Day 106

6PM:

I was ready to stop at Day 100.  I rethought that today.

I was tied up in knots about a couple of phone calls coming down today (my brother’s involuntary hold being appealed, a giant project grant).  I had lunch with Workout Friend and had trouble sharing food (he didn’t want it anyway, but it took some effort to offer him some of my food, which I want to and usually do = connects to the Day 103 entry about not realizing my feelings, especially hunger).  I tried testing my one-rep-max today, as my grandfather’s workout schedule dictates, but I just didn’t have enough energy to do it (psychological and physical wear will do that to you).

Clearly, some of my strategies aren’t working.  My stress level is riding high right now.  My threads are very worn.  I have three candles to burn and one more to add for today.  My body was crying out for some reprieve, my mind screaming for a way to ameliorate this crumpling-up, this feeling of being scrunched in a giant elastic ball…

I wanted to write.  Not only did I want to write, but I felt that without writing, I would not be able to sort out the discombobulation that is my head right now.

That’s kind of cool; it shows the power of habit.  When I didn’t let autopilot guide my writing (writing sporadically – at best – and when I NEEDED to, which is what I had done for the four years preceding these 106 days, as opposed to every day), but instead made a conscious effort to do it as a tool, it became a habit.  Now, it has become something that I miss – and moreover, something that my emotional stability and mental well-being misses – when I don’t write.  I find this when I don’t work out or do a cardio session for a couple of days, but I always chalked it up to the eating disorder parts of my brain.  Maybe I now write because it is the tool in my belt, always on hand and constantly in use, as opposed to the one in my toolbox, taken out when the job requires.  Maybe I don’t need to feel self-conscious about wanting to work out, because it falls under the same umbrella (it is funny how the need for writing doesn’t cause this anxiety, but physically-based tools do).  Maybe it is just my mental health needing it.

I have made my mental health a priority and now, I understand how it feels when my screws are loose and I’m not using the tools – the ones that I know I have looped into my belt – to tighten them, to make them right (AKA righty tighty!).

Day 105

8:30AM:

I did it!  I had a reasonable amount of alcohol last night (a beer and a double of bourbon, prompted by writing “only 4 portions” on a piece of paper and sticking it to the liquor cabinet as a not-so-subtle reminder), which meant that I slept quite well, without the wakefulness or anger that has accompanied my nights for about two weeks (AN ASIDE: yes, there is a direct correlation with my brother’s situation).

I feel better, more rested.  I am glad that I was able to not get annoyed at my wife’s loud breathing as we slept.  I am grateful that I was able to wake up a half hour before my alarm and because I wasn’t annoyed, could hold my sleeping wife for that half hour as opposed to get pissed off about the noise.

However, I also feel like the sludge is more visible.  I could always see the (happy) imperfections of my house; that isn’t what I’m talking about.  I mean that the sludge – the qualities of the place that I work that make it cold, that prevent it from being a home and that make it abhorrent to my emotional self (I so very much wish that I didn’t feel that word was appropriate in this circumstance) – is clear.  I can see the people that pass by without saying hello, I see the people who ask how you are doing and don’t wait for the answer, I see the loneliness in the mirror as I wish there was more to this place.

I will grow professionally and I know that.  But my emotional self just needs to grip tight, find the happy moments (a student success, a cool project, a great lesson) and use them to carry me through the sludge.

Jeez, this was supposed to be a happier entry…

Day 104

4AM:

I have been drinking way too much recently.  I am confident enough with what I know to say that I have been drinking too much recently.  I have been having about 6 portions of alcohol a day for the last week (about 9 shots of whiskey or an entire bottle of wine).  I get to sleep very easily, but I also wake up very easily (something that much booze will do to your bladder…).

And I am angry when I do wake up…

And I am grumpy in the morning…

And I feel like crap for much of the day…

And it goes against my being emotionally connected to my wife goal…

And it goes against my strength training goal…

And I still do it…

I want to stop tonight.  Not sure how, but I will have the strength and courage to change.

Day 103

1PM:

Right now, as I wait for my lunch to finish microwaving, I am asking myself whether or not restrictive-based eating (as I’ve said before, any system of eating is) has restricted my cognizance of my hunger.

For example, I would not say that I am extremely hungry right now, even though I haven’t eaten since 7AM.  However, I just yelled in the air at the fact that I spilled a little bit of my lunch out of the microwaved bowl…  I wouldn’t exactly say that this is me having a clear mind.  This is the type of behaviour coming out of a HUNGRY PERSON.  So what does it say about my emotional cognizance and awareness that I cannot even tell that this reaction is coming?

I also found this to be the case a few days ago.  I called my grandparents to talk to them about my brother and (oh, by the way, I didn’t eat dinner and it was 8:00PM) lost my shit when my grandfather got a little overzealous about his opinions.  The opinion isn’t important, but the fact that I interrupted him and was less political about expressing my (justifiable) offence to his position, that fact is what is important right now.  This completely snuck up on me.  I didn’t think that I was capable of that level of anger and frustration at the time = lack of emotional cognizance and awareness.

Perhaps it is just when I haven’t eaten and I don’t realize how it impacts my feelings.  I can obviously connect the restrictive eating to this (again, I’m not hugely restrictive, but to someone with my predilections, it is a dangerous door to keep open; I always have the potential to fall off the slippery slope down the cliff of disordered eating habits; while we feel this is a sustainable eating pattern, it is also one that is wrought with this potential and therefore something that we have to be aware of existing and make sure that it doesn’t interfere with our goals like sharing good food together and finding interesting things/places to eat).  And maybe I can stretch this logic to when I haven’t rested and I don’t realize how it impacts my feelings.

But is everything connected?  How far can I extrapolate this logic?  Have I restricted so much (food being obvious, but I have also been putting my feelings aside about work-crap for close to 18 months and about my brother – so I can be the person he deserves – for about a month) that I am starting to get emotionally disconnected?  I will have to keep an eye on this…

Day 101/102

I’ve been thinking about what I want in my life, what we want in our lives.  After speaking with my wife about her struggles to keep her goals in mind, I suggested that she start her day in front of her hope wall, which is essentially a list of what she wants out of her life and our lives, what she wants to be.

In the same way, when I fall into the automatic way of living as opposed to conscious living, I lose sight of the goals, tools, etc.  This auto-pilot mode contains the behaviours I fall back on and get caught in when I don’t have enough time or enough energy (that’s why I’m sure this will be a reminder of previously-written goals).  If I got out of auto-pilot mode, on what would I like to focus?  When that comes to emotional/psychological things, those are easy for me to identify.  I also want to write down the physical goals, so that I can remind myself in tough times that abs aren’t more important than building connections.

GOALS FOR MY (PSYCHOLOGICAL, EMOTIONAL, PHYSICAL, HOLISTIC) SELF

  • Be emotionally available for my wife, to have the energy to have sex and intimate conversations
    • THEREFORE… I must sit down and rest to reduce stress
  • Be able to readily connect to my feelings, connecting thoughts to them so that I can express and address them
    • THEREFORE… I must journal and take the time to understand the impact of circumstances on my feelings (level of food fuel in my system, level of fatigue)
  • Be able to look up and enjoy the things I am grateful for and appreciative of
    • THEREFORE… use my mantras to “look up” and remind my support system (especially my wife) to remind ME
  • Be happy with who I am, comfortable and not anxious with my beautiful intricacies (i.e. desire to be physically healthy, to eat healthy and good food, to explore foods and healthy living, inability to sit down for long periods of time, with what I want to read,  make decisions and trust their success/failure)
    • THEREFORE… not quite sure about this one, journaling and talking about it does seem to help though
  • Be able to run, run long and run hard
  • Be able to strength gain, so that I can continue to connect to my grandfather through his workout system
    • THEREFORE… fuel my body sufficiently to do these things, gauge my fitness based on improvements in these and not in the mirror or on the scale
    • THEREFORE… I don’t know the perfect sets and reps, my grandfather does
  • Have time to read
    • THEREFORE… prioritize/schedule it!!!

Day 100

My reasons for needing this today are inconsequential, at least in comparison to the things on this list.  In fact, the things on this list are so important to me that I won’t write much more than I need, so as to not dilute their beauty with mundane introductions:

My Happy List

Sharing food with or finding cool stuff for my girl (or pretty much anything else that will make her eyes smile)

Helping someone

Cookies and Lego with my nephew

Tea or soup when I’m perfectly cold (temperature-wise or emotionally, the latter often fixed by Mom)

Finding little reminders of people’s love and care (emails, phone messages, texts, pictures)

The first crack of fresh air into a room or the car when I’m overly stuffy

Driving through puddles (obviously with no one there, because that’s just mean)

Watching Dad be playful with the dog, reminding me that he needs to intentionally find his happy sometimes too, often with the simplest ways being the most effective

Searching others’ happy lists

Breaking down the walls and barriers and minefields (ok, that metaphor gets a little lost with the last one, but no one is perfect) that my blackness has to offer, listening to it scream for mercy and cry for its existence, until all that’s left is its gurgling, choking on its own bile

ANIMALS!

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Day 99

8AM:

What if it were all to end tonight?  What if there was no tomorrow, no next day or next hour or next minute?  What if that last interaction was the last greeting, the last goodbye, the last show of affection?  What if there was no next chance, no opportunity to make it right?  What if it were all to end right now?

Wouldn’t I trust that everything we’ve worked on up to this point has been worth it; that I’m not a recovering recoverer but have been in recovery all along – just a single, imperfect recovery, one that (when it is about just us) gives us everything we could ask?

Would I worry about that extra piece of chocolate and not want to throw it up or that I may or may not be gaining/losing body fat?

Wouldn’t I spend the extra twenty dollars to buy a book for a friend?

Would I care that the floors have specks of fluff on them from the blankets we used to stay warm last night?

Wouldn’t I take the time to appreciate how our cats always find the warmest spot in the house, even if it is on the top of the couch cushion, awkwardly teetering between falling amongst them and toppling off the couch?

Would the world feel as abusive, the people in it as cold, their flaws as hurtful?

Wouldn’t I leave the house with nothing but love in my heart, kisses on my breath and warmth in my soul?

Would I need to be the most exhausted at the end of the week, more so than is healthy?

Wouldn’t I take the time to ask myself: what did I do to find my happy today?

When I first heard the song, “Like You’ll Never See Me Again” by Alicia Keys …

If I had no more time

No more time left to be here

Would you cherish what we had?

Was it everything that you were looking for?

If I couldn’t feel your touch

And no longer were you with me

I’d be wishing you were here

To be everything that I’d be looking for

I don’t wanna forget the present is a gift

And I don’t wanna take for granted the time you may have here with me

‘Cause Lord only knows another day is not really guaranteed

So every time you hold me

Hold me like this is the last time

Every time you kiss me

Kiss me like you’ll never see me again

Every time you touch me

Touch me like this is the last time

Promise that you’ll love me

Love me like you’ll never see me again

… I was sitting at the shoulder press machine at the gym, and I cried.  Tears came to my eyes thinking of the times I have not walked into my wife’s work when I needed to have her face brighten up my dismalness, stopped by the heartbreaking betrayal of the past.  I ran in that day; that was the day I decided I was the one still suffering, that I was the one still victimized by the affair, and so I ran in and gave her a kiss, for me.

I heard it again driving to school today and it had the same effect, not making me question anything I had done particularly, but just a general view of things: what if the last time was the last time?

Day 98

7AM:

Recovery is exhausting – constantly being on guard, being self-aware of motivations for behaviours or feelings, fighting that voice telling me to stand up as I type this, questioning whether I am doing what is just us (AKA good for ME).  I am reminded of one of the blog snippets (a little eating disorder specific with regards to recovery, but it fits nonetheless) I keep on my computer’s desktop from http://risforrecovery.wordpress.com/2013/08/:

I’d forgotten a lot of things about recovery. Like that it’s exhausting. Not just physically exhausting, but emotionally too. And terrifying.

Terrifying because of the fear of the unknown and the giving up of something that has served such a beautiful, yet awful purpose. … I’d forgotten the feeling of dread that sits in your gut every time you sit down for a meal and really feel no sign of hunger whatsoever and everything within your being is shouting at you not to pick up that ham and cheese and tomato toasted sandwich and bite into it, but you know you need to do it or else you’re going to end up having to gulp down a mug of Ensure. I’d forgotten about all of the comparing that your eating disorder imposes upon you as you seek to be well again. About the difficulty of urges that come alongside the feeling of fullness, about the difficulty of merely sitting with those urges instead of engaging in compensatory behaviours.

I remembered perhaps a handful of the difficulties that come with recovery, yes. But I never remembered the recovery process itself being this hard.

Tack this blindingly, deafeningly and stupefying difficult recovery onto an already stressful set of circumstances (working in a job where I keep stocking the fire of initiatives/projects just to keep warm, to not feel the cold distance that this place infects people with; a brother suffering from mental illness and in the midst of a fight to get him the support he deserves; parents who have been battered by it repeatedly and a wife who is exhausted herself), and I believe I have never felt more drained as I do right now – mentally, physically, emotionally, psychologically.  This could be because I hadn’t acknowledged it before now, but I truly believe that statement.

I want to just say “fuck you” to the world right now.  Every sound is like a hammer onto my already-pummelled soul.  My eyes are heavy, my heart is worn and I need to crash into someone.  I need some happy.

It would feel excellent to have a nice little coma, to treat myself to an escape from the world.  I feel like I’m in a fog as is, just waiting for the clearing, but I know that doing nothing will do nothing but keep me stuck in the cloud.  Using the tools we have acquired, the strength and courage to use them, the serenity and love to accept what I cannot use them for and the wisdom and respect to know the difference, being that person (the person I want to me, the one that is just us) will push us along this path of recovery – today at least.  For example, writing this journal entry will give me perspective and respect for the monumentalness of what is happening in my life right now; help me find strength to fight through, empowering the little penguins flying around in my head and heart to keep me afloat; and show me that there is love in the world that I can use as a resource at these times of exhaustion.  I need to be honest with myself and with those I count on as a support system (and I can’t feel bad or guilty about it either, which was the next illogical step):

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I also need to remember that recovery is worth it, that trudging along this path (or dragging my lifeless body as far as it will go that day and accepting that for that day, that’s enough for us) will bring betterness into my world.  The aforementioned blog entry ends quite well, so I’m going to rip her off for this one:

Lastly, I’d forgotten that I deserved better. Better than an eating disorder, better than the same food day in and day out, better that overexercise and exhaustion and sadness and isolation. I’d forgotten that I deserved to be nourished and well. I’d forgotten that I deserved recovery.

Don’t forget it. You deserve it too. You truly, truly do.

Day 97

10:15AM:

There has been an anxiety in my throat over the last two days.  It isn’t the distress I wrote about a few days ago or the stress connected to work or the anxiety related to eating or moving or perfection; it is my heart.

My heart has been in my throat over the last two days; it landed there for my brother.  I will not say it landed there because of him, because it is his blackness that forced it up there.  However, it is there for my brother, to support him and bring my heart closer to my head, so the two can connect in his greatest time of need.

When my brother’s premature impending release from the Mental Health Ward (72-hour hold running out at noon today) was in the forefront, my heart and head connected as best they could.  They did this so I could be prepared for him, so that I could be strong for him (and for my parents, which ultimately was for him), so that I could separate his blackness from him (which I have had a tough time doing in the recent past – his blackness has been slowly creeping up on him over the last 3-ish months, which doesn’t excuse what he’s done before entirely, since there was more him, but there isn’t very much now and I know that), so that I could put away my selfishness and supplant it with the self-awareness he needs.  He needs me to be aware and thoughtful and loving, in combination, so we can support his recovery as best we can.

This is probably the reason why I no longer have as great a feeling of anxiety right now, because I just got the phone call that the psychiatrist will involuntarily hold my brother.  My brother will not have a choice in the matter and will be required to stay in the hospital.  It might seem callous, but the relief we feel is based in love and care, in the understanding that he is in the place that will get him the help he needs (NO, REDO…

He is in the place that will get him the help he deserves.  He deserves my head to touch my heart in times like this.  He deserves me to be far enough on my own path of recovery, to use the tools and self-awareness I have, to support him.  He deserves love and care.

Day 96

4:15PM:

I had a bunch of students in the weight room today and by the end, they broke down into a hang-out session.  That is, until this group of otherwise purposeless students (at least, at that moment in time, because they each have their own areas of genius, their own glimmers of light), taught me about the nature of fitness, recreation and hobby in general = coming together.  Most people would say that working out is about fitness, losing weight, gaining muscle, but it has so much more to offer (as do countless other hobbies – chess can be about training the brain, but it can also be about the social element of interacting with someone else).

I have always looked at working out in that sense, which is why I have been so spinny about “having to do 26 sets” or “having to do X activities for Y time” or “3 sets = Z amount of time.”  I actually started having those thoughts today, even though my grandfather put this workout regimen together to focus on strength gains and total workload (calculations far above my head, and yet, I’m still worrying about not doing enough work, not burning enough calories, not sweating enough).  Even as I am typing this up, I am thinking about doing an extra set of pushups, but I won’t for the following reason: I don’t need to, it does not necessarily lead to strength gains (which is the current workout goal).  It is the reason why a little while ago, I wanted to always do an additional three portions every day (not just on workout days, as has been the case with the eating system, compensating when I work out), so it would help me not worry about the energy-related elements of working out – however, we thought this had the potential to go unnecessarily sideways (worrying about daily movement), so…  Anyways, I will probably look at working out in this sense, and will have to work on that (exposure therapy ALERT).

Onto the story!  These students were having a chin-up competition and even though I had already done my pull-ups (from the grandfather strength training regimen), I wanted to build relationships with these particular kids.  You see, they usually fuck around in the halls, causing ruckus and making other teachers’ lives hell.  By building relationships with them, giving them a positive adult to connect with and providing them with good things related to school, I am achieving an even more important goal than today’s strength gains.  Competition aside (tied for 1st, by the way, although that’s not that important), I gained in doing this; I gained in competing as opposed to skipping out because it didn’t fit into the system (fitness in this case, not food).  However, the parallel is clear, eating sometimes out of social connection as opposed to just nourishment – taking the cookie or eating an early lunch or trying a certain food, the goals of eating (or in this case, fitness) being connecting socially through love and care.

And when things are based in love and care, they cannot be bad.