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.