denver

From San Diego to Chicago (and into the Polar Vortex....)

My time in San Diego was not only amazing, but exactly what I needed to do for myself. I have no regrets about leaving my job in Tampa and spending 6 months in San Diego working as a personal trainer, helping launch a business, and making some amazing friends. What I did realize, however, was that a part of me felt like I was treading water--not making progress down my life path. Granted, while every single thing that I  did was, in fact, making progress with my self, internally and externally, I knew that it couldn't last forever. After getting confirmation on Christmas eve, I have taken a new job and moved back across the country, this time to Chicago!

This called for another epic road trip, only this time my dad flew out, helped me pack, and made the trip with me. Literally, everything I own fit in (and on top) of my car. My first reaction to this was "wow, everything I own can fit in my car!" Followed closely by my second reaction "why do I have so much shit??"

Loaded up

After an awesome surprise going-away-get-together with some friends and saying goodbye to my awesome roommate, my dad got everything packed in one day and shoved off: First stop, Vegas!

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We spent the next 3 days basically just hanging out in Henderson, NV, right outside Las Vegas, with my dad's best friend and my Godfather, Scott, whom I've gone and hung out with man times over the past year. It was really nice to just relax, ride some bikes, and enjoy my last moments of warm weather. Scott and I got an epic ride in, riding 43 miles all the way to Boulder City, with 2,300 feet of climbing and getting to see some gorgeous desert scenery.

Rockin the W

It seems that, indeed, my Dad and Scott are actually old dudes. The highlight of the weekend for me was watching them just glued to the TV screen for 3 hours watching Downton Abbey. It was hysterical. I, instead, went down to the strip and tried my luck and some roulette.

After Vegas, we got back on the road and headed for our next stop, which was Grand Junction, Colorado. One of my goals on the trip was to stop at as many random places as possible to commemorate the journey.  The first of those: The giant soda cans in Utah!

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I don't know why they exist, but they're awesome

At the same stop as the cans, we figured it was a good place to get some lunch. Little did we know what some good Utahan cooking consisted of! We checked out a place called "Mom's Diner", a sure classic, right? We lasted about 5 minutes in there... My dad, a guy who just can't be rude, decided to order a scone so that we didn't have to order a meal. It turns out a "scone" means something else in Utah...

It was so. bad.

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He tried to eat it but couldn't stomach it. I hid it some napkins and we snuck out of the restaurant.

Besides it's scones, Utah is absolutely gorgeous!! You almost feel like you're on another planet.  Here are some gratuitous landscape shots:

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That night we arrived in Grand Junction, Colorado. We had left warm weather sometime long ago in Nevada... but we managed to find a great local brewery and get a great dinner. The Ale House had some really nice local brews and great collection of old cans.

Pictures of taking pictures... super meta

Great collection on vintage cans

After our quick sojourn in Grand Junction, we grabbed a great workout and headed on to Denver. This drive was, again, gorgeous. But also incredibly frightening. We hit some bad snow going over Vail Pass, at about 10,000 feet elevation, and were driving on, or in, snow for most of the time.

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My dad, being from upstate New York, did a lot of the snow driving (and also so I could read out loud to him from different training websites about dead-lifting, glute activation, and shoulder rehab...) My favorite moment though was when we hit some bad snow and ice coming down the mountain. Traffic stopped pretty quick and my dad started pumping the brakes but it looked like we might hit the car in front of us. He yells at me "Chuck, I can't stop!" I guess I just don't get that excited, but my, very calm, response was "what the hell do you want me to do about it? Here, turn left." Luckily we got out unscathed.

We finally got into Denver where we spent 2 nights so that I could see a ton of friends I have there. You might recall, but I spent most of summer there a year and half ago and that city and the people had an incredible, life-changing, impact on my life.

The first thing I got to in Denver was meet up with an awesome girl whom I met last year and who still lives in Denver where she is going to school. We met up for dinner... and not only was it amazing to see her  maintaining the personality and liveliness that she had when I saw her last, but at our meal there was no guilt, no shame, no anxiety, nor any destructive thinking. I loved it.

The next day was literally one of the best days I've had in a long time. The first thing I did was head over to the Eating Recovery Center, where I spent the better part of 4 months, and got to sit down with my entire treatment team that I worked with during my time there. They were all doing great and it was fantastic to be able to speak with them all like friends and to let them know that, yes, I of course still have some struggles, but that everything they did for me was amazing and that I am doing great.

After that meeting, I headed up a bit north of Denver and met another, more recent friend of mine, Jeremey, for lunch. Jeremey is a trainer as well, but has recently made the switch to a more digital-publishing based role, although he still writes for sites like Menshealth.com and Greatist.com. We caught up and talked about life, fitness, writing, life goals... all that good stuff.

After that, I headed back to the other site for the ERC and met with a another member of my treatment team. This guy is someone that I can always count on to be there for when I need an ear and also knows how to help. And, usually, that "help" is just being able to say to me, "hey, I don't know what you're going through, I've never been through it myself, but know that I am here for you and I know that you're struggling." I'm hoping to collaborate a bit with in the future on some resources for males dealing with eating disorders.

Finally, I spent some time just walking around Denver before meeting a last set of friends for dinner. This couple recently just had an amazing little boy, and, no joke, he's a cutie.

Baby!

The next morning, after grabbing a workout, we shoved of across the great plains to make our way to Lincoln, Nebraska, where we planned to stay the night. This was the most difficult driving I've ever done! I've never been in wind that strong, and was petrified that the rooftop carrier was going to be blown off the car and that my bikes were going to go flying off the back! Luckily, this didn't happen, but we literally saw 18-wheeler trucks that had been blown over onto their sides from the force of the wind.

Basically a hurricane

This day was full of goofy stops. While I wanted to stop at "Pawnee Park and Recreation Center" and pay homage to one of my favorite shows, it was too dark and out of the way when we got there. However, we did stop and see the biggest ball of stamps in the world!!

Stamps!

After a thrilling morning of stamps, we decided to stop at the one and only Volkswagen Beetle Spider! When we stopped to ask for directions, the guy we talked to asked if I'd seen Cadillac Ranch, to which I was able to say "why yes I have!" (Thank you road trip to San Diego!)

It's poisonous

Once we finally got to Lincoln, we met up with a family friend whom we hadn't seen since we moved from Texas about 14 years ago

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Finally, it was a straight shot into Chicago and another full day of driving. Nothing super exciting happened that day, that I remember, except finding random British and Irish candy in a gas station in Iowa and then driving under this bridge:

Some Bridge

That night we stayed with my... Great aunt(?), my dad's aunt, I believe, who lives a bit outside Chicago and sort of gave us a home-base as we prepared to move me in, plus gave my dad a place to stay. The next morning, of course, it started to snow, to make my move-in experience perfectly "wonderful". As you may not know, I hate being cold and get cold incredibly quickly, so I'm learning the art of "bundling up"! Thank God my mom found my old snow boots from high school and sent them with my dad so that I would have them.

My new place is in a cool neighborhood right outside downtown. The move-in wasn't too hard... just cold

Brr....

But you know cures coldness? Deep Dish pizza!

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We went to Lou Malnati's and it was awesome--although, according to my roommate, and which I whole heartedly agree and wish he'd told us before we ate, the best way to order it is with the sausage crumbled and fully cooked.  Point noted for next time.

And that was it! My walk to work is less than a mile which is great, but bundling up takes me a lot longer in the morning... but it's worth it to be here!

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Making this trip with dad was amazing and makes realize that I need to spend more time with him and my whole family. It will be great to just a quick, direct flight back to DC to hang out with them.

Thanks for reading!

Update from the Mile High City!

So I finally have a quick minute to provide an update! I wrote this over a week ago, but all of it remains true.  I'm learning a lot here about myself, my struggles, and my future.  What I have some to realize is that life is not just about being "happy".  In fact, it is this endless striving for happiness that keeps us unhappy.  Living a full and fulfilling life means to feel all emotions--happiness and sadness, fear and anger, hope and joy.  We must experience all of these and not try to blunt them.  I am also learning that the eating disordered thoughts I am having may always be there, but I'm ok with that.  I've just got to learn how to control them, manage them, and tolerate them while acknowledging that, yes, they are there, but I don't have to act upon them.

I wrote this email to all my team, family, and friends to let you know all that has been going on.   I wanted to give you just an update of what's been going on here.
To start, last week, my treatment coordination team (Psychiatrist, therapist, dietitian, family therapist, and nurse) asked how my impulses had been around exercise. I at first wanted to lie, but then realized that that is not the man I want to be anymore and I told them I had been doing push ups in my room. It was not a ton, and probably not burning and calories, but from talking through it what I realized was that the purpose it was serving was not that I woke up every day thinking "yay, I feel like I would really enjoy some push ups!", but really it was just my eating disorder telling me, "we don't really want to feel the awful things we feel when you don't exercise, all the real problems in your life, so lets just do enough to take that edge off ti all to make this day bearable."
So this weekend I swore to myself and God that I would not engage in any of those behaviors. I had to keep in mind that 1) I swore to God, so breaking that trust was unthinkable, 2) if I did the actions I would have to deal with one of two feelings: first, I would either lie to my team and feel awful about that, or alternately, tell them truth and feel awful about letting them all down. So I didn't do any of my behaviors. But it did not help waking up on Saturday morning feeling that overnight my stomach had ballooned into this fat, gross, flabby, unattractive blob. that looked like I had been stung by a bee and was swollen. This had me really upset emotionally and physically, but I still did do any push ups or exercise which only increased the anxiety.... but I got through it! And I sat with those emotions of feeling how much it sucked, how much I hated it, and how much these feelings allowed me to actually feel what the eating disorder was making me hide.
Now, there is so much more under this all that I can get into later, but while talking to my dad on Saturday night, one of the reasons just sort of came out. One of my values is connection--with friends, family, God, and just socially (we've seen how good that ha gone, right? lol). What came out in the conversation I was having with him was that I realized I want to feel included. Let me elaborate. Every time my friends (or family) do anything without me, or if I'm not invited somewhere, my immediate reaction is that "they don't like me" or "I'm not cool enough that they would want to hang out with me." (Yes, I am aware that lately, that has actually been true; that I am not someone who people would probably want to hang out with). But, in order to handle, or to not feel these feelings at all, I engage in my eating disorder behaviors. Therefore, I am back in control. In 2 ways, first being that I blunt the feelings altogether. But second, and more importantly, I realized that I am just using these behaviors to give me control and reasons for not being invited. If I "have to do my workout" or "have to prepare all my food, etc etc", then I am back in control, and the reason I am missing out on whatever my friends or family are doing is back on me. "I couldn't have gone anyway because my workout had to be done." Then my eating disorder lies to me and says "I don't mind being alone, this is the way I like to be."
When clearly this is NOT the case because I so badly want to be included and want to be part of that connection.
The other thing I am petrified is, of course, gaining the weight. To me, if I'm not where I was when I came in, I'm obese. I am trying to work through these emotions and look it as a pendulum-- On one end these is the state I came in at: No health, no friends, screwed up hormones, no testosterone, but feeling like I am healthy, fit, fast, and lean. On the other end is obese, no exercise eating twinkies and drinking Slurpies all day. I figure if I'm not where I was when I got here, that I just automatically swing right to the other side. I am trying to remember that "healthy" is a good word. It's got "heal" in the word, and that, lets be honest, 95% of Americans are NOT healthy, so being healthy needs to be OK with me... it's still in that 5%.
Also, I fear that I won't be a fast, or I won't be as "good"a triathlete, or people won't like me, or I'll be fat if I'm not where I am now, but how do I know that? How can I make those assumptions if I've never actually let myself get there? What if I am faster and fitter and can enjoy exercise again? What if my relationships are 100 times better and I can actually think clearer again? What if I can find a way to balance exercise, health, and friendships at a happy equilibrium and to actually enjoy life once again?? I'll never know unless I give myself that acceptance, which at this point, is the hardest, most difficult, most manly, most courageous, most scary, thing I could do. What if i turn out to be a triathlon beast which I never knew? Or a for damn sure good and reliable friend?
But I need to remember--a pendulum has to hit every single point while it makes its way from one end to another. Therefore, I just need to let this pendulum start swinging and know there is a point I will find, where my body feels healthy and strong and will tell me where it wants to be, and I also can balance good friends and the enjoyment of exercise.

Well that was a novel, but I just wanted to keep you updatde (and to reiterate this all to myself)!  Thank you to everyone who reached out and to everyone who reads. Here are some pictures from the couple times I've been able to get out.

I apologize if I can't respond to any comments as I can't always access the blog from inside the center, but I will try!