Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Medication Blues

Could you sleep at a time like this? Yeah, me neither apparently. It's 5:56 AM and I've been awake for at least two hours already. Too much on my mind? Perhaps. Perhaps not though, at least I can't think of any pressing thoughts that might have pulled me out of sleep in the wee hours of the morning.

No, more than likely this has to do with medications or lack thereof. It wasn't so long ago that I would go days with only a couple of hours of sleep each night. I wouldn't feel tired or drained. In fact, the opposite was true. I felt energized and alive and Jesus did I feel productive. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you don't go to bed until 3AM and you're wide awake at 6. Was I really that productive though? Not so much. Feeling productive was a creation of my mind. Mostly I tinkered around the garage and rode my indoor trainer and made tiny adjustments to the position of my saddle and handlebars over and over again, convincing myself that I was faster and stronger with each tiny change I made to my position.

This was my personal hell. Forever chasing speed, losing sleep over it night after night, but never actually finding it at the end of a wrench. So I stayed up all night and I fucked around with my bike, then when the sun came up I went and rode my bike for hours and hours before I went to work where I didn't eat anything except power bars all day long. And after work I would ride my bike for hours and hours, into the dark of the night; and eventually I would come home, binge and purge a little and start the process all over again.

But this was only half of the puzzle. In fact it wasn't even half. If it were half then I may never have listened to my therapist when she suggested that I see a psychiatrist. No, these sleepless nights, this unexplained energy, these feelings of happiness, and invincibility, and impulsivity, were never meant to last too long. It never failed. A few days into one of these episodes, the thought that eventually these feelings would disappear and leave me alone with myself again would cross my mind and my own fear and anxiety surrounding the disappearance of my high would inevitably trigger the destruction of said high.

In this way, the highs became shorter and shorter, and the voids between them became larger and larger. And it was in those voids that I wished I could just die. For days on end, I would lie in bed 15 hours a day, only dragging myself out of the house to stand around like the walking dead at work for my shift, before returning home to binge and purge and climb back into bed. These were dark days spent alone in my room diving into the bottom of countless containers of ice cream and devouring cakes, cookies, pies, and brownies endlessly. Depression doesn't begin to describe it. I would write all about the ways that I could kill myself and research lethal doses of over the counter medications so that when the time finally came to end it all, I could make an educated choice in choosing my poison.

Meanwhile, the world around me kept spinning and people kept believing that I was something special because of what I could accomplish on my bike. The world had no idea that I was drowning in the stormy waters of my own mind. But my therapist knew because describing these highs and lows was one of the only things I did honestly in our sessions.

"Sometimes I just feel so amazing that I think I can accomplish nearly anything and I just want to quit my job and move back to San Diego and live in my van again and race bikes until the day I die because I know that I will be successful at it. But just about the time that I'm ready to pack up and leave, I feel so awful and sad that I barely want to move because it hurts so bad just to be alive. Then I know that I can't do anything right and that I'll never be a success at anything and I just feel like staying inside and hiding from the world. I just want to be left alone to die miserable and alone," I would say to her.

"That sounds to me like Bipolar, Dez. But I'm not a psychiatrist so I really can't make that diagnosis. And if that is in fact what's happening, then you might benefit from some type of medication. It might make things easier for you and get you off of the roller coaster which you seem to be riding," she would say to me. Again and again we would talk about it in our sessions, this idea of seeing a psychiatrist so that I could be medicated.

But I didn't want to go. I didn't want to go because I didn't want to be diagnosed with another mental disorder, but mostly I didn't want to go because I didn't want to lose my highs. When I was high, I felt like I could fucking fly and I wasn't willing to give that feeling up, even if it was coming to me less and less often. Flying almost made all of the dark days worthwhile. Almost. But then the darkness became nearly everything and everyday. Flying became a memory of something that I longed to experience again and finally I gave in and scheduled an appointment to see a certain Dr. G, who was highly recommended.

"Sounds like Bipolar," he said to me when I described my symptoms. And the pills followed accordingly. Medication is not a science, I soon learned. It's a guessing game and one of these guesses put me in the emergency room in the middle of the night with an allergic reaction a few weeks later. Another guess left me numb to the world, emotionless, experiencing no highs and no lows of any sort. This guess left me unable to get excited, or mad, or sad about anything that happened throughout the day. His next guess left me walking through a fog, feeling slightly higher than completely low, and removed all chances for a flight through the cloudless skies of of fleeting happiness. After three guesses and three misses, I stopped taking the pills and went back to the roller coaster ride that I had come to know so well.

But that was then, and this is now. And now the pills are plentiful. But with these pills come a full night's sleep and a ticket to ride the kiddie coaster instead of the full size, full speed, knock you on your ass and flip you upside down big boy coaster of years past. New psychiatrists meant more guesses over the years, but I think we're on the right track now. No more trips to the ER and an ability to experience both positive and negative emotions make me think that this might be just about the right cocktail of drugs.

Do I miss flying? Of course I do. I can only imagine what I would accomplish if I didn't need to sleep these days now that I'm not completely obsessed with riding my bike. Maybe it wouldn't be much more than a few blogs and some good journal entries and in the end, can I really say that I'd trade a couple thousand words for a few hours of sleep? I can't, and I feel frighteningly healthy for saying that.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Stick and Stones May Break My Bones But Words Will Never Hurt Me(I Wish)

Confusion about who I am feels like failure and I can't stomach failure, say five of the scars on my left shoulder. I will never binge again, say the six scars on my stomach. I love her and I don't want to let her go say the two scars on my left forearm. I'm drunk, I don't care anymore, and I'm in so much pain, say fifteen more of the scars on my left shoulder. This is the last time I will ever cut myself, say the remaining four. They lied. Liars and cheaters will be the death of me, in fact I wish I was already dead, say the four scars on my left wrist and the ten scars on on my right. I don't know how to say goodbye, say the ten scars on my right forearm. I can't handle rejection say the six scars on my right shoulder and the three scars left by the car keys on my right leg. I'm lonely and I feel like I'm about to explode, say the two grotesque burns on my right forearm.

All of these things said about me without me ever having to whisper a word on the subjects. It's difficult now, when I am trying so hard to use words to communicate what it is that is going on inside of me to those who choose to interact with me out in the world. It's difficult because my scars still speak for me more often than not and I don't feel strong enough to shut them up. They talk and I can't help but listen to the things they say about me. They say these things, and I believe them.

The problem is that no one else can here them speak. No one else could possibly know the secrets that they keep beneath the surface. Everyone can see them and they can make up their own stories and meanings for the marks left on my skin by so many frightening nights spent bathed in blood beneath the glow of a fluorescent light hung high overhead in some nameless and lonely hotel bathroom. They make up their own stories but how could they possibly know the truth unless I was willing to speak it? I don't want the people around me to know.

I'm embarrassed. The truth behind so many of these permanent self inflicted mutilations is so ridiculous that I can barely stand it. I ate too much, so I sliced my arm open to bleed the calories out. She said we need to slow down so I hacked myself to bits because all I heard was we're over and I hate when things are over. I couldn't find the strength to tell her that it had to end so I proved to her that I was too crazy for her to stay by spilling crimson across the counter and floor of that little motel bathroom back in Martinez. I needed to prove that I was insane enough to be in the psych ward which clearly meant a few more cuts and a little more blood. She slept with him and they had the guts to try to call me their friend so I had to smear the dark streets of Berkeley with bright red as the anger poured from my open wrists. They stitched the wounds and made them not count, leaving me with no choice but to open those wrists all over again so that I could have something to have and to hold till death do I part. And the rest of the time, I just didn't know what to do with feeling so disgusted and ashamed of the thing that I had become so I navigated rivers died red through the darkest hours of the night until the morning light showed through the curtains and I felt light and clean and new again.

How do you explain to someone that you hurt yourself in a way that will last the rest of your life simply because you were bored or feeling angry or betrayed? Or hell, how do you tell someone that you burned yourself just because you had something to drink and you couldn't think of a better excuse to do something stupid and pointless as the girls squealed with terror? You don't. You avoid deep conversations and you keep your explanations brief if you are asked. "I went through a couple of rough patches," you say to those with prying eyes and curious minds. Then, you promptly change the topic, put on your shirt, and get back to work. I don't owe anyone an explanation, not really. But I can't help but wonder if an explanation now and then is better than the things they will assume about me if I stay silent.

Is he unstable? Is he crazy? Will he do it again? Is he safe to be around? Yes, duh, probably, and absolutely are the answers you're looking for. The truth is that I wouldn't hurt a fly unless I were a fly, then I'd tear my fucking wings off. But not necessarily because I wanted to, more because I just couldn't help myself. I don't know how to explain it, but sometimes something so wrong feels more right than anything else in the universe and in those moments I don't feel like I have a choice anymore.

But right now I have a choice. Right now it's not even a question on my mind. I haven't considered it in weeks, maybe months, not seriously anyway. The thoughts still float through my mind constantly, I just choose not to reel them in to take a closer look these days. I'm not out of the woods though, not by a long shot. A little rejection or abandonment by someone whom I feel close to would be enough to erase any thought of tomorrow's consequences from the ever narrowing focus of my mind and I'd go all in and bleed all over the damn place all over again. This tight rope that I walk is quite thin and there are some windy days in my future, I have no doubt. But I've been crossing this gorge for quite sometime without falling off into the great abyss below and their have been nights spent clutching the rope with everything I have as a storm rages all around me. I think I can stand up straight and walk with confidence beneath cloudless blue skies in the calm of late summer days. At least that is my hope.

Change is coming, storm clouds are on the horizon. But storm clouds don't scare me enough to jump off into the darkness anymore. It's only if the storm itself becomes too intense that I may consider taking the plunge into so much chaotic familiarity at this point in my life. Thank God. It has to stop at some point, doesn't it? Why not today? I'm running out virgin skin, after all and I've only so much blood left to bleed for those of you who do not care enough about me to hold my hand as I walk through the cold night toward the morning's light. I think I can see it now, a dim glimmer somewhere way off in the distance. It's beautiful. I want to reach out and touch it, hold it in my hand and smile a real, true smile; the type that comes from way down deep inside where I am not rotten, and black, and broken, but where I am real, and new, and young, and untainted by the evil lurking everywhere in the world around me.

I have bled for you because I loved you so much that it hurt. I have bled for you because I hated you so much that it hurt even worse. I have bled for you because you left. I have bled for you because you refused to just leave me alone to wallow in my pain. I have bled when I barely knew you and I have bled when I thought I knew you better than anyone else in the world. You certainly surprised me, didn't you? And what have I learned? Not much. I still love and hate on a whim and I'm still devastated when you decide to leave or tell me no. My heart is broken and reborn daily but how many lives must I live to find the one that fits just right, the one that I'd care to live until the day that I die? Perhaps I'll never know and perhaps that's the whole idea of this journey. You never get to know the end of the story until you actually arrive there. The plot may thicken, the characters you meet along the way may betray you and break your heart, and maybe you'll bleed a little for those who swore that they loved you. But you can't die, not yet. This story is yours and who will tell it if you leave us here all alone now?

I will tell it. I would scream it at the top of my lungs if only I had the courage. I will tell it because it's the only thing that truly belongs to me and it is the one thing that separates me from everyone else in life. Our stories are unique, beautiful, ever evolving creations and they deserve to be told no matter how gory the details might be. My story is no different. It's beautiful in a blood soaked sort of way and I'd be more than happy to share it with you all if I only knew that you would really listen to me. But not just listen. I need you to hear me and to understand me, and I don't think you could guarantee me that, even if your intentions were pure. It's not your fault and I don't hold it against you. I don't expect you to understand because this is my story and the truth is that I don't understand it myself. And maybe it's better that way. The truth can be dangerous for me, say so many of the scars strewn across my body and I haven't much interest in spilling more blood in the name of the truth. Best to live in the safety of a lie...

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Long Game

So is this what it all comes down to? Is this where recovery ends? What, because I can't use my hand and thus can't ride my bike, I just can't eat? Yeah, that makes perfect sense. Seriously though, it does. I'm not joking or being playful or funny or cute. This is where I'm at with this fucking cast on my arm and it's been nearly a full day. Only six more weeks to go.

No, it's not that serious. It's not like I haven't eaten today, I just haven't eaten that much I guess. Intuitive, right? Wrong. Intuitive doesn't mean that you get to stop eating just because you have no appetite. That's not how this is supposed to work. I know that on some level but at the surface, on my skin where I can touch it and feel it, I don't see how eating when I'm not hungry makes any sense at all. I can't understand how I sat around for five weeks in the psych ward and then another five weeks in residential doing nothing but talking and eating, eating and talking.

They'll tell you in those places that it's not about the food, but that might be a lie; just a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. It's about how I feel in my own skin, which is related to weight, which is directly related to the food I consume so I fail to see how it isn't at least in part about the food. A good therapist will admit that it is and it isn't which is what makes it so damn tricky to just get better.

It's just a cast, they'll say to me. It's not the end of the world, they'll reassure me. It's only six weeks. And they'll pat me on the back and move on with their lives because to them it is just a cast which is not the end of the world and is in fact an excuse to do very little to no work or physical activity for six weeks. Sounds like a fucking vacation, right? They just don't get it. They don't understand how delicate the balance of my life really is. Take one piece of the puzzle away and the whole thing crumbles to the ground. Exercise isn't everything, but it's an important part of the whole picture and without it, I can't help but worry that the picture will become grotesque and unlovable over the next six weeks. Without it, I feel like tearing the picture off the wall and burning it before anyone gets a chance to see how fat it has become.

I'm not better, not yet. I'm a work in progress and it's little bumps in the road such as this one that remind me just how far I have to go before I can consider myself fully recovered. How long does it take? I've been told that it takes half as long to get out of this mess as it did to get into it. If that's true then I have about five years to go. That's not so bad so long as I can survive my day to day life and the small catastrophes that come along with it. But I know that it doesn't stop there. I know I don't just wake up five years from now feeling all better. I know this doesn't really end. Not now, not five years from now, not ever. It will get better, or it will get worse, that's my choice. And there may come a day when I can look out on six weeks of sitting around and not lose my shit or try to starve myself but apparently I'm not there yet.

And my god, how far I've come? It's a wonder that anyone makes it out of this alive at all. I'm strong, and I'm stubborn, but that doesn't mean that I haven't lost ground. It doesn't feel so much like a day to day choice as it just feels like all that I know. Lying, cheating, manipulating the people around me so that they believe exactly what I want them to believe, this is just how it goes. I don't feel like I can help it but I don't much like the idea of just accepting that I am a dishonest person either. So where do we go from here? I guess I could start telling the truth... But the truth is frightening because telling the truth would mean gaining weight and hurting feelings. Telling the truth would mean facing the lies and accepting them for what they really are. It's much easier to just go along believing the stories that I tell.

These are beautiful stories. They tell all about the person that I wish I really was and the life that I'd truly like to be living. That person is somehow both thin and in recovery. That person doesn't tell lies because he's ashamed of the truth. That person is not impulsive. That person does not cheat when he thinks he might lose. That person isn't afraid to fail. But I am not that person, not really. I am an irresponsible liar who is terrified of failure and I will do nearly anything to make people believe that I am a success even though I may be falling apart behind this smile.

But people believe what they want and need to believe. If they looked a little deeper they would see that these lies are only paper thin. Why would they bother to look though when the lies only hurt me and my progress? This is my life and my recovery and it's not up to them whether I'd like to be successful at it or not. People are too wrapped up in their own lives to worry a whole hell of a lot about mine and for the most part that's just the way that I like it. Let me be and let me go on believing what I want and need to believe to survive. I get nervous when someone starts to pay closer attention to me because I know that I am transparent and they'll look right through my deceptions. Or maybe that's exactly what I want. Maybe I want to be found out. Maybe I'm still crying out for help in the same way that I always have, in complete silence.

It's not a game. It's really not and I understand that. At least I understand that for everyone else going through this process but I can't help but feel sometimes as though the rules still do not apply to me. Don't we all feel that way now and then? I feel like I am smarter than the rules which govern the universe and so I needn't follow them. It's sound logic, trust me. But it's eating disorder logic and eating disorder logic gets me nowhere but dead in the end and so I have to ignore the urge to break the rules and do whatever feels right in this very second. I have to look forward to tomorrow and the days beyond to find some sort of inspiration to make the right decision when the wrong one is all that I know and love.

So what is my recovery based decision for this evening? Everything inside is telling me to ignore my night snack, binge watch Orange is the New Black, and go to bed on an empty stomach so I'm thinking some yogurt with granola might be a good place to start. One step at a time is all that we can expect of ourselves although I know I'd rather be running marathons by now. This race is feeling awfully long today, and it's only just begun.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Fairytales

They tell me that I'll never be able to race again. I tend to believe them. Aside from the anxiety piece surrounding competition, there's the fact that I'm quite slow and out of shape now. I don't know if I have it in me to train myself into a deadly weapon again.

But I'm not satisfied. I'm not satisfied with this civilian life I'm living. There's no excitement and little to look forward to. Goals are gigantic and long term and reaching them seems like an endless exercise in monotony. I crave the adrenalin and I miss the pain. I miss feeling cleansed after an event, completely detoxed of all the shit that had been brewing inside of me. I can't find that feeling anywhere now. The shit just builds and builds and it has absolutely no place to go.

Is it any wonder that I lose my mind periodically and hurt myself so that I can get a taste of the pain and the adrenalin that I so crave? I think it makes perfect sense.

I'm terrified to go back to that life though. I'm not the same person I used to be and I can't do the things that I once did. That person is dead and gone away now. I am all that remains. And I am less, so much less, than the person I used to be. At least in all the ways that I care about at the moment. I've grown in so many new ways and I've made leaps and bounds in areas of my life once neglected by my passion for competition but I don't care about any of that right now. Right now I would gladly trade all of that progress for a good strong set of legs and a race date on the calendar

The world was much smaller then, but at least I was successful in it. I feel like I have so far to go in civilian life before I can claim something approaching success and I don't know if I have the patience to see the journey through.

I'm feeling discouraged today. I binged the night before last and the experience shook me to my core. It's been such a long time since I lost control like that and feeling powerless over food once again was frightening. I don't want to lose what I've worked so hard to achieve over the last two years because I would have nothing to fall back on if my recovery were gone. I can't go back to my racing life. I can't go back to my eating disorder life. My only option it seems, is to move forward with my new life, whatever that may look like.

And I couldn't help but compensate for my binge with restricting yesterday. It was eerily familiar to find myself cutting out calories at each of my meals because of the guilt and shame I felt over my loss of control the night before. For the first time in a long time I felt that I had no choice, as if one act necessarily leads to the next because there can be no other chain of events. I know this isn't true. I've eaten more than I felt comfortable with before and picked up and moved right along in a healthy direction the following day. I know that I'm capable of it but I just couldn't bring myself to do it yesterday. I felt that I had to take the easy way out and today I'm feeling discouraged and low and certainly no less guilty because now I have to contend with the guilt of restricting as well as the guilt brought on by binging.

Was it really a binge though? My dietitian might encourage me to think of it as having just eaten a little more than normal but I felt a loss of control just like I used to and I was using the same all or nothing thinking that led to so many insane nights of puking my guts out in a past life. It doesn't matter. What's done is done and all that matters now is that I get back on track as soon as possible. Hiccups happen. Recovery moves up, down, backward, and forward. I just like to believe that my recovery is somehow unique, terminally unique in fact, and that it will move only forward and up, never down or backward. But that's not really how this works, is it?

I know the answer to that question as well as any of you but I also know my tendency to develop habits which become rituals and addictions which I can't seem to give up without clinical intervention. I'm not going down that road again so in my eyes it's best to just avoid the slip ups in the first place. If only, if only. If only it were that easy and I could simply decide to do well all of the time. Wouldn't I? Wouldn't we all?

I'd like to believe that we would but I know I've been in places before where I wanted to do nothing more than burn my life down and piss on the ashes. I'm not there now, thank god. No, now I'm actually trying to build a life for myself that is worth living and I will reluctantly accept the fact that I will stumble along the way from time to time. Reluctantly.

But I accept, that is the key. I accept that my recovery is not perfect because I have come to accept that perfection absolutely does not exist. It's scary to accept that the thing that I have tried to be for so long isn't actually real but my fear makes this fact no less true and beyond the fear there is hope that I can strive to be a human-being one day, beautiful and perfectly imperfect in every way.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

I'm Not Dead, I Only Dress That Way

Where did that sprightly young fellow with so much to say run off to? Oh, him? He's dead. He died years ago, locked away in some god-forsaken mental institution while he was trying to fix himself. He couldn't take it anymore, he went crazy, and eventually he died. Some say he died of a broken heart. Others say the loneliness became too overwhelming for him and one morning he just decided not to wake up, as if it were nothing more than a choice, as if he simply saw no point to going on one more miserable, lonely day and when it came time to open his eyes, he simply chose to go on sleeping. Forever.

His body lives on. It walks, it talks, sometimes it even smiles or laughs. But there's nothing left inside. Nothing sprightly nor bright in any case. His chest is filled with only the darkness of regret and his mind is a prison which holds the familiar comforts of anxiety, fear, and hatred. He has no secrets anymore. His body and all that it has done in the years since he died, is laid open for the world to see; vulnerable and exposed to the cruel wind of judgement.

People have tried to get close to this walking, talking, smiling corpse and some have even begun to fall in love with it but before too long, and upon closer inspection, they come to realize that there is really nothing left inside this hollow shell of a boy worth loving. And they disappear. They disappear just like everyone disappears because that is the natural rhythm of things when it comes to dealing with someone who is no longer really alive. You notice them, might find them intriguing, unique in a way that you can't help but be attracted to, and so you approach with caution. When you move in close, you find that this lifeless body has a story that is beautifully tragic and before you know what's happening, you find yourself moving in closer than you know is safe. You can't help it though. This mysterious creature, still moving through the world though there is no life left inside, captivates you with its charm and its obscure sort of tattered perfection that seems so wrong that it very well might be right. You don't feel sorry for this creature, but you feel something for it, perhaps a longing for it to be whole again, a desire for it to rise from the ashes of a life burned to the ground and grow and blossom into something bright and radiant once more. It is this longing that gets you involved, that tricks you into believing that there may be hope in saving this lost soul and it is only after you have given everything that you know how to give that you realize the dead cannot be brought back to life. You abandon ship, just like so many before you, when the hollow boy is at his most vulnerable, when even he is beginning to believe that there is a chance at a new life, a happy life, a full life; and the ship comes apart at the seams and sinks straight to the bottom of the ocean night after bloody night all alone in the dim light of a lonely bathroom someplace in L.A. The shell of the boy who once lived so carefree in the light of a world free from illness simply collapses in on itself and some of the damage can never be repaired. And you have no choice but to get away, to get out with what is left of your own sanity still intact, but you don't move on quickly, because you find that you can't. You find yourself feeling changed by the impact of this corpse on your pretty little life and try as you might, you can't seem to put the thought of him down, not entirely. You feel that you know more about yourself now than ever before and you quietly thank the hollow boy for his contribution to your wholeness. You smile at the thought of having come so close to something so destructive and living to tell the tale. You smile, and he burns. Each and every night he digs his own grave and buries himself in the earth where he belongs but each morning his body rises and fights on through the pain of being so lifeless and empty in a world full of living, breathing, smiling things. And so it goes.

It goes because it must. It goes because there are pieces of the boy that once lived here still lingering in this corpse. Determination and stubbornness can't be killed just once, they must die again and again before they are gone completely and they live on long after the heart has stopped beating. So the body remains. The body rises each morning and greets the day with hesitation and fear at what evil things might be waiting out there beyond the protection of the sheets. The body puts on a smile and greets the living things as though it were one of the same species and some fall for the trick and open their wallets and hand over their credit cards and their trust to this fraud, to this faker, to this thief. He's stealing your smiles and your happiness so that he might impersonate you tomorrow, so that he might try on your skin for a day and see how it feels to be complete once more. But it won't last. By the end of the day, his smile has grown weary and your skin is beginning to get itchy and uncomfortable. So, he throws the smile in the trash on his way out the door and slips out of your skin to bathe as the creature he was always meant to be, beneath the dim glow of the moon.

Does the body miss the soul that once dwelt there? Of course it does. The soul is missed dearly and the body has gone in search of wholeness in any number of places where one might find such things but all too often this search has only led to another intrigued passerby who will eventually realize that there is no life left behind these eyes and so begins the cycle of destruction all over again. The boy is dead. Accept it and move on. He's not coming back and I don't expect him to. But I can't help but believe that someone something like him might come to inhabit this body that sits before you now. He will be older and wiser than the boy ever was. He will have learned by now how to keep himself safe. He will have learned to trust and to love once again. And he will be here to stay. He will not abandon this life just when the body needs him most. The search will continue every single day because the body knows not what else to do for it cannot continue to function as an empty vessel in this world so full of life. This beautiful boy will be found eventually and body and soul will unite to create the portrait of something truly complete for the first time in its life. On that day there will be a smile stretched across the face of this body, once so lifeless; and that smile, will be real.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

10 liters

There was a point in my life not so very long ago when I spent over $400 a month on diet soda. Most of that was Diet Pepsi. They should have been paying me to advertise. I couldn’t be found at any point throughout the day without a can or a bottle wrapped tightly in my fingers. I drank it with breakfast, drank it for lunch, and guzzled still more with dinner. I woke up in the middle of the night to drink it sometimes for Christ’s sake. Add in the $75 I spent every month on Trident gum and I could nearly have paid for my rent.

It’s no wonder I was always broke, always living from paycheck to paycheck. With a habit like that it’s tough to keep money in the bank, but it’s also impossible to satisfy your thirst. Nothing sounded as amazing as an ice cold Diet Pepsi at the end of a long ride, or in the middle of a sale at work, or while watching a movie with my girlfriend, or while driving the car, or while walking the dog, or while writing, or while doing any one of a thousand other things that one can do throughout the day.

Do you know how many ounces are in a liter? There are 33.8 fl. ounces in 1 liter. I drank at least 4 liters of Diet Pepsi everyday... At work. Add to that the the 3-4 12 oz cans I would drink with breakfast and the bottomless refills at dinner, followed by more cans while I was winding down and getting ready for bed and the total would hover around 8-10 liters on any given day. You can do the math.

“That stuff will kill you,” they said to me, God only knows how many times. And I suppose that they were right. I suppose that it probably would have killed me eventually but the truth is that I was too stubborn to die just then. The cutting hadn’t killed me. The 24 hour racing hadn’t done me in. I sure as hell wasn’t going to go as a result of soda-pop. But I gladly would have drank it straight to my grave if only they would have let me.

“Why do you drink so much of that shit?” They would ask again and again. Only someone without an eating disorder needs an explanation. I didn’t dare tell them it was because I would need to eat something if I didn’t fill my belly with carbonation and retard my appetite with copious amounts of caffeine. I didn’t dare let on that I needed that “shit” inside of me to function. They all knew it, I’m sure, but I thought that somehow I was hiding my dependency and my sickness by keeping the words from falling out of my mouth.

Don’t we all think we’re that clever when we’re sick though? Do we really expect the world around us not to notice that we’re disappearing? We are people and we’re not invisible despite what we may believe. Someone is always watching, it’s just rare that anyone says anything about the skinny boy who rides his bike five hours and drinks 10 liters of Diet Pepsi every day. And what would be the point in saying something, in making it known how blatantly obvious is was that something was very wrong with that picture? I was not a child anymore. I was an adult, making my own way through the world, just as all of those people noticing me were doing and who were they to try to change the decisions that I was making for myself?

So they said nothing, other than to ask why I drank so much and to let me know that Diet Pepsi was going to kill me, and we went about our lives, each of us ignoring the dying boy who was withering away as the days passed and the summer drew to a close. And that’s all that I really wanted from them at that point in my life. I wanted to be ignored, to be left in peace, to be left to my own devices and to live recklessly in the only way that I knew how. This was my innocent and socially acceptable addiction, something that could bring me what seemed like endless amounts of joy without hurting me too badly. My girlfriend called it my medicine and she bought it for me when I was feeling down. She knew just how to make me feel better.

But in truth, 10 liters of Diet Pepsi every day wasn’t reckless in comparison to a gallon and a half of your favorite flavors of ice cream going down my throat and coming right back up. And when ice cream just wasn’t enough it was cake, and brownies, and cookies, oh my! And how do you know that you really have a problem with Diet Pepsi? Maybe when it’s part of every binge as well. But it was there for a reason. It was always there to stop me before I got too out of control. The stomach can only hold so much, after all. Those were miserable nights. Horrible, lonely, tragic nights. And then the nights weren’t enough any longer and they became miserable days too, days when I would only leave the house to buy food, if you can call it food, and the TV would never leave the cooking channel.

It seemed there was no end to those days and those nights since when I wasn’t so miserable I thought that I was truly happy because I was so beautiful and thin. I believed that happiness could be found at the end of eight lonely hours in the saddle with nothing but a few power bars and water to satisfy my hunger and I sought to find it often. I thought that real satisfaction lay in the bottom of a 1/2 gallon ice cream container so I went searching for it every chance that I got. And beyond that, I knew that real, pure, unadulterated bliss was carved in human flesh by the tip of a razor blade. But this, this I saved for special occasions because this was an addiction not so socially acceptable. This was something that people couldn’t help but open their mouths about, and this was something to which I couldn’t simply respond, “Because I like the bubbles and I’m too healthy to die, so leave me alone.”

Scars need their explanations, and each of them has one too, I’ve just never been comfortable sharing what those explanations might be. Too much shame, too much guilt, too much hatred for myself. If only I were stronger, I would tell myself, then I wouldn’t need to do this to my body. If only, if only... But strength, or will power, has little to do with it after a certain point. I willed myself into a successful professional athlete, you would think that not drinking Diet Pepsi, or eating a healthy diet, or keeping myself away from a box cutter would have been easy in comparison. But despite all of my strength, I couldn’t seem to do any of those things; and for this, more than anything else, I was ashamed of myself.

Harder than kicking the habit, harder than keeping my food down, and harder still than making it through each day without bleeding all over the bathroom sink, was reaching out for help on that cool morning in October. It seems like a lifetime ago that I sent a text to my mother asking for her help in finding a treatment facility for someone struggling in the ways that I was. She wasn’t blind. She had stood by and watched me fall to pieces as the months had passed but she, like so many others, understood that those were my choices and that her saying something would do little except perhaps push me further into the darkness.

So began the long, slow, grueling process of recovery. And when I say slow, I mean agonizingly slow. Of course, it was only as slow as I made it, and I fought it for over a year before I finally gave up and gave myself to the idea of truly getting better. The right words will get you out of the psych ward, back to your bike and your Diet Pepsi, in 72 hours flat no matter what you’re in for. I lied, I pretended, and eventually I even believed, that I was really on a path to a healthy life until one fateful night in September of the following year sent me back to the psych ward, and this time they refused to let me leave.

The first rule of in-patient eating disorder treatment is: You do not drink diet soda. The second rule of in-patient eating disorder treatment is: You do not drink diet soda. For five weeks I sat at our special table with our special meals prepared from our special menu and I watched the other crazy people, the ones without eating disorders, slurp down their Diet Cokes from frosty 20 oz bottles. It wasn’t Diet Pepsi, but I gladly would have taken a life for even just a sip. I hatched schemes and plotted the ways in which I would steal one of their bottles while no one was looking and hide it until our rooms were unlocked an hour after meal time. Then, I would retreat to my bathroom and I would drink the whole fucking thing in one gulp and cry sweet tears of joy before hiding the evidence and flushing the toilet to make sure the nurses knew I was only taking care of business.

Of course, I never had the guts to turn my plans into reality. But looking back I wonder, what would they have done to punish me? Lock me up? Realistically, they probably would have taken away my walking privileges which were critical in keeping me sane when everything in my world just dared me to lose my shit.

Five weeks wasn’t quite enough for me apparently because the first thing I did when I got out was hit the dollar tree on the corner and buy a Diet Pepsi, and the second thing I did was stop at the CVS a 1/4 mile later and buy another Diet Pepsi. It tasted strange on my tongue at that point but I couldn’t help but feel that I was finally home after a hellish imprisonment behind enemy lines. But there was a catch to my freedom: It would be short lived. In fact, I had less than 24 hours before I was to check in to residential treatment in Los Angeles for god only knew how much longer. I intended to make the most of my time out in the world and for six glorious hours down I-5 I drank until my heart felt content. Nearly, not quite.

I drank Diet Pepsi until the very moment before I walked down the drive way to the house where I was to spend the next 5 weeks of my life. And something amazing happened in that place, something I never would have expected on that morning as I sipped my Diet Pepsi in a Vons parking lot. What? Well, I decided that I had lived for long enough with an eating disorder and that I could be satisfied in knowing that I had been damn good at being sick. I accepted that my life needed to change and I realized that I had every power in the world to leave that house any time I wanted. I saw clearly, not for the first time, that living in the way that I had been living was leading me nowhere and I saw that I had the opportunity to make a lasting change for the better. Knowing that I had the power to make all of the pain of recovery stop at any time was the key. I can endure nearly any amount of punishment so long as I’m the one inflicting it on myself. Put someone else in the driver’s seat and all I can think to do is rebel.

So I embraced the idea of real recovery for the first time and along with that idea, I observed the first two rules of in-patient eating disorder treatment willingly. Believe it or not, when I was granted a three hour pass to leave the house and eat lunch on my own barely a month later, I did not run off and buy a Diet Pepsi nor did I skip my meal and being able to be honest with the treatment team that I had come to trust with my life was a feeling more satisfying than carbonation and caffeine had ever been.

But what now, nearly two years in? I can’t tell you that I haven’t had a Diet Pepsi since November 1st, 2012, but I can tell you that I haven’t consumed more than a single liter on any given day since then and I can also tell you that there are many days like today, when I haven’t had one at all. More importantly, I can tell you that days like today are no more difficult than days when I do choose to have a moment with an old friend. And it is a choice now, a real choice, in a way that it never was back then. I could have chosen to stop in theory, but theories fall short in the real world when addiction is at work. And you’re probably thinking to yourself, who cares? It’s just a Diet Pepsi, what’s the big deal? And if you’re thinking that, you’ve probably never had an eating disorder. And if you’re reading this and you do or have had an eating disorder, I guess the whole point of this story is to tell you that change is possible. Against all odds, and even for those of us going through the worst of times, struggling with the most self-destructive of behaviors, there is still hope.

I know because I am sitting here now, writing these words with a smile on my face, a smile that couldn’t have been forced for anything in the world not so long ago.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Erased

Where did all of the other posts go? A year of my life erased with the click of a button. So many words, so many emotions, so many thoughts, both healthy and hazardous, deleted forever, as though they never existed at all. Don't worry. They're not gone, just hidden for now, and I'm sure they'll be back soon.

Those posts reflect the way that I was feeling a few days ago, but they don't speak to the way that I feel right now, which is capable and stable. Wouldn't want anyone getting the wrong idea about me. Wouldn't want someone to read what I wrote and take it literally. Wouldn't want the paramedics showing up at my door to take me away for 72 hours of clinical healing at the nearest psychiatric facility. Those posts needed a disclaimer, something that warned readers that they were just words, just thoughts being spewed from a confused mind. They were serious, they were real, but they didn't mean anything was going to happen to me. This is my space to vent, my space to get the darkness out from inside me so that it doesn't turn my heart black. Everyone copes in different ways and something about writing here where someone might see it and share in my struggle is far more therapeutic than scribbling in a notebook where the words will never be read by another soul, where more than likely they'll never be read at all, even by me.

It's not a cry for help. Cries for help aren't so loud, they are barely more than whispers. And if I cried out here and no one heard me, wouldn't that be a shame? It would be very me, very passive in nature, and it would be disastrous. The truth is that I can say anything here and by the time it makes its way back to me it will already be too late. No, what I write here is not a cry for help because no help will ever come out of this place. I'm confused, I'm not stupid.

Real help exists in the relationships that we build with those around us. Perhaps that's why I feel so helpless sometimes. I have come a long way in recovery, just look at all of the things that I'm doing now that I never could have done before: I'm taking college courses and actually nearing the completion of a degree, I'm working full time at a job that actually pays me decently well, I'm writing, and not just writing, but working on a long-term project, the nature of which was all too daunting before recovery. But what I have not done much of is to build healthy, supportive relationships with the people around me. It's not that I don't interact with people. I'm around people all day most days, but something holds me back from them, from getting truly close to them. Is it fear? Fear of being hurt, or of being abandoned when I need them most perhaps?

It may feel safer to have no close friends, but in all actuality it's not, it's far more dangerous than having people in my life who care if I live or die. Loneliness can be lethal and I thrive on interactions with people, though I feel like a child in the way that I behave around them. They say that emotional development stops when the eating disorder takes over one's life. If this is true, then I am a 14 year old boy trapped inside a 27 year old body. I don't entirely agree, but I don't disagree either. To me, it seems that the process of emotional growth has been retarded by the disorder more than anything else. I can see where I want to be, the ways that I'd like to behave, but I don't know how to get there, or how to begin to act those ways. Maybe it has nothing to do with the disorder. Maybe this is just the way that I'm wired. Maybe I will always be sensitive and emotional and there's nothing that can be done to change that but I'd like to believe that I can be the change that I wish to see in myself.

There's just so much work that I'm not entirely sure where to begin most days. Everyone is working to better themselves I suppose and I am no different. I want to be my best so that I can feel my best, that is all. I know I will always be the biggest obstacle standing between me and my goals but I'd like to make the obstacle of myself smaller and more manageable. Interesting word choice. I'd like to make myself smaller. Sure I would. But isn't that the American way? Bigger car, bigger house, smaller jean size. It's actually not true, not right now it isn't.

For the first time in a long time, I don't want to make myself any smaller than I already am. Is it for me or is it for them? I'm learning that the opposite sex doesn't find skin and bones attractive. I'm learning that they want some meat on my bones and maybe I'm coming around to the idea because they like where I'm at physically or maybe I'm coming around to the idea because I've been at this weight long enough that the memories of ribs and abs and skin stretched tight over protruding elbow bones are beginning to fade from my mind. I can't hold on forever and even a memory like mine will begin to forget with enough time spent in a new place. Thank God. Nothing was more difficult than holding onto those vivid memories of thinness and beauty and living in a body that felt awkward and large and flabby. The body hasn't changed, not much anyway, but I'm further from those memories now than ever before.

I have no desire to go back. Not today. Tomorrow may be different and I'll have to cross that bridge when I come to it. For now, I will hold on to these moments of clarity and try to enjoy the feeling of satisfaction with my physical self and the feeling of compassion for my emotional growth. This could all go out the window tomorrow if my dietitian tells me that I'm full of shit and that I'm still losing weight. I feel like the weight loss has stopped but I know better than to trust what I'm feeling. There have been good days and bad but I think there have been more good days than there have been bad and I hope to God that this means that I'm at least stable. Making up ground still feels next to impossible at this point but not losing anymore seems doable. So that's what I'm shooting for; no more lost ground. Lose too much ground and you lose it all and I've worked too hard to throw it all away over a few pounds.

It shouldn't matter anyway. A few pounds shouldn't matter to anyone. It doesn't change who I am or my ability to perform the tasks necessary for day to day happiness. But it does matter. Still, after so much work and so much help, it still matters to me and there is still a fear inside that it will matter to other people as well. I guess it's an assumption of mine that people will like me better if I am thin. This assumption is as strong and real as the assumption that I have done something wrong. Always, all the time, in every situation. And the two assumptions are connected to one another. I assume people will not like me because I have done something wrong and so the assumption that they will like me better if I am thin takes over and behaviors follow accordingly.

But I'm breaking away from these assumptions. I'm finding situations where I haven't done anything wrong and I'm discovering people who don't seem to give a damn about how much I weigh. Of course, there will always be those who will care about the way that I look but those will always be the people I choose to keep at a distance. And if I do make a mistake, it turns out that people are willing to stick around and even willing to forgive me and move right on liking me despite my error. It's the most amazing thing, the way that this adult world works and I'm excited to be joining it for the first time in my life. It's a frightening place, certainly, because it's all brand new but it's beautiful more than anything and support is being offered all around me, if only I stop to accept it into my life.

Today I chose to move forward; not sideways, or backward, but straight ahead toward the life that I want to be living and it is the power of this choice that signals the fact that despite my struggles, I am indeed living in the light of recovery.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

White Knuckle

They tell me that everyone is a little crazy. Am I the only one that can't handle my crazy? Or is my crazy just a little more crazy than your average crazy? Crazy is one thing I'd love to be average at but somehow I doubt that I am. I'm part of a statistic, but then so is everyone. We're just part of different statistics, that's all.

But I don't want to be part of the percentage of American males who struggles with mental illness. I don't want my history of self-harm, or my suicide attempt, or my eating disorder for that matter, following me everywhere I go, biting at my heels constantly and forever standing between me and letting my guard down. But I can't erase the past. My only hope is to join a new statistic of those who recover from the above mentioned marks against one's permanent record. And I'd like to, I really would; but I'm still holding on to so much and I refuse to just let it all go.

Why? Why can't I just walk away from all of the bullshit in my past and move on with my life? Because memories don't die easy, and memories of the pain are being relived even as I write this. I'm stuck because I can't seem to accept that people aren't necessarily going to treat me in the ways I have been treated in the past. I don't even know if I want to accept it. What excuse would I have to hurt myself if I didn't have these fears and if I didn't tell myself all of these elaborate stories about how people are out to break my heart? It's already broken, can't you see? It hasn't been whole in years.

The truth is that I need to feel this way. I need to feel this way because I know that there is no coming back from feeling like this so many nights in a row without spilling a little blood. It may not be tonight, but I know at this point that it will happen sooner or later. Just keep holding on and holding out. One night at a time and every night that passes is a small victory. Who am I kidding? Every night that I make it through unmarked is a huge victory right now, because the more important truth is that I enjoy it. It. Cutting, burning, scratching, bleeding. I don't enjoy feeling the way that I feel right now, the moments leading up to the action, but experiencing the release of touching sharpened metal to virgin skin is something that can't be put into words. It's as if all of my poisoned thoughts just flow out of my open wounds and I can finally breathe. It's as if a weight is instantly lifted from my chest and I can stand tall and proud once more. And it's as if I have finally found my way home. The adrenalin gets you high and feeling so much of your own blood pouring freely from your veins is cleansing. My sins are erased, the lies I told just evaporate into the night, and I am free of worry for one beautiful, glorious, fleeting moment.

I don't know what others would tell you, but I will tell you that self-harm is addictive. It's like jumping out of a fucking airplane, only better. It's that feeling that nothing else in the whole world matters anymore that keeps you coming back. Again and again and again, until you're running out of skin and you can't hide your habit from the people around you anymore. Suddenly everyone can see what a fragile, broken little thing you really are. Some see these scars and believe they show courage or strength, but they represent neither. They are only the fear to change and grow, manifest in something grotesque during the moments(or lifetimes) that exist between rational thoughts. There is no strength in these acts, only cowardice.

Why didn't you just reach out? They'll ask me when it's all over and done with. And I'll respond, because I didn't want to be saved. Because I wanted to go through with this and I didn't want anyone talking me out of it. Because I had had enough of feeling so awful and I needed to let the demons inside of me escape from beneath my skin. Because it's the only way, I'll say. And they'll tell me that I need help and they'll probably be right about that but the problem is that I only need help occasionally. I don't feel like this all the time and if I'm in an environment where I can't hurt myself then I don't feel like this at all. But I can't be in that place all the time because life goes on without me in the real world and I have responsibilities out here. They may be right, but seeking help is a delicate process and it needs to be the type of help that allows me to continue living in the free world. And aren't I already seeking that help? Don't I go to groups, and see a therapist, and visit with a useless psychiatrist? Surely there is something more out there for people who struggle with these demons.

And perhaps I will find that help, if I choose to go looking for it. For now though, it seems that I am content to grit my teeth and hold on with white knuckles through the urges in the hopes that these feelings too shall pass. And I know that they will. Whether they pass without incident is another story but one way or another I know that I will not feel this way forever. So I'm holding on and I'm holding out in hopes of the brighter days that I know lie somewhere in my future. Those days are out there, waiting for me to find them because I am destined for more than nights like these when the blade looks oh so tempting and bleeding seems like my only way out.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Drip, Drip, Drip

It gleams bright red under the glow of the fluorescent light humming softly overhead and it is so beautiful. Speckled across the countertop, dripping into the sink, staining my fingertips. It flows with the frantic thumping of my heart, out of me and into the tiny bathroom, turning crimson in the air all around me. Blood. My blood. Leaving my body and covering the walls and the floor, soaking through toilet paper and soft towels, dying my clothes with a memory of these bittersweet moments spent living all alone in the mirror, bathed in the artificial beauty of the lightbulb stuck to the wall. It's everywhere now and I can't seem to stop it escaping the confines of my skin. Have I gone too far? Will this finally be the end? Oh, how I've waited for this moment to come. It's not how I imagined it would be, not quite. I always imagined a dingy hotel room; but the blood, the blood is exactly the way I'd pictured it, smothering the colors of the room beneath it's beauty.

Don't worry. This isn't happening right now. It's just a thought, a thought that has been visiting me everyday in recent weeks. I dream about this shit. How can I possibly wake up feeling rested and excited to start a new day when I dream about dying all alone in the bathroom on the other side of the wall from my bedroom? The answer is that it's very difficult to start the day off on the right foot in this manner. It's difficult to end it on the right foot either when these are the thoughts that find you as the hours of the night drag on.


The thoughts have never gone away, nor do I feel hopeful that they ever will, not entirely. But the thoughts were more notions, more disjointed, more subtle, more foggy, less concrete in months passed than they are right now and that's what worries me. They're just thoughts and thoughts can't hurt me but most actions begin with a thought and actions can definitely hurt me. Actions can and will be the end of me if I'm not careful.

I tell my psychiatrist about these thoughts and he shrugs, tells me that sometimes things will be difficult, and then asks me if I'm still working at the bike shop. Um, yes? Thank you for your insight. Note to self, your shrink is useless. Just give me my drugs and get me the hell out of your office. But that's not the point here. It's not his fault that I feel this way, nor is it my fault, or anyone else's fault. It just is and this is what I have to deal with at the moment.

How I long for the days when my biggest dilemma was fitting exchanges into my meal plan. Can I please go back to those simpler times? It's not about the meal plan, or about the food, or my body, but sometimes I wish it was. I can figure those things out or learn to love them with enough time and practice but this feels deeper and darker and infinitely more complex. No one said this would be simple or easy. In fact, they told me that this would be the hardest thing I would ever do but I thought they were talking about the eating disorder. I thought they were talking about the food, and accepting my new weight, and taking my shirt off at the beach without freaking out. Check, check, and check. I've been there and I've done all of that and that wasn't even scratching the surface.

I don't think about my eating disorder anymore. I went to a support group last night and felt like an outsider when the topic turned to food or body image. I remember struggling with these things but my focus for months now has been just trying to stay safe. Food and my body seem to matter so little in comparison to my safety. Of course, it all matters. I can't forget about the food so that I can protect myself and I can't focus on the food while I'm hurting myself either. There has to be a balance. It's only been six months since my last incident involving self-harm. I haven't binged or purged in something like 22 months. Self-harm is still much closer to the surface and much more worrisome at this point for me.

And I feel a little lost. I know who to call if I don't want to finish my dinner but I don't know who is equipped to help me if I don't want to wake up tomorrow morning. So I sit through the urges until I fall into a restless slumber filled to the brim with dreams of blood stained bathrooms and I pray that tomorrow will be better. Sometimes tomorrow is better. Sometimes tomorrow starts out well and falls apart as the day goes on. Sometimes tomorrow is just as bad as the night before. I just have to wait and see. And I know that part of how I feel is in my control. I know that I have some control over my mind and the thoughts that it thinks but sometimes my mind can be a difficult thing to contain. Sometimes it runs wild and all I can do is hold on and pick up the pieces after the destruction is finished.

I'm a work in progress and I'm making progress, aren't I? I wouldn't have been able to hold on through these thoughts not so long ago. I would have been back in the hospital months ago. I can see the progress and I can feel good about it if I can pick my head up long enough to take a deep breathe. For now, I'm keeping my head down and working to stay safe. For now I'm keeping the thoughts where they belong: in my head and away from the knife drawer.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Unfinished Thought

I don't have plans or prior arrangements today. Therapy, sure, for 45 whole minutes. That leaves another 23 hours and 15 minutes that I need to keep myself safe. I can medicate myself and pass out early, but what the hell am I supposed to do to stay in one piece until then? Days like today are dangerous, which is why I try to never have them. I haven't had a day without something planned in longer than I can remember and I'm not looking forward to making my way through the long hours until sleep finds me.

I don't want days off. I don't want to rest. I'll rest when I'm dead. Until then I want to be busy and exhausted and on the edge of a breakdown all the time because this is where I am comfortable functioning. Class got out early this morning because I finished my test too quickly although I didn't have all of the answers and I found myself lost. Is that even possible? 8:30 a.m. and already the anxiety had set in as I looked out on the vast expanse of nothingness that lay before me in the coming hours.

Why is a day like today so dangerous? Because it affords me moments and hours to think and when I get to thinking I get to thinking that it might be a good idea to do something destructive because I get to thinking that everyone is lying to me and that I'm worthless. It's counterintuitive to think that I'm worthless, or at least to think that I'm useless when I am being useful and productive. I may not believe that my productivity amounts to much in the grand scheme of things but at least it keeps my mind occupied and focused.

Why do all equations equal self-destruction lately? I haven't thought much about it. It's difficult to see past the urges and the plans and the desires to bleed once they've settled in. Maybe it's because I have nothing left to hurt myself with. I won't let myself binge and purge any longer and some desire to stay in my recovery keeps me from filling a day like today with pedaling long hours into the deserted mountain roads of the San Gabriels. The behaviors may be gone, but the urges are still here, still incredibly loud and still so tempting sometimes that I can't go home where the knives and lighters live and I have to keep my hands busy so that my fingernails don't dig their way into my skin. Car keys and bottle caps become weapons, just like the tip of a pen becomes lethal. The whole world seems to become unsafe in an instant and what can I do but dive into a bottle of pills that are supposed to help me fight off these desires to burn myself alive?

And the doctor tells me that I'm not even supposed to do that, not every time. But which is worse, hurting myself or being addicted to a controlled substance? Neither seems like the best option but I've worked too hard to destroy everything with the tip of a blade and I'm all out of bandages anyway so I guess I'm choosing the lesser of two evils.

My ten-year high school reunion is next year and what do I have to show for the last decade of my life? It's only in the last year that my life in the traditional sense has really even begun. They'll have their degrees and their high-paying jobs, their houses and their families, I'll have my mental illness and a backpack full of pills that sedate me enough to actually interact with them all. This really isn't me. I usually love a challenge, or an obstacle, or a lofty goal, but all of these things in the past have been physical in nature and I knew exactly what to do complete them, overcome them, or achieve them. I have no idea how to win at the game of life.

I guess I'm still recovering from having to say goodbye to the life that I had put everything into building. I hate my sickness for taking my life from me. Where would I be right now had I not been sick? Recovering from last weekend's race efforts? Preparing for the local Wednesday night xc race? Certainly, I'd be on a ride right now, spinning the shit out of my legs, becoming faster, leaner, more beautiful. All of that is gone now and I hate my disease everyday for robbing me of my hopes and dreams. This life that I'm living now still feels like it belongs to someone else and there are many days when I don't want to be living it at all. It felt better for a few months because it was new and exciting and challenged me to grow in different ways, but now it just feels boring and mundane and I swear to god that I can't stand another minute of it.

It's days like today when drastic measures are taken.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Fake It Till You Make It

It's the evenings that are the most difficult. It's the evenings when I can't stand to be near me. It's the evenings when I want to run away and it's the evenings when I want to wash it all down the sink along with a gallon of blood. My blood. No one else's. Oh no officer, I lost the knife out on the street somewhere. Don't worry about me, I would never hurt another person. I'll just keep hurting myself.

But I have hurt another person now. Not physically, god no, but emotionally. And isn't that worse? Won't a cut heal and won't a bruise disappear with enough time? Of course they will. Emotional wounds are the type that get torn open again and again as you go through life. They are the wounds that take the longest to finally scab over and when that scab is ripped off by god the blood will flow like a river from your broken heart.

I hurt someone. Not because I had to, certainly not because I wanted to, but rather because I didn't have the courage not to. I didn't have the courage to just believe in them and to trust in the things that they were telling me, so I lied again and again in order to feel as though I had the upper hand. Is it really a power struggle if one person doesn't know that it exists? It's definitely not a fair fight, in any case. So I lied because I was so certain that I was being lied to, because I couldn't understand how to feel anything different, because my trust muscle is a fucked up twisted little thing that needs a lot of training before it is ready to compete, and it all made sense at the time.

Of course it did. The things that I tell myself are truly incredible. No one likes me. People only come near me because they feel sorry for me. I am a failure. I'm too fat. I'm ugly and no one will ever want me. I'm too messed up in the head to be around normal people. I can't do anything right. I ruin everything. I am unlovable. I am a bad person. I have to be the best so that people will tolerate my presence. I am worthless. I am nothing. I am less than nothing. Everyone is out to break my heart. Everyone lies to me all the time. No one tells the truth. No one is to be trusted. People only want me to trust them so that they can crush me. And it goes on and on. Making it through the day can sometimes be challenging with this shit playing on repeat inside of my head but these things that I keep telling myself make a relationship basically impossible.

I see that now, should have seen it months ago before I ever tried being in a relationship in the first place. There is so much work left to do on me before I'm truly capable of being a solid half of something whole. But I'm impatient. I lie to myself and tell myself something else: I am healthy and I am ready for this step in my life. It's not true I'm afraid. Something tells me that I have to be relatively certain that I am a likable, valued, trusted, enjoyed member of the community before I can feel okay about trying to be with someone. I have to be strong on my own. I have to not need someone, I have to truly want someone and that is my biggest problem.

I tell myself something else. I tell myself that someone special can make me feel all the things about myself that I need to feel but seem incapable of feeling when I'm alone. It's not true. Not entirely. Another person can make me feel great, but I want to feel great without that person too and that's where I struggle.

It never used to be like this when I was riding my brains out and puking my guts into the toilet every chance I got. I didn't care much about having someone at that point in my life. In fact, having someone just got in the way of me doing the things that I thought I needed to do in order to survive. Funny how the tables have turned. The tape was still playing on repeat in my head back then but I felt like at least I was actively doing something to try to change the way that I felt. I was sculpting a beautiful body, one that another person could surely love. And I was accomplishing everything that I had ever wanted by riding and by being skinny so I told myself that I was allowed to love me too. But it never worked at the end of the day. I hated myself more then than I do right now. My life was a miserable place to live and my mind was a dangerous place to linger.

My life isn't so miserable now, it's actually quite pleasant. I just find ways to fuck it up so that I can be a little more comfortable with what I know from time to time. But I'm working on that tendency. I'm trying to behave myself and I'm trying to conform when I can. Who am I kidding though? It's tough to live in a world of rules when I basically did whatever I felt like doing for so very long. But this is better. I tell myself that this is better. This has to be better because there is no going back knowing what I know now. I'm a civilian now and the life of a super hero seems like a distant memory or a dream gone blurry upon awakening.

This is it, and I have to make the best of it or die trying. And I will, I have no doubt. I always manage to get my shit together when it really counts and hopefully life will be no different. A friend of mine brought up an interesting point the other day. He told me that despite whats going on in my head, despite the fact that I feel like I'm faking it, I'm still getting straight As in school, I'm still #1 at work, and I'm still trying my hand at relationships and having mixed successes. So, he said to me, it doesn't matter what it feels like in my head, because whether I feel like I'm faking it or not, I'm still doing it. I'm doing it, he said to me. I'm functioning at a higher level than most of my peers on multiple fronts and whether I'm struggling like crazy to do so or not isn't as important as the fact that I'm getting it done. And he's right. I may be faking it, but I'm putting on a damn good show and no one who doesn't really know me would have any idea that sometimes I'm about to lose it, because despite how I feel, I make it happen.

And for now, maybe that's what recovery really has to be, making it happen despite how I really feel about it. At some point, I believe that the act will go away and I will be present in what it is that I'm doing in my life but for now, faking it till I make it is just going to have to do.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Bring The Mop

It's called happiness anxiety and if I never experienced it again it would be too soon. For me, it's the inability to enjoy the things that make me happy because there is a certainty in my mind that they are going to disappear or leave me behind just when I need them most. It hurts and it feels like I can't win. Happiness is fleeting because I crush it beneath the weight of my frantic thoughts and I wish that I could just make it all stop.

Just stop. For a moment. For a second, even. Take a deep breathe and allow myself to enjoy the air in my lungs and the sun on my face. But such a feat seems so impossible right now that I can scarcely imagine it. Somewhere inside of me dwells a thought that everything that makes me feel good will not leave me behind but I am struggling to find where I left that thought in the dark corners of my mind. I know on some level that it has to be true. Everything good can't eventually turn out to be bad and abandon me. If that were the case then there really would be no point in living.

If that were the case then there wouldn't be anything holding me back. If that were the case then I'm afraid there might be no tomorrow to look forward to anymore. Wash it all away with a bottle of pills and a handle of liquor. Why not? Because I know it can't be true. Because I know that things will get better at some point. It won't always be this difficult, because it can't be.

At some point, someone or something is bound to prove me wrong. At some point, I'm bound to prove myself wrong. One day, I won't sabotage things just when they start to feel good. One day, I won't tear it all down before anyone else gets the chance to do so. One day, I'll smile and the first thought in my head will be how nice this moment feels instead of oh my god, when is this going to be taken away from me? For now, I'm trying to navigate my way through the moments of happiness and the days of anxiety that follow in their wake and I've calmed down significantly from where I was at a year ago. I can see the progress though people who don't know me might look on in amazement at how quickly I move from joy or happiness to utter terror at the thought of losing something that allows me to feel decent for a moment.

It takes at least a few moments now, sometimes even as long as a few hours before the anxiety sets in after some positive occurrence in my life. I believe that eventually it won't set in at all. I believe that eventually I will be able to experience happiness and let it casually and gradually fade into an ever present hum somewhere in the background of my thoughts, keeping me safe and warm. I believe that my happiness will be strong enough to withstand trying times and that it will not be shattered when someone leaves me behind. I believe that this is what I'm working towards because I need something beautiful to be waiting for me, basking in the light at the end of the tunnel. It's barely more than a pin prick someplace off in the distance but I can see it now. It's not just cold, dark, blackness the way that it was once.

Some days the end of the tunnel feels so close that I swear I can hear people laughing on the other side. Other days it seems that I will never reach that spot of light. And still other days I swear that I have left the tunnel completely, that I'm living out in the real world with real people to keep me company, in a place where it takes more than just my thoughts to hurt me. Those are the best days. Those are the days when this all seems possible. Those are the days when I feel proud of myself for holding on to my life through the toughest of times and those are the days when I know that all of the pain and suffering were worth it.

But it seems that I am not ready to live in that place just yet because I always pull myself back into the safety of darkness. I may not retreat into the tunnel as far as I did once, but I still spend the great majority of my time here, watching and listening to the world as it passes me by. Soon enough I will be ready to leave the blackness and never look back. It may be lonely here, but for the most part I know what to expect and I find safety in that knowledge. The world of light out there in the distance is full of things that I don't understand, full of things and people outside of my control who could potentially break my glass heart. I need to know that I can withstand the happiness out there but also that I can endure the hardship that is part of living in the real world and interacting with people who have no idea where I've come from.

These people aren't trained to ask how I'm feeling and if they happen to ask, I hardly believe that they really care to hear what I have to say. "Fine," is the correct response, is it not? And maybe that's what I need. Life can't always be about deep emotions and feelings, sometimes it has to be very surface level and disconnected for anything to get done. I get that. But that doesn't mean that I don't miss treatment and the space it provided me to just feel what it was I was feeling. I don't have time for that now. There's homework to do, class to attend, work to be the best at, hardly any time at all to just be an emotional being trying to survive in the daily hustle. And I still need that time to feel, otherwise the feelings are happening all the time and they're just being buried deep down inside on top of one another until I feel like vomiting because I am so full of shit and piss and vinegar. Who's going to clean up the mess?

But things are not all bad if I'm complaining about not having enough time to just think and feel my emotions. Doesn't that mean that I'm staying busy at least? Mustn't that mean that I am functioning in some capacity out there in the world with everyone else? I think it must, though I forget this fact because most days it still feels like an act to me. It doesn't feel like I am a healthy, functioning adult but it feels like I play one on T.V. Maybe everyone feels like that. I have no idea. But I do know that I'd like the gap between what I do in my life on a daily basis and what it is that I'm feeling to close until the two become one constant thought put into motion with a certainty that comes from my head and is approved by my heart. Right now it feels like the different parts of my body are operating autonomously and it's exhausting to keep track of them all. My head is telling me one thing while my heart is pulling me in another direction so that any action I make ends up feeling wrong somehow.

In the end, it's good though. It's all good. At least I have the mental clarity to do something beyond exercising, binging, and purging. My life has expanded rapidly in the last 18 months and it's no wonder that I feel overwhelmed sometimes. They show you how to measure your cereal and fit exchanges into a meal plan in treatment, they don't show you how to function out here in the world and it's perfectly clear to me why so many people go back again and again. Life cannot be lived within the confines of a meal plan and it's only once we break away from the safety of the rules laid out for us in treatment that the real work of recovery finally begins.


Friday, May 30, 2014

Times Like These, Times Like Those

I had a dream early this morning that my family was still together and that we were all back in the only house that I have ever considered my home. My family was together, my sister was maybe 8 years old, and my parents were still pretending to be happy together. But I was me. I was there, just as I sit here now, jaded and broken. It seems that even in dreams I can't hide from myself.

My step-father had read what I had written, the piece that I won an award for recently, and he wasn't scared. He told me that it was well-written, that it was dark, and that it was beautiful. He told me exactly what I wanted to hear, said to me that it was all of the things that I hoped it would be when I set out to write it last October. But I wasn't happy, or proud, I was worried and frightened, just as I always am when someone reads something written about a piece of my storied history. The truth is that no one in my family will ever read it, and that's the way that it must be. They could never look at me the same way if they knew half of what I've been through, if they understood that my soul is older than any of them will ever be. They would have me committed again, and I can't afford that. Not now, not when the glue is still holding the pieces of this life that I've built for myself together.

And it must have been a dream, because what I wrote isn't worthy of an award. There are typos in the piece for god's sake. It's far from perfect and it's unacceptable that anyone should ever read it and think that it's worth anything at all. Still, for a moment, I felt that somehow winning an award for writing signified that I was doing the right thing with my life and it renewed my drive to complete my book, giving me some sense of hope that people somewhere might actually want to read it. All of that has faded into obscurity now. I find myself as uncertain as ever of what I'm doing with my life. But maybe, if I ever actually finish the book, someone will have nice things to say about the words that I have written once more and I'll feel decent about myself for a few more minutes.

I haven't felt anything approaching proud of what I've done since the last time I won a bike race. And when was that, Coolest 24 in 2010? Yeah, something like that. It's a long time to go without feeling good about the things that you've accomplished. Because we're all making little accomplishments all the time, aren't we? I woke up this morning and ate breakfast, didn't I? Accomplishment. I made it to work on time. Accomplishment. I made someone's life a little happier by selling them the right bike. Accomplishment. They're everywhere, but I don't see them anymore, not the way that I did a year ago when living a somewhat normal life, or at least trying to do so, was still such a new experience for me.

But life can't be about accomplishments, I can see that now. I can see that living life from one accomplishment to the next is not a maintainable way of living. It's entirely too difficult and ultimately it leaves me feeling disappointed because at some point I will fall short of my goal and if I was counting on achieving that goal, on winning that race, on selling that bike, in order to feel something approaching happy, then I will always be left feeling worthless. No, life has to be about something else but I'm not sure what that something is. Maybe it's relationships which would be highly unfortunate because I struggle to form and maintain healthy relationships almost as much as I struggle to maintain a healthy weight. And goddamn it I struggle to keep the weight on, don't I?

It still doesn't feel natural to me, after all of these months, to be in a healthy weight range. Maybe it's just the nature of the beast that I prefer to stay just below what my dietitian recommends for me but even I must admit that I'm getting alarmed at this point. It's been a rough month but I thought that 80 oz of water loading before my last appointment would at least show a maintained weight. Nope. Still trending downward. So how much did I really lose in the last 4 weeks? It seems impossible that my weight is still dropping despite all of the food that I ate in Chicago, despite all of the food that I eat every day, and despite the serious lack of exercise that defines my life at the moment. But apparently it's perfectly possible and I must accept it and move forward doing what I need to do in order to turn things around. I can't go back to treatment, not over a few pounds. Not over a break up, and not over a disastrous vacation. I am strong enough to maintain my weight, I have to be. I did it for a year, didn't I?

One year out of twenty-seven. It's no wonder it feels so unnatural to stay in one place according to the scale. I'm more than the number on the scale. Or maybe I'm less, but either way I can't let it define me. I may be only a number to the treatment team but I'd like to think of myself as a person, complex and somehow still beautiful despite the damage. But the truth is that I will always be a number on someone's scale, at least in part, because of where I have been and because of the things that I have done to myself. I can't erase the past and visits like my last to the dietitian will never let me forget it. Stressed out? Weight drops. Problems with a girl? The pounds melt away. Things are going well? The weight refuses to stay on.

Isn't it amazing that while some struggle to keep their weight from climbing as the months drag on, there are a number of us with the exact opposite struggle set out before us? I guess at the end of the day, we all struggle with something because it can be hard just to get by sometimes. But they tell me that this gets easier at some point. That point just seems so far away at times like these.