becoming infinite

always learning. always growing. always lifting heavy things.


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i haven’t cut myself in ten years, and this is why i’m terrified.

i’ve mentioned a few times before – most notably here and here – that i battled through an eating disorder for a pretty good portion of my adolescence and 20s. but something i’m much less forthright about is that years before i fell into the rabbit hole of anorexia and bulimia, i became ferociously addicted to tearing open my skin.

self-harm was a completely different animal for me to fight and attempt to conquer. while some aspects of it were linked to my eating disorder, most of it related only peripherally. i have no better way to explain it than, i just got hooked. anyone who has ever felt the grip of addiction can attest, to some degree, to that hopeless, helpless need, to the pathway of “I’ve got this under control” and “I could stop any time I want” to, gradually and then all at once, “Oh my God I can’t not have this in my life.”

and so at thirteen years old i became an addict. by seventeen i was running out of real estate, my hours upon hours spent attacking myself relegated ferociously to only those places where the cuts and scars couldn’t be seen.

not even a month after i turned eighteen, i entered Treatment #1.

less than a year later i started attacking my arms, my legs – things i had told myself i would never do. too obvious, too visible, too risky. my eating disorder worsened, i drank too much. i felt everything and nothing. and i tore into myself with a reckless, i-don’t-give-a-fuck abandon that would eventually lead me to Treatment #2, which slipped seamlessly into Treatment #3 when the kind folks at #2 deemed me a poor fit (i.e., a little too far gone) for their program.

I was in the beginning of my 6-month stint at Treatment #3 when i cut myself for what would become that last time.

it was February 15, 2005.

and here i am, ten years later. anniversaries like this are funny things. once i realized i had a “streak” going i began meticulously counting weeks, then months. at one year i bought myself a bracelet (which i still have). every year for the first seven years i got myself something on my “sobriety” date – a new shirt, a fun snack, something. at five years i got a custom-made necklace that i would wear every day for a few years, and after that, every February 15th. last year, when i thought i had lost that necklace i tore through my entire apartment until i finally unearthed it, tangled amid jewelry i rarely ever wore and had all but forgotten about.

and here i am. ten years. one decade. a pretty significant milestone.

but instead of it feeling celebratory, it all scares the shit out of me.

the terrifying thing about being addicted to hurting yourself is that you can never get away from your intended target. every night i go to bed in this body that i crave to attack, and every morning i wake up in it. we are inextricably linked, this body i live in and the demon in my head that yearns to destroy it. and even though it has been ten years – ten entire years – when i’m acutely distressed my default emotional response is to want to dig into myself.

ten years. and i am still frighteningly attracted to sharp things.

ten years. and when i feel like my heart is breaking, i am compelled to break open my skin.

ten years. and some days i am still that 13-, 17-, 20-year-old girl, literally shaking with need, and the best i can do is close my eyes and bite the inside of my cheek and remember, recall, but try not to fantasize. because that is too dangerous.

because it takes only eleven steps from my bedroom door until i am standing in front of the butcher block stocked with a plethora of tantalizingly sharp edges.

because there is no “only this once.”

because ten years is a long time. and while it may seem like a badge of honor, some days it feels like an albatross. like a thread that has been stretched just one inch too long, my timeline is fraying, spinning in upon itself, threatening to snap.

so i try not to think too hard. i try not to remember too much. but i try to remember enough that the ten years still seems worth it.

ten years. and i’m still afraid to let it feel permanent. because above all else, i am always myself. and this is part of my story; some chapters never end.


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full circle.

probably the most-read post i have ever written was about my first experience with cutting weight for a meet. at the time, i had been lifting with my coach for 3 1/2 months and had yet to reach my pre-op weight after almost a year and a half of rehab. 56kg is the low end of normal for me, but since 24-hour weigh-ins allow you to manipulate your “true” weight, it wasn’t a big deal to pee myself into my weight class.

then came my off-season. i ramped up both my eating and my training as we worked on technique, form, and building mass. and build mass i did, in the for of both lean muscle and body fat. this:

august 2013

turned into this:

may 2014

in less than nine months. i’m now squatting what my summer 2013 max deadlift was. and in the process i have, almost necessarily i would think, put on weight.

the struggle for the past few months has been deciding on a weight class. at the georgetown classic i weighed in at 57.0kg – a kilo over for the 56kg class, and that was after a nasty, gnarly cut that i never want to relive. it was frustrating, especially knowing that i still had some body fat i could have pulled, and potentially could have made weight.

i have nationally competitive numbers as a 56kg lifter. as a 60kg lifter – which also happens to be a much more common weight class, for whatever reason – i am a bebe fish in a very large and strong pond. so of course the competitive and stubborn side of me wants to remain in the 56kg class.

my coach and i have spent a lot of time talking about this. STV has caused me to build a startling amount of lean mass in just over a month’s time. and i’m also dropping body fat. yet my weight remains around 62-63kg.

so yesterday i did something i had assumed i would never need to do again in my adult life: i went to a nutritionist.

nutritionist appointments were a part of my regular treatment team/schedule for years. there were times in my treatment history i actually had a better relationship with my nutritionist than my therapist. i have sat in those offices and screamed, argued, cried, cursed, and flat-out refused to do things like eat full-fat cheese or not break my bagel into meticulous, tiny pieces before eating it.

i have also sat in those offices and said things like, “i no longer need 12 cups of coffee to get through my day,” or “i don’t get dizzy every time i stand up any more.” those offices, the arguments and meltdowns and revelations, played a huge role in me healing my relationship with food and my body.

and i never thought i would find myself in one again, after all these years! but yet yesterday, there i was. i had been put into contact with a sports nutrition professor who specializes in part with athletes who compete in weight-classed sports.

it was strange to be in one of those offices and not boiling over with anxiety. it was strange to have no stipulations beyond “i’ll eat anything but olives.” it was strange to be in that position as a healthy person with a comfortable relationship to food and their body.

maybe we can never escape our pasts, but we can look back at them and, when a situation presents itself that shows us how much we have changed, how much we have grown, we can appreciate them and how they molded us.


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there’s no crying in powerlifting!

i’m currently sitting in the airport, waiting to catch a 7am flight for a speedy day trip. since friday is the day i usually squat with my coach, we moved my session up to last night. which meant skipping wednesday’s rest day and doing thursday’s double instead.

even with my right quad still a little rough around the edges (i’m unbelievably thankful that our boss at the gym bought one of these for the trainers to use/me to sneak when the trainers aren’t using it) Week 3 of STV had me feeling great. my body fat is dropping and im putting on noticeable size in my shoulders and width to my back.

last night i showed up at 8pm to squat. we had been doing sticking point/1.25 squats for the past three weeks. to start Week 4 of STV we were going back to, as my coach calls it, “R.A.S.” – Regular-Ass Squats.

warm-ups felt good and we jumped from open bar to 95# to 135# without a problem. less than a year ago my max squat was 130# – i was waiting for the day when i could squat wheels (the 45s). now that’s my second warm-up after open bar work.

we hit 165# for a triple and it felt super, super solid. i belted up and we hit five triples at 185#. everything felt light and fast, i’m getting much better at driving into the bar and keeping my chest up, and i’m actually (finally!) getting some decent bounce out of the hole.

i looked up and caught myself in the mirror as i was getting under the bar and had to squint for a second. i look so different from the person i’m used to. my shoulders are significant, my quads are the kind you grow when you move heavy weight regularly – aka, feet apart, thighs together! – and my arms don’t hang at my sides any more because of the width of my lats.

never in a million years did i think i could look like this. never in a million years would i have imagined i would be standing in a fancy gym on a thursday evening putting almost 200# on my back and moving it around for easy triples.

and i am so grateful. sometimes i think about this sports and how much it has brought me and i get that little flutter in my chest and hitch in my throat like i’m about to cry out of sheer happiness.

five years ago, yoga saved me from myself when i was grasping at straws to finally get my eating disorder under control and out of my life.

two and a half years ago, running saved me from the avalanche of grief after my mom died.

and now…i don’t know what powerlifting is saving me from, but it’s sure doing something.


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3…2…1…

if i’m counting (which i totally am), i’m three days away from my 30th birthday! now i don’t even make resolutions or hopes or wishes on New Year’s because i think that the amount of things that can happen in 365 days is so mind-boggingly vast that trying to predict your progress is just counter-intuitive…but…

i’ve been thinking a lot about my 20s – what happened, what didn’t, what i thought would happen and if it did or didn’t – and relating it to my pending decade of good times and loud laughs.

i turned 20 on the last day of my sophomore year at cornell. seven months later my bulimia and cutting were out of control and i was admitted into renfrew and then, after about six weeks, transferred to a DBT-based program at columbia presbyterian in NYC.

i was 22 when i started my dream degree (voice) at one of a handful of dream schools (hartt).

when i was 25 i started dating somebody. i fell in love with her. i started to think about things like marriage and babies and happily ever after. i graduated from college, got into grad school – two, in fact! – and accepted a spot at the university of kentucky. 25 was a good year.

at 26 i moved 750 miles away from everything i had ever known, to start my master’s degree. i was 26 when i got engaged. i met people who grew to be cornerstones in my life.

and then 27 hit. my mom died. my family self-destructed. “i love you, don’t ever leave me” turned into “you’re not being fair, i can’t be with you any more.” i successfully defended my master’s thesis and graduated, but missed the ceremony because i had my leg sawed into by a wonderful surgeon whom i adore even though it sucked.

with 27 barely in the rearview, 28 brought the decision to stay in lexington another three years and become a PhD student. most of 28 was overshadowed by knee rehab; my physical therapist and my advisor kept me sane and alive that year.

on my 29th birthday i found out that what i had thought was just a bump in the road in my grandma’s health was actually terminal. i sat on the tennis court outside the gym and cried for an hour that day. i went home and booked a flight to florida to visit; it would be the last time i would see her.

the same week my grandma died, i started training with my powerlifting coach – i was actually driving home from our first session when my dad called to tell me grandma had passed away. i broke 5 state powerlifting records while i was 29. presented at my first professional conference, visited texas for the first time, and successfully completed my PhD coursework.

after the crap that was 27, i’ve found myself hopelessly smitten with somebody and it’s weird and surprising and a whole lot of fun.

i have no grandiose ideas for my 30s. i don’t necessarily want to: get married, have babies, buy a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence. maybe i will! and that would be cool. but if i don’t, that’s just as cool.

in 3 days, i’ll turn 30. i’ll teach a sunrise yoga class at 630am and i’ll run sprints a little before nine. after i crawl back to the gym i’ll foam roll and shower and i’ll spend the rest of the day at the library, studying for my qualifying exams. my uncle will call at some point, and my dad will too. when the library closes at five i’ll go home and have dinner and look at my training schedule for the next day.

at some point while i’m 30 i’ll pass my qualifying exams and maybe even get a dissertation proposal approved. i’ll start applying for sabbatical replacement positions and for fellowships.

i’ll lift a lot of things and i’ll laugh a lot. probably loudly, because that’s how i roll.

you never know how the chips are going to fall. am i happy that 27 went the way it did? of course not. but am i in love with the way my life is in the last three days of 29? you better freaking believe it. and i’m going to try my damnedest to make 30 just as great.


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sit in the suck.

as some of you may or may not know, i am a wannabe crossfitter. i almost joined a box last january, as a “something else” to add to my half marathon training. but then i got a ticket in florida that cost 3 months’ worth of crossfit, so i abandoned the idea. and then 6 months later i connected with my coach and the rest is powerlifting history.

i was watching the crossfit regionals this weekend and event 6 is a monster: 50-calorie row, 50 box jump-overs, 50 deadlifts, 50 wall balls, 50 ring dips…and then back down again. 21-minute time cap.

i turned on the live feed at the tail end of one of the men’s heats. only 2 men in the north central region actually completed the damn thing, to give you an indication of how brutal it was. no women in north central finished; stacie tovar was the only one to even make it back on the rower. but anyhoo, while watching one of the men complete the workout, as he was on the rower just tearing away, the absolute pain reading all over his face, one of the announcers said, “he is in the pain cave right now. and with a minute left…all you can do is sit in the suck.”

the hardest skill – and yes, it was a skill! – for me to wrap my head around in DBT was radical acceptance. the idea that sometimes…shit’s gonna happen. and there’s nothing you can do to change it, so you just…sit in the suck.

i think about the weight gain that came with recovery. i fought it for years – “well i can still be this weight and recovered…ish…” – because i couldn’t accept that my mental ‘ideal’ weight wasn’t one that was healthy for my physical self. and when i did finally come to terms with that…well there were still days where i would quite literally not leave my dorm room because i couldn’t stand the thought of putting my physical self out in front of people.

see also: it sucked.

when my mom died i tried so hard to be brave, to be strong, to be graceful. and i think i did an admirable job of being, in some capacity, all of these things. but sometimes, some days…you’re just walking down the street drinking a diet coke and you get slammed by a wall of sadness and all you can do is plop yourself down on the curb and cry.

and it sucks.

i try, really i do as it’s against my cynical nature, to look for the good in things. but the fact is, sometimes things just plain suck. and you you know what, sometimes it feels good to fight it – sometimes i just need to raise hell and be angry, and maybe i am banging my head against a wall but you can’t be graceful in the face of adversity all the time, right?

there are parts of recovery that just plain suck. most parts are great; some parts suck.

losing my mom…well, saying it sucked doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface.

and sometimes, you have to just embrace it. embrace it and sit in the suck.

 


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we are here.

we are here to drink beer
laugh at the odds
and live our lives so well that
death will tremble to take us.

-charles bukowski

 

the past few weeks i have really, truly felt as if i am living well. i just finished up my last semester of doctoral coursework. i have two good, strong plans for what to do once i pass my quals in the fall. my transition from post-meet to a new, high-volume training cycle has made me feel awesome, physically and mentally.

i laugh a lot.

i go out for burgers and pizza with friends.

i do a little dance before i make a big lift because this sport is fun, darn it!

sometimes i look around and i’m amazed. all those years buried by an eating disorder, and all of the years of restrictive “healthy” eating and vigilant “healthy” exercise veiled as recovery…i can’t believe i was missing out on all of this. last saturday my friend stopped me after i got done training and said, “hey wanna go grab a burger?” and we went and sat at the bar and had burgers and fries and i laughed so hard that i lost my voice.

six years ago my greatest concern was maintaining my thigh gap and burning a minimum of 750 calories on the cardio machines every morning before class. now every day i wake up just wanting to be a better version of myself than i was the day before. i still work hard at the gym, but it’s a different focus, a different energy. i’m an athlete; i love that and i own it.

i’m turning 30 in two weeks and i finally feel like i am living life well, living it fully and the way it ought to be lived. i’m healthy and strong and i’ll always be a work in progress but dammit i am living.


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breaking up with keto.

i had a really easy transition into ketosis. like…weirdly easy. few to no cravings. no fatigue. no debilitating DOMS.

after two months, then, it would stand to reason that i should have been far, far out of the woods.

i had mentioned to my doctor that the past few weeks i hadn’t felt quite right. not necessarily in a physical sense; just really on edge, snappy, unfocused, tired all the time even though i’ve been really good about getting my usual amount of rest…nothing life-threatening but everything annoying.

she took one look at me on thursday and said simply, “cut it. it’s not worth it.”

now to be clear, the caveat with me going keto as a means of seizure control was that if it made me feel like shit, i was done. my seizures are not (as of right now) life threatening, or even really lifestyle threatening. they are just a pain in the ass, and one that won’t go away.

but a strange thing happened once i went on keto. the longer i was on it, the more anxious it made me. i didn’t like feeling like i “couldn’t” eat or drink certain things. i didn’t like feeling backed into a corner. and i fucking missed being able to eat bananas, dammit.

but in all seriousness – it was starting to wear me out, mentally and emotionally. i’m long into recovery from my eating disorder, but that doesn’t mean that certain things still don’t reek of the “old” jenn. and keto was one of them. not that i think it’s a bad lifestyle choice for anyone else; but for me, it wasn’t going to work. because, as i’m coming to learn through trial and error, any sort of restrictive diet is just not acceptable for me any more. as soon as i feel like i “can’t” or “shouldn’t” eat something, the old crevice of my brain gets revved up.

keto forced me to start tracking macros again, watching little columns add up and turn green or red depending on if i was over or under my predicted intake. it was starting to drive me crazy.

my body is not a calculator, it is not a skin and muscle and bone abacus of nutrients. on any given day i am going to want or need or require different things, and i don’t feel comfortable in a lifestyle that tells me that, no, i can’t have some of those things.

so after eight weeks, keto and i have officially broken up. i feel the same physically, but the mental and emotional weight that has been lifted is astronomical. i feel much more at ease now. we’ll deal with the seizures if and as they come. i made a valiant attempt; it just wasn’t for me.

but after i ate some carbs yesterday i went ahead and squat 215# for three singles – so all has not been lost. : )