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Opinion: Helping, Being Helped & Debt - World Mental Health Day 2020

Oct 10, 2020
by Matt Wragg  
Header for Matt s Op Ed pieces.

It is just over a year ago that I put a few words down about what I call my nervous breakdown. As today is World Mental Health day it seems as good as day as any to jot down a few more, because the truth is that mental illness isn’t some nice, clean thing like a broken bone. There’s no clear point when you’re ‘better’. I have spent most of the last year coming to terms with the fact that the healing process is going to take years, some of it may take a lifetime.

In some ways I’m lucky. That was actually the word my therapist used when we started our sessions. I didn’t feel very lucky at the time as my brain and body thrashed against each other, leaving the part in between that constitutes me scared, exhausted and weak. But I think she might have been right. Anxiety is far more treatable than many other conditions, I understand it as a bundle of shitty, learned behaviours and ideas that can be unf*cked with time, whereas many other conditions are rooted in some kink in the brain’s wiring that you’re stuck with. I will forever be smitten with those who live a lifetime with mental illness as my look behind the veil left me fairly sure I wouldn’t be strong enough to take it.

I remember in the early days of my crisis, medicated past the point of being a functional person, making plans a few months out, thinking “I’ll be good then.” Of course, good never came on a schedule and looking back it seems naive to have been making plans a couple of months ahead, assuming things would have blown over. And while I can sit here and tell you honestly that I’m pretty good these days, my life is now ruled by striving to stay that way.

Recently I ran into a friend who I was talking to a lot around my breakdown and he confided in me that he is now facing his own struggles. Over the months I was laid up we chatted at length a few times about the things I saw as detracting from my wellbeing, and the things I was doing that I felt were helping me. Seeing him pale, disheveled and tired it brought back many memories and, if I’m being completely honest, a twinge of frustration. After all, this is someone I had talked through the factors that I saw as triggering my crisis and the steps to avoid them, and he hadn't taken them onboard them and looked to be running down the same road I had. Of course I would probably have done the same thing if roles were reversed.

One of the big things that comes with regular meditation is a bit more space between yourself and your thoughts, so I had a moment longer to consider how to react. I felt the frustration and bit my tongue as a hard as I could. After all, when they are suffering who wants to hear “I told you so”? I wanted to help, nobody wants to see their friend suffering and having gone through all this my next impulse was to tell him all about the things that had helped me. Again I bit my tongue. Re-reading the comments to my last piece, I think this is something that more people need to hear: if someone is struggling, don’t try and offer advice or ideas (unless they are asked for). What you must not do is tell someone how they should cope with their illness. I can tell you from first-hand experience how painful it can be to have someone you love try and dictate how you should be dealing with your problems, and I will probably never have the same relationship with that person ever again.

It’s a weird notion - after all, if something is coming from a place of compassion then why suppress it? The truth is that you don’t know what the person you are talking to is going through. Even if you were there with them physically 24/7, you can’t be there in their head with them, and that is where the real suffering is taking place. In an age of over-sharing on social media, how can you possibly differentiate between someone just having a bad day and someone deep in the throes of a life-changing crisis? You cannot know how that information will affect them and it might as easily exacerbate the suffering as ameliorate it.


Even something you think benign, like pointing them to a new treatment, can backfire. It’s mental illness and confidence in the care you are getting plays a huge part in how effective it will be, so if you dent that confidence it’s not unimaginable that it could begin to unwind the progress they are making. The same goes for telling someone that riding your bike will solve everything. While it riding is undoubtedly a great thing to do you for your mental health, it's on a par with telling someone with depression to "be positive." When you're in crisis the stakes are higher than people who haven't been there can appreciate and just one seemingly insignificant nudge in the wrong direction can send someone spiraling into a dark place. It’s the old alcoholics’ maxim: you cannot help someone unless they ask for help.

What you can do is listen, be there and be patient. It may well be a one-way street, when I am struggling my thoughts wrap around in circles and I lose the mental bandwidth to think about other people as I am so focused on whatever is tormenting me. I’m certain I’m little fun to be around and am very thankful for my family and friends who indulged me as I rambled and rambled, glad of people to talk to to distract me from my suffering. But it’s different for everyone, since I saw my friend and offered him a friendly ear, I haven’t heard from him and as much as I want to help, it’s his call whether he reaches out for that or not.

What is hard to understand if you’ve never been down the rabbithole is that when you’re on the receiving end of help, that can create its own problems. I’ve never been good at asking for help, so to find myself at a point in my life when I was unable to do even basic things on my own was profoundly painful. Aside from my anxiety, the benzodiazapines I was prescribed early on left me too out of it and exhausted to do even the most basic things. Doing something simple like the washing up might take a whole day to accomplish. When you are stripped that raw by illness you need help in a way that is hard to explain nearly two years later, and people who aren’t suffering just don’t need help in the same way. For me that created a situation where I felt I owed people far more than I could ever repay and it has taken me a while to make my peace with that, finding solace in the idea of karma.

I don’t believe in karma in any structured or religious way, but for many years now it has struck me as a good general principle to live by. Or maybe you prefer the Bible’s line about doing unto others as you would have done unto yourself. The help I received created a responsibility, one that I need to spend the rest of my life fulfilling. I need to offer the same help to those I meet who need it, to repay that debt to the wider universe. I believe it’s not a transactional thing, I can’t go out today and search for ten people to relieve myself of the debt, but I need to carry it with me, make it part of me.

So when my friend came to me, I tried to listen. When he asked for something specifically I tried to answer. I offered help but tried not to overburden him. To live by the ideas I am talking about here I had to make my peace with the fact that maybe my friend is not someone I can help, and that trying to force my way into his situation would only make things worse for him. That maybe this isn’t a time to repay more of my debt. I probably made a mess of it all. In the end I left him with these words, and even then I worry I said the wrong thing: It will get better, just not as quickly as you hope it will.

Author Info:
mattwragg avatar

Member since Oct 29, 2006
754 articles

  • 113 10
 Hey Matt, I hear you on not burdening your friend with advice, but this comment - "since I saw my friend and offered him a friendly ear, I haven’t heard from him and as much as I want to help, it’s his call whether he reaches out for that or not." worries me a little.
Some people find reaching out too hard. There is a middle ground between offering and nothing, you can still be the first to make contact.
Invite him out for a coffee, be an available ear...
Just my 2c, good luck with your own headspace.
  • 74 100
flag mattwragg FL (Oct 10, 2020 at 3:33) (Below Threshold)
 I'm sorry, but I'm uncomfortable with this comment. I'm sure you mean well here, but you don't know anything about the context of the situation, our relationship, our conversations, his support structures. Maybe I was too aggressive with my thoughts when we spoke, maybe I f*cked up and failed to abide by the ideas I'm talking about here, maybe he just isn't comfortable speaking to me. And maybe you need to meditate on the really hard questions, like are you trying to help someone for their benefit or for your own ego?
  • 44 1
 @mattwragg: I don’t think it’s too much to ask about someone’s mental health. In fact I think it’s kind of strange it isn’t something we all discuss more often. I’m not saying corner your friend or try to force an answer, but just asking someone about their mental health isn’t taboo. I completely understand respecting privacy. Depending on the person I may tell themselves they can not or think about it before answering a personal question.
  • 42 2
 @mattwragg: regret is a mother f*cker, I’d rather reach out and it backfire then do nothing and there be a possible worse outcome.
  • 22 1
 @mattwragg: You don't have to interogate them everyday about it.
Just hanging out and chatting is enough.
Then they might open up to you about something.
  • 6 2
 @nyhc00: It's your regret though. Sometimes you got to suck up your own feelings and live with the regret for the sake of the other person. I've never been where Matt's been. But I have long time friends who are there. And it hurts me that I can't help them more. But I just got to suck it up and try to be a solid place to come to.
  • 6 10
flag andrew-thorsen (Oct 10, 2020 at 11:34) (Below Threshold)
 hi dude. Are you a certified therapist? I wish you would listen to Matt's experience.
  • 4 2
 @Allen82: sometimes just hanging out and chatting is not enough. sometimes it is too much. you never know what people are dealing with.
  • 3 0
 @andrew-thorsen: I know. But there's a difference to showing support and forcing someone to come out with what's bothering them.
Just be a mate. Meet up and talk like you normally would.
  • 2 0
 @leverfingers: I get your point and it would be my regret in this scenario.
If you’re of sound mind though and watching someone drown just because they say they don’t want a life jacket doesn’t mean they don’t need one.
  • 5 0
 Yeah I understood Velocipedestrian's post as saying to just show you're presence from time to time. Give a phone call, an email, whatever, not forcing help on someone who doesn't want it.
Saying "I proposed my help" and not doing anything more say in 2 years could be kind of like an autistic reaction, I mean because in autism things that are stated can be perceived as being so forever. For instance a husband could never say I love you to his wife again, just because he said it once when getting married, and for him it stays true ever after. But on the other hand the neurotypical wife would feel a lack of affection on a daily basis. And the autist husband to be totally oblivious to this fact.
  • 25 0
 @mattwragg: sorry, I wasn't trying to criticise. I don't know anything about your relationship with your friend.
I was more trying to illustrate the gap your comment highlighted, and that - for some people - being contacted, met with for a chat, or asked a simple "how's it going?" can really help.
  • 5 0
 @Velocipedestrian: I think you are right. I got help through my work (the place that caused it over the previous few years) but I had to leave that place, and once I left I could not lift a finger to get myself the help I needed and I got worse and worse. Your comment may not be pertinent to Matt's situation, but it is generally. I coulda used someone like you a few years ago.
  • 6 0
 @mattwragg I hear you with the helping from a place of ego. However there has been times in my life (and i'm sure in many others) where a friend simply reaching out has brought me out of a very dark place, in a time when I had started becoming avoidant and anti social. When writing articles like this, you're reaching out to a lot of people as well, and as such I feel there's something deeply egoic about being passive aggressive towards someone, simply proposing a middle ground in the way they practice compassion and support. You're loved and safe even if someone disagrees with ya. No need to fire the cannons Smile
  • 5 0
 @Velocipedestrian: hey I think you didn't read the article carefully enough: "I offered help but tried not to overburden him." "Overburden" is key word here.
  • 2 3
 @nyhc00: My solution is to go out on my bike every day, or almost?
If trials trails are wet, time to dig!!!!!!!!!!!!!
If not shred the trials trails you built !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
FYI I now have a trampoline on my trails?
  • 1 4
If mental health were as simple as drowning then sweet, but it isn’t.
And your point of view on the matter, along with most peoples. Is part of the problem.
I hear drowning is nice though.
  • 6 35
flag StanMarsh (Oct 10, 2020 at 23:12) (Below Threshold)
 why is pinkbike now the forum for these types of articles? Everytime I log in it political BS, or blm equality for all or mental health. There are countless other places online where these discussions are happening. There are thousands of articles discussing mental health written by TRAINED PROFESSIONALS yet here we have a mtb editor 'teaching us' about mental health with 1 anecdotal story?
  • 2 2
 @StanMarsh: If you want trained professionals join the Circus?
  • 2 8
flag StanMarsh (Oct 10, 2020 at 23:25) (Below Threshold)
 @aljoburr: sure i'll start taking my mental health advice from the lion trainer, i bet he's an expert too!
  • 1 2
 @bigtard: Talking of drowning my trials trails were completely under water last weekend!
On a brighter note they are back ride- able again?
  • 1 0
 I've dealt with depression most of my life. Nearly commited suicide while I was active duty. Everyone gets it different, and everyone responds different. I'm an introvert, in the real world. I don't like talking to people. Making me talk usually makes things worse then just leaving me alone. But, that's just me.
  • 23 0
 Going pit on a limb here since I don't share this stuff much. There's a ton of stigma and misinformation out there so it's tough to open up. Feels like I just made myself a target. But mental illnesses are diseases. Same concept as a physical one. They just primarily attack the mind. Anyway. Im 39 and since I've been. Kid I 've been fighting what they tell me became bipolar 2. I didn't know there was a bipolar 2. No hypermedia, just hypomania but I still go down hard and stay that way for a long time.. it sucks its debilitating and its inspired some serious self hatred and all the rest. One thing that I find extremely therapeutic along with mainline treatments and other things is mountain biking. Naturally I'm here posting on a huge site for that. Seriously though. Its me, the bike, the earth and all the endorphins that go with hardcore physical excersise. I love it. Thank you for sharing Matt. I know firsthand, and not just here, how hard that is to do.be safe. Be well and ride on.
  • 24 4
 Good article. Reading it has made me review my own outlook. I have a job that most people not only would give their right arm for, but one which everyone who owns an mtb believes that they are better qualified to fulfill it than I am. I work for major landowner building and maintaining mtb trails that are used 365 days a year and is regularly logged. I've got tons of work on and I'm miserable.

Here's why.

As a MTBr I understand and share the need to ride a bike whenever you can and be motivated by the thought that the next ride is going to be awesome, that you'll kill it, improve your time, get after a KOM, ride better, jump better, have a great time alone or with your mates. If that doesn't happen, you get on social media and complain about it. The trail you've ridden isn't maintained well enough, it's too busy, the wrong people are on it, question the car park charge 'why should I have to pay to park my VW T5 and to ride my £6k mtb/emtb?' Does the land managers even ride, they should head over to (some other) forest for ideas, it's become too sanitised, there are too many puddles...And I like everyone else reads that shit, soaks it up and wonders why you even bother (well I'm paid to bother obviously, but I hope you get my drift).

Add to this my superiors don't want me to do quite as much as I do, they want me to follow a process that only serves to add delay and cost as we have endless site meetings, budget meetings, which I've had to create maps, rationales, find a contractor and then get in line, only to not end up with the outcome you envisioned, whilst in the background is all that noise from the hungry and impatient public and their unrealistic expectations. So in the end I just do it myself, me and few of the guys head out with shovels, rakes and a dodgy tracked barrow and do the best we can knowing it won't be good enough or potentially crossing a line we shouldn't have crossed.

So to free my mind I ride my bike, I'm very lucky to have both a regular bike (an enduro) and an ebike ( a kenevo) and woodland trails on my doorstep. But I can't ride the trails at work because you just see the endless problems to overcome, so I ride in my local woods where there are just natural trails, nothing managed. But now I have strava, which means that fast flowy bit which felt much faster than last time...turns out it wasn't, so what could be a great ride does't feel so great. Jeez.

What's the answer? For me, less social media and no more f*cks I guess.
  • 10 0
 I feel for you buddy. Please remember that the vast majority of people using your trail network enjoy it and it is only a minority who vent on social media. In my work I think they say that if you do a 'good' job someone will tell someone else, but if you do a 'bad' job they'll tell around 15 people. I don't know the exact stats but people are turning up for a reason and the vast majority enjoying the fruits of your labour. Keep fighting the good fight and remember that you make a lot of people happy, and that you can't make everyone happy! All the best!
  • 1 0
 @slimboyjim: Cheers fella.
  • 1 0
 First off, thanks for your trail work, wherever that is.

Second. Get rid of Strava. It's a mind f*ck. Even if all you are doing is comparing yourself to yourself, unless you are a pro athlete trying to train up for a ride, it is useless. Ride your ride, push when you feel the need, and just enjoy being on the trails. After all, you loved it so much you got a job working on trails. Don't loose sight of that.

Regarding your work. Hey, it's work. As organizations get bigger, the tape follows. Do what you need to do to keep the job and make small improvements as you can. Take your trail lust and work your own local trails instead.
  • 1 0
 @Poulsbojohnny: yep, you're right. Cheers pal.
  • 17 0
 A wonderful piece- In the spirit of a dear prayer, The Hoʻoponopono
THANK YOU- for your courageous authentic presence and words.
I LOVE YOUr- clarity and compassion.
I AM SORRY- for all the assumptions my mind inevitably makes.
PLEASE FORGIVE ME- for when I add to the suffering.
  • 2 0
 Very cool, thank you for turning me onto this!
  • 16 0
 @Pinkbike is becoming my "online safe haven". Just look at them... what other website cares about things like you online safety (see VPN post *wink wink*) and your mental health? For real tho.. good to see posts of this nature too!
  • 13 1
 Honestly, pinkbike could post anything (not just bike stuff) and I would be happy... If an article is written by a bike rider, and can relate to bike riding, I find it interesting no matter the topic
  • 5 24
flag beingsisyphus (Oct 10, 2020 at 6:28) (Below Threshold)
 I agree. Can we get US election coverage on Pink Bike? Maybe a little humor and maybe some bias. But none of the BS??? The closest I can come to US election news is the Wait But Why “transcript” of the 1st debate.

  • 15 0
 @MonsterTruck: god please no, this is one of the few places that isn't constantly throwing political information at my face 24/7.
  • 5 0
 @MonsterTruck: no, god no. We can access all the political sites we want now that we’ve been informed how easy it is to use a VPN. If there’s something that directly and factually effects the world of biking, like import tariffs or land use rights, I’m okay with presenting a cause-and-effect style type of piece.
  • 3 0
 @dexterfawkes: 100% agree. What made Dirt Rag so good was that context.
  • 8 0
 My brother introduced me to MTB. Was in a mess. Picked myself Up. Got sober. Been a regular user of my local trails around 5 years. Nothing Better than the rewarding feeling of spending a couple og hours in the forrest.
  • 8 1
 A good book that can help organize and put into words the things some of us are feeling, especially ones that have had a few too many (read: > 0) concussions, is Racing to the Finish by Dale Earnhardt Jr. There is a link between TBIs and anxiety, mood swings, fog-headedness, and more that isn’t well discussed in our society and that book really helped me to understand that sometimes I need to remember that my brain has been battered around and needs to heal, too. Neuroplasticity is fascinating and can be used for a lot of healing after a TBI, but science has its limitations. Don’t beat yourself up mentally any more than you already do physically. Ramble over
  • 4 0
 Meant to upvote and downvoted by mistake, sorry!
  • 7 0
 Alright @mattwragg, that was a brave article. And truly needed as it feels just too tempting to try and give "good" advice. Now I know I should better keep that to myself, so I will. Keep writing your articles and I'll read them, resisting the urge to give advice or point out possible "fixes". I'm probably by no means close enough for you to ask me for help. But you think we can, please do. Because indeed as you say, it sucks massively to see someone suffer and not be able to help.
  • 6 0
 I’m a psychiatric provider, it’s been a tough year for folks, I’m seeing a lot more folks with anxiety, In part because far too many folks are watching TV and overdoing social media.

My recommendation is to find a balance, stay busy, eat well, sleep well, and maintain good boundaries.

If you find yourself upset about the world, what others are doing, etc, just remember it’s not about you.
  • 5 0
 Those mental things remind me of riding down a steep chute with the bike and hoping for some traction to hit the brakes. But there might bei some stepdowns to drop before you come to a stop - and maybe you are going to crash. Too late for good advices.
  • 5 1
 Maybe at that point the best you can do is let go and have fun on the trail?
  • 4 0
 @KondziuNS: absolutely. I only wish I knew where the “let go” button is in my mind and that I can find it during an “episode”. I’m on drugs and in therapy, all of which is designed to help me find that control when the time comes, and I sometimes still can’t. Being told to just let go in that moment is a terrible thing to hear. One more thing I’m failing at and to worry about.
  • 5 0
 I may have posted this link already last year, but I post it again, it's a comic describing what depression feels like, and how it's difficult for other people to understand the one who's suffering :

Also I'm gonna rant about neuropsychology and cognitive sciences again Big Grin but if you're not going well don't overlook a genetic/neural cause. It may also be burried under "nurtured causes" (as opposed to nature/inate), while accentuating it at the same time.
People with alexithymia for instance seem to have a really poor awareness of their emotions (like they recognize 4 emotions : happy, sad, angry, neutral, anything in between and more intricate seem to alude them), and it's not rare that when you talk to them they agree with what you say while in fact they don't understand much of what you said (and sometimes they feel shameful about it, which is one more emotion), and so it's difficult to help them, cuz' they also won't come back to reach back to you.
  • 6 0
 @mattwragg great write up. Everyone needs to hear this. World is Fcking weird right now. Easy to just laugh things off, but the struggle is real for everyone. Thank you and Cheers.
  • 10 2
 Writes a personal article for a public read and then criticizes strangers for sharing well intentioned thoughts.... :/
  • 1 1
 Spot on, cringed hard at that. Banter and add to the article in the comments as an author if you’d like. But don’t tear down people for sharing their personal experience.
  • 2 0
 Yeah the formulation wasn't that great. But if he comes from a very dark place, he may still struggle to see things in a more positive, more neutral way.

You've got "Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria" for instance (not saying Matt has this, just quoting that to make people aware of this kind of struggle) :
  • 6 0
 Thanks for your honesty Matt. Truly authentic which is something I admire.
  • 3 0
 Great article and well written, Matt.

This year, 2020 on Sep 26th I am going to ride my bike every day 3000ft of climbing which means by sep 26 2021 when I enter my 50th I will have biked 1,000,000ft. I am going to try and fundraiser money for mental health treatment, in particular anxiety and OCD in honour of my cousin who killed himself. My son Anton has OCD also. 

I’m riding a Santa Cruz highball bike, with 29er wheels and a rigid ENVE fork (the one for bike packing). If you don’t know what that it, look it up. It’s a carbon bike with a really compliant rear-end (compliant meaning flexy, meaning more comfort).

For reference I biked 750,000 ft of vertical in 2018, 665,000 ft in 2019, and 554,000 this year. I ride 2-3 hours every night, usually 2500-3000 ft vert, typically in Tilden regional park or Joaquin Miller Park. I will be “everesting” every few weeks on South Park drive also. I was going to start the bike ride in a year but my friend Will stated “uhhh the time is now”, so I started on Sep 26th, 2020. I rode to Camp wolfboro and went and saw some waterfalls and biked back (in Bear Valley, CA). On the 27th of September I will bike to Monitor Pass to see the leaves which are apparently changing right now, and tomorrow I’ll night ride in Tilden Regional Park (I haven’t completely worn out all the trails there as yet!! but I’ll try!!). Last week I biked through Tilden at twilight and biked into a bat resulting in rabies shots, visits from infectious diseases and a sore numb bum. No fun. Next shot it 28th of September and then another on Oct the something (whatever 5 days after 28/9 is). 

The money is for children and families to get support, and has nothing to do with anything else. It does have to do with mountain biking 100%. And its an excuse to be outside. Nothing can take away the pain and suffering both my son and my cousin have endured, and nothing can soothe the pain my Uncle, Auntie and remaining cousin (elise) are feeling right now, today. But we can help the future be better for the children and families who endure this absolutely f*cking horrible time of treatment, exposure and attempts at anxiety reduction. It’s no joke, never will be and never was. But the new treatment modalities are excellent with 65% or greater positive outcomes. To quote my son who wrote on the wall when he left Rogers in August 2019 (the kids in treatment are allowed to as part of leaving a legacy and a cheesy wall of hope for future people in treatment) “start learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable”...It was a wise quote, and he painted it on the wall in the art therapy room.
  • 7 1
 What is key is full concentration with no place for other thoughts
  • 2 0
 Yes, Matt. I offer no additional advice to what you posted in your personal report. I commend you for what you did here on PB. Please don't let this be a "one and done" affair. Your words and perspectives, even if you are not perfect, are greatly appreciated by me.
  • 3 0
 I agree. Sometimes it's difficult to know when asking how someone is crosses over to being too nosy. I guess each person is different. Some don't want to talk, some could really use a phone call.
  • 2 0
 Another powerful article @mattwragg. I've been fortunate not to have problems with my own mental health of any consequence but this article made me stop and think about my own behaviours in a way that would have never dawned on me otherwise. Thank you for taking the time and doubtless considerable effort to write it.
  • 4 1
 If anyone wants to share how they use mountain biking in a therapeutic way, or as a mindfulness practice, i would love to hear how Smile
  • 18 0
 Wake up before sunrise; coffee or tea; leave the cell phone at home. Climb some technical sigletrack that requires full attention. Get to the top; stretch your muscles, ligaments; enjoy the beautiful morning mist...be greatful....keep flowing on the best trails you have access to. Drink fresh water. Smile ).
  • 13 0
 ride my bicycle for the sake of riding no strava allowed Big Grin
  • 4 0

I found this article rang very true for me. When mindfulness is effectively being in the moment, I find mtb does that for me - I'm not worrying about anything but the control of my bike, the traction of my tyres, etc.
  • 1 0
 @Civicowner: this. ????
  • 1 0
 @housem8d: but how do i post it on instagram?!! Or strava?!
But jokes aside, i think non competitors have gotten too competitive and should take your advice
  • 4 1
 Getting a fist full on sheep shit while bombing a downhill always makes me become one with nature.
  • 7 0
 I've ridden my bike more since I deleted strava then I ever did with it. I'm not going to set fast times or go for KOM, I'm going for fun and whatever pace I feel like riding is what I do. Simple, and fun
  • 26 0
 I was diagnosed with OCD when I was about 11. I've always had a brain that was a bit of a nightmare. I would lock onto these ridiculous things. High School, even though I didn't' really struggle with the academic part, was overwhelming but I made it through. I'm old and graduated in 98; about the time mountain biking started to really change directions. I had mountain biked since I was a kid and liked it but when bikes got more capable and freeride trails started to be built I started to crave it. At the time I didn't understand why but I felt I needed it. I started university and would drive straight from Campus for a few laps after school. I honestly don't think I could have made it through my undergrad without it.

I've thought a lot about it since. My brain doesn't seem to want to slow down and locks onto some strange things. At the time I hadn't really learned how to manage it. When I was on my bike I was doing nothing other than being on a bike. That was the only place my brain could be. I found the hardest trails I could and I think it was because if there was risk it kept me in that moment. I call it forced flow.

The concept of being immersed in the moment is exactly what Csikszentmihályi defined as "Flow"- the state where your brain and body are fully active in the activity. Time stops mattering. You are doing the thing for no other reason than just to be doing the thing. It's not a feeling unique to mountain biking but biking was where I first found it and it was exactly what my brain needed. It was like a reset everytime I locked into that state.
I've worked now in mental health for a few decades. It's been a long time since my OCD prone brain acted in ways that would warrant a diagnosis of OCD. I don't think I could have made it through grad school without an OCD brain. I use mindfulness with kids all the time as it's part of a number of our best evidence based practices. I still think biking and skiing for me are the easiest ways to be in the moment... almost too easy. It was a little harder for me to realize how important that flow state was to me and learn to find it through other things for times biking was less available like during times of injury or crappy shoulder seasons here in the mountains. Still, nothing beats that moment of just being on the bike, flying down a trail, and being nowhere else but there.
Also, learning what Flow is you can actually start to train your brain to get to that state easier through learning to control your nervous system and practicing mindfulness. I find now it takes way less to get me into that place- I certainly don't need to take the risks I did when I was younger. Anyways- theres a bit of my experience and thought on it.
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 I have a neurosis which gave me even physical symptoms last year. Riding a bike is important and makes me forget about all those disturbing things in my life. But it is not a real therapy, you always need to clean up your real life. But it helps a lot.
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 I don't think it works for me in quite the same way as some have commented above. Aside from when I'm actually descending, which is what; 2-3 minutes at a time at best, mountain biking doesn't really make me forget my concerns or anxieties.
What it does do is give me a purpose and a sense of identity. It gives me a whole lot of satisfaction. Satisfaction in cleaning, repairing and maintaining my bike. Satisfaction in getting fitter. Satisfaction in feeling like I am progressing with something and improving myself.
It also gives me something to do and get out of bed for early at the weekend. Its a social thing that has given me a great group of friends and is a social thing that doesn't involve alcohol.
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 I had an hard situation in my personal life a year ago. It made me understand how mtb help me to feel better, not on the same way that my gravel bike do. When I go on the mountain, there is nothing else than me, my bike and the trail. The rush of adrenaline, dopamine and endorphine help me to regularise my negatives emotions on a daily basis and getting better.
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 @snl1200: Wow you described the feeling of MTB to a tee. I suffer from rather severe ADHD and refuse medication for it. I’m 55 so I was one of the OG Ritalin kids. After you’ve been forcibly stoned on Ritalin as a 10yo sitting in class staring ahead while listening to the blood rushing through your ears with every heart beat. You tend to shy away from that type of treatment. As a teenager I discovered weed and overdid it a bit, but it did help me calm down and engage socially a bit better. Stopped doing it in my early 20’s going on with life etc. Rediscovered it in my 50’s due to odd arthritis issues. So it has a place for both physical and mental when used correctly.

Luckily I found my talents as a teenager and pursued them. Started a business with my amazingly organized and together wife who sadly ends up doing many of the things my brain simply doesn’t. Fast forward several decades and I ended up getting into MTB. The absolute first time in my life that my mind naturally was brought into complete and total focus with what I was doing and being engaged completely with my surroundings. Somebody finally put down the remote channel switcher in my brain! No noise, no emotional concerns, etc. just completely blissed out in the moment. The gnarlier the trail the better my head and soul feels. There is truly nothing like ripping on a MTB. You can experience something very similar playing music in a band setting but it depends on other people all being in the same emotional wave length at the time. So I get what MTB riding does for your head and heart. Problem is I tend to ride above my skill level sometimes and pay the price of injury. That’s not fun. I’d like to explore the meditation thing but I don’t know how to stop my mind from whirling around to get into that space. More articles on this topic PB please. I think the reasons many of us ride are related to keeping us mentally healthy. Apologies for the rambling.
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 @snl1200: summed up exactly why I ride and very similar brain. Glad we found this sport!
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 I just like that, for whatever reason biking works, it works! Thanks to everyone for commenting, particularly Matt Wragg!
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 @dk861 find a uphill you are familiar with, not overly hard, but not too easy, one that might put you in the second or third ring from the biggest, and climb the hill as slow as you possibly can without falling over. Think on each pedal movement, each crank, where power is applied, how you are balancing...just try this once. More ‘mindfulness’ than ‘meditation’ but it’s refreshing!
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 @joshdodd: That's awesome I certainly relate to a few of those things! I think the vehicle of mountain biking offers so much to so many people. I feel like the identity piece is an interesting one and certainly one that has impacted my life positively. In my twenties especially I remember moving around for school and work a bit and I always felt connected to people as I could fairly quickly connect with my "tribe" through biking when I got to a new place. As I have gotten older I have also really come to enjoy the challenge of the climb and other aspects of biking other than just that moment of Flow.
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Thanks for this
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 @dirtjumper771: I harsh on ppl for using social media but am too chicken to delete Strava. Comparisons of segments tend to make or break the recollection of the ride, it’s unfortunate.
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 I just think that mountain biking checks off so many boxes for mental health. They recommend 2 hours a week outdoors and physical exercise. Add a bit of dopamine and it's really therapeutic. I was struggling with anxiety for a while, still do a bit, and the hardest part is to walk out the front door and grab the bike. Even on the worst rides, I still feel 2x better than if I had not done my ride.
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 I think this brilliant video conveys very well what we're all saying here
youtu.be/0h8vO8TfI00 (Dream Ride by Mike Hopkins)
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 @snl1200: My son has OCD and mountain bikes to help with the treatment. He rides for his high school team and also biked the whole enchilada this past summer in Moab, as well as a few other places. He is a strong and fearless 15 year old who a year ago was diagnosed with moderate to severe OCD and was in partial hospitalization (like day treatment) for 12 weeks then 10 weeks outpatient. As his father its hard to watch and mountain biking has been good to me. I am familiar with flow as well a the quiet mind that is associated with it. I’m happy for you and that this works..
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 @snl1200: Beautifully said! I experience a very similar thing, It's a playful way of coming back to presence in my body.
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 @twozerosix really cool idea! Definitely gonna give it a try Smile
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 Also I’m not looking to be banned for posting my gofundme site, but If anyone wants to share, I can e-mail you. I’m at $2775/10,000 goal so far... and if its “safe” to post a gofundme site THAT IS DIRECTLY RELATED TO MENTAL HEALTH, MOUNTAIN BIKING AND THE LOSS OF SOMEONE DUE TO MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES LET ME KNOW...

Also see this: forums.mtbr.com/california-norcal/biking-1-000-000-ft-vert-year-1153435.html
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 I have learned that it is easier too help others than helping your self, most of the time?
But does really suck looking for help & finding that no one even understands the problem?
Best solution watch Lucifer from the beginning & stop taking life so seriously!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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 @mattwragg. Heyy.. Thats bravery.

i like to share this too. Its all about energy and alignment.
My wife had postnatal dep and dengue @ subtropic area at where we live. Its was a 4 yrs journey. Somehow this helped us. As much as i want to share more here, i might hit a restriction issue. But all i can say is this, it works and its real.

You got nothing to lose. Even ex war vets does it.


Do dive in.
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 Off all of the steps (counselling, medications, diet, exercise) I've taken to boost my mental health, mountain biking has EASILY had the most benefit. My employer will pay for counselling and medications, but unfortunately doesn't have allowance for bikes. O.o lol
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 Thanks, Matt. Just bringing this out in the open is important and helpful. What I found most helpful, was your story of ongoing recovery and the hope that offers to all of us who struggle with mental illness or care deeply about someone else that is struggling.
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 the one day a year where people can pretend to care about invisible disabilities. Especially the permanent ones. Then get back to not employing them or respecting them the other 364 days of the year.
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 Thanks for sharing this, @mattwragg. I imagine that a person feels incredibly vulnerable opening up to a group of internet strangers about anything personal, much less the topic of mental health. I certainly wouldn't have the courage to do it. I think it's important to discuss and normalize mental health so that (hopefully) fewer people feel like they're going through these things alone.

For those Pink Bikers who offered advice on how Matt should handle his own situation and relationships, things none of us other than Matt truly understand? I'm frankly disappointed in you. I'm not angry. I'm just very, very disappointed.
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 I learned from Critical Race Theory that because I'm white, I am racist. I can never stop being racist no matter what I do because I can't change my genetics. Most lamentable. I should just end it.
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 Thanks for this Matt.
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 @mattwragg Thank you for offering your perspective. I wish you continued luck on your journey.
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 one for the americans Dr. Mark L Gordon MD. really useful for about dealing with traumatic brain injury stuff.
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 Damn typos and fat finger cellphone tapping.
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 True self help is helping others. Declaring yourself a victim or making known personal problems is selfish. Toughen up sissy boys and go do some good.
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 May i comment
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 I came here just for the comments.
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