Ron noticed the other day that as well as people sitting and having their sandwiches together, people had started to bring in packets of biscuits. Small acts perhaps but ones which confirmed a sense of togetherness and group identity, a feeling of being part of something. This was something new for Ron and some of the others who had spent too long feeling part of nothing. There are weeks where Ron couldn’t attend the rides, weeks where his misery got the better of him and limited him to the familiar diary of Ice Road Truckers repeats and cigarettes. But these are getting fewer and further between, and on most weeks it’s the big red cross in the calendar that he counts down to, the ‘thing’ he’s got to do, the event where people will notice he’s not there, and the one where he’ll laugh and be useful.
Like many others Ron is rebuilding a life and this feels like a foundation on which other things are being layered on top of, like the first coat of messy opaque paint before you eventually get to the shiny gleaming coat that other people seem to have and that he used to have. But with more and more rides and more and more coats of paint, Ron started to feel a long-lost sense of belonging—to something, to people and to a thing.8,13 This belonging meant that through the eyes of the other people in his group he could see himself again, or at least a version that he liked. A version that could care and talk and listen and laugh and be purposeful. This was an alternative social world and he belonged. He was just Ron who liked cycling and had had some rough times.14 What he was, who he was, how bipolar affected him, whether bipolar was talked about, everything was up for grabs here in these groups. Everything could be redefined by Ron in conjunction with the people around him. Although not always. Whilst Callum never spoke to Ron, or many other people for that matter, it wasn’t because Ron was ‘in treatment’, ‘ill’ or ‘mental’. It might just have been because he didn’t like Ron, which was infinitely better. Here in this group he was recognised, he was valued and he could value other people who looked like they hadn’t been valued in a while.15