When do I stupid, impulsive, compulsive things, I get tunnel vision. Harsh thoughts corral my perception into a narrow beam and I do things like call a salon at noon and schedule a hair appointment for 7:30 PM. Between that call and my appointment I stumble along in a haze, high on the fact that I’m doing something stupid and rash and, perhaps more disturbingly, a little happy I’m doing something I don’t think I want to do.
This is not a new pattern. It’s one I’ve plotted and followed before. It’s a way to combat the berating that begins slowly in the back of my mind and creeps from decibel to higher decibel until I suddenly become aware of it. It takes hours, sometimes days of acidic, disparaging thoughts before I realize I’ve been subjecting myself to the constant tone of my own abuse. By then, the damage is done and the only escape from the mental prison is to act against myself in a way that will top it–if I can cause myself more pain than the insidious creep of thoughts I’m barely aware of, I win. Or that’s how it’s worked historically. It’s why I have a history of self-harm: brief stints with cutting, self-induced vomiting, actually beating my abdomen and thighs in particularly unhinged moments.
That paragraph reads as “crazy, unstable, general WTF.” And it is. But it’s a part of my history and I know I’m among many who find or have found solace from a voice in their head that they cannot escape by trying to outdo its damage.
Perhaps you’re asking why I’m discussing this on what is supposed to be a powerlifting blog. It’s not a powerlifting blog. Powerlifting is only a vehicle–it’s the easy part, but dealing with the truths it reveals is much harder. And yesterday I cut off a sizable amount of my hair because I succumbed to the accumulation of days of self-abuse I didn’t know had been ringing in my head until I stared into the bathroom mirror in my childhood home at significantly shorter hair.
It’s not a secret on this blog and on other parts of the internet I use to discuss my lifting experience that I’ve chosen to put on a sizable amount of weight since May of last year. Putting on close to thirty pounds at 5’2″ is no small shift. I’ve already written and talked about why I’ve chosen to do this. And I accomplished what I set out to do–I generated more muscle mass by lifting and eating. I also increased my body fat percentage appreciably as well as worked up to a weight I’ve never weighed in my life.
Something snapped a few days ago. Coming into Madison, my birthplace as well as the city in which I earned my undergrad degree, I felt the pressure of younger experience and a prior body crushing against my psyche. I felt the discomfort of not recognizing my body in its current state pushing down on my self-perception, and I felt it hard. One morning I woke up with the deep conviction that I could not stand being in this body anymore. It was a light-switch-flipped moment. It was like coming out of a long, restive sleep. And it sent me into the cycle of growing mental self-destruction described earlier. And I cut my hair off.
I wish I could present you with a blog post celebrating my own physique, of standing with the “lift big eat big” enthusiasts, of positive thoughts and promising outlooks, of championing a focus on lifting, not looks. I can’t because It wouldn’t be my truth or my experience at this point in time. But I can say that I think I’m closer to identifying the pattern of my own self-destruction. Closer to understanding how stop it before it starts.
This is not really about the stupid hair. It’s about feeling defeated and understanding how to cradle and soothe myself after the violence exacted by a slippery, dark little part of mind. So, you know, here’s to that.