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Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. – Red, The Shawshank Redemption

I have had two weeks off from training, and that is not a good thing. The plan was for one week. You can read about the awesome time I had on vacation two posts back. I didn’t want to take a second week off, but I came back from vacation injured. Not from camping, not from the odd hours, but from a neck injury. Phish isn’t exactly headbanging music, but when they launch into Big Black Furry Creatures from Mars by Frank Zappa, well, let’s just say almost 40 year old men should not risk whiplash. I now understand the phrase “pain in the neck.” It took three chiropractic adjustments to get back to normal. I still have some soreness, but it’s fading. I was unable to run, swim, or even function well at anything for a week. I cannot imagine life with constant pain.

So now I’m back to training, and today’s run was awful. Just awful. But whereas this would be a place to easily just fade away, never to mention endurance training to anyone again, and hope no one brings it up, that is simply no longer an option. I am not going back to prison.

Today’s topic: What Prison Feels Like

Almost every single person I know would say they could stand to lose a few pounds. Most Americans are overweight. There is, however, a whole new level of what it feels like to be morbidly obese.

Even so, I can’t say I know what it feels like to never leave your house. I never needed a wall taken out to move me to the hospital. I never developed bedsores. There are people who have had the experience of needing a forklift to move them. You can see them on the discovery channel.

My experience is that of the walking dead. I could generally function in the world. In fact, right now, I could maintain the size I am and do very well. Sadly, the expectation of obesity is so high, that corporations have followed the economics of supply and demand, and made it a lot easier for 270 pound people to get along. That may or may not be a good thing.

I have been over 350 pounds. I cite 360 as the highest weight I reached, because I recall seeing it on a scale once, and after that I stopped even looking for a long time. To me, that’s almost 400 pounds.

This is what 360 feels like. Like any prison story, this is not for the faint of heart. These get progressively worse. This is what it looks like to get so far away from hope, that the idea of not becoming Jabba the Hut is an impossible pipe dream. This is what it looks like when you’d give anything to weigh ONLY 285.

You get annoyed with your kids for leaving something downstairs, because it means two more trips on the stairs. All 12 of them.

You spend every day avoiding mirrors.

Every time you sit down in a restaurant, you dread the thought of sitting at a table instead of a booth. You constantly feel like you are sticking out in everyone’s way. You know your shirt will probably ride up your back and you will look sloppy and expose vein-popping out skin. You are just gross to see. And add on top of that, you don’t want anyone to see you eat. Ever. You feel like a constant freak show.

You have broken 3 toilet seats. Yeah. Wrap your minds around that for a minute. How dignified is that?

You constantly split your pants open at the inseam, because you have none that fit quite right. The only clothes that fit you come from Value City or a custom shop like the Clothier. With your budget, you have two things from the nice shop, and everything else from Value City. You walk by trendy places like the Gap and mutter under your breath (or louder) “%^&$ the $%^&ing Gap. Never have my size anyway.” I am now too old to shop at the Gap, and I am totally fine with this. Your constant pants problems cause emotional meltdowns that ruin evenings, including New Years Eve.

You have stood in line at Six Flags NJ for over an hour to ride Batman the Ride. You love Batman, in spite of the near ruination of the franchise by Joel Schumacher. The Dark Knight is years away.  You arrive at the loading platform for the ride. The harness will not fit. You cannot get in the ride. The rail thin teenager ride attendant informs you that you are not going to be able to ride. In front of hundreds of people on the platform, all of whom are wondering why this is held up, you have to get out of the ride, and wait on the exit ramp while your poor wife has to ride it alone. She’s suffered enough from your problems, why should she have to skip it too after that wait? As she finishes the less than two minute ride, you hope you can get through the park that day without people seeing you cry.

You are leaning back in a chair holding your baby girl, and the chair gives out. Convinced that this is not a problem of balance but of weight, you put the thankfully-uninjured baby into the safe arms of her mother, and you storm off and put your fist through a piece of glass on a framed picture. The picture was not yours. Now there is a crying baby, an unhappy wife and mother, and blood and glass in your hand.

Your sister is working in the virgin islands for six months. Your family is going down to visit. You are pretty sure that you won’t fit in a standard airline seat, and you do not want to find out. You find a way to justify not going on the trip, using the excuse of a new baby, and the cost. Really, you just can’t imagine getting on a plane and being the guy who ends up on the Today show.

Like any prison, there is a place called solitary confinement. The deepest darkest hole. I’ve got one more example of the prison that I’ve been in. I can’t say it’s all just because of obesity, because plenty of obese people never had this thought. And I can honestly say this thought is far gone from my psyche, or I wouldn’t admit it out loud. And that thought is this: you know JFK would probably have turned out to be an average president. The only reason he’s so idolized is that he died early. I am going to be a huge disappointment for my kids when they get older and see what a failure Daddy really is. Maybe it’s better they are left with memories of their early years that they can idealize. They’d be better off without the real me, only a false projection of me. I’ll be of more value to them dead, than alive.

That’s how deep it got. And again, I am not saying that last part is all because of fat. But throughout my life, the struggle with my weight has been on a parallel with my professional life, and my personal life. As I’ve been moving toward health, the positive effect is being felt in my family, and in my work.

Prison sucks. It warps your perception of reality. We build all sorts of prisons to inhabit. This was mine.

And I am not going back. Not again.

Next time,  Chapter Two: How I Got There

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5 thoughts on “The Prison Chronicles Chapter One – What Prison Feels Like

    • fast reader! 🙂
      I realize that the end of this post is borderline TMI, but I share it so others who have been there can know there is indeed hope. It’s not easy, but it is not a life sentence. Or a death sentence. I hope this helps someone.

  1. Thank you for sharing. It takes a very strong person to do this. I admire you. I have felt similar feelings to this and completely understand where you are coming from.

  2. Great blog. I’ve seen several of you posts on BT and I’m routing for you. Your story is sure to inspire many!

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