"It's just like riding a bike". That's what people say about things that are meant to be easy to pick up and totally achievable for the average person. For me, riding a bike is hard and a constant struggle against my poor co-ordination and balance. That's why I like this saying as a metaphor for living with depression, because it's a bit like a cycle and really tough to manage well without falling off and getting hurt. The similarity, however, is that when we do fall off we have to pull ourselves off the ground, brush off the dirt and attend to our injuries, and keep on riding.

How do we do this though, when we are figuratively lying in a crumpled heap on the roadside while others rush past us, too busy with their daily lives to pick us up and make sure we're OK? Well, one way is to establish a support network, or even a single person to keep us upright and moving forward. Sometimes we just need a guiding hand and the encouragement to get back on the bike, and someone to stick around and make sure we don't fall straight back off again – basically performing the same function as stabilisers.

When we have things in balance, and we're cruising along with (relative) ease it's easy to ignore the fact that our bike has a slightly dodgy wheel, or worn out brakes that will cause us to fall again, but unless we take steps to fix those broken bits, or at least find a decent repair place/therapist we'll find ourselves in that same, familiar crumpled heap on the pavement. This is the best time to put things in place to ensure that if/when we stumble and fall again we'll be picked up and helped back in the saddle.

Your repair place or stabilisers might take the form of a relative, a friend, your GP or mental health services. Knowing those facilities are there for you can make it easier to ask for help when you're dealing with a figurative scraped knee or twisted ankle. We can also do some preventative maintenance on our bikes to make sure everything is working properly. If we're aware of the signs that our chain is about to come loose, or that our gears are about to lock up then we can take action before things get too bad and we're thrown off again.

We all have our own triggers and signs that things might be about to take a turn for the worst so we can use this knowledge to build an operational checklist. If we engage in preventative self maintenance when we see the signs that things are going south then we can go to the repair shop, or fit our stabilisers back on before we're chucked off the cycle of depression. It's much easier to recover from this place than from that metaphorical gutter.

A Moodscope member.

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