Where ED Wasn’t

The new year brought even bigger changes.

It started like this:

Even after months of working side-by-side with literally more than one hundred other employees in a fast-paced high-volume retail box, I would occasionally encounter employees whom I had never seen or interacted with. Somehow, between the increase in sales attachments and the averted tech support crises, there were people who just slipped past me unnoticed.

And then one day, I found myself in the tech support area of the back of house, begging one of our technicians to help me figure out a complex customer issue–when I noticed a technician who I had never actually spoken to. We were both waiting for our respective customer issues to be resolved, so we struck up a conversation. It came out that he was in a band, and that his band would be performing that weekend, and that I should come and check it out.

My throat closed up. I nodded a hurried, “sure,” knowing that the only thing I was sure of  was that I wasn’t going.

The following weekend, some of the employees who had been hired just a month or two after me invited me to go bowling. It was a Saturday night, and I didn’t exactly have an excuse not to go (because “I have to stay in and eat my Casein, Peanut Butter, and Cinnamon Pudding” is not an excuse that most people would understand or accept). I also had another open invite to hear the technician’s band play.

Here was a multi-layered dilemma: First and foremost, ED didn’t want me to go. I would be missing a meal and potentially staying out late enough to make me miss my morning gym session. Second, I would have to go out and interact with multiple people outside of work. This was like going from talking about spiders to holding a tarantula without any of the intermediate steps.

My therapist was therefore astonished when I told her how much fun I had going bowling with my friends and then staying out until sunrise at the technician’s gig.

Something had shifted inside of me. I started going out nearly every night (after I had eaten my casein pudding, of course). I stopped hanging out with my work/gym buddy. I started having a drink or two at the band’s gigs. I pulled all-nighters and missed gym sessions. I made up for my alcoholic indiscretions* by trying to eat less, although I found myself craving sugar all the time (and since my managers would put out an economy-sized bag of LifeSavers mints at the start of each shift, I found myself reaching my hand in once or twice an hour).

At an *actual* restaurant with my cousin and sister

Hanging out with the musician-technician (henceforth MT for brevity’s sake) brought me into contact with an entirely new group of people and a range of experiences that opened up a side of me that I never believed I could possibly share.**

For several hours each day, I was free of the Monster in the Mirror: I traveled from my windowless, mirror-less retail box to the dimly-lit, mirror-less dive bars where the musician-technician played, and I was too busy having a good time to look for ED.

But he came back full-force when I actually managed to make it into the gym: My progress had, obviously, begun to stall, what with my new sleeping and eating habits. I was frustrated by my loss of strength, and so I decided that I would make up for it by lifting heavier and heavier each time I made it into the gym. (Obviously, the personal trainer inside of me was pissed that I’d ignore common sense and good gym practices, but ED didn’t give a damn about what common sense had to say at this point.)

Things finally came to a head–or, rather, a slipped disc–when I tried to Romanian deadlift about 10 lbs higher than my previous 70-80% 1RM.***

I could barely walk the next day, but I went to work anyway. And then stayed up all night with the MT and his friends. The following day can only be described as one spent in a fair amount of agony.

I knew what this meant, and the thought hurt more than my injury: I was going to have to give up the gym until I healed.

And though I wasn’t looking in the mirror when I had the thought, I knew ED was smiling, because he knew that this was his way back in.


*I didn’t have more than one or two drinks pretty much ever, and I never actually got drunk. These were “indiscretions” because they were empty calories–even a vodka and soda still comprised 100 non-nutritious calories.

**No, I didn’t do any drugs, but thanks for your concern. 🙂

**1RM stands for “one rep max,” as in the maximum amount of weight you can lift once if you are going all-out, balls-to-the-wall. You shouldn’t be able to do a second rep after that lift, hence the singularity. It’s suggested that,when you strength train, you lift about 70-80% of that maximum for multiple reps. In this particular injury’s case, I was lifting closer to my 1RM than I should have for many more reps than I should have with worse form than I should have.

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