Sunday 6 March 2016

What of Inspiration?

There's a chance, that after months, even years of trying to find a venue to be allowed to attempt the Women's 24 Hour Track Cycling World Record, it might finally be close to being secured.
It started me thinking though, that if what I've been given isn't false hope to ride, therein begins a second phase of struggle. Training with a full time job, riding at home, even while eating, would all become part of a year's training for an event if I'm honest, I'm petrified to fail at.

The ride itself, is then another animal altogether. I can fail to secure a venue, then push and push to overturn that. That isn't failure, it's just a set back. I could be turned down for sponsorship over and over, but it only takes one or two to say yes to get the finance I need secured. That's not failure either, it's simply a numbers game. I'm used to fear yes, but not the acute fear of failure, just a simulated form through my epilepsy I experienced on what was almost an hourly basis throughout the day, before surgery. There is however a difference now though. While I still have epilepsy and will never shy away from the label of the condition, I don't experience the fear auras I used to, I don't have seizures that I'm unaware of what's happening to me 2, 3 times a week, but maybe once, twice a year. The fear of failure, is something I can overcome by thinking myself out of it, whereas the epilepsy I had, I couldn't. But it leaves me with the question of what do I use to think myself out of the state of fear?

The irony in the answer is that the very reason my own fear is a luxury, is grounded in what helps me overcome it in the first place. I'm in such an privileged position. I'm able to ride when there are a huge number of young people who are in the position I used to be in, experiencing fear they can't think themselves out of. But from those who I spent time in hospital with, from those who I have visited since, their courage has been what has inspired me before and it's their inspiration that makes me less afraid of failure, because I know that their inspiration gives me an edge as a cyclist.

Sometimes the luckiest people in the world, are those who truly know how lucky they are.
I'm far too lucky.
It breaks my heart and brings me to tears sometimes to think of the 95% of people with epilepsy that weren't eligible for surgery. I can never fully explain, what it is exactly to experience a Right Temporal Lobe aura seizure, it's worse than any fear or pain I have ever experienced in my life, both physical and mental. But at the same time, I can't use them as a way of explaining what the seizures are like either. So I'm put in another very privileged position, of having controlled epilepsy, being able to talk about it, but also being able to ride a bike. I can use it to highlight the issues with the condition and the stigma, which brings me to my conclusion about my fear of failure.

The real answer is that my fear of failure is irrelevant. I can't fail and I won't. For every person affected by SUDEP, that I will have a black band round the right sleeve of my kit representing, I won't fail. For every kid that has to explain their condition and how to help when they experience a seizure, I can't fail. But most of all, for every job interview I can feel being judged in for having epilepsy, for everyone who has experienced the same, for every seizure I have experienced, as a child and since my condition re-occurred, for every single 19 out of 20 kids who aren't eligible for surgery, I will train myself until my body is so ready for the event, that I'll be able to say that the record is held by a person with epilepsy.

There's a simple reality to my situation in that the inspiration I can use, is far more powerful that any pain I might or could feel riding in training or during the attempt itself, be it in Glasgow or somewhere else. Because the difficulty I face in setting up the attempt and completing it, is nothing in comparison to the incredible, amazing people that I have met along my journey that started when I was 4 years old after a febrile convulsion.

My journey likely won't end even if I do eventually break the 24HR record, but instead when, and only when, I feel I have done all I can to tackle and break down the stigma of epilepsy and raise awareness for a catastrophic aspect of the condition which is entirely preventable.

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