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.

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