Autism, Exercise Addiction, and Injury Part II

This four part installment was written in February 2019

On Sunday morning, after I had slept fitfully and with the help of sleeping pills, Celeste walked (carried) me down to the car and drove me to the emergency room, where I was wheeled in, examined, and administered steroids, prescription tylonol, and muscle relaxers.  In the hospital waiting for the injections to kick in, and listening to the gossip of the staff, I felt if I let myself get set there too long, I surely wouldn’t be able to move at all, in fact, I’d be as good as a part of the furniture around here.  Celeste had to be as exhausted as I was – we were up many hours before our normal.

We got takeout from IHOP (and let me tell you – I’ve never seen more support for an IHOP than here in the lower Hudson. You’d swear they had pancake Jesus in there or something) and I sat in the house for a week to mend with medication and horror podcasts Being cooped up for that time was almost like being made to watch my own adjustment to the new space at half speed. The house was skeletally furnished.  The books weren’t yet divided but previous halfassed attempts to do so had piled them up out of their boxes and onto the carpet in crazy staircases and towers. My nightstand was a box.  The green man and tapestry and concert flyer and photos weren’t up.  One of my best working strategies for getting along in a neurotypical majority society is self-awareness.  I know transitions mess with me hard.  A good working set of routines is almost like a home within, and a complete altering of where I am when I get up and do what I do every day is a major uprooting.  I’m aware of how a new environment influences my thought patterns and behaviors. There would be irritability a non-triaged mess of responsibilities. And because of an unnaturally slow pace of life, I would be hyper aware of all of it.

Life was like an anxiety meditation.  The speed of life had slowed, but the moments were colored with dark potential.  If I stretched out on the carpet and listened to stories about tentacle demons crawling out of washing machines for a third hour and then sat up the wrong way, my progress could be delayed by several days  or weeks.  But the ability of the human being to adapt and fill a vacuum with routine are not to be underestimated.  I waded along with a support brace on my back and walked only with a cane for the first few days. It was the time between semesters at work, so I had the leave to spare without having to prepare interminable lesson plans for a substitute. At least there was that.

It is now February first, and I am off the medication and going to work. Today, I started stretching seriously and doing minor ab exercises. I am not ashamed to admit I have broken down crying, mourning the time when my biggest worry at the gym was the Trumpian who roostered around the weight room militarily. My pants fit way tighter.  I have a belly again, though my abs are vaguely visible through the curtain of fat.  My pecs and arms have maintained their shape better than I had hoped, but it is still a nightmare to realize how soft I have become in this short time.    I think no matter who you are, if you work out regularly, you do it for a sense of control. As an autistic person I count on the continuity as a bullwark against the slalom of unpredictable instance each day brings. Like any ritual, weight lifting is meant to make you feel in charge of something. When it gets yanked away, you get reminded of the illusion, of how little your will really matters, that you are basically an airbnb for an ensemble of states of being. Part of it is the exercise addiction, too,  I know.  The release of endorphins, the high of besting oneself, the wild eyed idea that this month, I will go to the gym every day. But I don’t think this all adequately describes it.  What is it then, if not vanity and control or a ploy to lower health insurance rates? Unsettling, when you don’t know why exactly you feel so strongly.

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