Day 365

One year.

I have been writing every day, for one year.  The chronicles are lengthy and deep, laugh-inspiring and dangerous, loving and deadly, long-winded and diminutive.  365 steps in the direction of recovery, that’s what that means.  But perhaps not.

Yesterday, my wife had a risky yet eye-opening foray into job-people-asshole-relationships.  This foray showed us that her next steps require some sort of job search, career path.  I am on board; ultimately, I want her happiness, for her to be grateful and appreciative, above all else.  I love her and we will make it work.  Luckily it was just a warning shot though, a burnt orange instead of a bright red, one that will allow us to take the next steps – while tenuously – on our own terms.  Given how things have been articulated here, recovering herself would be a way to frame this.

As for me, I am currently stepping into a new form of self-reality (I know that self-actualization is a more proper term, but the douche factor requires a less-accurate synonym), stepping into a new understanding of myself.  I started writing because we understood its value as a recovery tool for me, because we were looking for experts on me when we were the only two true ones.  As a result, we know many more of my triggers, warning signals, agitators and alienators than we did one year ago.  We also know that when stress gets away from me and us that dire consequences ensue: judge and jury, I give you broken hand.  I also know many more of my feelings, my loves and desires, my cares and Tz’u, my purpose as Don and my hopes and faith.  I feel more comfortable being who I am after 365 days, partially because we have expanded the me version of me, but also because we have explored the me version of me, which has given us an understanding of shoulds and the parts of me that are me, not black.  As we discussed earlier in the week, my wife and I know that my next steps in recovery include rest and managing the inevitable stresses of living on the edge, of giving 100% to do good and be beautiful, amazing and loving.

Odd thing is, if I hadn’t been pushed off the edge two weekends ago, I wouldn’t have had cause to have the difficult conversation with my aunt last weekend.  And if my wife hadn’t had her encounter of the fucked up kind, I would not have gone to my aunt for counsel about college teaching (a reach out that wouldn’t have happened without the difficult conversation), she would not have seen her potential for vivid expansion and I would not have found a potential perma-support in Kind Science Work Friend.  So is this really about recovery?

Through blogging, I have learned so much.  By writing, I have faced demons with my wife, with her affair, with my family, with my brother’s illness, with my blackness.  Like our summer before life happened, writing allowed growth beyond belief.  However, I will stop blogging after today and this is my final Tale as the Recovering Recoverer.  Not because I don’t love writing – I will continue to do that as a tool.  But given the acquired understanding of the last 365 days, I now understand that this is not a path of recovery, not solely.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I am recovered by any means.  I will continue to understand that I am recovering from anxiety and hyper-vigilance, perfectionism, orthorexia and disordered eating – my personal blackness.  I understand that the potential for that blackness taking over will always be there.  I understand that we will need to face every day one day at a time, with serenity and courage and wisdom.  I understand that I and we will continue to adapt our vivid to fit the current lines and colours, to use my tools and support system and stay vigilant against the blacknesses within us.

But I understand that this is only a part of me.  I have realized that I have not been writing about a path of recovery, not solely.  This is not a story about recovering from a deficit; this is a story of growth.  No, there is not an ending here, but that’s because this is a tale of a different sort – this is 365 days of life.

Day 352

3:30PM:

You used to stem the tide, now you cause the flood.

You used to be the solace between the tears, now that you’re silent, you cause them.

You used to be…

Now, you made me cry in a grocery store.  Only two others have made me do that: my wife and my job.  Two things I gave my soul to, bared myself wholly; two things that at one point or another, broke my heart.

I’ve written about my Aunt and Uncle before, when there was an email birthday message and an apology for a neglected birthday phone call.  They were the ones I had during my trying years of parental alcoholism, neglect and forgetfulness – my safe place.  Not because it was physically away or a land of perfection, but because it was brighter, kinder.  It was an early conception of vivid – not perfect, but perfect for me.

The recent years have not been kind.  The guise of commercialism as professionalism became professional-grade commercialism.  It took away their -ness, their kindness, their vividness, their T’zu-ness.

Now, they tell the eating disorder-recoverer in front of them that the ham and mac-and-cheese was made just for me; that as they take food out of the oven, they beg forgiveness for forgetting about me; that at their most intentioned, they look to feed the conception of me and not ME.  Now, they look for me to stand out in the cold.  Let me tell you, your place is no more warmer, not anymore.

I write this knowing that I will talk about it [AN ASIDE: I write this and have decided what will happen after 365 days = there will be a 366.  Even though it is sometimes hard to keep it up, by structuring it every day, writing is there when I need it – lines to bring my colour into focus, into vivid; a tool of recovery to avoid becoming a fool to the blackness].  I will talk about it because there is a future, I have hope and faith in that.

It’s a risk, but so is giving all I have to two others that have broken my heart.  It’s a matter of hope – hope that we will all fit again, hope that the tears forming in my eyes as I write this will be never again, hope that we will be stronger together that apart.

I love you both dearly, and that’s why this hurts so goddamned much.

Day 282

7PM:

I have had Workout Friend’s voice in head, especially after Wednesday’s post and particularly after the recent Don-ish musings.  If I am not waiting, even if I am and it is temporary, as the new Don of Tz’u, it means being invincible.  Scratch that…

The Don is not invincible.  The Don is not Superman.  These are illusions, but illusions that are part of the role.  The Don appears stone-faced, steadfast, without doubt or vulnerability, because it is from this that others gain strength and trust and security.

Truth is, the Don just makes decisions, uses supports and blackness-weakening tools, chooses to live so that this perception is possible.  For me, that means doing things and accessing supports that will allow me to be a better teacher, a better student, a better husband, a better son, a better employee, a better rock.  Better able to deal with family drama, with my mother-in-law’s impending surgery, with my wife’s thoughts about changing jobs or at least changing the make-up of her current one, even through the job I will face come September, the Masters for which I have gone all in, the house to keep mortgaging along.

That means taking it slow for a few days, recovering.  That means setting the stage so that physical rest can be restful, because physical rest is not restful if my mental health is unhealthy, is weak, is screaming the sirens’ song of the blackness.  Perhaps that means shifting meal-conception to allow for more regularity, more regular blood sugar and blackness-weakening strength spread throughout the day.  I tried varying the times and number of meals per day (trying to act on my natural hunger cues), but ended up eating certain amounts and not spreading it out.

Therefore, perhaps to be a more capable Don, I need to vary the amounts, but make the times more certain, more definite: eat too much at breakfast, eat a light lunch; not feeling hungry at dinner, eat something small.  This will also ensure that I am not drinking to gather up much needed calories (and suffering the aforementioned consequences).  Instead, allow my body to tell me the truth, provide the colour, but within the lines of breakfast-lunch-dinner regularity, and by doing so, finding vividness, strength against the demons inside, rest and peace, the appearance of being superhuman.

Day 279

6PM:

Some universal signs to interpret, from today, a day that has left me realizing I’m worn down and not doing myself any favours by living on the edge:

“Peace is in each of us” (Mennonite Church)

Even though I felt like I needed the Naturopath to be a sounding board, that I needed her to tell me I am drinking too much (either to cope or to fill up the calorie tank at that point in the day), that I am not respecting my hunger out of fear of getting fat (and the never-ending thoughts of belly fat, unknown as to its delusional or truthful nature), that I am not fueling my me-ness enough throughout the day with food and rest, thereby letting my blood sugar drop, my adrenal health plummet and my ability to fight off / ignore / not hear the blackness crater.

Even though I felt like I needed her to say it, I knew these things.  I am scared of trusting myself, of trusting my opinion, even though time and time again, we draw the same conclusions: the only us experts, are us.  Peace is in each of us, or at least, in my case, the ability to find that peace is in me.  I trust my head to think, my heart to love, my soul to feel; now, I need to trust my body to heal.

“I value myself” (Naturopath)

I want to shift the way that I think from I find no value in myself compared to others, worthless in their shadows and that I accept myself as such.  I want to shift it to that I find purpose in others, I find value in helping them (like the happiness I got from doing yard work at my mother-in-law’s house today, not thinking about the selfishness that spawned me doing it, but simply having my heart focus on the love and the IAN).  However, finding purpose in others does not negate valuing myself, it does not have to.  In fact, valuing myself means I can be selflessly selfish, by taking time to heal myself, heal myself so I can engage in that purpose of others; as opposed to being selfishly selfless, making it about ignoring my own needs and ultimately sacrificing my ability to live that purpose.

“Be patient” (Mennonite Church)

We will make mistakes, we will falter, we must before we fly.  We will be patient, step by step on the path of recovery.  We will keep putting one foot in front of the other to reclaim healthy, making mistakes along the way but still going, one day at a time, one breath at a time, breath by breath.

Day 277

8:30AM:

A cool thing happened yesterday morning while standing in the shower, trying to wake up from the restless sleep (not my fault, not incited by drinking too much, but by my “cats away, mice will place” Quebecois roommate… fucking sales people).  It inspired this, Greatist’s August Self-Care Challenge for the day: “Write a thank you note.”

 

August 18, 2014

Dear my love,

 

On Saturday, I had the genius idea to barrel through the exhaustion, save a giant chunk of money, get out of dodge a day early (ok, so “genius” might be stretching it a little bit).  I told you that afternoon, once we’d figured out the logistics, which obviously made you happy (cautious, given the midnight-ish return – and we both know how that worked out at the end of July!).

It was then that you told me that you’d secretly planned to take the second half of Tuesday off.  In the past, even with my belief and faith, my head would have gone towards selfish motives or immature scatteredness or purely emotional or uncomfortably inattentive – love, but not care – since that was my experience.

Now for the thank you part.

Here is where the cool thing clicks in: my head didn’t go there in the shower.  My head instead went directly to “you must be taking the time off to get the house ready, preparing it as a home.”  These acts of care, these elements of awareness and attentiveness – even if just suppositions or potentials, even if I am wrong – made me feel warm and loved, not uncomfortable or on edge.  They made me feel cared about by you.

Thank you my love.  Thank you because even if I am wrong, I want to believe that I am right, that my faith is justified, that my belief has spread to you, that you are acting like you believe = your recovery, your reclaiming healthy, your vividness.

 

Love forever-ever,

Me

Day 274 & 275

Can someone use up their “good” years?  Their “strong” years?  I’m not talking about my wife and her mistakes or me and my blackness.  I’m talking about something else entirely…

My Mom talks about the connection she had with and the greatness in my grandfather, before he got old, before falling down (although temporary, because nothing could, even in death, ever truly keep him down), before the years took their toll.  She speaks to the end of his window of absolute strength, of absolute spectacular-ness.  He can still do magic, can still make your head spin, can still show glimmers, but has a little less Houdini, a slower spin, a briefer glimmer.

She’s not wrong.

He is 82 and his years of taking on the evils of the world with the unwavering-ness of an army general (and of getting kicked out of brothels, according to a long-ago story of sport travel to Poland, and surreptitiously running away to Scandinavia to play soccer) are behind him.  The years of him displaying that are someone else’s now.  But that is his impact, his legacy for when he passes = the physics-defying passion and courageous care he’s passed along, payed forward.  It is his time to bask, to still be involved as a fitness counselor, life simplifying-er, idea bouncer-offer, loving recipe researcher (so don’t get me wrong with that point), but he has shifted from Don to consigliere.  For this reason, his role in recovery, in supporting, in providing tools is crucial and his knowledge and care and intellect are vital, but his role is secondary.

I felt that the new Don, my mother, would be a member of the primary.  Along with my wife and I, my mother’s intellect (bolstered by me encouraging her self-confidence, especially in not being a reflection of an answer, but in tapping into her knowledge for the answer) and care (bolstered by my father’s true nature of never-ending love – when the flaws brought on by the blackness are not in charge) necessitate her as a primary, a central figure, the new Don, the Don of Tz’u.  Necessitate her as the unwavering one, the one to have perspective, throughout.  Necessitate her as the one to combine head and heart and soul, having vividness in perspective.  Necessitate her as the one appearing lovingly fearless, unshakably fierce, adaptable.  That’s why my wife’s letter in January was offered first to my parents – they were behind the looking glass, down the rabbit hole and to be holding a flashlight to give luminescence to our path of recovery.

And then came my brother’s fall, his regression into blackness.  My mother fought hard – we all did.  She stumbled at the start, but when the true test came, she was ready, stood tall, had fire in her veins and the courage of an army general.  She was the Don.  She called the cops, stood up to my father and stayed that way through the hospital and legal committal process.  Exhausted and worn down though we were, we stood together like a mountain range, holding together and protecting each other from the erosion of my brother’s illness.  After witnessing his return to self – medicinally regaining hold from his blackness – they have breath, they have air again.

However, during last month’s job, I saw the fatigue in her.  I had shared my recovery plan with her days before, reminded her that day and did not find support, I found neglect.  Neglect, though, that was a side-effect of fatigue.  I witnessed a fire in need of nursing; a lessened strength, fight to care, courage to be aware.  So I took the opportunity not to simply bare witness, but to be the nurse.  I took that opportunity to backseat my recovery, which was very much in need of an intentionally aware support system – a system of Tz’u – to nurse the Don of Tz’u back to emotional, psychological, intentional health.  Short-term sacrifice for long-term gain, regain, reclaim.  I supported that reclaiming of my mother’s health, of the Don‘s health.  I not only waited for the reemergence of that strength and courage, keeping a vigil for it, but I supported it with care and most of all, supported the rest for a tired little mouse.

Lack of Tz’u, that was a symptom of fatigue… right?  That’s what I chalked it up to, thinking the best and hoping that the phone call to the cops was not the supernova’s last, greatest, brightest moment, the one before living out its days as a beautiful star in warmth, never being what it once was.  But there are shadows, questions, maybes: uncomfortableness with confusion; driving without confidence (actually backing into me with the car – akin to backing into a table, a familiar sign from Habitating Family Friend; lacking awareness to model proper eating habits, not for her sake, but for mine; standing up for support as opposed to caving as an enabler….

I am asking a lot.  That letter pre-brother asked a lot, but not too much.  Now that we’ve clawed our way back, now that we’ve come back to it, what I’m asking may be too much.  Now, the starbursts of support may be in warmth, or in echoes, while light years away, the supernova has dwindled, used up its primary energies, become a secondary star.  Imperfections regressing not out of flaws or blackness, but out of the supernova bursting and fading, out of the natural path, out of the diminishing of a spirit through the circle of life.

Given that, was it an ebb and flow in the starbursts, with the brightest yet to come?  Or is it time?  When I was that unwavering perspective through my brother’s madness and held on, was the torch being passed?  Am I the new dawn/Don of Tz’u?

Day 271

6PM:

Additions from friends, friends I have that are aware and well-intentioned and who care:

Workout Friend said something to me on the first day of this five-day resting experiment that he cannot let himself get exhausted because of the people he has that count on him to be strong and capable, a provider and a comfort.  I wish I had that same pull, or that I had a bad enough crash to convince me I cannot do that, or that I had an experience where I didn’t have to be everything (as I said to First Department Head today, there is a certain amount that needs to get done, and until I am bolstered, it will fall on me, I will take it on).  I am too stupid to fall down.  I should have before.  I should have this month!  Hopefully, this new resting structure will allow me to be strong and capable, a provider and a comfort, with all of my ability and heart and soul, so that I will never have to test how far…

I do have the ability to grow, to learn.  Mentor Mom and Old Work Wife told me that today, that I seem better with myself.  And I am, this is a more me version of me than they have ever seen.  I am far from the Uncarved Block, but we shall get there some day.  For example, I had a Skinny Vanilla Latte today – something I have not had since going vegan.  I haven’t, even though the foam is like tasting adult marshmallows, because the soy milk they use at Starbucks is sweetened.  However, because of testing my limits last week with grandmother’s lovely (but extremely sugary) soy milk delivery, I was able to enjoy a Soy Skinny Vanilla Latte (side note: seriously that expensive!!!).  I will keep growing, keep moving along this path of recovery: I made a choice today to not do the vacuuming.  I wanted to respect that two-a-day element of resting.  I wanted instead to make food for my wife to have while I was away, so I will trust what she said, that she would do what I couldn’t.  I trusted myself to be strong enough to not do it all and I will believe in her that she will tap into the strength she has inside.  If anyone knows how strong penguins can be…

…it is one fuelled by a Soy Skinny Vanilla Latte, a 5-ish mile run and the care of friends.

Day 269

11:30AM:

Started this new stage on Day 241 – four weeks ago.  They say it “should” take three weeks to break a bad habit, but this is a giant one and so it might be a little longer, especially because there have been slips and there have been trips and there have been mistakes and there have been falls.

But we’ve dusted ourselves off, picked ourselves up, looked the lines over and adjusted them to fit my colour.  Falling down is a mandatory aspect of life. Getting back up is living.  For instance, the five-day resting experiment is going well.  I have stuck to two things a day and it is allowing me to sit down for longer periods of time (more when I don’t do the two things back-to-back and have an extra-long period of sitting/resting, because that seems to perk up the “move your ass” shaming blackness-voice, and yesterday’s exhaustion might have been due to skirting the rules a LITTLE bit).  It might be the new way of doing things, a new way of establishing a routine for me that does not exhaust me, one that allows me to be vivid, beautifully and perfectly imperfect.

I am still tense, acceptably so though.  I am anxious, acceptably so though.  I am uncertain, acceptably so though.  I am tense and anxious because I am trying to find certainty in an uncertain world.  I am trying to know where I need to trust: in me, in my wife, in my support system, in my recovery.  There is no know of the future, but I am tense and anxious as preparation.  To not be tense and anxious in the face of this – the proverbial bear in the woods (not the one that greets you with Hunny or helps fight off your demons with a sword) – would lead me, lead us, lead us all susceptible to a mauling of epic proportions.  A mauling that we would not see coming because that natural fight-or-flight response would not flutter in our hearts, that mauling is something to be tense and anxious about.

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled.  For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers” – M. Scott Peck.

So as we walk through the woods of recovery, I worry about my ability to put one foot in front of the other (being strong enough to fight off my blackness’ bad habits and ill-intentioned flaws, and wise enough to know what to do when I cannot), I worry about my wife not always holding my hand (being intentional and aware with her love, being caring and listening to her beautiful, amazing and loving strength) and I worry about my support system being there out of love (and not out of obligation) when we call in the cavalry.  I worry because even after four weeks, I am still inclined to eat less than more or skip the occasional meal or let my hunger get in the way of my gentleness.  I worry because of the obsessive feeling I still get of loose stomach skin and what that feels like when I am riding my bike.  I worry because of that voice in my head when I sit for a lot (not too) long.  I worry because recovery is uncertain.  All we can do is be ready (AKA strong, respectful and wise) if and when the beast emerges from the woods.

Day 268

6AM:

Still very, very tired; very, very…

So I will look to messages of belief, of faith, of caring and intentional love:

She believes…

Recovery is knowing that you aren’t alone in the battle.  Past battles have been lost, but the war is ours to overcome and conquer.

I believe…

Recovery is not being scared of being wrong or not letting the fear get in the way of what your wisdom tells you is in your true nature, best interests, your ME version of ME.

She believes…

Recovery is allowing yourself to find comfort in small things, like getting an entire category correct in Jeopardy!

I believe…

Recovery is ours to neglect and ours to take for granted and ours to ignore – if we’re too unintentional or unaware of tired or… – BUT with care and trust and belief, it can be ours to prove penguins can mother-fucking fly and mother-fucking soar and mother-fucking save the world.

She believes…

Recovery is wanting the best for yourself and your loved one, and making the changes necessary to be the best version of yourself.  That means falling down sometimes, until we fly.

WE BELIEVE

Day 252

10:45AM:

I know that I have fallen a little into bad habits over the last two days.  Between an exorbitant amount of marking and travelling, I have not been focused on recovery, on reclaiming healthy.  I have not been eating three meals a day plus a snack or two.  I have been doing the lunch and giant end-of-day meal, with drinking in between.  The drinking wasn’t as bad and the lines were a little softer with the portions, but they were coming a little close yesterday.

My initial reaction is to flog myself, obviously not physically (though the 5:45AM workout could be considered as such).  My initial reaction is to talk down to myself, feel guilty about putting everyone through more because I am not strong enough, be pissed off about recovery going slower and being harder.  Getting outside of myself, there are some stresses that are not manageable (as I’ve experienced before) – foreign land … two jobs at once … lack of support system and transferring my attention, my intention, my care to another … ok, so it makes sense.

Instead, looking ahead (AKA “moving forward”), I have three days that are relatively scheduled.  I will take those three days to realign the compass = focus on breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner (or breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack – four meals being the goal) with two components at each (the way that four of six vegan food groups seems to work out for me – the sweet and savoury, yin and yang, all in one meal).

I don’t know if there is anything from Tao of Pooh that screams relevant with this one, so instead, I will go to the digital post-its I keep on my computer desktop.  These words of wisdom, the proverbial “Mother Mary” for the day, I will find strength to do what is needed in them:

“You need to keep telling yourself that you shouldn’t feel guilty. It will be difficult for a long time, but you must push through it for your own welfare” (http://caloriecount.about.com/forums/health-support/anorexia-recovery-feeling-guilty-eating).

“My lingering moments of weakness are directly at odds with both of those missions [recovery and veganism], and make me particularly frustrated for that reason. But I think anyone who’s endeavored to lead a healthy life after disordered eating might be able to relate to the uneasy discord between a full embrace of good health, and the struggle to let go of the things that used to give one’s life a sense of identity and meaning-no matter how falsely.
As always, I treat these moments of struggle as an organic and inevitable part of the recovery process. Recovery is not a black and white before and after; it’s a journey, and the journey involves missteps and stumbles and occasional moments of looking back at the terrain you’ve covered, thoughtfully and with a touch of nostalgia. I never used to think it was possible to feel nostalgia or longing for any period of one’s life except the happy ones, but I realize that this isn’t the case. Even so, I’ve often been surprised this year by how far I’ve come in my relationship with food, my body, and my commitment to health. I’m so much further along than I used to be, and have made progress even through some stressful times that might have ordinarily triggered me. I am profoundly grateful for this, and can only accept and acknowledge the moments of struggle as they go by” (http://www.choosingraw.com/recovery-musings-learning-to-fully-embrace-health/).

“Remind yourself ‘I’m going to be ok” and “I’m not crazy.’  This is a normal part of the recovery process” (http://www.eatingdisordersupport.co.uk/self-help/grounding).

“There are times when you still think you might have eaten too much that day or a particular outfit makes you look larger or when you’ve gone for an extra stroll around the block because you ate more than usual. Perhaps you’ve still been rigid about some things – eating regularly, or having safe foods or attempting to eat less than others. But look at you – thinking clearly, feeding your body because your body deserves to be fed and looked after because it is PRECIOUS and VALUABLE. As are you, and you know that.
And please, please, PLEASE do not forget how infinitely valuable you are” (http://risforrecovery.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/dear-you-for-those-relapsing-or-struggling/).