Tuesday, February 26, 2013

You Are A Liar

The lies flow warm and liquid, like blood through the collapsed arteries of my crippled body, pouring from my lips like venom from my open wrists. Sticky, rich, and seductive, the lies cover and smother all that is pure and clean with their darkness until the truth cannot breathe beneath the weight of these poisonous deceptions. I rest my head, anxious and uncertain, on a pillow of woven lies, trying to find the comfort of sleep in the chaos of deceit. I close my eyes, losing sight of my truth and giving in to the false hope that lies beneath this sea of betrayal and broken trust, falling backwards and plunging into the depths of my dishonesty. And there I shall dwell, until I fight and claw and kick my way to the surface to breathe in the cool sharpness of the truth for the first time in my short existence.

The warmth of deception is safe and comfortable. These heavy shackles of ice cold metal cut into my wrists and ankles and they have become my home, welcoming me into their painful embrace, promising me safety and bringing me only pain. The icy fingers of deception cradle the frailty of my shattered self and keep me safely held away from the only thing which may mend these cracks in my soul; the truth.

The truth frightens me, the heat of its light searing my flesh, left transparent from so many years spent living in the darkness of deceit. Exposed and torn open for all to see, my insides pour and flow and seep and drip onto the cold sidewalk of my broken life for the world to dissect and ponder and judge. This is honesty. My life, lived outside of myself in the open, exposed to the elements; to the rain, to the storm that is the world, and this is where I long to be, and where I have begun to drag myself only recently.

I cannot contain the fear that lives within me. The fear spills from the pores of my skin. Like a stench, you can smell it on my body as it festers within and boils over the edges of my being. The fear hangs over me; heavy like a cloud, it pollutes my vision, blinding me and keeping me from seeing or accepting the truth as I must. I must not allow my fear to keep me from the suffering of a world of honesty. I will embrace this suffering and this honesty with open arms, knowing that it will never compare to the pain known in a life lived in deception

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Triggered

Triggered doesn't begin to cover it. I'm sitting on the barrel of the gun, finger wrapped around the trigger, just waiting for the squeeze that will put a bullet into everything that I've been working towards these last few months. It's mornings like this one that I wonder, no, that I know that what I have now will simply never be enough; or that what I have now is just entirely too much, depending on which perspective I'm looking at things from. It's mornings like this one that I know that this is all too temporary, that my life will not continue in this manner once I'm without the structure that I have become so incredibly reliant upon. It's mornings like this one that hope seems lost and that I welcome the darkness back into my line of sight as I train my eyes on a target that on slightly brighter days has been all but forgotten.

Will it pass? Yes, it's likely that it will. But when it passes, where does it go? Surely it doesn't disappear. I'm reminded now that it never really leaves, but rather that it simply lies in wait for its opportunity to pounce on me at the slightest sign of my weakness or hesitation. Sickness is a cunning adversary and each time that I become too sure of myself in my recovery efforts, it comes back to remind me that I am not yet free, to show me that I may never be free.

But is it worth it? Has it ever been worth it? I thought so once and right now I'm tempted to say that I still believe that it was and that it is. Right now I'm still convinced that I can hold and nourish this darkness while still functioning and living in a world of light while on some level of logic I know that this is simply impossible. But right now I'm feeling more than willing to give it one more try. This game makes me question my intelligence. Am I not smart enough to realize that doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results each time is the very definition of insanity? I am, but if I have proven one thing to myself it's that one can be both intelligent and have not a shred of sanity in the same breathe as my life of the last ten years is surely evidence.

I feel like a caged animal. There is a world out there that needs exploring, roads which I have not followed to their origin, mountains left untraversed and gallons of smog laden air that need to be consumed as the sweat pours from my skin. My world has expanded in unfamiliar ways and it has shrunk in all the areas that I once felt so comfortable with. Some days, like today, this is unsettling knowledge to sit with. On mornings like this one I yearn for a satisfaction that thirty minutes in the glass and concrete prison of recycled air and stale sweat that is the gym will simply never be able to provide. My finger is getting twitchy. It's shaking with anticipation, ready to pull repeatedly if necessary, and kill this feeling that is building up inside of me.

I ask myself, what would it really hurt? What's a couple of hours of sweat and lactic acid in the ocean of my recovery effort? And I remind myself that it's not a couple of hours that will kill me, it's a river of hours that will follow those first precious moments that will slowly submerge me in the depths of their secrecy that will lead to my death. I know this, and somehow this knowledge seems to do nothing to lift my finger from that trigger. And perhaps this is the best that I can hope to achieve. Perhaps that finger will forever remain on the trigger, ready to kill this recovery effort with a barrage of fire and smoke at a moments notice, eyes trained on their target, just waiting for me to relax and turn my back for an instant.

And perhaps that is exactly what I need to remember and learn from mornings like this; that I cannot relax or turn my back, that I am still actively fighting this fight with eyes fixed on the barrel of that gun every minute of every day at this point. I remove my eyes for an instant and I wind up with a bullet lodged in my recovery effort and just like anything else that lives and breathes and needs nourishment to survive, it doesn't take many bullets to kill this beautiful recovery that is only just beginning to blossom.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Arriving At Today Part 4: Binge Food And Bandages


I woke up that morning at 6:30 a.m., just as I had the morning before. And, just as I had the morning before, just as I had on nearly every morning for the last year of my life, I got down on the floor immediately to workout my abs with crunches and leg lifts. It had been less than a week since I'd gone back to Berkeley to see the program director at the Herrick E.D.O. program and come to terms with the fact that I needed to return to treatment. In those few days, I had visited my medical doctor and done no water loading prior to the visit so that I would have her blessing in returning to a program, I had quit my job at Mike's Bikes, citing recurring medical issues as my motivation for leaving, and I had returned to the guest room that I had come to call my home in my Step-father's house in Martinez so that I could attend the Partial Hospitalization Program(PHP) that I had completed only 8 months prior, once again. It was a Tuesday.

I readied myself quickly and drank 20 oz of water before leaving the house, knowing that I would be weighed that morning and believing that I could save myself the pain of gaining those precious ounces if I could deceive the treatment team and lead them to believe that I was not as light as I really was. I left the house on that crisp fall morning and drove to the BART station, stopping on the way for a 1 liter Diet Pepsi, which I finished before I boarded my train and headed for Berkeley. While on the train, I couldn't shake thoughts of what the program director had said to me the day before about believing that I needed to return to the inpatient unit so that my behaviors could be monitored and so that the cycle of compulsive exercise and diet soda consumption could finally be broken. I didn't believe her, couldn't believe her, wouldn't believe her. I told myself that I simply wasn't sick enough to return to the psych ward, that the exercise that I was still engaging in didn't even burn calories and thus didn't hurt my efforts to recover, and I told myself that I could stop drinking Diet Pepsi whenever I wanted, but that I simply enjoyed it too much to let it go. I believed whole heartedly in that moment that I had already gained a substantial amount of weight in the precious few days since I had last ridden my bike and thoughts of what was to be my very last ride up Mount Diablo the Wednesday before danced through my mind and tore at the edges of my heart as the BART train hurdled toward Berkeley. I reassured myself that PHP was indeed where I belonged as there would be no other way to hold onto some piece of the body that I had worked so hard to create in the months since I had last been in treatment. I can see now, though I didn't realize it completely then, that I had agreed to abstain from riding my bike, but that never once had I actually considered that recovering would mean letting go of the sickly body which I now occupied.

Something else refused to leave my thoughts in the days since I had gone back to visit the program director. Her reaction, her surprise, her disapproval and her questioning of my decisions to move in with my mother and to re-establish my relationship with the person who had cut me so very deeply during the time when I had attended the program the year before were burned in my memory and they left me questioning my choices and my true motivations. Where once I had been so sure of the purity of my love, I now questioned whether love had been second to a much darker purpose in my choice to rekindle what had burned out. I found myself questioning why I would go back to a well which had poisoned me to drink once more and in that moment, I found myself searching for a way out of the very thing which I had helped create, out of what was probably the only healthy aspect of my broken life.

I consumed two more 20 oz. bottles of Diet Pepsi between the train station and the entrance to the hospital and I entered program that day feeling confident that the roughly 90 oz. of liquid that I had loaded that morning would satisfy the treatment team's desire for weight gain. But my confidence was shrouded in doubt and feelings of helplessness as I knew somewhere deep inside that playing this game would never allow me to win at recovery. And wasn't recovery why I was here again? Hadn't I abandoned my whole life in order to come back here and heal myself once and for all? Hadn't I finally made a commitment to change in ways that I had never been open to before? I lied and told myself that the answer to these questions was yes, but that there were many shades of gray hidden within that answer, that although I wanted to change, there were simply things which I was unwilling to let go of. I can see the holes in this logic now, but then my thinking seemed clear and sound, I felt as though I had the game completely figured out. I felt that I would play once again but that somehow I would win this time although I refused to use a different strategy.

I sat through program that morning numb and jittery from the caffeine which I had consumed, hoping that they would just weigh me so that I could finally use the restroom. I told myself that what I was sitting through was simply a necessary part of the recovery process and that my discomfort would be well worth it in the end. The thought of returning to the inpatient unit would not leave my mind. Part of me knew that it was the only way that I was going to break the cycle which I was very much stuck in; but another part of me, and perhaps a stronger part of me, had no intention of breaking said cycle. So why then, couldn't I let go of these thoughts that inpatient was somehow the answer that I had been looking for? And then I knew it. I saw in an instant the way that things would come to be and I realized why going inpatient was a necessary step in my journey. I didn't believe that I deserved to be on the psych ward because I wasn't sick enough, but I knew exactly how I could feel perfectly justified in being there once more and I knew that in achieving my justification, I would satisfy the need to hurt that had been building within in me in the days since I had last ridden my bike. I knew too, that earning my place in the psych ward would serve a far darker purpose as well. I knew that if I could show her just how sick I really was, if I could show her the true nature of my instability and prove to her that my journey back to health was going to take not months, but years; if I could hurt her with deception, then I knew that she would be forced to protect herself by leaving me behind. I see it now, how sick and distorted and dark it all was, but in that instant I felt that the whole world made perfect sense for the first time since I had last ridden my bike.

As the day wore on, the craving for the rush of a blade tearing through my skin built up inside of me and by the end of program, I knew that there would be no turning back if I left the hospital. Perhaps I wore it on my face, perhaps I wasn't as good at acting as though nothing was on my mind as I wanted to believe that I was because the program director asked me if I was going to be alright that afternoon as I lingered for just a moment before walking out the door. I lied. I told her that I would be fine, that everything would be alright when I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was very far from fine and that if things went as they were supposed to that evening, then nothing would be alright.

As I opened the hospital doors and stepped out into the early afternoon sunlight of that Tuesday which had begun just like so many others, all rational thought left my mind and was replaced instead by only one goal: to bleed. The plan had come to me in an instant and solidified itself in my thoughts as the hours had dragged on in program and I set about acting out every step of the plan with a calculated precision that would ensure that I could see it through to its bitter end. I bought the blades at a CVS pharmacy in Berkeley before boarding the BART train, afraid that I would lose my nerve somewhere on the ride home if the blades weren't nestled safely in my backpack by the time I started my commute and aware of the suspicion that might arise in a nosy cashier if I were to buy bandages and blades in the same transaction. I sent a series of text messages to her and to members of my family who might expect me home that afternoon, all detailing the same lie that I intended to meet up with an old high school friend for dinner and a movie that evening. I made sure to choose a trustworthy friend whom I was close to and whom was thought to be a safe and positive influence on me so as not to raise any suspicions and I knew that the guise of a movie would buy me roughly two hours of radio silence in which I would not be expected to respond to texts or answer phone calls. I played my part perfectly, ensuring that everyone who cared about me knew the details of my lie and I made my way to my car hell-bent on carrying out the rest of my carefully constructed plan.

A fleeting thought of attempting to cope with the cascade of emotions that I was experiencing in a somewhat healthy manner crossed my mind as I exited the freeway and glanced to my left, where I could see the parking lot for the trail network where I had hiked on the previous afternoon while trying to sort through my thoughts. I put the thought out of my mind and turned right, toward Downtown Martinez, toward my plan, toward my own destruction. I chose a small Motel where the evenings events could take place in privacy and I made my way toward Safeway for the remainder of the necessary supplies. The excitement of what was to come was getting to me now. My breathing became short and rapid, my palms became sweaty with anticipation, and my hands shook as I locked my car door in the Safeway parking lot and rushed inside to gather the makings of what I hoped would be the very last in a long line of isolated nights, alone in the dark with only the pain of my sickness to keep me company.

A double layer carrot cake, 1 1/2 gallons of frozen bliss in the form of ice-cream, each flavor carefully selected to ensure that this would be the most decadent of all my binges, four liters of Diet Pepsi, a small box of butterfly bandages and a roll of sterile gauze was enough to fill three plastic grocery bags and I hoped would be enough to finally bring closure to a series of open wounds which had refused to heal since they had been opened on a cold November night in the streets of Berkeley nearly eleven months before. It took a huge effort on my part not to run back to my car after walking out of Safeway with my weapons in hand. Time was of the essence. My lies were flawless but they had only bought me a couple of fleeting hours to carry out my dreadful tasks and I wanted to spend every possible precious second that I could wrapped up in the warm bliss of self-destruction.

My heart was pounding in my ears as I paid for a night in a room of which I only required a couple of hours. $90.00 for the room, plus the $30.00 I had spent on binge food and bandages was an incredibly small price to pay for the euphoria which would soon be mine. My mind raced as I entered my room and drew the shades. Not long now, I thought. Something inside of me screamed in anticipation as I opened the package of blades and felt the cool familiarity of the metal between the thumb and forefinger of my left hand. I gazed at my right forearm, at the scars which decorated the expanse of skin halfway from my wrist to my elbow and I knew that before long, the thing which I had started in so much pain all of the months ago would finally be finished in a rush of sheer joy. My heart thudded uncontrollably in my chest as the seconds ticked by but I forced myself to pause for a moment before incision as I retrieved my journal from my backpack lying on the bed. In that moment of sickness and intensity, I needed to record what it was that I was feeling, needed to somehow capture these precious seconds with words on the page as if somehow being able to look back on these desperate and insane moments would allow me to avoid them forever more.

"This is it. I really have lost my fucking mind. I'm going through with this. I'm excited. I hate it. I know I have a choice, I do, but I don't feel like I do. I feel compelled to do this, to be just as sick as the rest of them when I go back. Fuck it, here goes..."

I forced myself to write these words with a million thoughts racing through my mind and every conceivable emotion coursing from my heart, through my swollen veins. I forced myself to record this instant before letting myself taste the sweet satisfaction of the blade ripping through my skin. I worked quickly; slashing once, twice, then again and again before the pain of the first incision had traveled to my brain. Adrenaline coursed through my body in waves as I stood there over the bed in the dimly lit motel room and I knew that this was what I had been searching for in the days since I had stopped riding and felt deeply hurt by the thought that I would never experience this thing which pulsed through me like a wildfire ever again.

There is a brief moment of sheer bliss after a wound has been opened, before it can fill with blood, and before the weight of the decision you have just made crosses your mind for the first time; and I stood for that moment of sheer, exquisite, overwhelming pleasure, and took a deep breathe, the sweetness of which I had never known before in my life. In that moment, standing inches closer to death, I felt more alive than I believed it was possible to feel and I let euphoria wash over me and carry away everything that I had ever worried or cared about, leaving me free and clean and untainted by anxiety and distress. In that moment, I was pure. But the moment was over before it had even begun and each new cut filled quickly with deep red as I made my way to the bathroom to fully examine the damage of those few fateful seconds. A slow smile crept across my face as I looked down at the thing which I had done and a desperate need to experience the rush of that perfect fleeting moment again drove the blade into my arm once more. Longer and deeper this time, with more passion and meaning than before, three new gashes were opened in the space of as many seconds. Hysterical laughter overtook me as the blood dripped down my arm, off of my fingertips and into the sink, each crimson drop defiling the purity of the white porcelain as they splattered their brilliance across the virgin surface. Euphoria welled within me and I had to steady myself as I became dizzy with the pride and satisfaction in the accomplishments of the last few moments of my life. In that moment, the world was right, and the pain that I felt allowed me to feel worthy of existing.

The satisfaction of my perfect moment was ripped away from me as I turned my gaze toward the mirror and saw the true nature of my sickness smiling back at me. Terror overtook me, not because of the blood which was now pouring from my arm onto the counter and floor of the tiny motel bathroom, but because of the size of the mutilated arm which was attached to the disgusting disgrace of the body which had developed in the days since I had stopped riding my bike. What had been nearly perfect only a few days before stood in that mirror, broken and destroyed, lost forever to the ravages of recovery. I can only imagine how thin and sickly that poor boy must have been, standing there alone in that motel bathroom, bleeding all over himself; but reality was not in the room with me then and I have never felt hate like the hate I felt for the creature that I saw staring back at me in that mirror. Thoughts of my wounds and the euphoria I had briefly felt disappeared entirely and were replaced instead by a sickening rage toward the person that I had become. I looked into that mirror and saw that I had lost everything which I had worked to achieve in the previous months of my life. Nothing mattered now, because everything which I truly cared about in the months of sickness and distortion was already gone in my eyes. I was the hideous, disgusting creature who I vowed never to become and in that moment I felt that there was absolutely nothing more that could possibly be lost.

I can see it now, looking back, the very essence of my sickness; realized to its fullest extent in that moment of terror in the bathroom. I know now exactly how very sick I had become, when my distortion had become so thick that the fact that life was pouring out of my arm mattered so very little in comparison to the perceived size of that arm. I see it now, but it was entirely lost on my in that moment.

The urge to binge overtook me then and I grabbed handful after handful of toilet paper and tissue, pressing them hard into my wounds to slow the bleeding so that I might feed the insatiable hunger which had overwhelmed my every thought and emotion. I felt no concern for my safety or well-being when the bleeding had not slowed after ten minutes, only a bitter frustration at the blood which was keeping me from my binge. Finally, after exhausting the box of tissues and filling the trash can half-full of bloodied toilet paper, the bleeding slowed enough for me to leave the bathroom and retrieve an old T-shirt from my backpack on the bed. I knew that I could not focus enough to attempt to bandage my wounds until my hunger had been fully satisfied, I hoped only to keep the hotel room clean as I struggled to tie the shirt around the nightmare which had become my forearm. I had not foreseen how difficult it would be to tie a decent knot around my arm using only my left hand and blood smeared across the counter top as I fought with the T-shirt. After a considerable effort, I was satisfied that the shirt would hold while I carried out the next phase of my plan to self-destruct and I set out to fill the vast emptiness which had expanded inside of me in the precious moments spent trying to slow the bleeding.

I took bite after bite of the carrot cake, slowly at first, savoring each taste and texture as it filled my mouth. The cream cheese frosting was so sweet that my jaw ached with delight during the first calculated, joyous bites. Then, as control slipped away from me, I tore through the cake with increasing speed and ferocity. I couldn't taste anything at all as I ripped open the first container of ice cream, but it didn't matter. I didn't need to taste anything, I just needed to bury all of the hate and rage that I felt toward myself beneath a mountain of sugary bliss. Even having lost control, I knew that maintaining my lie required more work and as I plunged into the ice cream,I read a review of the movie which I was supposedly watching with my high school best friend so that I could recount all of the events which had never happened in striking detail to her later on that evening.

I shoveled cake and ice-cream into my mouth so quickly that I barely took time to breathe and feeling painfully full for the first time that evening, I stumbled my way to the bathroom once more, light-headed from the rush of emotions or from the blood-loss but not caring which. The anticipation of my purge left me wanting and needing it more than I could ever remember wanting or needing anything before in my entire life. No more waiting. After removing my watch, I jammed two fingers down my throat and joy washed over me as the cool and still sweet mixture of just eaten cake and ice-cream re-entered my mouth en route to its final resting place. Violently, again and again I rammed my fingers down my throat in an effort to empty myself completely. My eyes watered, and my nose filled with snot and stomach acid as I choked for air around the fist which occupied my mouth before panic overcame me. Though I tried and heaved and gasped for air, I couldn't purge another drop, but I knew I wasn't empty yet. I hadn't gotten rid of it all and so I plunged deeper, with three and then four fingers, enraged at myself for being such a failure, for not even being able to do this simple task as well as it could be and needed to be done in those desperate moments. After choking and gagging and sputtering and gasping through the spit and the puke for a few more panicked moments, I finally accepted the fact that nothing else was going to come of my efforts to rid myself of my binge. But I was not satisfied. I didn't hate the thing that I was doing enough yet and if I stopped now, I knew that the insatiable hunger I felt a few moments ago would find me again one day.

Knowing that this was to be my final experience with these dreadful behaviors, I needed to hate and loathe and fear the things which I was doing before this night was through and so I went back for more; burying myself beneath more cake and more ice-cream as the blood soaked through the cotton of the T-shirt tied loosely around my arm. Again, I returned to the bathroom to purge, searching for some sense of satisfaction, or a feeling of hatred, or pain, or fear, or anything at all other than numbness for the behavior that I was engaging in, but never finding it. And so twice more I returned to the binge and twice more I purged until nothing but bile dripped from the edges of my cracked lips, but still I felt none of the feelings of hatred which I was so desperately searching for.

I fell to the floor beside the toilet then, gasping for air and light-headed from the efforts of purging, still feeling completely unsatisfied but recognizing that my throat could not take anymore violent thrashing of fingers or regurgitation of stomach acid. I knew that despite my dissatisfaction, despite the fact that I did not yet feel consumed by my hatred for this disgraceful act, it was time to move on.

Hours had passed since I had entered the room and it was time to clean up and make my way home so that my story would hold true through the rest of the night. I only needed to make it back to the hospital the following day in order to pull this off in the way that I had intended and everything was still going exactly as I had planned. The T-shirt wrapped around my forearm was completely drenched in blood by this point and with the recognition of that blood soaked piece of cloth, it was as though I awakened from some horrific dream, looking around the tiny room and finally seeing it for the first time since this nightmare had begun. The blood was everywhere and anywhere that I had been in the room that evening, splattered across the bathroom counter and floor, smeared onto the handles and faucet of the sink, and dried to the top of the small table next to the T.V. where I had sat while engaging in my numerous binges. I worked as quickly as I could to remove the evidence of the events of that evening from the numerous surfaces of the bathroom, using wet toilet paper to wipe the dark crimson from the pure white of the counter and floor. I had just finished wiping down the bathroom when I realized that I still had to remove the blood soaked T-shirt and bandage my arm before I could leave the room.

Frustrated with my oversight, I retrieved the bandages from the plastic grocery bag on the bed and returned to the bathroom for what I hoped would be the final time that evening, intent on finally stopping the bleeding. I removed the saturated T-shirt from my arm and for the first time that night, a shiver of fear ran up my spine. Blood was still pouring from my arm and genuine alarm for my safety and well-being found me immediately as I stared down at the carnage. Do I need to go to the hospital now? Am I really going to last the night? Can I actually pull this off as I'd hoped? Suddenly I wondered if I had gone too far and in that moment I wished with all of my heart that I could take it all back; but, knowing that I could not, I pushed the fear and the alarm down to the depths of my being where they could not tempt me to stray from my original intentions. I should have gone to the hospital, the hospital that was no more than half a mile down the street, but I would not; felt that I could not for if I sought medical attention that night then everything that had come to be would have been for nothing. I knew that if I went to the hospital, my cuts would be cleaned and stitched. In the darkness of my distorted thoughts, a wound that was stitched and properly cared for was a wound that somehow meant nothing, as if the stitches somehow took the cut away from me and silenced the words that the scar would otherwise speak. Seeing the world through sickened eyes, standing there in that motel room, I knew that it was my visit to the hospital on that night eleven months earlier that had led me inevitably to the very moment that I now found myself in. I was searching for closure, and I knew that I would only find it if these wounds remained unstitched, so that their scars could cry out for the rest of my existence. This was the most important part of the entire plan.

With renewed focus, I set about my task. I applied pressure in an attempt to slow the blood that was still oozing from several deep gashes in my arm and after numerous failed attempts, I managed to secure the first of the butterfly bandages. I applied every bandage in the box but the cuts were so wide and still bleeding so freely that the bandages did little to calm the concern for my well-being which was once again rising within me as I tried and failed repeatedly to close the wounds. Finally, I abandoned my efforts with the butterflies and moved onto the sterile pad and gauze, wrapping my arm as tightly as I could manage with my one free hand, hoping that the pressure would eventually stop the bleeding. I lied to myself, pretending that I was satisfied with my work, before cleaning the bathroom once more and clearing the room of half-eaten containers of ice-cream and the remains of the carrot cake. I looked into the trash can, full of binge food, toilet paper, my T-shirt, and blood, so much of my blood, and I swore to myself that I would never encounter a moment like this again in my life. I swore then and there that this truly was the last time because I knew that taking things one step further than they had gone on that night was a risk that I simply could not take at any point in the future.

My arm had bled through the bandage by the time I emptied the trash can into the three plastic grocery bags that I had entered my room with hours before and I slipped into a sweatshirt in an effort to ignore the potentially serious situation that was developing as the night wore on. The excitement had disappeared from me by then, and I was left only with the task of finishing the thing which I had started. I tied the bags of bloodied garbage closed and took them to my car after I was unable to find a dumpster to leave them in on the motel property. With my arm hidden beneath the sleeve of my sweatshirt, I was able to forget about the pain, and the worry, and the fear momentarily and refocus on the completion of my task. After one final check of the room to ensure that no evidence of the nights events remained, I left my room key at the front desk and made my way to my car where I sat behind the steering wheel on that cool, dark, September evening for a long moment to gather my thoughts.

I knew that the self-destruction was nearly over, but that one final task remained to ensure that everything which I had worked so hard to build for myself would be torn down. I knew that I had to thicken the deception so that the eventual truth about how I had really spent my evening would cut her that much more deeply in the end. I took a deep breathe and centered myself, then I put on my headphones and started the car. My performance was sick and wicked and disgusting; and it was flawless. I felt that the blackness of my evil heart was spilling from my mouth as I constructed a story about the dinner which I never ate, and gave her a critique of the movie which I never saw; telling her that it was decent, but that I hadn't cared for the way that it had been filmed. Even then, despite all the distortions, despite the sickness, despite all of the clarity that I believed I had had earlier that evening, those lies and that deception felt wrong and I new that each word that I spoke to her was a nail in the coffin of our relationship. I look back and I can't imagine how my mind must have been functioning, to have seen a rightful cause and purpose behind the shameless and disgraceful manipulation of a person who loved me with all of her heart. I was outside of myself that night and when I look back, it's as if I'm watching someone else wearing my skin and doing all of those dreadful things; things that I could not do from the slightly healthier and less distorted space in which my mind operates now. But I was not in this space on that night, my thoughts were shrouded in darkness and I told her that I was headed home on the freeway as I crept through dark parking lots behind businesses, looking for a dumpster where I might dispose of the bloodied garbage in the back of my car.

Fear of my garbage being discovered and reported kept me from getting rid of it and eventually I made my way home. I kept her on the phone for half an hour, continuing the act, ensuring that she believed in every lie that I spoke, and passing up any opportunity to reach out for help in what may have been my darkest hour. I told her that I loved her as I parked my car, which despite everything that I had done that night to betray her trust, was still an absolute truth. Then, I hung up the phone and walked to my step-fathers home feeling satisfied that I had completed each and every step in my elaborate plan to destroy the remnants of my tattered, broken life. No sleep would find me that night while the weight of my decisions sat firmly on my chest as I lay awake staring at the ceiling. I was frightened then. I had changed the course of my life with the actions of a few foolish moments but in the darkness of my sick mind, I still felt justified in acting the ways that I had. In my mind, it had all been necessary and unavoidable. In my mind, everything I had done that evening had been in an effort to reach my eventual recovery and as the sleeping pills finally took hold and dragged me into a restless slumber; I took comfort in an all too familiar thought which found me often at the end of nights such as that

one. This time, I thought to myself, is the last time...

Friday, February 1, 2013

Arriving At Today Part 3

For a time, I was very concerned with how poorly I was doing at staying on track with my meal plan. Over and over again, night after night in my journal, I would assure myself that tomorrow would be the day that I would find myself back on track but day after day I found myself unable to voice my struggles to her and unable to stand up for the things that I needed in order to maintain the shred of a recovered existence that four months of treatment had given me. I wanted so badly to show her that I was all better, that I no longer needed to be cared for and so instead of reaching out and asking for help when I needed it, I kept my struggles to myself and believed that I was strong enough to put myself back on track in her absence.

The slide back into darkness was slow at first, but as the ounces and grams steadily melted away from my body, the attachment and addiction to losing those ounces and grams grabbed me tightly and refused to let go. But despite my struggles, despite the knowledge deep inside that I was betraying myself by not fighting harder for what I knew to be right, I walked through a perpetual high on life in those days that followed finding her again. I felt invincible and as though anything was possible so long as she was by my side. I felt as though my fight to win her back and my efforts to be near her always were valiant and noble as they were based in a love that was pure and true. I felt that so long as she was a part of my future, I could not fail. I focused myself on these grand illusions and allowed subtle signs of my eventual relapse to slip by unnoticed or at the very least unattended to as I settled into a routine of life that I would grow accustomed to over the next few months.

I worked for Mike's Bikes in Walnut Creek, and she lived in Orangevale, just outside of Folsom. She was a full time student and was working to pay her own way. I was living with my step-dad for free and making better money than I'd ever made in a sales job before as I was getting my first taste of commission sales. As this was the case, I never expected her to visit me in the Bay Area and it seemed only natural that I would do the traveling to be near her and to keep our relationship alive. I never minded the traveling, it was completely worth it in my eyes and a small price to pay in order to be near her as often as possible. And so I began to lead two lives, one in the Bay Area and one in Folsom. I worked Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, telling my managers that I had classes the other days of the week and after therapy every tuesday, I loaded my bikes and drove to Folsom where I would be with her until the weekend rolled around once again. In those months, my hopeless attachment to my compulsions to exercise were less apparent as I had ample amounts of free time that needed to be filled with something. Of course, I chose to fill that time with miles and hours alone on the bike.

As summer approached, I could see the difference in my appearance and as I was still being monitored by a medical doctor regularly, I resorted to water loading once more in order to stabilize the number on the scale. I reasoned that the loss hadn't been drastic and that what had been lost was no cause for concern. As such, I convinced myself that hiding this minimal loss from the professionals so as not to cause any alarm was perfectly reasonable. I told myself that I had everything under control. But this was far from true and as the months wore on, urges to binge found me more regularly and with more intensity until I found myself unable to fight them one day after a visit with my Dietitian.

A binge is a funny thing in that the urge that strikes you is an impulsive thing but the actual act of binging is far from impulse by the time it actually occurs. It's nearly always the same, the thought crosses my mind sometime in the morning hours of a day with little structure. The thought comes to me as a complete scenario played out from beginning to end. At once I am able to see where it will happen, when it will happen, and precisely what it will entail. In times of pure sickness and darkness, I would not strike these thoughts from my mind or view them with fear but instead would welcome them into my heart as I believed that acting upon them would bring me some relief from the pain which I felt. That day of the Dietitian visit, I tried to exercise these thoughts of binging from my mind, telling myself that I would come home from my appointment and get on my bike, as I had originally planned. But a thought, once thought, cannot be unthunk and as I rode the BART train to the appointment and lied my way through the visit, weaving a story of how well I felt I was doing nutritionally and how positive I felt about my relationship to my body and exercise, I could not find separation from the now refined plan that occupied my thoughts. By the time I left her office and made my way to the corner liquor store for a Diet Pepsi(which I had completely stopped consuming in the months since I had started working at Mike's), I had stopped fighting the thoughts entirely. I knew then that the plan would come to fruition and that trying to resist it would be a futile effort. So, I stepped away from myself and watched as I threw months of work and resistance down the drain in the span of no more than a couple of hours.

After, when I came to and made my way back to the world of the living, I fell apart and finally came to terms with just how poorly I had been doing for months. I realized that a change was needed if I stood any chance of surviving the rest of my life. I don't know why in that moment I decided to single out my bike as the scape goat of all of my troubles, but I did and I decided that I would stop riding and that if I did that, somehow everything would just get better on its own. It was the beginning of June and I was to start a summer course at Folsom Lake College in a few short days and I felt as though I was losing control of the perfect little world which I had constructed with so many months of ample free time. I lasted only a few days without my bike before I came to terms with the fact that I could not live a life without it. I thought then, as I still believe from time to time now, that the only memories of true happiness that I had were of moments alone with my bike and I told myself that I would ride less, but that riding simply had to be part of a well-balanced life for me. The moment I stopped riding, I started to chew a pack of gum every day and began drinking liter after liter of diet soda once more; as if my bike were my only motivation to keep myself in check in any measure. My motivation to care for myself plummeted in those days off the bike and thoughts of drinking and taking drugs filled my mind. Why not? Without a bike, I had no real reason to maintain any sort of real health or to even pretend that health was indeed what I wanted to maintain. These thoughts frightened me and after ten days free of pedaling, I crawled back in the saddle, determined to keep my exercise in check as I opened a new chapter in my life and returned to school. I reasoned that I could look at my bike like a binge food. Like a binge food, I enjoyed it thoroughly and just as with a binge food, my bike in moderation was actually a healthy thing. I told myself all of these things and I may have been motivated to redefine what it meant to me to be fit, but I refused to address the fact that I was completely unwilling to let go of the body which I had been constructing in the months since my treatment.

School posed a new threat to the comfort of my world and rather than take two summer courses which in reality I should have been capable of managing, I settled for only one as this choice would afford me the opportunity to continue to lead a relatively stress free existence in which I could still ride more if I chose to do so. I made an agreement with myself at the beginning of summer. I had accepted the fact that I was struggling and I knew that if I continued to struggle in the ways that I was, I was never going to be free of my sickness and so I agreed to give myself the summer to try to turn things around and if I had not been able to put myself back on the road to recovery by summer's end, I accepted that I would return to treatment in some capacity to regain my footing. I knew on some level that I was too far gone by that point to put myself back on track and I know now that I had never truly been on track in the first place, but being the hopeless romantic that I am, I told myself that I still had the strength to fight for the life that I wanted to lead. And somewhere between these thoughts and the actions that would have supported these thoughts, their meaning became lost and I continued down the same road which I had been on leading into the summer. Each night, I would promise myself that tomorrow would be the first day that I would turn things around and each morning I would put off changing my behaviors until that afternoon which would then lead to another night of empty promises.

And so it went. I did fight on occasion but I see now that the thing which I was fighting for was not health even on my most determined days. I see now that my perception of what it meant to be healthy was so skewed from the beginning that even if I had been completely successful in winning my battles, the thing which I would have won would and only could have been sickness in the end. I see now that even on the best of days, I was fighting for a dream which in the eyes of the waking world was nothing more than a nightmare. I limped on through the rest of summer in complete denial of the severity to which I was actively relapsing, holding out for the day when I would relocate to Sacramento so that I could be closer to her. I came to blame my traveling for my stress, and my stress for my struggles. I would believe anything, so long as I didn't have to examine the truth. I convinced myself that if only I could hold out until my transfer went through at work, then I could finally find the stability that I needed to get back on track.

But my move to Sacramento proved to be the straw that would break this camels back. Sick with fear of gaining weight and worry that I would lose my fitness by moving from the hilly terrain of the Bay Area to the flat terrain of the Sacramento Valley, I modified my already too meager compensatory exercise exchanges even further so as to ensure that weight gain would be impossible. I had lost all hold on reality and my distortions ran wild in the days after I moved and settled into what was to be my new life. I told her that I missed my friends in the Bay, that I was worried about making less money at a lower dollar location in Sacramento, but the truth of the matter is that I was terrified of what this move might do to my body and the number of calories that I was burning while riding. I only missed the certainty that I would remain thin that came with living in the Bay Area. I would never share this with her of course, would never let her see just how sick I really was and just how distorted my view of myself and the world had become. I could no longer decipher what was real and what was fantasy and I was completely convinced that I was gaining weight by living in Sacramento which prompted the first true intentional restricting since graduating from treatment. And then, as if it had happened with the flick of a switch, I saw myself in reality for the first time and I loved what I saw in that moment. My love for that thing that I saw looking back at me in the mirror was enough to allow me to completely let go.

I stopped fighting back, stopped waging any sort of war against sickness and instead found myself embracing whatever sort of behavior would maintain this new found love that I had for the body which had so long been hated. I found myself completely addicted to the high of accepting my body and with that euphoria clouding my vision, I completely lost sight of everything which I had been working towards in the months spent in treatment. None of those things mattered any longer; the only thing that was important, the only thing that had ever been important was the thing which I had right there in front of me and I would do absolutely anything to continue to feel the way that I felt then. I was lost, completely enslaved by compulsion and addiction once more and little else in life mattered; not my love for her, not my hopes to one day become more than the thing that I was, nothing.

There were moments, even in that euphoria, when I recognized just how hopeless it all was, when I could see that the way in which I was living was a dead end road and that it would end in my own despair, but I pushed these thoughts from my mind with more lies and denial, telling myself that I was living a healthy and maintainable existence all the while knowing deep down that hope was lost for me. There was no moment of realization that came to me through some significant event, no brilliant flash of light that allowed me to see through the darkness of my ways. Instead it was a slow building of scattered moments of recognition of the truth of my situation that led me go back to Berkeley to visit the director of the program where I had graduated months before. I think that I knew or at least that I hoped that she would call me out of hiding and tell me what I already knew in some deep corner of my heart to be true. I hoped that she would tell me that I needed help because I still could not utter the words myself. And she did. She hid nothing from me, she looked at me and saw right through the lies that I tried to tell her about how well everything was going in my life and in that moment I wanted to cry as I breathed a sigh of relief and final acceptance of a truth which I had known all along. I admitted to her that I knew that I had to let it all go if I truly wanted to recover. I admitted to her that I had to say goodbye to my oldest, truest, and dearest friend if I wanted something more for myself in life than a battle with sickness and as I left her that day, I felt for the first time in my recovery, that I knew what it was that I had to do.