I stopped writing because I thought that people had stopped reading. That was my excuse. I might be right. I’m not sure. I wrote at the beginning of my journey with lifting because I thought I could capitalize on my engagement in strength training being a little odd, and as this was almost six years ago in an age where Instagram was something people didn’t really get or sniffed at with distaste and where Youtube still ruled the lifting world, the landscape of powerlifting was such that women were less involved with it than they are today. And so it was perhaps easier back then to garner a little following, to feel important, to feel unique, to feel as if I had something to say. I remember the women I followed in that early time period, and I can still access the beginner’s sense of incredulity at what they were doing; that incredulity matured and grew as the role of women in the sport did too. And so for the first several years of my time powerlifting I wrote of my experience and wove through that writing the thread of an eating disordered past that colored what I was trying to do in the present. I think people responded to the presence of that thread more than anything else I did or expressed. I stayed in the shallow, safe end of the pool of sharing. Look everyone, I said, look how I triumphed over this thing I had stamped out very well as I went from lonely, misguided commercial gym lifter to avid powerlifting competitor. The pain and ugliness of experiencing the disorders’ symptoms were easily talked about because they were past. The pain and ugliness that GENERATED the symptoms, however–that doesn’t leave because one finds a way to redirect the behaviors associated with addiction.
And here’s something that I want to touch on before you assume that you’re reading the sentences of an unstable, perpetually agonized individual. I am not dealing with accumulated pain and trauma that is significantly worse than that which most people stumble through as they go from childhood to adulthood. If we had to quantify the things that dog me and then generate some graphs showing where my Shit I’ve Gone Through number falls in comparison to others, I am probably somewhere in the middle of the curve. Everyone has a story, I’ve just been willing to tell mine.
To a point. I have found it infinitely easier to tell a story when some of the chapters have finite endings, triumphant or satisfying resolutions. To speak of pain and to offer hope for its management, to describe discomfort and illustrate a way I navigated it. At times during my blogging career it was even relatively easy to discuss the present, because many things felt like they were going well and because I was doing well at controlling many things so they would go well. Eventually, a tendon in my arm tore in half, and I wrote a bit about that, but that was the point at which I began to withdraw from the act of telling my story in quite as revelatory, naked way as I once had. It is one thing to say “I HAVE had pain, I’ve navigated, here is what I’m doing now.” It is entirely, completely another to encounter obstacle and not know how to navigate it and to write about it as you are navigating it because now everyone can see that you don’t know how to navigate it, and that is highly vulnerable and uncomfortable and perhaps most of all UNATTRACTIVE. Because here’s something I’ve learned about what humans like to do when they are representing themselves–and we represent ourselves on social media. We present ourselves, reconfigured to our liking, redone into a form in which we are still able to be encountered as strong and largely unflawed and somehow safely aligned with or championed because of those traits. Those who say something so blunt as “my life is currently fucked” are met with caution. There’s instability there, discomfort–the mirror the person who’s telling their story to you holds up for you is not one you want to see yourself reflected in, is it?
I busted and healed my arm. I deadlifted my way to another world record, which I still hold. But I had stopped writing because I had entered a period in my life that brought with it the slow flamelicks of unrest, discomfort, uncertainty, and perhaps above all loneliness I had not felt in a decade, if not more. And so generally I was more quiet, because I didn’t know how to storytell in a way that would snuff out a fire that might threaten to burn hotter, and I didn’t know how to speak around the crackle of that fire when it swelled because I had to concentrate too hard on putting it out. I initiated a divorce, one of those top-five-most-stressful-things-on-some-official-mental-health-grade-system-somewhere. In doing so, I actively ripped apart the fabric of a particular life I had woven so confidently when I began powerlifting. And the one thread I couldn’t hope to not include in that fabric lay in the remains I sifted through as I moved from one living space to another, as I watched people around me turn away from me in discomfort or disgust and as I turned away from them in shame or mistrust. And there have been many times in months past where I have been forced to acknowledge the thread of past pain, eating disorders not so controlled, self-hate not so conquered, and just try to go on.
Now, that said, through all of this I lifted, and the thread stayed largely out of the way for that. I posted on social media. I shared things. I was not completely silent. But in essentially ripping my own well-made carpet from beneath my feet, I made it very difficult to continue to believe that I was not alone in the fall that resulted. It’s not easy to fall on your ass and speak to the people around you high above you because they are still standing on their own carpets.
Except I no longer believe, as I never really believed before, that anyone else is really standing so far above me on whatever little pillar they’ve constructed for themselves. I don’t even know that anyone’s really standing, honestly. There are a lot of people out there who have themselves really cleverly propped up. So I guess I’m going to start speaking again. Because I can.