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.