.  I think that many of those dealing with mental illness don’t really get much encouragement.  We can be a pretty isolated bunch, often of our own choosing, but for some it is forced upon us.  Regardless though, of how the isolation has come about, it gets lonely, and there’s not anyone around to say “you’re going great” when you are, or to give you a hug when you’re not.  While I have said before that I have some issues over my safety in social media, I am so glad I ventured into it because now I get the encouragement that I needed, but didn’t often get.  I think part of that is that no one else realises just how desperate we are to know there is hope.

As I said in my post, Hope Is A Four Letter Word I Use Now I was actually a little nervous about talking about my hope because I think, too often, in the mental health area there is more bad news than good, and so to want to share a piece of good news I was worried about what reaction I might get.  Would someone tell me to pull my head in?  Would they tell me to wait and see how I would feel next week?  I didn’t really know, but almost had a sense of needing to be slightly apologetic for feeling good (finally).  Actually I didn’t get any of that feedback, just people happy for me.  People (mostly those I have never met) being happy for me is such a good feeling.

Even better though, a sense that my hope could provide hope for someone else.  One dear friend (who I have also never met but she’s promised to try her hand at making a pavlova when we do finally meet) wrote:

“I so often think of you when I am feeling as though the air will never clear because you DO give me HOPE!  Not unrealistic hope that I will be ‘fixed’ one day, but hope that tomorrow can be better and illness can be managed.”

Wow! That was actually what I was hoping for.  My illness won’t be ‘fixed’ as it is part of who I am, part of my personality.  But I firmly believe that tomorrow can be better, and that I can manage my illness so that I can live a good, satisfying life.  I also firmly believe that this will happen for my friend.  And if she can take hope from seeing where I am at, then that is simply wonderful.  It actually makes it all worth it, and I guess I didn’t ever expect myself to say that.  No doubt bad days will still exist, but I know now that the bad can ease.  It’s not always going to be black.

As I have been writing, the thing that has been stuck in my mind is the Just One Touch Campaign 2012, that many bloggers have joined.  My experience this week just reinforces my certainty that this is something we need to do.  I know it’s possible for all bloggers to be involved, and I completely respect people’s decisions to choose what is right for them but if we can do one little thing to stamp out some of the isolation resulting from mental illness, then I believe we will save lives and build hope.

I wish someone had shared their good stories with me, especially in the early days.  I remember one of my brothers gave me a book written by a woman who had been depressed.  At that stage I had been depressed for maybe six weeks and I couldn’t imagine in my wildest nightmares her tale of being depressed for two years.  I couldn’t finish the book, even though it was good because I couldn’t bear to think that was what I had ahead of me.  That was nearly 20 years ago.  I wish someone had told me that there was hope.  I wish someone had said “this is how I did it”.

For so long I existed on Borrowed Hope, and it worked.  I’m still here today.  And if that’s what’s going to get you through, then my best advice is to grab hold of someone else’s hope and hang on.  If I can be that for someone then, even though I’m not going to say I’m glad I have been down this path, I will say that it has been worth it.

Image credit: FB-Positive Outlooks
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2 thoughts on “Lighting Up Train Tunnels

  1. Norell

    Thanks for the great post. I have been extremely depressed for a couple months. I am working with my doctor to find another medication that will help, but the new ones I have tried have had side effects that make it impossible for me to continue with them. I have been isolating myself and beginning to feel that hopelessness creep back into my life. Thanks for reminding me how important hope is – without it I know I will continue further and further down the deep, dark well, making it just that much harder to climb back up. I am going to do my best to remember just one word when it gets tough – HOPE!!!

    1. Thanks Norell for your comments. You are obviously in the middle of a huge battle and I know it feels very dark and black down there in that well. I spent a long time down there myself and I hope that you can see some hope for yourself, and if not I hope you can find someone else’s hope to hang onto to. It does get better but I know it is a long, lonely battle and I wish you relief from it soon.

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