Friday, December 28, 2012

Blood

And all the world slips away into the crimson brilliance. If only this moment could last forever and into eternity, if only this bliss could prevail through the destruction of my life. If only, if only. If only all the world were so simple, if only all pain were so intimately interwoven with pleasure. Then, perhaps happiness would find me. Perhaps beauty and peace could be found in the pain and chaos, but this moment does not last an eternity. This moment and this euphoria is fleeting as moments and feelings always are. I cannot feel this way forever for I have not enough blood to bleed though I will never be left without words that I cannont scream. There must be another way through the darkness, some other way to bleed from my open heart and wrists. For even wounds must eventually dry and scab and heal; they cannot speak forever and they can only begin to utter what must be said as they spill and gush and drip their venomous poetry warmly into the cold night air. There is always more to say and meaning becomes lost in the intensity pouring from severed veins. Covered, spattered, and immmersed, meaning is confused and misunderstood when shrouded in red. Blood is no ink to write a story but it speaks words of the soul in a way that no ink ever could.

I am here and I am alive. I know because with this blade I could be just as easily dead and gone. There can be no life without death and the blade will never let me forget this. The blade reminds me to relish in the pain of this experience for the pain is living when life is numb, dark, and cold. I'm gasping for air, inhaling only blood into my lungs, tasting its sweetness and resting in the calm for a beautiful moment in time. In this moment, perfection is realized, its existence is known and if only briefly, perfection is attained. Its beauty is overwhelming, its seduction completely irresistable, and its intesity humbling.

There is something far greater than I. Something far more powerful than my physical self lives within me, in my hands, in my fingers, and in the edge of the blade; it exists in my heart and mind and it has the power to give life, or to take it away. It has the power to define life in terms of death and to create existence in terms of pain and fear. It's power is beyond me and yet it is me. I am more powerful than I can comprehend and entirely powerless to control anything in the same breathe. With each breathe, I inhale life into my chest and fend off the inevitability of death for another handful of precious seconds. With every incision, I welcome death into this world of the living, and invite it to reside within me. Or is each gaping hole opened allowing the death that lives inside to escape and inviting the life which surrounds me in?

In each slice lives an escape from that which is inescapable and as passion dribbles across the surface of virgin skin, I am free of my prison and forever chained to this moment and to the sacrifice I have made to experience this fleeting moment of freedom. This is no real freedom. Freedom is not realized through rivers of blood or the sting of a blade. Real freedom is not an escape but an acceptance of truly being present in this moment and experiencing life as I invite it into my chest with each new breathe. There is no freedom in bleeding, only imprisonment forever more within the memory of these desperate moments when so much must be said without whispering a single word.

This pain lasts long after the blood has dried and the wounds have scabbed and healed. Forever these scars will remain and forever they shall speak. Long after I have learned to speak for myself, they shall continue to say what I never could but they shall never define me; they will never be me. I am more than my pain. I am more than the blood. I am more than these scars and more than the silent screaming that has defined my past. Freedom is breaking this darkness of silence and screaming brilliantly into the light.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Gone

You've left and gone away now. It's not that our lives crossed paths often, in fact we hadn't seen one another in months when we last spoke. You were not necessarily here and yet I cannot help but feel that you're gone forever. I barely knew you. Our lives touched only briefly before we went our seperate ways to fight our demons alone but brief as our interaction may have been, I can tell you that not a single day has passed since I heard the news that the thought of you has not crossed my mind at the mention of word, the sight of a place, or the thought of a moment. I have never thought of myself as someone who becomes attached to other people, in fact I have made great efforts to put distance between myself and the rest of the world so that when people leave or relationships end as they always seem to do, I can move on without feeling the grief and pain of the loss. I barely knew you and though we became close for a moment in time, we had grown nearly as far apart as two people could before the end, and still I feel the pain of your death deep inside of me. I can feel the void within that I had no idea your smile had once filled. I'd like to believe that you and I learned quite a lot from each other in the time that we shared and even in your passing, you are still teaching me things I may never have learned about myself otherwise. You have shown me that depsite my best efforts to remain distant from those around me, I am deeply affected by the people that I call my friends and these people help to make my life full and welcoming. You have shown me that there is no weakness in enjoying the presence of the people that you care about, only the potential for regret in not taking the opportunity to spend time with them while you have the chance. We spoke only three days before your passing and how could we have known that it would be the last time? I know that realistically there is nothing that I could have said or done to change your destiny but I am coming to find there is nothing I can say or do now to shake this notion from my mind. I would have thought of something more important to say had I known that I'd never get the chance to say it again. Thank you. Thank you for sharing your struggles with me and allowing me to share mine with you. Thank you for sore thumbs from sending so many text messages on my crappy phone. Thank you for thrift shopping in Berkeley and conversations about the psych ward at full volume on the crowded BART train. Thank you for showing me that I'm not the only one who is in love with Emo Punk bands from my highschool days. And thank you, for being the friend that I so desperately needed after my world had been turned upside-down. I hope you have finally found the peace that you so deserve.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Priorities

My appetite is immense. I'm not hungry, there's no way that I can be, not physically hungry anyway. I just ate a sizeable breakfast and yet I'm still starving for something that I cannot define. There's a void inside and food seems to be the easiest way to try to fill it. What's missing? What is it that I'm searching for? I'm always asking myself but I've not yet managed the courage to break out of my little box and go searching for what it is that might make me feel a little more whole. The world outside of my box is a scary place, after all. Or am I really just hungry? Have I been casually restricting here and there recently and is my body actually just looking for something extra to put into the gas tank. I wish I knew, I wish I could tell. I wish that I had some sense of hunger and fullness that I could actually rely on. I wish that I really felt that way. I wish that what I just said wasn't a lie and that I didn't know that I've been riding a little more while eating a little less now and then for weeks and weeks. I wish that I could really believe that I couldn't tell what is really going on, but I'm too smart and too aware for my own good. I know exactly what's going on because I've been here before. In fact, I don't really feel as though I've ever left this place for any length of time. Not this place physically, I've been here, there, and back again physically. Emotionally though, I don't feel like the internal struggle is any different than it was a year ago necessarily. I find myself behaving differently, with some ability to take care of myself that I simply didn't have at this time last year, but inside I feel just as knotted up and backwards as ever. It's not getting easier and I guess I had hoped that at some point each and every day wouldn't be every bit as difficult as the last. I had hoped that the light at the end of the tunnel would be visible by now, but instead I still find myself stumbling around in the darkness. Perhpaps I'm being too hard on myself. Things are different than they were a year ago. They are. Some things are still the same and it's these things that worry me and make me feel as though I'm not trying hard enough, that I'm a failure at taking care of myself and that I am a fraud when it comes to being a decent and honest human being. Let's be real though, things have changed and I have actually come a long way though I still have a great distance left to go. At this time last year, I survived on a diet of cereal, diet pepsi, powerbars, and on the bad days, ice cream. And with that diet of a champion, I compulsively rode my bike about 30 hours every week in an effort to maintain an unrealistic and unhealthy weight. Every thought revolved around food and how I was going to eat less of it or burn off the meager amounts that I had allowed myself to consume. Too little was always too much when it came to food and too much could never be enough when it came to riding. I was completely trapped in a vicious cycle of restricting, exercising, binging, and purging. It wasn't much of a life. Cold and isolated from my friends and family, my only joy came in pushing myself ever further down a path of self-destruction. It was a life defined by pain and suffering, the more that I suffered, the stronger I was and the better I felt about myself and my place in the world. It wasn't an enjoable existence, but it was wonderfully simple. Stay thin. That was it, that was all. There was only one goal, one objective, one career choice, one educational path, one desire, and one lifestyle: stay thin. Stay thin and you will be happy. Take away all of the other hopes and dreams that you ever had, take away your goals and aspirations, your desires to be successful or well rounded, take away anything and everything that might require you to have more than the bare minimum amount of energy or that might require you to break away from your day to day routine and replace all of it with one thing, a need to be thin. Do this and the stress you feel about work, or school, or relationships will melt away because all of these things will become completely unimportant. So what if you make barely enough money to pay the rent, you're not into all that material bullshit anyway, you're above all of that, all you need is to be thin. So what if you'll never be able to focus long enough to sit through a college class, you're skinnier than all of your class mates anyway and what could possibly be more important than that? And who cares if you're too hopelessly dedicated to your bike and to losing weight to be involved in a meaningful and fulfilling relationship with another individual, you know that true happiness lies in being skinny and your disorder gives you things that you could never get from another person. Sleep, ride, and eat just enough to keep yourself upright. Screw everything else. Yes, life was blissfully simple then. Life was also excrutiatingling unfulfilling. I was aware of it then, even functioning in the state that I was, I knew that I was completely empty inside and that my life had little meaning or purpose. Although I dedicated myself completely to my task, I knew that my task meant nothing in the grand scheme of things. Things have changed, and I have come a long way. Life is more complicated now than ever before, but it is only complicated due to the fact that I have a desire to be more than just what I am and the potential energy to actually change my circumstance in this world for the first time in my life. Life is only more complex now because I'm allowing myself to experience it rather than shutting it out completely and dedicating myself to destroying myself instead. I have something more driving me to do the things that I do these days than just a desire to be the skinniest one in the room. Maybe this is more than enough to be proud of at this point in the process, but having dedicated so much time to keeping myself stuck in the same comfortable little box, I feel as though I'm years behind my peers in the race of life and just like everything else, life is a competition. I hate losing. I hate losing and I feel like I'm so far off the back at this point that I don't stand a chance of making up all the ground that I've lost. I'm anxious to get on with it and frustrated that I haven't just let all of these demons go. I'm frustrated that although I am not completely driven by a desire to be thin, it's still a top priority in my life at this point and I don't feel myself moving this priority down on my list of things to do. It's still my fall back, the thing that seems most natural during times when I'm not completely occupied with some other task. It's creeping back in and climbing back up the ladder of importance in my life. Realistically, I know things have changed. Things are not going too terrribley well nor are they going fantastically poorly. Maybe that's the very reason that I feel so damned agitated all the time. I'm neither winniing nor losing this race right now, I'm somewhere midpack, completely unspectacular in any way, just hoping to cross the finish line with the rest of the group. I hate it. I hate feeling like I have nothing to set me apart from the rest of the world right now. I feel like I am absolutely nothng special and in fact more often than not, I feel like I'm far less than even average. I feel like a fraud. I don't understand it, I never have. People seem to believe that there is a certain something about me that makes me worth while or at least worth knowing, but it's simply not true. I have no special talents, I'm not particularly bright, I'm easily overwhelmed, not especially disciplined, and at the end of the day, I'm selfish and lazy. I can't understand why it is that anyone would bother keeping me around or giving me any sort of credit. I feel as though I'm headed no where and I can't figure out how I stand any chance of changing that direction being so incapable of handling the pressures that go along with growing up. I don't know, maybe I just can't figure it all out right now. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself and not allowing myself to acknowledge just how far I've come in these last few months. Sure, I'm struggling with a few things right now and I still believe that I could be further along in this process and in life than I currently find myself, but that's the type of thinking that wins races and keeps you out of the pack, and I doubt if I'll ever completely stray from such high standards for myself. Maybe I need to look at just what it is that I'm capable of from a different angle. I'd like to believe that each and every one of us is capable of nearly anything and perhaps I only feel that way because I watched myself go from a couch potato youth to a professional athlete competing with individuals whom I used to read about in magazines. Whatever the resoning though, I most certainly believe that nearly anything is possible if you dedicate yourself to a task. So why then, am I having so much difficulty in dedicating myself to the task that is before me? Why is it so profoundly difficult for me to put the same amount of effort into caring for myself and for my future that I put into riding my bike? Part of me knows that it's because I am still putting so much effort into the bike, even now when I have decided to "move on" with my life and grow up. It's proving more difficult than I could have possibly imagined to let go of it all and I can't decide what and where my true motivations are. There are moments when I know with certainty that I must leave the cycling world behind completely if I stand any chance of ever really getting better and then there are moments like this one when I feel like I belong in this world and that I can have a happy and fulfilling career in an industry to which I have devoted years of my life. I find myself unsatisfied with where my life is at this moment, but unwilling to commit to taking the first steps into a particular direction of any sort. I don't really believe that anyone has much of an idea of where they are going to wind up in life. I think that many people find themselves in jobs that they're not fond of which end up becoming careers that they don't like which they end up doing for the rest of their lives because they've made committments to houses and families and cars and everything else along the way. I don't want to make the wrong choice. I don't want to wake up one day thirty years from now and wonder what would have happened had I made use of the time that I had invested in riding bikes but I don't want to wake up one day and wonder the same thing about a thousand other things that I could decide to do right here and right now. The world is a much larger place than it was a year ago and if I can give myself no credit for my progress I've made, then at the very least recognize that my eyes have been truly opened for the first time. The struggle now is deciding whether to keep them open and face the vastness of this place, or close them tightly and shut out the wonders of the world once again.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

War

My blood burns and itches with so much of something searing and rotten that I feel like I can't keep it inside of me. My insides want out. What is this thing within me that scratches and claws at my very core, ripping and tearing me apart from somewhere deep inside with a fury that frightens me? Is this anger, rage, or fear? Or is it all of them and none of them in the same instant? Something somehow everything and nothing all at once, too wild and out of control to pin down and identify, and thus impossible to resist and dreadful to give in to at the same time. Whatever it is, it's too much and it's boiling over the edge and I'm bursting at the seams. I want to scream and lash out in violence and rage toward my unknown and ever present enemy within, but how do you kill something which lives inside of your heart and has become intertwined with the fibers of your very soul? How can I kill such a creature without ripping myself to shreds in the process. I cannot be a casualty of this war inside of me. In fact, I must be the sole survivor. I feel as though I'm about to explode in every direction, like my blood is boiling and my skin can't contain what lies whithin for much longer. I need to go; to get up, out, and away, to somehow leave the intesity of whats burning inside of me behind so that I can take a breath and begin to find myself again. I'm free to do whatever I'd like, but trapped within myself and my struggle; physically stuffed and emotionally starving for something that I can barely imagine the taste of. The moment has passed, the intesity of the rage within me has subsided and returned back to it's hiding place somewhere deep inside. Those thoughts are seven days old now. I can't say that I've ever felt quite like that before. I've felt something worse, something more crippling and painful, as though a thousand pounds of dread were standing on my chest making it impossible to breathe as my soul poured from my mouth between sobs of hatred for myself and my weakness, but never have I been so outraged at my own success. I had decided that I was done fighting, that it had been long enough and that these feelings of being so overwhelmed by the world would only go away if I finally gave in and let myself sink down and away into the darkness of an old familiar friend. I had decided I was ready to fall down and felt completely justified in my decision. A new home in a place that I'm not comfortable, a new job in a place where I can't make a comfortable living, and an expectation by those around me that I be thrilled to be in these new surroundings. The urges have been here all along. I haven't left them behind as the summer has progressed, I've simply been so preoccupied with living in three different places that I haven't had a true chance to slip in the fashion that I must. It can't be unplanned. Poor planning may lead to a half-hearted attempt at a binge and an attempt doesn't count which means that there must then be another binge which is well planned and perfectly executed. There have been plenty of urges but no attempts, knowing full well that I wouldn't have the time to make things count the way that I wanted and needed them to. Things are different now. I have free time for the first time in months and this more than any of the changes in my living situation or working environment has caused the urges to well up inside of me these last few weeks. I've been fighting them, filling my time and belly with other unhealthy but slightly less detrimental coping mechanisms but last Wednesday I decided that I had had enough. What started out as a whisper in my mind had grown into a forceful shout that I could no longer ignore. Dez, you deserve this. Dez, if you do this just once, I'll be quiet and I'll leave you alone. Dez, you know this will make you feel better. Remember what the Dietitian said? This is not a process without slips and backslides, and you've been working so very hard for months. You owe this to yourself, you deserve to have a slip, you've been so good for so long. Your life is crazy right now and this will make you feel calm and numb to the chaos of the outside world. You don't need anyone or anything but this. Just once Dez, just once and I'll go away forever. I promise. This time, I mean it. As these words grew louder, my strength to resist them began to give way under their weight. Where once these thoughts filled my mind during brief moments or glimpses of possible windows of opportunity, it seemed as though they had now taken up permanent residence in the forefront of my thinking and to every obstacle I encountered or question that I faced throughout my day, the answer became the same. A binge and a purge would make you feel better. Slow day at work? Binge. Uncomfortable in your new home? Eat until you can't feel the world around you anymore then get rid of it in a panic of guilt and frustration as the realization of what you've done comes crashing down into the numb stillness of your food enduced momentary bliss. Trust me, that will make everything better. Okay. Alright. You win, you win. You're right, I know you're right, I've always known and I've been so silly to resist you for so long. The answer was right in front of my this whole time and I somehow had myself convinced that resisting the easy way out was going to make me feel better. I know now that what I'm about to do is unavoidable. It has become only a matter of when, not a question of if and by holding out and putting it off I'm only tormenting myself. These thoughts raced through my head as I rationalized what I was about to do while I hurridly gathered my supplies at the grocery store and drove home. It will be over soon, I told myself. It will be over soon and although you're going to feel awful for a few moments, or a few hours, or even a few days, you'll get through it and somehow through the feelings of guilt and shame, through the compensatory behaviors and through the landslide of emotional turmoil that is sure to accompany what you're about to do, somehow things will all be better if you just get this out of the way. Dez, you're going to binge. Dez, you're going to binge and then you're going to purge. I know you thought that you wanted to ride your bike and have a good day, but you were mistaken. This is what you really want, this is what is really going to make your life more manageable, this is what will finally allow you to relax and take a step back away from the chaos. Listen to me, trust me, believe in me. I know we've had our disagreements, but I've never wanted to hurt you. All I want is for you to be happy, for us to be happy. We don't need anyone else, they only want to seperate us and make you live in the discomfort that you've been feeling in trying to resist me. Give in and the discomfort will disappear. By this point I've stopped arguing. I know in my true self that every thought running through my mind in these moments is tainted and seeped in self-destruction. I know that not a sliver of what I'm thinking and allowing myself to believe is true but I've grown tired of fighting my own thoughts and now that I've decided to give in, I've let go of my control of the situation completely. I'm on auto pilot and I know exactly where I'm headed. For an instant, I believe that I truly will feel better somehow once all is said and done, but as I sit down with my binge laid out before me, my spoon in hand, I know that I have stepped to the edge of what could prove to be a very slippery slope, and that I want with every ounce of my being to hurl myself off the edge of this cliff and into the darkness. I want this more than I have ever wanted anything in my life. This is it. It's now or never. Everything is here, everything is set, everything is perfect. I can follow through with this, with all of it and as I wallow in hatred for myself in the days to come, I will at least be able to hold onto the smug satisfaction that I made this binge count for everything that I could. I will know that I went all the way, I didn't waste this binge on something that was just lying around in the cupboard or give into a minor urge without enough time or the right opportunity to do it properly. I will know as I struggle to find my balance and to compensate for what is going to happen over the next hour of my life, that I held out as long as I possibly could, that I pushed myself to my absolute breaking point before I finally gave in, and that in true black and white thinking fashion, I made this one count. Somehow, these thoughts provide me with the final justification that I need to pick up my spoon and begin digging myself as deep a hole as I possibly can, one bite at a time. The phone rings. This can't be happening. I'm about to engage in a behavior which must be denied the one person whom I've sworn never to lie to is on the phone. I ignore the call and the phone rings again. I've blown my cover somewhere along the way and she knows that I'm up to no good. What do I do? I want to finish what I've started so badly that I can't stand it and yet I know that ignoring her calls is quite different than choosing not to reach out for any support when I knew that I was going to give in to the urge to plunge myself into the cool numbness of a binge. Choosing not to ask for help is one thing, but blatently resisting it when it's being offered to you is something entirely different. Moments later I find myself standing in the kitchen with the sink running in the background. I feel as though I'm going to explode in every direction and the voices inside me are screaming so loudly and with such hatred and rage that I want to rip my chest open with my bare hands so that they can escape and pour out of me along with the rest of the black feelings that almost saw me give up and throw the last months of work out the window for a chance at feeling the fleeting bliss of a binge. The ice cream is slowly melting as the water from the faucet pours over it and the cake is sitting at the bottom of the trash can out on the curb, still tightly wrapped in it's plastic container, untouched and still not off the table entirely. The ice cream needs to disappear faster. It needs to disappear before I lose my nerve and before this nervous rage and energy boiling up inside me finds me scooping it out of the sink and into my mouth which would be the first step towards me fishing the cake back out of the trash for all of the neighbors to see and devouring it in its entirety. I have got to get out of here. As I said, I've never felt this way before. Somehow I know that I have done the right thing, the thing that will allow me to feel good about myself in the days to come, and yet here in this moment I am positively miserable. I'm miserable but I feel vivid and alive. Emotions are surging through me and although I feel as like I may burst into flames at any moment, I cannot deny that I feel more alive than I have for months. I'm relieved. I'm furious. I hate her and I love her. There is a part of me which absolutely loathes the rest of me and most of me doesn't know which direction to run in order to get away from the seething hatred that's boiling up inside of me. As I pounded my anger and rage into the pedals that afternoon, the tension within me began to loosen and my thoughts began to clear. I couldn't help but wonder if feeling the way that I had standing there in the kitchen might not have been just the thing that I needed to prove to me that no matter how tempting it is to give in and to give up now and then, in the end there is only one way to win a war: never back down.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Fall From Grace, Or A Step Toward It?

Perhaps it's the two liters of caffeinated beverage that I've just hurridly consumed, or maybe it's the temperature in this building, but whatever it is, I'm not feeling well as I pedal through the 40 minute mark seated in a pool of my own stinking sweat and trying to focus on the book in front of me and not on the sharp pains that shoot up my calves with each and every revolution of the pedals. My calves have never hurt this bad. Ever. Thank you 24 hour fitness. This is disgusting, I think to myself as I drip onto the floor, the handlebars, the book, and the bike. This is disgusting, but this is necessary right now. I'm sitting in this prison of dance beat music and recycled air surrounded by people who believe that their time spent here will make them more beautiful, more successful, smarter, funnier, more appealing to the opposite sex, taller, skinnier, and who knows what else. Perhaps they are here to feel better about themselves, to relieve stress, because their doctor told them they had to work out if they wanted to be healthy. I look around me and see these people, the other white mice running on their wheels in this giant concrete cage and I can't help but think of just how unnatural this whole gym thing really is. It's as though we're all part of a huge social experiment. If given the proper tools, can America save itself from the obesity epidemic? Not likely. Not a single one of them is taking themselves nearly as seriously as I am, and not a single one of them, I suspect, is here for the same reasons that I am. I'm here so that I can make it through the rest of the day, so that I can function at a somewhat normal capacity with the rest of the human population. I'm here because I have decided to give up my drug of choice and to get myself clean and because without this spin bike, the sweat, and the dance music being pumped into the recycled air of this concrete cage, the feelings of emptiness that now fill my days are simply too much for me to bear. It's day seven. Day seven of who knows how many. Day seven without my bike. Day seven of the rest of my life and I have never felt more lost. What do I do now? What exactly, is the point of getting out of bed in the morning? Why bother taking care of my body, or shaving my legs, or going to bed at a decent hour, or not drinking gobs of caffeine? Why bother with not drinking, or doing drugs? Why bother with trying to stay on track nutritionally? Why bother with fighting the urge to binge and purge? What reason do I have to feel good at this point? It's gone. I've known for a long time what needed to be done. I've thought about saying goodbye to this piece of my life many times before. What do you think about when you're out there all alone for hours and hours at a time Dez? Often times, I'd find myself day dreaming about how marvelous it would be if I were to be struck down by a rogue automobile at that exact second. How wonderful it would be to be soaring through the air and to hit the ground with such force that the bones in my legs would shatter into a million pieces. "I'm sorry," the doctor would tell me after I'd awakened from my coma, "but we couldn't save your leg, son." I'd look down and rip the hospital sheets away from the space that my leg should have occupied on the bed and see only a stump and more hospital sheets. Sure, I'd be devistated for a while, I'd think to myself. I'd fall into a deep depression for a time as I pondered my life without the bike, but I'd get over it. And, I'd think to myself as a smile would creep across my face, I'd finally have a legitimate reason not to ride my bike anymore. Oh, how glorious it would be if I could only be free of this monster! What would I think about as I pedaled endless miles all alone through the last ten years of my life? I would think more often than not, about just how amazing it would be if I could be anywhere but exactly where I was at that moment. I would think about all of the things that I was no longer able to do because of my bike, about how very small my world had really become, and how everytime I extended my world geographically by riding to a new place, it shrank even smaller in every other area. I would think about everything that I had given up, everthing that I had sacrificed to keep riding and I would wonder how on earth I could possibly hope to maintain this lifestyle if I ever wanted to grow up and become a real adult and do any of the things that such a task encompassed in my mind. I would think about just how trapped I really was and just how badly I wanted to break free and all along I would know that I could not and would not ever let myself let go. Why not? If you don't enjoy it, then just stop doing it. If it hurts, don't do it. If you want to take the day off, then just do it. If you don't feel well, don't ride. If you're crazy and you know it, clap your hands! These ideas, these courses of action were never real possibilities in my mind. Sure, other people could stop riding, but other people were not and will not ever be me and this sort of backwards logic was all that I needed to keep me enslaved to my bike. What has changed now? Why have I decided to take the leap towards freedom now when two weeks ago it wasn't even an option? Hell if I know. What I do know is that since I have decided to let go of this piece of my life, of my disorder, the other components which I thought I had a handle on have come back into play. Give up your bike? Fine, chew a pack of Trident everyday and reach back out to the Diet Pepsi to help calm your nerves, fill your belly, and distort your hunger signals. Not squeezing in a few extra miles each day and leaving them unaccounted for on your meal logs? No problem, just don't eat all of your exchanges. Oh and of course, not riding 20 hours a week to ensure that every calorie consumed is accounted for or dedicated to muscle development? Easy fix, hit the gym and hit it hard. 45 minutes ticks by and it's time to stand up. Flip the book over so that I don't sweat all over the pages and stand up on the pedals for a few minutes so that I can regain a little feeling in the nether regions. Some voice within me reminds me just how weak I've become. Shaking and light headed after only two liters of diet cola? Oh my, you're not half the person you used to be. Two liters used to barely get you through breakfast. Then I find myself thinking about how caffeine doesn't get the credit as a drug that it deserves these days. I wipe myself down with my soaking wet gym towel as I take my position once more atop the oversized spin bike saddle and take a look around to see if any of my fellow lab mice have noticed just how ridiculous I am, sitting here drenched in my own stink and pedaling myself from here to nowhere just as fast as my legs will carry me. The man to my left seems mesmorized by whatever Rachel Ray is cooking on the TV hung from the ceiling in front of him. He's so captivated in fact, that he seems to be forgetting to turn the pedals on his own spin bike. He is not sweating. The people in front of me, most of whom are big men wearing tank tops and basketball shorts, are staring intently at their own figures in the mirror as they complete reps and sets, sets and reps. No one seems to care that I exist. I am reminded that most everyone in the world is too busy looking at themselves to pay all that much attention to me and what I do. I can get away with anything if I really want to. Do I want to? More than anything, these last seven days have reminded me that whether I want to get better or not is entirely my decision and that I only hurt myself by choosing to hold on to these compulsions to exercise, or to chew gum, or to drink Diet Pepsi for that matter. The idea of giving these things up has raised one question in my mind that above all, needs answering: Do I want to get better? I've been asked numerous times if I'd like to recover and move on with my life. These questions never needed much thought before now because in truth, I didn't have much to lose. I was never really giving anything up. Do I want to get better? Can I still ride my bike 20 hours a week and maintain a weight that's below average? Well then hell yes I want to get better! Oh, what's that? You mean that getting better means living at a normal healthy weight and only exercising to stay fit? Getting better means having some measureable amount of body fat and building my life around something other than when and where I'm going to get my ride in on any given day? Oh, I need to give this a little more thought, in that case. Do I want it? These last seven days have made me question just how committed I really am to getting better. The fact that I'm sitting on this spin bike makes me question how badly I want it. The caffeine coursing through my veins raises doubts in my mind and the golf ball sized wad of Trident in my mouth might send up a red flag or two. Truth be told though, depsite the feelings that I've given up on myself and failed at upholding my life's dream, despite this shuffling of behaviors and how tightly I'm clinging to pointless pieces of my old life, I can't help but feel the excitement building within me. I'm finally taking a step toward freedom. I've finally allowed myself to open a door which I have refused to acknowlegde even existed for many years. That door is open and all that's left to do now is decide whether or not I really want to walk through it.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Reality Check

Realistically, this all could have been avoided. Or could it? Would making different decisions throughout the course of this day really have changed what I've done, or would different choices simply have pushed my actions aside for a few more days, or weeks, or months? Realistically, the way that I'm feeling now, the burning in my throat, the burst blood vessels around my eyes, the feelings of self-hatred, the overwhelming sense of hopelessness that has engulfed me, these things would always have been the eventual result of staying on the path that I've been traveling. It was only a matter of when, never truly a matter of if and I see that now. I think I may finally be ready to come to terms with the reality of my situation and the sacrifices that need to be made if I ever truly hope to move forward in my life. I had no plan to binge today when I went to bed last night. Sure, the thought crossed my mind. I realized the opportunity would be there and the notion of throwing a day away on engaging in old behaviors swam through my brain, but this notion is nearly always swimming around somewhere in the depths of my mind, and more recently it's been floating to the surface on frequent occasions but I've shown myself time and time again that simple thoughts do not necessarily always need to provoke the action which is attached to them, and so although the thought of binging away what would otherwise be a beautiful Wednesday did cross my mind, I certainly didn't intend to turn that thought into a reality. I could try to look back at this morning to figure out what it was that triggered an urge so strong that I simply couldn't resist it, but that would be me trying once more to deny the plain and simple truth of the place where I have put myself. I want to binge when I am hungry. No, not just hungry, I want to binge when I'm starving. It doesn't take long to get to starving if one puts their mind to the task, but there are certainly longer, slower, more subtle ways of arriving at the same point of malnourishment. The doctors and the dietitians and the therapists are all so very proud of me and all of the hard work that I'm putting in. They're all so impressed with my ability to maintain my weight and to get a job and to have a girlfriend and to function of what they assume is a more or less normal level of existence. But they're only so proud of what they see me doing because I have painted such a beautiful picture for them to gaze upon. Don't they get it? I can't fail. Well, of course I can fail. I can slip, I can slide and I can tumble off the side of a clif but I will fight to the bitter end to ensure that no one has the slightest idea that I lost hold of the life line quite some time ago and that I've been in a controlled freefall ever since. Could this all have been avoided? Yes, every bit of it could have been avoided, but not by anything that I did today, not by a decision to reach out to someone for support or to write my thoughts down or to avoid the grocery store. No, those choices would only have prevented the events that took place this afternoon from happening until some point in the not to distant future. This headache, these bloodshot eyes, these swollen cheeks, and this overwhelming sense of disgust with the weak human being that I have become could have been avoided if I would have been willing to finally let go of this sickness at some point before this evening. I did not arrive in this place by mistake. I have been here many times before, what feels like the ledge of a window ten stories above the ground, threatening to jump off into the great unknown, but I have always managed to talk myself down and crawl back into the hole of this disease convinced that I can somehow control this wildfire and that I don't need to let go of each and every one of the individual components that make this monster the beast that it really is. A picture, a guise, an illusion. That's all that I am. I've been struggling for months but somehow I've managed to sell the idea that I'm moving forward in recovery to this team of experts while all the while I have known deep down that I'm moving backwards. There are days when I have convinced myself that I'm the real deal, that I'm managing my life in a healthy way, that I'm not completely hopelessly obsessed with filling a particular physical space so that somehow I will be certain that I stand alone and unique amongst the masses. There have been days. I'm tired of denying what is really going on. I'm tired of trying to convince myself that I can stay at this weight, that I can engage in the amount of compulsive exercise that I do, that I can surround myself with an environment that treasures icons who operate at unhealthy weights, and that I could possibly ever be truly happy while still enslaved by components of this disease which I have been unwilling to ever let go of. I binge when I'm starving. I starve when I restrict. I binged today so I must be starving which means I must be restricting. Have I been restricting? No. Oh, you mean you want to hear the truth? Yes. Yes, absolutely. But I haven't been restricting so much as just not fighting to do something other than what feels completely comfortable and natural to me. I haven't been fighting with every ounce of my energy to change everything about the way that I function every minute of every day every minute of every day. A little extra riding here, a little less food there, no big deal right? The truth is that I've been restricting in this passive way for months. I've denied it to my treatment team, and I've cheated my way through weigh ins to buy myself a little more time to get my act together and get back on track. Sure, the weight on the scale has been stable, but that's only thanks to more than 100 oz of fluids before each weigh in to ensure that the number the doctor reads keeps me just barely within what is considered a healthy range for someone of my height. I can't do this anymore. It's not worth it, it accomplishes nothing in the long run and I'm tired of playing these games. Maybe I wasn't ready to let go all those months ago when I put myself into the hospital. Maybe? Of course I wasn't, hundreds of pushups and situps on the cold bathroom floor of my hospital room should have been evidence enough of that. I wish I wasn't so damn good at this and I wish people didn't trust me so much. It wouldn't matter if they trusted me or not. If they didn't trust me and if they caught me in every single act of defiance against the recovery process, it wouldn't have changed a thing because this is and always will be a choice that is left entirely up to me and only when I'm fully ready to commit to my health and well-being will I ever get to be successful in walking away from these demons. I've convinced myself and those around me that I've been committed to gettting better since I checked myself into the hospital in October, but as I watched nearly eight months of work swirl down the toilet this afternoon through tear filled eyes with vomit still dripping from the fingers of my left hand, I finally came to terms with just how truly committed I've really been to recovering up to this point. I knew in that moment that in lying to those around me, I'd only succeeded in lying to myself and that although I'd built an elaborate fantasy in which I was the perfect pro-recovery patient, I'd been secretly feeding my disorder all along and always keeping the doorway to my escape route back to hell cracked open in case I should need to make a quick get away. Hunched over the toilet there, staring down into that swirling mixture of puke, snot, and tears, throat burning and head throbbing as I wept at the recognition of the fact that I had just done something that I swore to never do again, I feel helpless and weak. I feel as though I have no morals and that I am a dishonest and decietful little creature who is incapable of telling the truth and who has no true desire to ever outrun these thoughts and these behaviors. I can't help but think that if it were really so bad as I make it out to be, if it were really such a torment, then how in the hell could I find myself in this oh so familiar position, cursing my very existence and wanting in that moment more than anything that I have ever wanted before in my life, to take back everything that I had done in the prior hour of said life. I found myself in that all too familiar position once again this afternoon because just as with everytime that I've wound up there before, I first found myself with an insatiable desire to lose control completely and indulge on the tastes, textures, feelings, and emotions that my months of slow and steady restrictive behavior have denied me. When I woke up this morning, I did not plan to binge. When I left to meet with the dietitian, I was entertaining the idea. When I decided not to ride my bike today, the idea of a binge turned into a plan and when I came home from the grocery store with a cake, I knew that putting that plan into action would result in a purge. This did not catch me off gaurd, it wasn't triggered by an unexpected emotional hurdle in my life. This was more an idea that I've been toying with for a few days, today I lost the battle of whether or not to turn the idea into a plan. So it was planned, calculated, and by the time it happened, it felt unavoidable as I simply must follow through with my plans. I wouldn't want people to get the idea that I'm unreliable or flaky, after all. Whether I planned it or not, I still found myself standing there shaking and light headed hunched over the toilet trying desperately to erase the evidence of the act that had just been committed there and wondering how on earth I was ever going to get through the rest of this day, much less the rest of my life, and I decided that something needed to be changed, that I needed to finally let go of whatever pieces of this puzzle I was still holding on to if I hoped to never find myself carrying out this dark ritual again. I finally allowed myself to accept the fact that there is no room for games or for the painting of pretty pictures in this struggle and that getting myself to the other side of recovery really is going to be the hardest thing that I have ever done. It's going to mean giving up the very things that I have come to feel like define me as a person. Who am I? I am thin, I am a cyclist. One feeds the other which in turn feeds the other in a vicous cycle that leaves no time or energy for the formation of meaningful relationships with other human beings or for any sort of growth as an individual. Cycling has been my everything, my salvation, my lover, my friend, my enemy, my livelihood, my social circle, and above all else and most unfortunately, it seems that cycling has very much become my prefered method of long term suicidal behavior. Like an addict with a drug, an alcoholic with a drink, I feel as though there is no amount of pedaling which could ever be enough to satisfy my need for it and as a result I am finally beginning to see that there is no amount that is truly safe for me to indulge in. As I scrubbed that toilet clean this afternoon, I felt as though I was a slave to my disorder once again and I realized that cycling is as much a part of the disorder as the behaviors which I had just finished engaging in. Cycling has once again become only a means to purge the food which I do allow myself to eat. I saw myself falling back into the pattern of restricting throughout the day only to eat all of my food at dinner and dessert so as to still satisfy my meal plan and allow me to feel the power of restricting as well as the complete loss of that power in binging. My cycling was the catalyst that made all these behaviors possible. When you've got plenty of extra food to work with throughout the day, the restricting is that much harder and more fulfilling and the binges can become more elaborate. I saw it happening but chose to ignore what was really going on, perhaps waiting for someone to finally call me out on my shit. A silent cry for help to those around me that I was back sliding into no man's land in a hurry that went unnoticed or unmentioned for long enough that I found myself alone in the house on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon screaming out for help in complete silence in the only way that the disorder knows how, by hurting the body and soul to which it is a part of. It's no one's fault but my own, it's up to me to reach out for help. But when you're waisting away before the eyes of those who care about you and not a word is uttered on the subject, it's difficult for one to not feel a little invisible. Being seen and having a voice is what an eating disorder is all about, its a disfunctional way of communicating to the outside world that everything is not okay, and when that communication goes unnoticed, the efforts of the disorder get amplified until someone finally does take note that you look like hell or that you've become entirely emotionally withdrawn from the world. Tricky part is that by the time this happens, it seems that all too often it's already too late and what it is that you were initially trying to communicate becomes secondary to maintaining your new best friend and worst enemy. In any case, I've survived the day and although it was painful, I feel as though I've gained a lot of insight into what really needs to be done to make this work. I'm ambivalent as hell about really acting upon these insights and actually following through with the changes that I know realistically need to take place, but at least I'm thinking about them. Now, just like always, it comes down to a choice and to me either making the right choice which is the difficult one, or the infinitely easier and ultimately completely unfulfilling wrong choice. I know what I have to do, I think I've always known what I have to do to make this work, but I have never been willing to really commit to it, until now.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Turn Down the Volume

It seems very clear to me at this point that my eating disorder was an effective way for me to turn down the volume on life. I recognize with each day that passes and with each new obstacle that presents itself, that the world seems suddenly very loud and nearly overwhelming without the disorder to take the edge off of life. Without it, I am present. I am present in my own life for the first time in years and I love being able to experience my world in such a way that doesn't leave me feeling as though I am watching the world pass me by from the other side of a foggy window, but I am finding that there are pieces of the world that are much more difficult to navigate when experienced in full force as well.

I see why it has been here for so long. I can see it's disadvantages but I can see too why I found myself relying upon it so heavily. The world is a scary place. No, not really. The world isn't so bad, but I make it seem that way for myself. I don't know at this point if this is the way in which I have always experienced life and if the disorder developed as a coping mechanism to make things seem more manageable, or if I am essentially setting a trap for myself by allowing the world to seem so daunting and putting so much pressure and so many expectations upon myself.

The disorder doesn't make anything any better by any means. The disorder makes the world more manageable because it takes away my ability to care. It takes away my fire, removes my drive, it allows me to be content with simply existing but never really living. If nothing is as important as staying thin, life is essentially very simple. School doesn't matter, a true career doesn't matter, relationships don't matter, my passions don't matter, the only thing that matters is being thin and maintaining the lifestyle and behaviors that allow me to be that way. When the focus of life shifts from one simple and tangible goal of being thin to much broader and infinitely less tangible goal of being healthy and happy, the rulebook which has governed life for so long is useless in trying to navigate these new goals.

It feels like there are no rules. There are no guidelines. Anything is possible which is an incredible notion. It's incredible and some days it feels down right overwhelming. Sometimes the world feels too big and too vast and it feels as though it's only my new awareness of the world that makes it this way. The world hasn't changed, the world is very much the same place that it was when I started this process; but my place within the world and the perspective from which I view the world has been altered dramatically. It's the recognition of this fact that makes the pull of the disorder so tempting on some days.

Today is not one of those days. I don't miss the disorder today. What I do miss is being numb to some of the feelings that come along with the complete package of recovery. It's amazing to experience joy, happiness, passion, love, even fear, and pain. I welcome the emotions and the chance to finally experience them without judging myself as weak and inferior for being a human being who can get scared, or be hurt. It's refreshing when life was devoid of nearly all emotions except for pain for so long. Indeed, life had become a place where joy was only allowed if enough suffering had been experienced first, and a place where true joy was never really realized. My self-worth was only a measure of the pain that I could endure and with each day that passed, as the tolerance for pain increased, so too did the punishments.

I don't miss the constant pain, the suffering, the feelings of hopelessness and the shame. I don't miss seeing every single day as only the next opportunity to suffer and feeling as though life was not something worth living. What I do miss on days like today, is being completely numb to the anxiety. I'm all for experiencing the world in technicolor after living in black and white for so long, but the anxiety that comes along with really feeling and playing an active role in my life for the first time is something that I could honestly do without. I know that's not the way it works. I know that I can't pick and choose the feelings and emotions that come along with this process. This process is a package deal and I want it and know that it will be worth it in the end, but that doesn't make the feeling that I'm sitting with right now any more comfortable.

Anxiety was a feeling that was only tied to bike racing in my former life. It essentially didn't exist outside of racing and once racing was eliminated from the equation, anxiety essentially disappeared from the dwindling list of feelings that I was capable of experiencing. Life was simple. Sleep, ride, eat only as much as was absolutely necessary for riding, and work only as much as was necessary to pay rent and feed my urges to binge. Simple and miserable. Miserable, but free of anxiety. Free of anxiety, but also devoid of love, joy, and fun.

It's worth it. I know it is. I know that anxiety won't always be tied to nearly every single new experience that I come upon. It's interesting because right now, anxiety feels like it has become the default secondary emotional response even to new emotions. I find myself feeling anxious about feeling happy, or about recognizing the potential for happiness which makes me feel as though anxiety is yet another tool of the disorder meant to steer me in the wrong direction. I recognize too, that a certain amount of healthy nerves and anxiety is part of a normal, healthy existence. Perhaps its just new and I'm just unfamiliar with it at this point. Or, perhaps it's the search for relief from the anxiety that surrounds difficult tasks and new experiences that will continue to drive me to learn and grow through this process. Anxiety doesn't cure itself. Just like in bike racing, anxiety disappears with the completion of the task.

The task lies before me and it is steeped in anxiety, the only thing left to do is face the task and conquer the anxiety that surrounds it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Opportunity Knocking

The opportunity is there. No, not there, there implies that there is potential for opportunity or that the opportunity was there at some point, but that it's now passed. If the opportunity were there, something would be different at this moment than last night, or this morning, or at any point throughout this entire day. The opportunity is not there, the opportunity is in fact, here. The opportunity has been here since yesterday afternoon. Me, all alone in the house, drawers full of knives, a freezer full of binge food, and a wallet with enough money in it to make the wildest fantasies of the disorder come true one final time. But why?

Why would I choose to take all that I've worked so hard to attain and risk throwing it all away at the first opportunity that presents itself? This isn't the first opportunity that has presented itself. I know that. It's not as if I haven't been home alone with all of the opportunity in the world to engage in behaviors any number of times since I've lived here. This however, is the first opportunity I've had to stir things up without the comfort and solidity of the program to run back to at the end of the weekend. This opportunity is different because this environment is so much less controlled than it was before. I have no one to slap me on the wrist and encourage me to do better next time. This opportunity is open-ended and the knowledge that I know I would never get caught and never admit to anyone who could actually help me that I had slipped is exactly why this opportunity is not going to be taken. I hope.

The opportunity is still alive as I write this, and perhaps that's the exact reason that I'm writing it at all. Like a rusty razor blade putting a few moments of fresh air between myself and my next cut, perhaps these words will put enough space between myself and my urges and my craving for instant gratification that my family will get home and the opportunity will have finally passed. Opportunity for something to happen does not mean that it's going to happen, though an eating disorder is nothing if not opportunistic and there was certainly a time not so many months ago when an opportunity such as this would have been used to its absolute fullest simply because it existed. No need for deeper thought into what sort of emotional turmoil the need for instant gratification and numbing of the anxieties of the world stemmed from, the chance to engage would have been recognized and it would have been taken without a second thought. I've had more than a second thought about it this weekend. I want it. I can almost hear my name being called from the freezer in the garage where two half-gallons of my favorite flavor lie in wait, but somehow, amazingly, I'm sitting here writing this, aware of the discomfort and of the emotions that these urges seem to be a response to, rather than wrist-deep in the carton, momentarily blissful and numb to the world. I should be proud, but I'm too uncomfortable to be feeling that just yet. I'm still not out of the woods. Opportunity is still knocking.

Why is that flavor even in the house? Why would I do that to myself? What am I trying to prove? It wasn't necessarily my intention to make it home with the stuff and I probably should have just thrown it away on my way home so as not to tempt myself. But I saw that as just hiding from the truth, running away from reality, and giving power to the voices inside me that constantly yell that I can't. I can't run forever and if I don't have the self-control to sit in my house alone with something that I enjoy eating sitting in the freezer with out things developing into a disaster, then who am I kidding? Why am I even bothering with this charade? I brought it home to prove a point to myself and because apparently I love to play with fire and I love to be uncomfortable and I love to battle with my own thoughts and on some level, parts of me were hoping that I would make full use of the opportunity in front of me if I put one of the necessary components for a binge that much closer to the urges. What do I expect to do with it though? I know that I can't, at this point, hope to open that carton and have a normal serving of the stuff. Am I just going to let it sit in the freezer and allow the urges to build and the volume of the voice to increase to the point that I collapse under the pressure and give into the urges? What am I really doing here, what are my true motives? Am I really trying to prove how far I have come in recovery, or am I already giving into the urges and simply prolonging the inevitable at this point.

It's like a safety net for the disorder. The knowledge that my favorite binge food is sitting in the freezer at the end of the hall is like keeping the opportunity to engage in my back pocket for a rainy day. It's a terrible idea. I'm fighting it now, but on some level, part of me is hoping for some sort of emotional obstacle will present itself so that the disorder can chime in and remind me that I have the perfect opportunity to take an old coping mechanism down of the shelf, dust it off and take it for a spin. It's dangerous, and it's incredibly comforting in the same breathe.

But it's not about the ice cream being in the freezer, it's about the urge to do something bad with it and even more importantly, it's about where that urge is coming from. If the urge didn't exist, that ice cream could sit in the freezer as long as it wanted and just like any other normal person, I could enjoy a bowl when I felt inclined to do so without risking a landslide of impulsive behaviors that could signal the beginning of all of the hard work I've put in over the last few months flying straight out the window and me landing back in square one. It's about the urge, about the need to numb out, or to cry out in a way that I know no one will ever hear.

Why do I find the urges so strong these last few days, this last week, in fact? Envy. Envy is a big part of it, or so it seems. I see the people that I have become so close to in this process of recovery every few days and I talk to most of them quite often. They are my friends. Many of them know more about me than most of the people I have regarded as my friends in the past and when I need them, part of me knows on some level that they would be there for me if only I could ever reach my hand out for help. I am in a strange place, with no familiar faces, no connections and no history to build a life upon. It's exciting on the one hand, but it also means that at this point, the people that I know are the people that I met in the hospital. This is a double edged sword. These people are going through the same struggles that I am and so they are invaluable as support and it's comforting to know that I have friends who can understand some of the craziness that swims around through my head. However, there's danger in this situation as well, as I'm coming to find out.

I compare myself to my friends. I compare myself to strangers. I compare myself to everyone I encounter. I compare myself to people and I find myself in envy of the things I feel that they have that I do not, or of the things that they do not have that I feel I have too much of, as the case may be here. I'm struggling through this process of reintegrating back into a more or less normal life where I can manage the stress and anxiety of the everyday and the commonplace without relying on self destructive coping mechanisms and methods of communication. My friends are going through the same struggles and not all of them are finding that they are able to resist the persistent and persuasive voice of the eating disorder as the stress of life trickles back into their worlds. This struggle is incredibly difficult and not a day goes by that I don't want to run straight back into the familiar arms of my disorder and apologize for ever having been foolish enough to try to leave it's side. When I see the people around me struggling and engaging in the behaviors of their disorders, I feel many things. I feel sad for them, I feel sorry that there is not more that I could do to help them, I feel angry at their disorders for being so evil and so persuasive, I feel helpless, I begin to feel hopeless about my own chances of resisting these urges, and quite unexpectedly, I feel incredibly envious.

I feel guilty even writing that. Guilty, and worried that it will be read by my friends and interpreted in a negative way, that it will be taken personally. Stop, please, before you go to that place in your mind and know that I completely understand that you are not choosing necessarily to do the things that you do and I certainly know that you're not intending for them to have any negative effect on me. Remember, what you do cannot make anyone, including me, feel anything. I'm internalizing certain things and interpreting them in certain ways and having certain feelings in response to those interpretations and I'm just stating my observations here. That's all.

I don't feel envious. My disorder feels envious. It tells me that it's not fair that they get to engage, that they get to lose weight, and to feel those moments of mind numbing bliss during a binge, and that I don't. It's asking me, why not? What's stopping you from restricting? What's stopping you from binging and then inevitably purging? What's stopping you from showing the world that you're still sick too, in the form of some shiny new cuts? What's stopping you? The answer, I guess, is that nothing in my environment is stopping me but for the first time, I'm somehow stopping myself. There's more foresight now. I recognize that part of me is envious and that part of me really wants the instant gratification of a binge or of a cut, but for the first time, there is another part of me that is able to remember the panic, the guilt, and the shame that immediately follows these behaviors and that has managed to keep me on track even though I feel like I'm back in middle school, watching the kids who dressed in black, wore eyeliner, listened to explicit music, and refused to talk to adults, get all of the attention while the sick little boy inside me was buried under good grades and perfect attendance.

Am I doing the same thing now? Am I burying the cries of the sick boy when I should be allowing him to be heard fully for the first time? Should I really be doing as well as I am right now? Am I doing too well? Am I fighting so hard against these urges that everyone will once again forget that I was not well? Am I setting myself up to cry out in some way a few years down the road once again? Sometimes, I really feel as though I want to just say and do half the things that are really on my mind and see if somehow by getting it out of my system, maybe I can be free of it. I don't know if the belief that perhaps letting things run their course is part of eventually recovering is a belief created by the parts of me that want me to be sick or if it's a belief created by the parts of me that want me to get better but realistically doubt if it's ever going to happen.

It's been mentioned to me twice recently. This idea that I'm conveniently falling into the role of sick boy and that getting better means that I won't have this to fall back on any longer, that if I commit to recovery, I won't have this ace up my sleeve any time I feel as though I need to give up and take a break from life. I can't fully agree that I have been playing the sick boy card to the fullest. If anything, I've spent most of my life running from and trying to deny or ignore it's existence entirely. It seems to me that if it were so convenient to play the sick boy, people would have had some idea that I was indeed sick before I up and disappeared one day. It seems to me that if I really wanted people to have some idea of what was going on and wanted to reap the benefits of living off the system while my emotional distress was sorted out, I probably wouldn't have gone to such great lengths to hide my behaviors and cuts for so many years. It seems to me that I would have been using my sickness as a crutch for as long as I've struggled with it rather than surrounding myself with a world where my success depended upon my ability to contain it. I can't agree with the notion that I've conveniently played into the role of the sick boy. If anything, I would have to say that I have always recognized that this boy existed within me but my envy of the kids who seemed to move through life without this sick little voice inside them has kept me from listening to him for most of my life.

I ignored him so long and so effectively that his voice was eventually lost and the voice of the disorder first, and later the voice of the cutter would come to speak for this sick little child that has always lived within me. These voices have blown things out of proportion though, like a peaceful protest turned violent after years of being ignored by an oppressive government. Perhaps this really is about listening to the sick boy. The hard part though, is distinguishing whose voice is whose at this point and realizing that a cry out by the cutter or the disorder is probably in some way an amplified response to the needs of the child inside having been somehow ignored. I know it sounds crazy to say, but the voices of the disorder and the cutter are actually the voices of truth, somehow distorted out of control. They needn't be listened to any longer, but ignoring them would not be wise as they are present when something needs to be said and when a need burns within me that needs acknowledgement.

The opportunity has come and gone. The family is home. I feel a false sense of safety and security, knowing on some level that my recovery and my struggles are so separate from their world that their presence alone does not truly eliminate the opportunity to engage. I'm happy to realize though, that at this point, I am not so desperate to experience whatever those behaviors have to offer me that I am willing to put the extra thought into keeping my actions hidden while the family is around. And that thought, though it is not the most solid of things to stand upon, should keep me grounded until the next true opportunity presents itself...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

To Whom It May Concern

I just want to make a couple of things clear to you. First and foremost, this was not about you. The thought that you might be going about living your life believing that the things that happened that November night were because of you and that you could possibly believe that you were important enough in my eyes to make me harm myself as a response to the thought of losing you has kept me up many nights since then. I don't care if you ever see this, or if anyone even has a clear understanding of what it is that I'm talking about here. This, much like what happened that night, is for me. Not for you, not for him, not for anyone else.

Do you really believe that you caused it? It's incredible for me to even imagine that someone could think so highly of themselves. Did you buy the knife? Did you touch the cool blade to my bare skin and press down with enough force to pierce the flesh, then drag the sharp edge across my wrist; slowly at first, feeling it rip and tear as the flesh separated in the wake of the razor's edge? And then, did you strike faster, with more rage and less precision; short, deep jabs of anger that left white crevices which quickly filled with warm crimson before spilling over the walls of the wounds and trickling down to my palms where the blood pooled until it dribbled from my finger tips and spotted the cool night sidewalk like solitary rain drops pouring from a dark cloud of hatred and rage that swelled above? Did you do this, was it your hand that drug the blade again and again through my flesh so that the blood could pour from my wrists, out in the cool blackness of the lonely Berkeley Thursday night?

No. No, it was not you. It was me, I did it. I did it to myself and I did it for myself. Of course I felt anger in that moment, I felt rage as I have only experienced it once before in my life, but it was not my rage for you that drove me to seek the simple and precise relief of the razor. Do you think that I tried to kill myself? Is that what you believe? Do you actually think that losing you could possibly be worth me taking my own life. I'm sorry to spoil your fantasy, but you're not that important. I say that this wasn't about you, because it wasn't about you, in a sense. But to say that if you had been someone other than yourself and he had been someone else that the events that took place that night in the street outside of the hospital would have still come to be is also likely entirely untrue. So, to say that you did not play a role in this would be unfair as well.

This has a lot more to do with him than it does to do with you. Do you know what I felt when he told me what had happened between the two of you? I felt exposed and alone. I saw with a sudden sharp and painful clarity that I was insignificant and unimportant, that I was nothing special and that I didn't matter. To know that the person who I thought of as my closest friend could act in a way devoid of any consideration for my emotional well-being made the fact that I was worthless all too real and all too clear. I felt abandoned, alone, enraged, engulfed and overwhelmed by how very alone in the universe I had suddenly become. No, how alone I had only just realized I had always been. But more than anything, I felt responsible. Somehow the things which had happened were most certainly my fault and I knew this to be true without a shadow of a doubt. I knew this to be true because the two people who I cared so deeply for, who had claimed to care just as deeply for me, who had acted in a way that showed so little regard for my feelings, were still perfect. These two people were infallible in my eyes; even then, though my eyes swelled and blurred with tears, and though my thoughts were hazed by the rage and pain of deception and betrayal, I could see and feel one thing clearly: I had done something to deserve this. These two people, who I loved and valued so very much, who had proven their loyalty and dedication to me in my time of greatest need, would never do anything to hurt me. Would they? Never. No, they would never hurt me unless I deserved to be hurt.

I hurt. I hurt in that moment more deeply than at any point of my life, save for one, and knowing that this pain would only be delivered to me by the ones that I loved as a form of punishment, I knew in that moment of pain and confusion that I needed to be punished for the terrible things that I had done. The terrible things that would make the people that I loved want to hurt me so badly. I gave no thought to how illogical it seemed to punish myself for the pain that I was feeling by hurting myself; in that moment all I could think of was that I needed what was welling up inside of me to be released out into the night. I needed to be out of this space, needed to get out of his car, needed to be away from him, needed to scream louder than I ever had, in a voice that I didn't posses, and I knew exactly how I was going to do it.

I almost spoke to the man at the front desk. I almost stopped there and told him that I needed to be someplace safe for a little while because otherwise I was going to hurt myself, almost. But I saw it before me, the opportunity to take the events of the evening and use them as a scapegoat to punish myself for all the things that I was failing so miserably at in my life. The comforting control that I had with my body and weight had been recently ripped away from me and I was apparently a failure in my closest friendships as well, thinking that I had been trying to do everything right while all the while it seemed I had been feeding the fires of betrayal. I saw my opportunity and I took it. I walked in the front doors of the hospital and straight passed the man at the counter. I knew that there was another way out of the hospital. Casey did not. He walked me to the front door and I knew that I was free.

Thoughts of him and of you left my mind and were replaced only by the insatiable need to to hurt and to bleed, to mutilate, and disfigure, to punish myself for somehow ruining the relationship with my best friend. Pull yourself together Dez. Pull it together. Dollar Tree has exactly what you need to get the job done but no one in their right mind is going to sell a box cutter and a pack of razor blades to a kid that is acting like he's about to kill himself. Ignore your phone, it's her. She knows and she'll try to talk you out of this but she doesn't understand that you want and need this like nothing you have ever wanted or needed before in your life. She could never understand this.

Calm, cool, collected, the purchase is made. Am I going to kill myself? Am I really going to do this? I don't know, I'm not thinking that far ahead, all I know is that the cold edge of the razor cannot touch my skin a moment too soon. I feel so full of rage and hatred for myself that I might explode if I'm forced to sit with these emotions for one more second. I don't think to cut myself someplace that can be hidden, I'm not thinking that far ahead, I may never need to hide anything again after tonight. Tonight might be the end of all things, but I can worry about all of that nonsense later. Right now, I have something very important that needs to happen. Something that had needed to happen for many many days but for which I had encountered the perfect environmental trigger to hide these behaviours behind on the car ride to support group with a person who I thought was my truest friend.

A deep breathe, one final glimpse of a thought that resembled something to the effect of thinking about the consequences of my behaviors, and then, bliss.... Instant relief, numbness to all the pain and to the emotion, euphoria delivered by the tip of a knife. But the relief is fleeting and again and again and again, the blade finds my wrists and forearm in search of an escape from the pain of seeing my world come crashing down all around me. The cuts are simply not enough, though the blood drips onto the cold concrete, though it stains my shoes and jeans, and though it covers both of my trembling hands, it is simply not enough. The pain is back, stronger than ever now, coursing through every fiber of my being, only amplified by the rage and hatred that I've used to punish myself.

But this brings me to the other point that I want to make clear to you. If I intended to kill myself that night, I would not be writing a blog right now; I'd be dead. Anything worth doing is worth doing right and rest assured that if I ever decided that it was indeed the time to end all things, things would end. No, that November night in the streets of Berkeley was not about trying to kill myself. That night was about punishing myself for the terrible things I had done to the people who loved me, it was about screaming louder than my voice would ever allow me, and more than anything, it was about wanting you to suffer. I wanted you to feel and experience the hell that was boiling up inside of me, I wanted to share with you all of the pain, the rage, and the guilt that tore at my insides with the very thought of your face. I wanted you to bleed, and as the blood poured from my open wrists, I hoped to god that you could feel it. That night was many things, but it was not a suicide attempt.

If you really cared for me in the ways that you had once claimed, you would be able to feel this pain. I would share it with you. Yes, yes that's what I would do. You'd been calling me over and over again while all I wanted to do was bleed and sob into the night. Fine, you want to talk things over? Let's talk. I have no memory of what was said, the sound of your voice burned through my ears, down my spine and into my belly until I felt sick with anger that you even had the nerve to call and try to talk me down from this ledge after doing what you had done. I cannot recall what was said, but I believe I meant every word of it and I hope that it cut you nearly as deep as the blade cut me. And then, quite suddenly, I knew that it was time to end this call, to move on to whatever it was that came next.

The moment had passed, the emotions were subsiding and the reality of what had just happened began to wash over me in waves as if the cold night air were an ocean washing me up to the shores of the real world after being tossed violently about in a deadly storm of hatred and rage. I looked down at my arms through eyes still clouded by tears and saw the damage that had been done in it's entirety for the first time, there, bathed in soft moonlight, the blood beginning to dry and turn black in the cold air. "Oh dear, I've ruined my new shoes", I thought.

I was still numb to the physical pain and I could feel the urge building once more within me to open new wounds, to cut myself deeper, in an effort to replace the turmoil I was feeling inside with something more familiar and more tangible in the form of the burning ache of a fresh cut, but somewhere during the phone call, I had lost my blade in the blackness of the night and from some deep corner of myself, a voice of self preservation had begun to speak to me faintly and urged me to walk into the hospital. I had reached the end of this road, it told me. It was time to take the first steps down a different road now.

I called my mom as I stumbled toward the hospital doors and nearly threw up as I mentioned what I had been told as I had been driven to what I had initially expected to be an enlightening and educational support group. I heard the fear in her voice and I knew in that moment the exact reason that tonight had not been a suicide attempt. I knew that the very thought of breaking someones heart was so painful to me that I could never end my own life given the toll that it would take on the few people that truly loved me. Part of me already wanted to take back what I had done only moments before, wanted to erase the wounds from my arms and rewind the tape to the moment I had entered the hospital on the first occasion that evening. I didn't have a real reason to be there when I had entered those doors earlier that night. Now, I felt I had a legitimate excuse to request admittance to the psych ward.

Confusion. The man behind the counter was confused. Who was this young man standing before him covered in blood asking for help. I didn't know what to say, perhaps I didn't explain myself well enough, I guess the blood dripping from my finger tips and the blood oozing from the open wounds on my arms was not a clear enough message for him. "I slit my wrists!" I finally sobbed. It was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to say to anyone. I felt so much shame and guilt for the thing that I had done, only moments after the task was complete and I still feel it now. I question sometimes, how I am going to go through the rest of my life with these scars? How many times will I have to explain their origin, how many encounters will come to be during which someone sees them, but says nothing? Will I ever come to a point when I can where them not with pride, but perhaps without shame?

I was still pondering these things when the police arrived. Police? Why are they here, why do they have their guns out, why is a rifle being pointed at me? Memories of the night my uncle was shot by the police flashed through my brain and suddenly I found myself back there on that wooded hillside, looking down into the smoke left by their gunshots, trying to catch a glimpse of what had just happened. A blood curdling scream rang out through the night and I knew that those gunshots had found their target. But I didn't stay in the memory for long, I was being searched and questioned. Where was the weapon? What weapon? Oh, the knife, I don't know, I lost the thing somewhere out there in the night. You don't have to worry about me officer, I'd never hurt another soul... Only myself.

He was there again, waiting for me outside on a concrete bench, his head hung low, eyes filled with tears as I crawled into the ambulance. "I'm so sorry..." He mouthed the words as I glared at him with disdain and hatred hoping that my blood soaked arms were not escaping his gaze. Fuck you. I hope you hurt. I hope you feel all of this and I hope that this memory eats at your very soul and that you can't close your eyes without the image of your one time best friend's mutilated wrists filling your mind's eye. And wouldn't you know that the only thing I can remember from that ambulance ride is gazing at my reflection in the rear windows and thinking that I was disgustingly overweight and that this would all make so much more sense to the people around me and I would be so much more comfortable with this situation and with the days that were to come if only I were skinny. It seemed like a final cruel stab by the universe, to show me just how truly out of control my life was. I had nothing in that moment, not even a sickly figure to embody the emotions which I was feeling.

So why now? Why now, almost three months after the events of that night, do I find myself writing about them? Well, in truth, I've already written many pages about the feelings and the emotions that went through me that night but most of those pages are unintelligible babble asking what I possibly could have done to deserve such a punishment over and over again so perhaps I'm writing about it now because enough time has gone by for me to really examine what happened that night and see that I actually did nothing wrong to either of those people. It was certainly an unfortunate series of events that landed me back in the hospital and left me with permanent scars on both of my wrists but I can say a believe now that I did not do anything to deserve what those people did to me and I am in a place where I can fully own what I did in response to their behaviors. And, perhaps that night just happens to be on my mind because we are only a few days away from the next support group, which over the last two months has signaled an increased desire to reopen the wounds and to add to the carnage in a way that I tell myself will somehow be more satisfying. As if every wound that was properly stitched, bandaged and cared for while it healed doesn't count, I find a voice telling me that if I truly want the world to see the extent of the pain, I must cut again and allow the wound to heal with no stitches, glue, or tape. These scars are real, but in some corner of my mind, they are not good enough and it frightens me to think that they may never be good enough, that I may once again seek out the blade to validate the things that I'm experiencing.

Maybe now is the time to write about that night because yesterday the urge to cut was so strong that I found myself rummaging through the toolbox in the garage in search of the box cutter. I had the bandages laid out, with plenty of toilet paper at the ready to catch the blood before it could stain my bright white sheets, but to my dismay and frustration, the only blade I could find was covered in rust and even in that moment, nearly overwhelmed by the urge to bleed, I was able to talk myself out of a bad idea. It was by no means a voice of self preservation that talked me down, I simply reasoned that if I used a rusty blade, I would inevitably wind up with an infection and be forced to seek medical attention which would ultimately involve other people and likely land me back in the hospital when all I really wanted was to finally have something that could properly show and validate not only the struggles from that night, but the struggles I continue to face with each passing day. All I wanted was a scar to call my own, one that didn't involve you, or him, or the nurses, or the doctors who would see it as just another superficial cut that didn't do any real damage, the same way they had seen the cuts on my wrists. I didn't want any of that; I wanted it to be for me and only for me this time, and since the rusty blade almost certainly meant the involvement of someone other than myself, I found an adequate outlet for my frustrations on my bike instead.

But what does this all mean? It's not as if the urge ever goes away, nor does it always seem to exist as a response to an emotional stress or environmental upset. Sometimes, it just feels good to hurt and there is nothing in the world that can satisfy that hurt quite like the cold tip of the blade opening the flesh and leaving warm, crimson, euphoria in it's wake.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Inside Out

This is hard. It's harder than I expected it would be. I only have myself to keep me in line and accountable at this point. No big deal, right? I guess it wouldn't be if I could consistently believe in the process that I was going through but when I go back and forth from day to day, hour to hour, even minute to minute, it's a little frightening to realize that the only one who is really keeping this train moving in the right direction at the end of the day is me. Maybe that should be a comforting thought. After all, at the end of the day, we really only ever have ourselves to count on. This process, this journey and the steps that I need to take along the way cannot belong to someone else, nor can they be for someone else. They have to be my own and they must certainly be for me. Where other people's involvement comes into play in this process is on days like the ones that I've been having; days like today when I'm not really sure I'm completely sold on this whole idea of recovery and when it seems as though it would be far easier to just go back to living the way that I was rather than take the steps necessary to give myself the opportunity to live somehow differently. There's no arguing that it would be easier to go back. I'm good at having an eating disorder, good at being miserable, good at being sick and hiding it so that no one knows, good at being alone and scared, frightened or overwhelmed by the thought of moving forward in my life. I know that I can do those things and perhaps that's exactly why I still find myself following this damn meal plan even on days like today when all I can seem to think about is how much better my entire life would be if I could just lose five pounds. Maybe it's the fact that I've never allowed myself to take the easy way out that keeps me pushing forward when there are moments when every fiber of my being is telling my that the answer to all my questions and all of my problems lies in those five pouunds. And what's to stop me now? I'm out of the program, I don't have someone that's weighing me two times a week to make sure that what I'm writing down on my meal plan is in fact what's actually happening. I could restrict all day long and be completely honest about it on my meal plan and no one would be any wiser. Would I feel better though? Maybe. Maybe momentarily. In the long run, probably not. Would losing five pounds really give me the answer to any of my questions or truly make any of my struggles somehow more manageable. Reastically, no. That doesn't mean that there isn't an incredibley persuasive and seemingly perfectly logical argument to back up the idea that losing those five pounds would make all of my dreams come true though. If I could lose five pounds, then I could finally accept the body that I'm in because then I would finally feel as though it were where it wants to be naturally. I'll agree that what I was doing five months ago was not natural and that it's silly to think that my body wants to be at the point that it was in terms of weight. But right now I swear to god that I feel as though I'm being punished by forcing myself to stay in the physical space that I find myself. It just doesn't seem like it should seem like such hard work to keep my body where it naturally wants to be. Then again, perhaps my definition of natural is slightly off and a little skewed and perhaps the things that I do on a daily basis in terms of exercise wouldn't necessarily fall under the category of natural either and I'm just reluctant to accept that doing one must inevitabley lead to doing the other when it comes to exercising and food intake. I can't seem to shake the thought that my body was able to do so much with so little for so long that giving it so much to do so much less at this point seems incredibley wrong and unnatural in the entirely opposite direction. What I was doing to myself was wrong, I can accept that, but what I'm currently doing to myself doesn't feel any more right; it feels just as wrong for a new set of reasons. Honestly, a big part of this whole argument that's been rattling back and forth in my head is that right now I feel like I'm at my binge weight. This is unsettling for a couple of reasons. First, my binge weight is associated with periods of time when I am doing absolutely nothing to take care of myself and living in what feels like a perpetual state of self-destruction, not riding, eating to excess every chance I get with no thought of the possible consequences for my actions and then compensating for it with a purge. So, to be where I'm at physically and be told that this is a healthy weight and that this is where my body wants to be just doesn't sit well with me because of all of the things that have been associated with this space in the past. Second, and this may or may not make any sense to those of you reading, but I'm at my freaking binge weight and I'm not getting to binge! It doesn't seem fair. Part of what made being in this space tolerable at any point before now was knowing that getting here involved glorious binges and periods of absolutely zero self control and all of the other highs and lows that go along with a binge. I could accept hating the way that I looked and all the discomfort that I felt with being in my own skin for a period of time if I knew that I was enjoying the hell out of myself in getting there and with the knowledge that once I finally reached the point of being fed up and disgusted with my body, the situation would be handled with a period of severe restriction and discipline which would then eventually begin a whole new cycle of bingeing. It's a pattern that I'm familiar with. It's comfortable and the idea that this is where my body wants to be and that this is permanent and the discomfort that I feel with myself is going to be permanent seems completely unnacceptable on days like today. It's such a discomforting thought that I get into a space where I all but convince myself that I can lose five pounds and be okay and don't allow myself to remember that all I've ever wanted to do was lose five pounds. That's it, simple and innocent, just a few pounds never hurt anyone. I was trying to lose five pounds and wound up weighing 70 pounds and knocking on death's door. And did I feel better about myself at that point. Yes, absolutely. I was completely confident in the way that I looked and felt completely comfortable in my body; but the funny thing is, the important thing is, that I also recognize that even at that point, the desire to lose five pounds was still alive and well. So, believing that I could simply lose five pounds, be satisfied and move on with my life is quite unrealistic given where I've taken such a desire in the past and given the fact that I know that although my comfort within my own skin might improve, my drive and desire to continue pushing myself to a different physical space would not disappear. If anything, that desire would become stronger, fueled by the fact that I allowed myself to listen to it and believe that somehow my appearance could somehow have an impact on my success as a human being. If I give it an inch, I know that it will take a mile. But then, that brings me back to the question of whether or not where I'm at right now is even right to begin with. Who's to say that this is the right place for my body and that a place five pounds lighter than I am now is wrong? Who gets to make that decision? I guess in a normal setting, the body would be able to find it's most comfortable space so long as I was eating when I was hungry and not eating when I was full but it seems that I find myself in the interesting position of being able to completely ignore any and all hunger signals on either end of the spectrum whenever I want, so then what? Then, you get a meal plan and then someone does indeed get to say that this is or isn't where my body wants to be because I have done a fine job of proving that I don't have the ability to allow my body to settle where it wants to be naturally. I need to be in control. I need to be in charge of where my body is and the idea that it will naturally settle is uncomfortable in and of itself. Right now though, I'd argue the hell out of the point that I'm not eating when I'm hungry and not when I'm full. I feel like I'm just constantly eating for the sake of eating and to satisfy this stupid meal plan. It would be one thing if I were under weight and making an effort to pack on the pounds and it would be another thing if I were in the mental space of wanting to say "fuck it" to all the rules and guidelines that I place on myself when it comes to diet and exercise and was setting out into the binge portion of the cycle and making a production about the weight that I was gaining. But, I don't feel like any of those things is true or happening. I feel like I'm overeating constantly simply so that I can maintain a weight which someone else feels is the correct one for me. Of course, I know that if it were truly left to me and I was really only eating when I felt hungry, the result would be somewhat disastrous because that's one of the issues. I don't feel hungry and I feel full quickly and associate the feeling of being full with doing something wrong and so I try to avoid it at all costs. So, I guess, given what I know about what I would do if I didn't have the meal plan and given what I know about the road to losing five pounds having no real final destination, perhaps doing what I'm doing is really the only thing to be doing...