Exhaustion, Hunger, Hospitals and a week on Lake Maggiagore

I am writing this post five weeks into a period of time (mostly) off the bikes, before we head onwards tomorrow. I will attempt to tell the convoluted story of why we ended up having such a long time not cycle touring. In a nutshell, we are not people who like concrete long term goals, and instead enjoy making loose plans that can be changed to both maximise our happiness and open ourselves up to spontaneous opportunities. All that being said, changing our plans has still been an emotionally charged, reflective and interesting experience for both of us. It can be hard to change your plans, and plans can change for hard reasons.

The first week we had off was planned – with Liam’s parents. They joined us on Lake Maggiagore and we were treated to a lovely Air B&B. After so many days living wild in non wild places, we basked in the luxury of the world of indoors; fridges, ovens, beds, washing machines, a roof, showers, a sofa, Wifi. We looked forward to getting some much needed rest, doing touristy holiday days out, having fun with Liam’s parents and then continuing on our mountainous cycle tour through the Dolomites to the mountains of Slovenia. 

The first problem we noticed was our insatiable hunger. Liam in particular was absolutely starving and no amount of any food could satisfy his demanding stomach. We were confused because we had certainly not done without food on this trip! Prior to meeting his parents we had stayed in a campsite for a couple of nights, and at one point Liam ate an entire box of Krave chocolate cereal with 1/2 litre of ice cream, and milk! That was just the starter. I won’t go into detail on all of the other food we both consumed those two days, but it was a mountain in itself. Even that was not enough. We were absolutely starving. Liam found this difficult, but it was very challenging for me due to my history of disordered eating. The only other time I can remember being that hungry was in recovery. It made me seriously question what I had done to my body to deplete it so much.

The second issue we noticed was how exhausted we were; particularly me. I could not really move. I did not want to move. Anyone who knows me will attest – it is highly unusual for me to not want to move! I am normally someone who experiences the opposite problem; an inability to sit still. As the week went on, Liam gradually felt better but I did not. I was a little alarmed that by the end of the week I felt little difference in my energy levels. I felt guilty as even basic tasks such as offering to do the washing up felt like a huge challenge. There was also the issue that I had not had a period for three months, and maybe there was some underlying health difficulty to be investigated. 

I decided to go to the doctors to hopefully have a blood test, but came across difficulty navigating the Italian healthcare system with no Italian language skills or even a basic understanding of how their system works. A long (and personal) story abbreviated, I ended up having some fairly invasive and quite unecessary procedures done in A&E, before being scolded by an angry doctor for wasting her time! Having worked in A&E in the UK, I *knew* A&E wasn’t the right place for me to be, but that was where I had been directed, and no one had asked me any questions about what I wanted or needed. I left feeling quite upset, experiencing what it felt like to be a patient when the healthcare professional does not want to listen, but instead only make assumptions. It was a low point. After a long talk on the phone, with family medical professionals, I decided that I was probably just exhausted, and just needed more rest and food.

It was quite alarming the state that both Liam and I had managed to get ourselves into, and Liam’s parents both expressed concern that we should look after ourselves more. We listened carefully. It was an emotional week as we realised that we both are guilty of pushing ourselves too hard, not admitting when we want to rest and also being very reluctant to spend money on ourselves or any “luxuries” (most people would consider them necessities) such as a campsite, air b&b or “fun” activities! We were so torn as we absolutely loved cycling in the mountains, bivvying, living wild and pushing ourselves, but had to admit that maybe we had pushed ourselves too far. If we wanted to carry on, it was time to change how we were cycle touring, but both of us battled with feelings about admitting ‘defeat’. We wanted to see ourselves as tough cycle tourers capable of endless mountain passes and bed times in lay-bys. Time for some emotional growing up, it seemed!

With these battles in mind, when we began planning our route onwards we started getting ourselves tangled into knots, as we realised we wanted to stay in the mountains, but that realistically, we couldn’t maintain cycling up them in states of exhaustion. We also knew we did not want to cycle through towns, cities and along the flat, because these areas are hotter, busier and more expensive. It was time to accept that maybe we needed a break from the bikes, to allow some time to explore the mountains without having to cycle up them! Liam’s Dad was exasperated by us; he kept saying why couldn’t we just treat our trip as a holiday rather than torturing ourselves! By the end of the week, we had booked another Air B&B in the mountains in the next valley. We planned to have a further weeks rest, enjoying the mountains, before re-assessing my health and deciding what to do next.

With the decision made, we had a lovely week with Liam’s parents, enjoying lovely meals out, boat trips on Lake Maggiagore, walks, meals together, Aperols, wine and ‘friendly’ debates about Brexit and Corbyn. Ahem! I was sad because I knew I was not myself all week, due to the sheer exhaustion I was feeling. We did not join them on half of their activities because instead we just laid in the house resting! Even more reason for self care! What happened next is for the next post!

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