The Next Level of Failing Recovery

What I would not give to finally be able to write a damn post about running! For a running blog, this has been a sad string of whiny rants about not running for the better part of the last year.

And well, fuck. It’s only about to get worse.

The hamstring saga continues, unfortunately. I have failed spectacularly at physical therapy.

So injury in August. Initial doctor in January. My insurance company rejected the request for an MRI, so I was sent to the orthopedic in January. I almost immediately started physical therapy and went once or twice a week until the end of March, when my therapist and I agreed that I was making no progress if not deteriorating further. So I was sent back to the orthopedic who requested an MRI that my insurance company decided to bless this time.

Last week, I went for my first-ever MRI. Even as they were just imaging my hips and pelvis, leaving the crown of my head outside the torturous and constricting tube, it was a remarkably unpleasant experience. I do not like confined spaces, particularly those that restrict my arms. I would not call it claustrophobia. Perhaps a manageable discomfort. I also do not do super well holding still, much less utterly and completely still.

So I lay in the tiny tube, where it felt like I could headbutt the top of it. I breathed through my discomfort and the constricted feeling steadily climbing my limbs. As I held still longer and longer, I lost feeling in my hands. I had to peek through the bottom of my eyes to assure myself they remained folded on my chest. Yet even through the unrelenting slamming noise of the machine, I kept dozing off. Yet I could not be trusted to remain still while I slept, so I kept wrenching myself out of the twisted nightmares reaching up over me.

(not my MRI image)

The half hour dragged on in a shapeless and oppressive blur. Thankfully, my tech was very communicative. Between each set of images, he informed me of the duration of the next set and the total time remaining. That gave me landmarks back into reality. I held completely still, bobbed up and down on the sea of my subconscious, and made it.

The MRI revealed that I have a partial hamstring tear. (Pause for my complete and utter lack of surprise. Wait a moment for me to scream how I said this in August. And December. And January.) My doctor told me they would like to try plasma-rich platelet (PRP) injections as the course of treatment.

(definitely NOT my hamstring)

I had never heard of PRP (and my doctor and assistants are relatively terrible at communication), so I have done a fair amount of research online. To summarize, they will draw some of my blood, spin it down, and inject the platelet-rich layer directly into the hamstring injury. This should cause inflammation to go into overdrive and Wolverine up my body’s healing measures. It’s also supposed to hurt like holy hell for the first two weeks due to how inflamed it will be.

I read mixed reviews online. Studies that confirmed it accelerated healing and recovery effectiveness. Studies that claimed it does absolutely nothing compared to other therapies. People who swear by it and worship the results. People who scoff at or hate it. Thanks, Internet, for your reliable ambiguity.

Yet, at this point, I will try about anything. The pain is near constant and continues to interfere with my life, as simply as restricting activity and as grandly as influencing my behavior and personality. It has been almost 9 months with minimal improvement; I am over it. Depression is starting to creep in, flood and blur the edges, capitalize and take over. I feel it taking root in my brain, planting its awful seed in all the fissures the pain have created.

Besides, my doctor informs me the only other measure we can try involves completely severing the hamstring and reattaching it. I want no part of that very major surgery.

So the PRP injection is the next step. Once my insurance blesses it. Even if they do not, I may just pay for it. I need some sliver of hope.

What I have not been able to ascertain from my doctors or physical therapist are rules, boundaries, suggestions, advice, ANYTHING at all about what activities I should or should not be doing. The answer has been consistently vague.

“Don’t aggravate it.”

“Don’t do anything that hurts it.”

Aside from the fact that by personality defect alone I will push right through both aggravation and pain, activity has not hurt this entire time. It has felt fine to be active during the activity. If not much better than rest. Yet, clearly, that was not the case. I just want some definite answers. I get the liability portion; I get the variability between patients. But come on! Give me something.

So I stepped outside the therapeutic relationships and sought wisdom elsewhere.

Running has felt pretty good all along. No hamstring pain, no twinges, just perhaps extra pain after. Yet my logical brain has snagged on how it could be good or even ok for the injury. Besides, for all those months, I didn’t know what was really wrong. Yet now, running is off the table. NO RUNNING until it recovers.

I have trouble even typing that because I do not know how I am going to do it. It sounds silly to be so attached to an activity, but it has been my lifeline to sanity for so many years now. Even though my fitness has diversified over the past couple years, running has always been there; it has always been my guaranteed hit of endorphins.

No yoga either. The other activity I have used almost exclusively for the effects on the mind rather than the body.

SHIT. How am I going to hold my shit together?

I have been given permission to walk (in short strides) and dance (minus specific movements) and maybe barre (skipping key exercises). It is better than nothing, but I just do not know how I am going to maintain the balance I have cultivated through exercise when I am not allowed to push myself past my edge. My sanity is created by completely exerting myself, completely wasting myself in a workout to leave only the high.

I do not know how to moderate. In life.

I mean I’m grateful that it is not more restrictive or that my injury is not worse. Initially, I thought I would be 12 weeks with zero activity after the injection. That idea nearly sent me into a panic attack.

I am just trying to process how I am going to do this, what all it is going to mean. Ultimately, I will do just about anything to recover, to make the daily constant pain go away. Yet, a very nagging part of me is still lamenting what it is going to cost.

So expect even more posts not about running but more about not being able to run.

The saga continues…

Christina Bergling

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Pills and Needles

Pills and needles. My life has become pills and needles. Who knew a hamstring would take over my life so completely? Who knew doing the splits after dance would land me here over seven months later?

My hamstring therapy has been unsuccessful to say the least. As per the last update, I went to the orthopedic, got a steroid shot directly into my hamstring, and was referred to physical therapy for dry needling. Since that point, I have continued the dry needling sessions, been started on pain and anti-inflammatory meds, and have started massage therapy in my physical therapy sessions.

Briefly, it appeared as if all the therapies and treatments were helping. The first few rounds of dry needling seemed to loosen up the injury. The first few days on the medication included relief. However, after the initial effect, things always deteriorate back to the same baseline. It is as if my body has a quota of pain, and despite any efforts or temporary improvements, it always returns back to that default.

The pain is exceedingly relentless and inconvenient. Whenever I sit up or stand. Whenever I try to lay down. Whenever I roll over in bed. If I move just a certain way. To me, it feels like my hamstring itself is snagged on something up near the attachment to my pelvis. If I move or activate the muscle just the right way, the pain is a horrible ripping zing, as if it was pulled too tight or at the wrong angle.

And yet we continue on this way.

My activity is unaffected. I continue to run and barre and dance as I would. Mostly because it does not cause pain. My hamstring does not hurt when I run or dance, though certain positions and transitions in barre will solicit that zing. Plus, I am simply over it. Nothing I seem to do makes it better or worse, so I have almost resolved just to live my life with it however I want. Adapt right over it.

But this does not feel normal to me. While horrible inconvenient and frustrating, the timeline of the injury is not really my concern. I can live with it still healing after seven months. My concern comes from the fact that it is not improving. At all. It alarms me that it has baselined at this very uncomfortable and unsatisfactory place. I cannot live with this being the new normal. I need some glimmer of hope that this will pass and it will indeed get better again.

My physical therapist does seem frustrated. And confused. Yet I don’t know how long we will just apply new therapy attempts until he resigns to sending me back to the orthopedic for the MRI. And even if I get the MRI, it may show absolutely nothing helpful.

I feel trapped by this injury. I appreciate that I am mostly functional and am able to plow through the majority of it, but the pain is definitely a factor. I went to get the medication because the pain is influencing my behavior, my mood, my personality. The constant pain signals agitate my brain, shorten my temper. I do not like who it makes me, especially as a partner and mother. I cannot afford to be a bitch all the time because my leg hurts. Not to mention how distracted it makes me in my work.

The situation needs to change; however, I do not know how much I can do beyond wait and see. I feel like every update I write on this topic sounds identical. It hurts; nothing is changing; I can’t do anything. Yet that is where I am.

I stopped taking the medication. Since it seemed to stop serving its purpose, I did not see any reason to put the extra chemicals in my body. I will continue with physical therapy and trust my therapy. I will torture ball and foam roll and stretch on my own to help loosen up the tension around the pain. I will try to rest and try not to aggravate it–no promises.

It has to help at some point. Right? RIGHT?


Surviving the Whole30

whole30header

I survived the Whole30 Challenge.

When the new year dawned, my barre studio hosted a Whole30 Challenge, complete with Facebook support group. When I read the email, I thought, we could do this. It did not seem that difficult or different from my low glycemic diet, and after all, it was only 30 days. It seemed like the perfect way to reset from the holiday season of indulgence. I even convinced my husband to join me.

The rules seemed simple enough…

whole30foodlist

Seemed simple enough. Except that sugar and soy are in EVERYTHING! I did not consider not being able to have hummus or salad dressing or any of the accoutrement that makes the yes list bearable. I think, mostly, we were unprepared for the sheer amount of food preparation.

Since I HATE (loathe) nuts, if it wasn’t an apple or banana, everything required preparation. We had to either make salad dressing or cook eggs or make a whole meal that had no easy ingredients. It was an adjustment. And a supreme challenge with how completely jam packed and double booked I keep our schedule. Who has time to cook everything?

Then, there was also the withdrawals. Whole30 has a whole little timeline to give you a preview of what you might experience. I, of course, did not follow this timeline really at all.

whole30timeline

For example, I started my journey at KILL ALL THE THINGS. Literally in the first couple hours. As if my brain told my body it was in for a shit storm. I went through borderline psychotic withdrawals and hanger. I was hungry and angry and bitchy and irritable and all of it. I struggled to concentrate the first three days, and suddenly, 30 days seemed like a borderline infinity.

So there was the anger (homicidal/suicidal rage) for a couple days. Next, I experienced a strange food apathy. I stopped caring, and I stopped wanting. Since the food I could have was not very enjoyable to me and exhaustive to make at times, I did not really care when or how much of it I ate. I would shove something in when I was hungry, but otherwise, food became more utilitarian. I experienced a lot of tired days, either from the detoxification process or the low calorie count due to my lack of food inspiration.

I would have days where cravings and hunger would rage up. I would want to eat absolutely anything I was not supposed to have. I would try to talk myself into defying the rules, cheating, slipping. Then it would be back to sleepy food apathy. I just stuck with it. I just followed the rules and crossed off days on my calendar.

hungry

About halfway through, I was supposed to experience what the program calls “tiger blood.” I was to feel energized, see better workout performance, just feel awesome. Unfortunately for me, I spent two weeks cripplingly sick instead. When I should have been burning clean and bounding with healthy energy, I was feverish and unable to lift my head off the couch.

It was a miserable two weeks. For us all. I was sicker than I usually get, taking sick days when I work from home. Then, of course, my kids were sick, and I was taking care of them. Then my husband. We were a typhoid house, practically under quarantine.

So I did not get to feel great. I also did n0t get to workout while feeling the effects of the diet. That was disappointing, but it did not make me want to bail on the program or regret trying it. I did cheat. I ate condensed soup and ice cream after not eating for two days. I could not bear the thought of preparing anything, nor could I stand long enough to do so. But once my health improved, I returned to the rules immediately.

My husband’s journey diverged from my own quite a bit. Granted, we rarely experience anything the same (or even similarly). Thankfully, our different phases never aligned. I do not know that our children or house would have survived both of us being psychotically hungry at the same time. Instead, when one of us went mad with withdrawals, the other sat comfortably in the program. It was a trip to be able to watch both sides from the other side. Yet it was also helpful to be able to support each other from that position.

He made it too. His sickness slightly behind mine and even more severe, he crossed the finish line unable to eat at all.

For me, the most unexpected part of the experience was how much I learned about my own habits and food itself. I did not notice how much I sampled food while I was cooking for my kids until I could not eat what I was making them. I did not notice how often I ate because food was easy until food was no longer easy at all. I did know how often I ate for emotional reasons, but it became more obvious when that crutch was removed.

And oh how I missed booze! And Monster.

In the end, despite the hurdles and unexpected turns, the Whole30 served the exact purpose I was after. I wanted to reset after holiday overindulgence. I just wanted to detox and get back on track. Though I am only in the first couple bites of freedom, I do feel like that is what it did. I don’t feel the compulsion to eat all the fattening, sugary, unhealthy things I was physically craving after the holidays.

I also dropped 15 pounds in the month. Strangely, once weight loss was not the goal, it actually happened. When I let go and focused on just getting the eating right, it just fell off. I am now not only back at my pre-pregnancy weight but below it.

You would think after all my struggling and obsessing and fixating, I would be ecstatic. Instead, I’m ambivalent. Because I had finally made my peace with my body before this challenge. And I think this is how I would prefer it.


At the Mercy of the Hammy

The hamstring saga continues…

The last time I updated this topic, I had just come off Prednisone, and the pain was returning but manageable. Oh, how things have changed again.

This week, things culminated to a new peak of pain. The discomfort had steadily returned since the end of the anti-inflammatories. Then it started to get worse, hearkening back to the onset of the injury. Until one morning I could not walk, could not move on my own for an alarming amount of time.

My insurance denied the claim for the referral for the MRI in December, so I never did get scanned. Instead, they sent me to an orthopedic then physical therapy before they would entertain the idea of payment for scans.

So I went to the orthopedic. The visit was rushed and abbreviated. Both the doctor and his assistant asked a few questions and did not wait for an elaborations on the answers. I do not think I ever got to accurately articulate the full issue. Yet I was willing to trust. I was willing to try just about anything to change the situation and, especially, lessen the pain.

Then it was a steroid shot into my hamstring and a referral to physical therapy. I did not want to jump straight to a steroid shot, but again, I would take anything. I resolved to just go with it and give it a chance.

I had optimism in the shot, yet it did nothing. I know it could take weeks, but I guess I dreamed of the instant effect of the pills. Then things seemed to get worse. I doubt it was a result of the shot, but I do not know what changed. I did not notice any tweak that made it worse. I had not really changed my routine. Yet suddenly so much more pain. Like falling backward into the start of the injury.

The pain appeared more often and was called up by more movements and activities. Then that one morning where I could not walk.

Thankfully, so far, that degree of pain has only been reserved for that one instant and the first day of the injury. It really did reach levels that called up childbirth memories. Yet I now live in fear of it. Every catch and tweak, I wonder if it will fade. I worry I will be trapped like a whimpering turtle again. In that pain, I thought that was just how it was going to be, what my injury had become, and I think that hopelessness fueled the majority of my tears.

My orthopedic’s assistant did not seem at all concerned by my hellish morning, so I continued on to start physical therapy this week. Instead of mobility training or gentle exercises, I was there for one treatment: dry needling.

Dry Needling

I had never heard of dry needling, definitely never experienced. In short, the practitioner takes an acupuncture needle and stabs the muscle in a trigger point until it hypercontracts. That contraction is meant to reset the muscle, work out the knots, encourage healing.

Despite my extensive tattooing, I was nervous. Something about the idea of a needle being plunged into the sweet meat of my inner thigh. Yet it was not as bad as I had feared. The initial pierce of the needle was barely noticeable, and the muscle stabbing was also relatively minute. The pain came from the muscle contractions. The harder and more effective the contraction, the more painful. The sensation paled in comparison to that of the actual injury, so I just breathed through it.

The physical therapy has at least given me hope. Mostly because I liked my therapist. There seems to be a minute improvement since the needling. The pain remains just as intense, but the frequency and duration have lightened a bit. It would make sense to be from the treatment. Or it could be from starting to sleep with it wrapped or from taking a couple rest days.

I hesitate to think it is getting better because, in the past months, every time I do, it immediately regresses and gets much worse. The injury reminds me that I am at its mercy; then I am just crushed by the defeat.

Even as things have improved physically, I find myself struggling mentally and emotionally this week. I can feel the pain changing me, affecting my personality and reactions, and I do not want it to. That terrible, immobile morning has shaken me. It has made me gun-shy and paranoid, and it has also deflated my hope. I find myself frustrated and bitter all over again, as if my leg owes me something, as if I’m promised permanent functionality.

Then, at some point in my pathetic wallowing and pointless bitching, I realized that the pain is not the root of my mental discontent; it’s the restriction. And I think it is less not being able to do the activities I want and more not being able to reap the benefits of doing them. The injury simultaneous puts me in this nagging pain then limits my coping mechanisms to deal with it (and all the normal things).

I use exercise to deal, to manage. I rely on endorphins to tame my bipolar. I leverage time spent exercising as alone time and time to mentally process. It is a huge part of my routine and my balance. Which is a large part of the reason I have been pushing through the injury to continue the activities.

An amplification in pain was more to deal with but also took away the crutch. Add to that the fact that I am doing the Whole30 diet, and I am also missing my beloved consolations of alcohol and food that I actually enjoy. Not to mention the void of those things alters the chemistry in my brain. I cannot even use my Monster energy drink hack.

Basically, I have stripped myself bare, removed all safety pads, and left myself alone with life in general and this injury in specific. I find that I am terribly weak solo, without all my tricks and tools. And I am getting my ass kicked. It is all sloppy and just sad. I feel like a mess.

The realization helps, tames the beast a bit. As always, I find the true break is in my mind. And I am the only one who can fix that.


My Love and Hate Relationship with the Barre

My hands grip the barre until my knuckles start to pale; my rings dig into my fingers from the pressure. I am clinging to the slender wood for dear life as my entire body threatens to tremble into a puddle on the thin carpet.

“Rise onto your highest pair of heels, and sink you seat an inch lower,” the instructor says as she paces methodically around the room. Her tone is soothing, yet her words abrate my mind as my muscles beg me to stop in an ascending burn.

I roll onto my toes, pressing and arching my foot until I feel my calf muscle ball up behind the back of my knee. As I ease my hips lower, awkwardly squatting above my elevated heels, my legs behind to vibrate. It’s a subtle tremble at first, just a quiver on the edge of my skin, sending waves through the acid beginning to team on my muscles. I breathe through pursed lips and hold tighter to the barre.

“Now tuck to tempo. Tuck, tuck, tuck.”

I dig deep and gather the muscles of my abdomen in towards my spine, tilting my pelvis up into my torso. The muscles that still feel so distended from two babies. With each tuck, fire licks the tops of my thighs. My heels press against each other, desperate to stay lifted. I feel the weakness trickle down, pouring over my legs down into my perched toes.

“Lower your hips down an inch, up an inch. Little down, little up.”

My muscles practically cackle at her words they sound so outrageous. Didn’t she mean lower your heels and lock your knees? Stand like a normal, relaxed person?

I close my eyes and breathe more purposefully. I do not look in the mirror. I do not want to see the sweaty tomato of my face while my reflection wants to give up so deeply. 

“This is your last change,” she says.

Hope blossoms across my chest. I can do this. It has to be less than a minute left.

A minute of burning hell on my legs.

I lower and lift my hips against the objections of my flesh. I make the small, controlled motions even though my nerves send relentless messages indicating they cannot comply. My body moves just the same. With each lower, the shake seizes me. My heels wobble and smack together; my knees knock and tremble. I can feel the vibrations rolling up my body in waves all the way to my cheeks.

“Final 10 strong. 1, 2, 3, 4…”

The countdown inspires me. Only 10 tiny movements left. I clutch the barre harder, close my eyes tighter, focus only on her count. I drop my seat lower, tuck my hips harder. My entire body is a mess of quivering fire.

” 9 and 10.”

I made it. I lock my knees and bask in the pleasant rush of the acid receding from my muscles. I breathe out relief as the heat stops flaring beneath my face.

Then I feel it, somewhere between the endorphins and the accomplishment–the high. The pain in my body evolves into euphoria, and my mind climbs somewhere both level and calm.

 

love

I believe I can safely say that I have reached addiction level with my affair with Pure Barre.

socks

That is what I do, after all: become addicted to things. Substances, activities, people, places. My mind will turn about anything into a drug. I live in extremes and chases excesses. If a little is good, more must be better, and a lethal dose is probably where I’ll end up.

Hence the attempt to shift addictions to “healthy” outlets. But I digress…

I started trying barre classes because an acquaintance of mine had started teaching classes and was posting about it. I was mired in my obsession to recover from my son and was trying any and all fitness options available, so I gave it a shot.

The first class absolutely annihilated me. I could scarcely perform the exercises included, and I was sore like I potentially never have been. And I rarely get sore anyway.

bettersorethansorry

I enjoyed the class, felt deeply intrigued by the challenge; however, I was married to my gym and the full schedule of classes I committed to every week. I could not afford the extra expense and more the extra time without provided child care. So barre became an occasional flirtation, once a month or so.

At some point, I started going more frequently. Perhaps when my son’s school schedule changed and gave me more unencumbered time. Then I purchased a deal on classes without actually reading the fine print. When my unused classes were about to expire, the studio owner was gracious enough to give me an extension, into which I stuffed every class I could make.

Boom. Addiction.

I actually injured my hamstring doing barre stretches. After a dance class, I was moving gently through the thigh stretch sequence. When I came down easily into the splits (which was a celebrated accomplishment), something popped, and five months later, I am still recovering. Ironically enough, the activity that injured me also seems to the best suited to my injury. With its minute, controlled movements, barre  is the perfect exercise to strengthen my hamstring without straining it further.

It is as if the class itself has trapped me.

plie

Now, I am a 2-3 classes a week attendee whenever I can support it. With my obsessive commitment, it is pretty often though children and work are known to pop up in the way. Barre even has me convinced me to abandon the gym, shifting to only barre, belly dance, and running. Once I found a piece of dance to complete my heart, I was sold.

I LOVE and HATE Pure Barre classes, potentially equally, definitely simultaneously.

The classes themselves make me uncomfortable. Yes, I am a dancer; I was a belly dancer for eight years and still pursued hauntings of that with zumba and hip hop classes. However, that is all VERY different from ballet. The only ballet I have experienced is watching my daughter’s classes. I had the benefit of knowing how to tuck my hips, but the form and movements are all completely divergent. It throws my body out of its comfort zone, challenges its muscle memory and ingrained positions.

platformsquat

Yet, beyond the physical fluency, I do not look like a ballerina. The instructors and the majority of the students look like they came up on the barre, long, lean, and svelte. I am a thicker girl with curves and things that shake when I shimmy. Never do I look larger than in a classroom full of these slender former dancers. And that unavoidable comparison tickles every tingle of body dysmorphia I have. Hating myself in a barre class mirror is what pushed me back to counting calories (which I thankfully have dropped again).

This discomfort is part of the reason I keep going back. Yes, I am a masochist at heart, but it is also the challenge that seduces me. I want to feel like I overcame the weakness of my flesh; I want to feel like I made progress battling back the crazy in my mind.

sock-blog

Physically, I am enticed by not being good at it, by it always being hard no matter how much I improve. Like running, regardless of how much I train or how I often I do it, I am not able to coast. I coasted through my entire youth; I don’t want that anymore. If I somehow master one routine, it changes to a new one that wreaks havoc on my muscles. And I’m a sucker for the pain of it.

And it hurts. So much. The class is literally painful. You would think such tiny movements would be easy. Absolutely not. My muscles are on fire and trembling the entire class. I can feel tidal waves of acid blaze over my nerves. My knuckles go white clinging to that barre for dear life. I sweat as much as I do in high cardio. It hurts. Yet on the flip side of that pain is the rush after, the high, the euphoria. Which is ultimately what I am always physically chasing. Which I why I am so addicted to running.

As much as it pains me physically, the true challenge for me is mental, emotional. That goddamn echo of an eating disorder I can’t seem to shake. Mentally, I refuse to be controlled my own insecurities. I will not allow my misguided, shallow fixations and comparisons to prevent me from doing anything. I may feel gigantic and weak in these classes, out of place and incongruent with all the other participants, but that is why I have to keep going. Not to work my way into fitting in but to make myself become comfortable standing out. I will learn to love and accept myself one way or another. If I can wrangle bipolar, body distortion should be downhill from here. Even if I have to sit with my own self-loathing beating at my chest and a swarm of inappropriate comparisons buzzing in my brain for 100 classes. I will not limit myself.

ball

And with each class, it gets better. I feel more at home in the class; I feel more comfortable in my skin. I am wearing myself down, dulling my sensitivities, making it part of my normal. If I can accomplish that, it would be far more valuable than getting to a certain size or weight.

So I love and hate the physical challenge. I hate and need the mental challenge. The results… I just love.

My son is over two now. I have been literally beating myself up for two years trying to recover from him. Between thyroid issues and injuries, diets and different classes, nothing really worked. Or maybe did not work fast enough for me. Either way. Yet, with the recent burst of barre classes, I not only notice a different in the performance of my muscles, I actually physically see the different on my body. I think all the cross training is why my running pace continues to improve though my injury does not and training has not happened at all.

Most of all, these classes are doing amazing things for my ass (or “seat,” as they call it). It is at a height and shape it has never been in my life. My waistline, or saddlebags if you will, are also trimming way down. My back is tightening up. Muscles are starting to bulge out of my flexed quads and calves like they did when I played soccer in high school. My body is not perfect, not where the crazy part of my mind demands it be, but I am seeing the positive results. The more I see, the more fervently I devote to the classes.

So I’m in it, maybe all in it, working harder at quelling my self-abuse and finding a real acceptance for my body than anything else. If barre is the tool I need and makes my body healthier in the process, all the better. I’ll be there, obsessively shaking at the barre.

equip2

And just to up the ante, I am also doing the Whole30 challenge as part of my new commitment to the barre. Not to lose weight, not to starve myself but because my body needs the detox and the reset. And because it does not allow any weighing or measuring. I am going all in, striving to find my strength and my balance.

setthebarre

Christina Bergling

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Resolutions

Ah, the new year. An arbitrary revolution of the calendar that gives us the illusion or the excuse at a fresh start.

I have made many resolutions over the years, mostly of the extreme or self-loathing variety. Not all of them are precipitated by the new year; that just presents a convenient excuse to brand intention into my brain. Over the course of my “fitness journey” (read: whole damn life), I have made countless goals and resolutions. And each time I fail at them or they turn on me, I tell myself that I have learned from them; that I will get it right next time. Yet, instead, I seem to find a new way of getting it wrong, another unique way of pushing it too far and perverting the intention to masochistic proportions.

So I am accepting this quirk in my pathology, this extremist tendency of mine. I am acknowledging and embracing it. I am changing my resolution paradigm. Instead, I am going to keep it simple. My goal, my new year’s resolution as it were is: BALANCE.

That’s it. Balance.

(Potentially the hardest thing ever for me, by the way.)

I want to find the compromise between a hardcore diet and binging on food. I want to exercise from a place of health, loving my body, and enjoying the activity rather than to punish my body. I want to find a way to pursue my goals while also appreciating where I am.

Balance.

I think this idea has become especially important as I recently decided to return to therapy. I have not worked with a therapist since I was pregnant and post-partum with my daughter, over 5 years ago. Yet, I very lately plunged into a bought of body dysmorphia so strong, so persistent, so pervasive that I felt compelled to reestablish a clinical lifeline.

Generally, when I am managing my crazy, I can diffuse distorted thoughts by analyzing them, dismantling them, and applying logic. It may not necessarily cure or alleviate the feelings, but generally, it brings me back to perspective enough to ride it out while preventing behavioral consequences. In this particular round, nothing had any impact on the thoughts. I could tell myself that it was physically impossible to gain any significant amount of weight overnight, yet I just continued to obsess, fixate, hate myself, plan how I would punish myself.

It was alarming enough for me to decide to do something different. It has been over two years of unhealthy obsession disguised as health and recovery. I need to break the cycle and actually create balance in my mind more than anywhere else.

I am also changing my fitness regime with the new year. After two years of being devotedly dedicated to the gym, I am dropping my membership. My favorite zumba teacher left. They dropped the hip hop class I enjoyed. I went from attending 6+ times a week to maybe 2. It is simply not worth the investment. Plus, it is time to spice things up.

In the spirit of enjoyment over punishment, I am trading the gym to return to belly dance. I am also diving into my new barre addiction. And, hamstring willing, I want to get back to more running.

I guess my new year’s resolution is to have no resolution, to learn to let go. To find my balance.


Back on the Slopes

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I have been following in my father’s ski tracks my entire life. Not much has changed. My father put me on skies when I was three years-old; then I spent winter mornings in ski school until I was able to ski blue runs fluently.

So many ski trips are burned into my memory. Packing up before dawn and heading out toward the mountains. A pack of licorice and the ski cassette tape of classic rock, so used that it began to unravel. Aching ankles, sore legs, and full body chills into the nap on the way home.

I haven’t skied in YEARS. The last time I attempted to ski, I never even saw the slopes. I was pregnant with my (now two year-old) son and had debilitating morning sickness. I puked the entire drive up to the resort, on the side of the road in heavy Denver traffic. Then I spent the day vomiting in the lodge. The entire day. I passed out on the table then stumbled into the bathroom to lose the sips of water I had taken. The sickness, puking, and cramps were so serious that I was honestly concerned I was going to lose my baby.

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This time, I brought my five year-old daughter for her first time skiing, and, just like my father before me, I deposited her in ski school in the morning. Establishing and continuing family traditions.

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The day did not start out well for me. After my daughter was all squared away and I launched off with my father and sister, I found my ski boots very uncomfortable. I had them before my two children and apparently my feet changed substantially in that time. When I wrestled all the bindings closed, they pressed on my ankle in some way that was just excruciating. My toes went numb; it felt like the side of my foot was tearing.

I tried to power through. I told myself to breathe through it. I told myself it would loosen with time. I popped a couple bindings. Yet, on the lift, I had to counsel myself out of how much it hurt.

On the first run down, I found skiing to be very difficult, harder than I really remembered. I wobbled. I was slow and cautious. It was just unpleasant. I did not feel like myself at all. I thought perhaps it had been too long and I had forgotten my technique over the years. By the bottom, I decided to just go rent new boots.

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New boots were like a whole new world. Without the pain, everything became easy again; muscle memory returned. My mind even cleared and returned. After months of dealing with the constant hamstring pain, I simply could not process additional pain signals; I could not deal. Yet without the pain, skiing was awesome again! Even with my gimpy hamstring, I blazed down after my family, carving around moguls and bouncing over powder.

I forgot how good it felt to whip down a mountain, to hear the snow compacting under me, to feel the flakes in the winter air on my face. I felt that familiar euphoria and remember why I loved it so much.

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We laid down some good runs in the morning. The Loveland win bit hard on the high lifts, but otherwise, we rode the mountain under clear skies and high sun. The hamstring only balked when carving through ice or deep powder and only when turning left when I really had to lean down into that left leg.

We took lunch and then back to the slopes. Somewhere in the afternoon, we accidentally ended up on a black run. Black runs are not out of any of our ability; however, with my father’s spinal stenosis and disk cyst and my 5 months injured hamstring, it was not in our plan for the day (I wonder where I get my tendency to ignore pain and do whatever I want in spite of my body). We all survived, but the run pretty much winded down our day.

We migrated from the Basin back to the Valley to have some drinks waiting for my daughter to be done with ski school. I was curious to see how she did, but she loved it and did fantastic.

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We took her on one final run to end the day. She did so well. I was impressed at her ability after one short day and amazingly proud of her. For a child who often whines and attempts to get people to do things for her, she was calm and determined and brave, even after 5 hours of ski school. She wanted to keep going; she outlasted the adults.

In the end, it was a great day. Plenty of exercise that reminded me of why I love the sport and another opportunity to introduce my daughter to an activity I enjoy. It will definitely not be years before I return to the slopes.

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