Saturday, March 30, 2013

Living the Dream

So I guess this is what it feels like to be in recovery. It’s like standing on the starting line of the biggest race of my life, the second before the gun goes off. Every single moment of every day. That sickening mixture of adrenaline and nausea churning in my stomach. My throat tight. Hard to swallow. Hard to breathe. The sensation that I’m about to jump out of a fucking plane 24 hours a day, and absolutely no way to escape. No familiar way at least. There is no freedom to be found in the hum of a cassette as it clicks over the asphalt, and no satisfaction to be tasted in the edge of a blade. There is just this moment and all of the discomfort that it breeds. This feeling must pass because no one can live here forever, not even me. I can put up with a lot of discomfort, come to enjoy it, or need it even, but this is nearly unbearable. This feeling of not wanting to be here, but cringing at the thought of being anywhere else. This constant sense of not fitting into the puzzle of my own life. This discomfort in my own skin. This overwhelming feeling of impending doom about to come crashing down on me from all sides. They cannot last forever. They cannot last forever because I cannot live like this forever. If life is going to feel like this, then I don’t want a damn thing to with life. Not this life, anyway. I’d rather be sick and blissfully unaware of the pain that dwells inside of me than go through my days feeling this way for the rest of my life. I’m not giving up. I’m going to push through this. Things were bound to get worse before they ever got any better and they have certainly gotten worse. But they can’t get much worse than they are now. Yes they can. I can make things far worse than they are right now by giving in to this pressure to break or bend and find myself trapped in my prison once more. This is my only way out. My only way out is through this discomfort and agitation, through sleepless nights and days lost to anxiety. This is the road that I must travel because it is the one that I have refused to take in the past. I’ve never held my ground and stood strong through anything like this before. Any pain that I’d become so good at enduring had always been pain that I inflicted on myself. This is different. This pain resides inside of me and I have no choice in whether I feel it or not. It follows me wherever I go, as if my shadow were trying to choke the life out of me. It’s only been a few days, and already I have been worn thin. Already I am desperate for a moment of relief from this feeling of being crushed from the inside out that plagues my waking hours and prevents me from finding any sleep. Perhaps I am not as strong as I had thought. Perhaps I cannot be victorious in this battle. Perhaps it is inevitable that I live my life as a tortured soul. I cannot believe these things. I cannot allow myself to give in to the weight of the real world which I am attempting to carry for the first time in my life. I will find no peace in surrender, only the familiarity of a war that cannot be won. This is my only way out, straight through the worst of the storm to calmer waters on the other side. But everything inside of me is telling me that all of this discomfort would disappear with a few pedal strokes, indeed that all of my problems would certainly evaporate the moment that cleat contacted pedal. It feels wrong to live my life without air, but that’s what I’m attempting to do. Find some new way to survive without ever breathing again. It cannot be. I can only hold my breathe for so long and I look forward, with all of my heart, to the day when I can taste the sweetness of familiar air in my lunges once more. Who knows how long that will be? It’s not up to me to decide my fate in this regard. I suppose that the very day that I do not need air to breathe, that I have learned to live in some other way, will be the same day that I am deemed sane enough to return to my kingdom. I am terrified that it will be too late, that it may already be too late and the harsh reality that things will never ever be the same finds me in my dreams and shakes me to life in the darkest parts of the night. Will I even be able to go back? Can I ever accept that things must not be as they once were if I am to maintain the life I’m living now? If I were given the choice today to continue leading this life, suffocating in fear and drowning in the unknown, or to go back to the subtle deadliness and familiarity of what I once knew, I’m not so certain which I would choose. I am intrigued by the prospect that something better exists than the life which I had created for myself but I am doubtful in this moment that it truly lies on the other end of so much suffering. But haven’t good things always come from suffering? Haven’t the best things only been found on the other end of considerable amounts of pain? The pain was different, and the reward was not the same, but I pray that the truth of my old way of life still rings true in this new place and that I am holding out for something far greater than what I am leaving behind.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Win Or Lose

My mind is full of bad ideas though nothing has really changed except my own perspective of things. I've gone more days than this without program before but I always had the safety of that place to welcome me home at the end of a string of days on my own. The string of days that has only just begun is to encompass my whole life if all goes as planned.

Urges, thoughts, temptations, silly little things, seriously dangerous things, they've all crept into my mind in the days since my graduation and I watch them swim about through the currents of my mind and wonder where they have all been hiding for all of these months. Perhaps I won't pack my lunch for school tomorrow. Where does a thought like this come from? It is incomplete, it should include an alternative plan to find calories to sustain myself and my recovery but the thought stops just there, unfinished and dangerously open to catastrophe. What then? Don't pack your lunch, does that mean don't eat lunch? I can't be sure. I hadn't thought about it.

A thousand thoughts as incomplete as this one run through my mind each day. Perhaps I'll run five extra minutes today, perhaps I'll restrict at dinner, perhaps I'll skip lunch, perhaps I'll eat more ice cream. None of them are complete, none of them are attached to a why or a how. They are just there, swimming through my mind, waiting to be snatched out of the water and gobbled up by a mouth hungry for the taste of self-destruction.

I saw myself for the first time since all of this began on sunday night. It may sound crazy because it is a little crazy, but I haven't seen myself without a shirt in over five months. I'm careful to avert my eyes when necessary and showering is an eyes forward event. I was afraid. I was afraid that I would not be able to take in the destruction of all that I bled and sweated to create. I was terrified that one glance at my new body exposed from it's hiding place of baggy button down shirts would tear down everything that I had been working to build in my recovery. I told myself that I could get better, so long as I never had to see myself, never had to fully accept the changes in my body. Perhaps if I ignore it, my body will disappear entirely...

I do not know what possessed me to change my mind on Sunday night in that Target dressing room. Maybe I caught a glimpse of my chest out of the corner of my eye, maybe I liked the way that the room lit my face, thought that it made me look strong and thin and beautiful once again, maybe I just wanted to make myself suffer. Whatever the reason, I turned to face that mirror and I lowered the shirt from in front of my chest. I could have stayed trapped in that moment forever, gazing at the creature that stood before me in the mirror. Who is this person staring back at me from the other side of the glass? Surely, that cannot be me.

Somehow, somewhere along the way, I had grown into a manling without my being aware of it. The thing that stood before me in the mirror was unfamiliar but not necessarily something to be ashamed or afraid of. Where once a boy had stood, emaciated and painfully isolated from the world, the beginnings of a man now beamed. This body was not mine, but perhaps I could learn to accept it, perhaps I could learn to call it my own. But how can this be? Accepting this prison of flesh and bone as my own would mean letting go of everything that I have fought for for all these years. If I let go of the fight to control my body and allow it simply to exist as it was intended to do so, then will I have won or lost this war? Have I surrendered or have I been victorious?

Healthy weight and acceptance were never meant to exist at the same point in time. Not in my mind they weren't. I never planned for this. I had come to believe that recovering simply meant living in disgust of my physical self in the name of my mental and emotional well-being. I was never meant to like what looked back at me from the mirror and be healthy in the same moment. Acceptance, for so long now has necessarily meant sickness of body and mind and I had come to believe that sickness and acceptance could never be separated. If I am to have everything that I want, then what the hell do I have left to fight for?

Of course I can't accept it. Immediately I search for every feature, every centimeter of skin or muscle that could be better, tighter, or more defined. I am greeted by a darker and much more familiar thought than that of acceptance. You're so close Dez, just a little hard work and you'll have the body that you've always wanted. That's more like it. That's the voice that has driven me my whole life. That is the exact same voice that got me to where I am today. It's always been just a little more and it will never be enough.

"How does that shirt fit, Dez?" Thank God my friend is here with me. Otherwise, I could be trapped in this dressing room all night. How could I ever leave now that there is so much to explore and dissect? Take me out of here, get me away from this place. I need to crawl in a hole somewhere and digest all that I have just witnessed. It's almost too much for me to bear, this idea of actually accepting my body in a place of health rather than sickness. I don't trust it. The entire way home I'm thinking of all of the reasons that what I saw in that mirror was a lie. It was the lighting, perhaps the mirror was tilted to make people feel better about themselves. Yes, that must be it. A trick of the mirror and nothing more.

I am safe in my discontent for my physical self. It was only a silly mirror trying to make me believe something that simply wasn't true. How could it be? If what I saw that night was what other people see when they see me, then all of this will truly have been for nothing. My struggles will lose their meaning and the battle that I continue to wage with myself each day to the rhythmic tune of crunches and push ups and the pat pat pat of my feet on the pavement as the minutes tick by, will lose it's sense of purpose. If that purpose is lost, then I might finally give up and accept my fate and if I do that, I will have finally lost the final battle of this war. Or will I have finally won?

I can't say for certain, I really do not know. What if recovery is finally giving in and accepting things just as they are? What if exercise really isn't a matter of me not accepting so much as it is a matter of me strictly enjoying the activity? Somewhere between nothing at all and obsession lies a world of gray area where I am expected to live for the rest of my life. Is that even possible for someone like me?

I'm still afraid. I'm afraid now to lose whatever body it was that I saw in that mirror, and I'm even more afraid that I have slipped from the realm of healthy and back into sickness and this is surely the only reason that I began to accept the thing I saw in the dressing room that night. It's not about your body, Dez. Oh, it's not? Then why does my body seem to be a constant source of worry and anxiety? If it's not about my body, then why is it so important to keep me at exactly such and such weight? Accepting yourself at any weight is something of a myth as far as I'm concerned. Accepting yourself at a healthy weight is something that I am beginning to believe in but any weight feels a little far fetched, at least for me. Maybe that's because I'm new at this, perhaps I have not reached enlightenment, or maybe it's just because I've never been expected to be anywhere but healthy and it's only just now that I'm seeing that for the first time.

Empires crumble and new worlds are built in their place. Is the empire that has ruled my whole life beginning to fall at long last? It's only natural to feel lost when the thing that has governed you for as long as you can remember begins to crack and fall apart. Maybe that's where I am, feeling lost as the walls which I have built up around me on irrational beliefs and laws begin to tumble down on all sides. Who will I be without the protection of these walls? Where will I go and what will I be capable of if this war finally ends?

I know that wars like this one don't simply stop overnight, but I feel as though I have reached a turning point of sorts. I have never liked myself. Never. Despite the grades, despite the friends, and the girls, despite the accomplishments at work, despite all that I did on my bike, despite my kind heart, my willingness to help and to share what little I had with the world, I have never accepted the person that I am. I have always felt that I could be something more or that everything that I did in this world was only an effort to make up for some inherent flaw in my character which could never really be fixed, but which might be concealed if I appeared perfect enough. But now, despite having no accomplishments to speak of at any sort of job, despite giving up my elite athlete status and leaving my bike behind in another world, despite failing at relationships, and isolating myself from friends over the years, I see that somehow I am still a decent person.

And if I take nothing else away from months of treatment, believing that I am a decent person is more than enough for me to know that my time spent there was well worth it.