It’s been a quite stressful week so far. There will be more to come on that topic in another post as I make sense of it all, but for the time being I’ve been trying really hard to keep my head down and focus as much as possible on moving forward in life.
When things cease to make sense in one area it’s often the case that you fall back on whatever crutches you normally rely on.
I’ve had a lot over the years. As long as I can remember I’ve used things like alcohol and food to take the sting out of life and allow me to deal with everyday occurrences. To a greater or lesser extent I still have an unhealthy relationship with food and the quantity I’m capable of eating. I’ve written about it a lot but still struggle with it.
I’ve mitigated it by radically changing the kinds of food I eat so that it no longer has the impact it once did – but I still suffer from compulsive behaviour in this respect. I’ve tried to bury this (in the absence of an obvious cure) with activity – and for the most part it works.
I’d go so far as to say as it’s my new crutch. I get physically twitchy without activity now. Thoughts about how I’ll fit it in, what I’ll do to get my cardio stats up and how long I can do a given activity for fill my head all the time.
I realised a few weeks ago while arranging for a stroll with a friend that I had to get on my exercise bike beforehand and sweat – just in case I didn’t do enough on my walk. Like a teenager drinking cheap vodka before going to a nightclub I had started pre-loading exercise before my workouts.
Not so long ago I commented (regarding a speech by Ewan McGregor’s character in Trainspotting 2) that I deeply related to a quote that it was essentially ok to be an addict – as long as you directed and focused that addictive behaviour towards something beneficial.
When I hit a rough patch on Monday I definitely had a choice – I could open the fridge or do something else. In the end I used my new crutch – exercise – and I instead walked (without exaggeration) until my feet bled.
At the moment as I sit typing I have five large plasters on the soles of my feet protecting tender areas and honestly I’m glad they’re there. I’ve taken an almost perverse pleasure in walking on them during my lunch break today – and as crazy as it sounds I think I now understand why.
I am glad of the pain that they provide. It reminds me that nothing that’s worth having is easy, and that giving up is not an option. You have to sweat for what you want and keep sweating. If something hurts then you may have to stop and rest for a while, but then you get up and keep going as soon as you possibly can.
I used to have a wry smile when people I knew told me how good exercise made them feel. I never understood it. How could something that made me feel so uncomfortable ever be something that was enjoyable? It seemed like complete nonsense – but as time has gone on I think more and more I’m beginning to understand it.
Like an eating disorder exercise is a form of control. It’s the ability to manipulate your body and impose your will upon it. It’s one of the few things in life that you can have absolute power over, and it’s compelling and addictive to feel in control and capable where once you were not.
As I move through the world now I’m more at home in it than ever. I can do things I never thought possible a year ago and I have energy levels and capabilities I’ve never had in my entire life. It gives me a buzz that I didn’t believe you could find outside of other, more harmful alternatives.
Today though I’m wondering where the euphoria that I am now finding in exercise is leading me. It’s motivated some surprising decisions this week and I’m sitting here wondering whether the path that I’ve both decided upon and taken a few days ago could ultimately prove to be absolutely the wrong choice.
There are times that I’m so unsure of my true motivations that I feel quite adrift and lonely. It’s often difficult when I come home to an empty house to sit in the silence and find balance in my thoughts. Will I always simply exchange one obsession for another in an effort to find equilibrium while I swing like a pendulum between extremes?
I hope with all my heart that this continuing swing toward a better life is one where the pendulum will never head back in the opposite direction. For once I pray I can not only grab, but hold onto the ledge on the other side.
Oddly tonight I feel empowered by my choices but also unsure of what lies ahead – and my house seems unusually quiet.
More on this topic later.