Tag Archives: bipolar

Accepting Limits

Happy anniversary to my hamstring injury! August 5th marked one year since the day I tore my hamstring doing the splits after a dance class at the gym. In that split second of blinding pain and squelched panic, I never would have imagined the long journey here. I remember thinking that a 6-week recovery would have been unbearably long.

How I have been humbled in this year.

I am not patient. Not in any way in life. In fact, impatience could be considered one of my defining attributes. Yet this injury, with its stubborn and unrelenting control, has tamed me. As much as I imagine I can be. I have learned about myself, my body, my mental strengths and weaknesses. I have been trapped in physical and emotional discomfort and forced to deal.

Not unlike learning to be bipolar all over again.

I think it was when I reached my PRP injection that I fully appreciated respecting my limits. I do not have the concept mastered. The muscle memory to my impulses tempts me to constantly push too hard, ignore the pain, revolt against the restrictions of healing. Yet I am learning to perform my cost-benefit analysis on a longer timeline.

Do I want my hamstring to heal back together? Do I want to run now or for all the years after this? Do I want the constant pain?

The PRP injection, placebo or not, reduced my pain greatly. The relent on my nerves brought back a measure of clarity and logical thought. It all seems easier now that I do not feel so desperate to escape my damaged skin. I can be persuaded to obey with the carrot of recovery dangling on progress.

With progress on the leg and a return to some measure of a fitness routine I can live with, I turn my mind now to continuing to heal the damage of my pseudo eating disorder. The symptoms surged when I gained weight during my “rest period” after my injection. I found myself riding a familiar binge (all the food) and purge (all the exercise and none of the food) cycle.

Yet instead of falling into this trap again, I am going to apply the lessons learned at the mercy of my hamstring and accept my limitations. I am going to stop punishing myself with food that only leads to weight that I punish myself more for. I am going to stop trying to hate my body because it is the wrong numbers. I am going to focus on my health, my strength, my happiness and hope that my flesh follows the suggestion.

Overall, I am going to draw the line here, between my head and my heart, and accept my limits.

 

Christina Bergling

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Still My Own Worst Enemy

This injury continues to humble me. That is how I am choosing to classify it so I don’t think about the trapped feeling in my body that makes a claustrophobic panic throb in my chest. I am forcing myself to consider it a continued teacher, making me confront my addictive nature, utter lack of patience, and criticality of myself.

To reestablish its dominance, the injury has migrated, climbing from the hamstring attachment at the base of my buttcheek up to my sciatic nerve. The blooming pain and lack of my mobility in my lower back transports me directly back to each horrible contraction when my son’s skull crushed that nerve during delivery. An injury I thought I had already recovered from.

The combination of all these injuries is teaching me there is no such thing as recovery. They are reminding me that there is no getting “there.” It is all one continuous journey, in which the contributions of the past are ever present. And it stupid to try and ignore them.

I am being punished for my lack of patience. I tried to loophole my way out of rest. If it’s not aggravating it, I can keep going. That doesn’t hurt worse, so it’s fine. Sure, I can start my double workout days again.

Addict.

Only I could find a way to overdose on being healthy; only someone like me could push self-care into self-harm.

It seems like such an easy thing, to take a break, to rest. It should certainly be easier than working so hard, cramming workouts in at every opportunity, pushing my body until it literally breaks. Yet my mind is so entrenched in the habit. I am so completely dependent on the routine. I don’t know how to not do it.

I think I had partially convinced myself that I was OK, that I was mentally recovered because my outlets had become “healthy.” The symptomology became masked by the positive classification. However, it turns out that the underlying behavior has not evolved at all. Instead, it has only become more clever at hiding in plain sight.

It felt good thinking I had finally channeled my damage into healthy outlets, that I had finally figured that part of myself out. The idea that it was all my disorder tricking and manipulating me is wholly undermining and disconcerting. It shakes something about what I thought I knew about myself. And maybe that is the point: to remind me and shock me back out of complacency.

In my mind, I have been concocting an illusory correlation for this injury, repeating it in my brain until it sound true. I keep thinking to myself that I encouraged it. Immediately prior to my injury, I was having self-harm ideation.

It was a strange experience. When I actively self-harmed, I would cut or burn myself impulsively. It was a spontaneous and desperate coping mechanism to escape or change the emotional pain I was feeling. Yet, these recent thoughts I found creeping in my brain were calm. I found myself thinking about hurting myself or having a wound fondly. However, I was not depressed. I was not suffering; I did not need it as an out. More, I wanted to injury for a sense of familiarity, almost from an anthropological perspective of wanting to see what it would be like and how I would respond again. It was some sort of deformed nostalgia.

It was never an impulse I was in danger of acting on. There was no panic, no desperation, no distorted thoughts. Even as these strange ideas were bobbed in my head, I had the sanity to know that if I actually had these injuries I seemed to suddenly be courting, I would immediately hate them and everything they involved. I knew better.

I brushed it off as simply old issues surfacing and resolving in my head. I acknowledged them and watched them spiral out of sight. I only really talked to one person about it, as the idea of explaining to people I wanted to be hurt without wanting to be hurt seemed daunting. Then I let it go.

Then, what seemed like the next day, I pulled my hamstring. It feels like I invited it. It feels like I deserved it for having those old strains writhing back in my brain. I feel like I did this to myself (beyond literally doing it to myself by overtraining).

Or this is just me turning on myself. Finding more of a way to punish myself for not working out to quota. As always.

I have been in pretty consistent and, at times, intense pain for almost a week now. I have been living in KT tape for 3 days, not to exercise but just to function at all. Pain always inevitably pushes me into depression. And I have been cycling harder in that direction, with awkward pockets of mania most likely stemming from the workouts I should not be doing.

Now, the injury feels more psychological than anything. The pain and the problem is clearly physical (and persistent), yet my experience of it has shifted up to my mind and emotions. After over two months, it seems like I am learning the same core life lesson I keep relearning a hundred ways. I have to let go and just go with it, accept things as they are and adapt. I keep surrendering to this epiphany in one context then forgetting it in the next. As if any life experience could be an island.

It needs to stick this time. I need to implant the idea in the center of my brain so my body can stop teaching me that I am her bitch. And I am so completely her bitch.

I need to shift perspective. Per usual. Out of my broken negativity. Instead of dwelling on the pain and what I SHOULD be doing and what my body SHOULD be able to do, I need to remember to appreciate what I do have. Any physical ability is always a gift, never guaranteed (just like happiness in the mind).

Even more specifically, I need to honor how far my body has come for me in the past two years. I would have killed to be here as I shambled around after having my son.

I need to stop trying to be thinner and faster and stronger and more whatever the hell attribute I fixate on at the moment and actually be what I am (just like trying to be sane when I’m beautifully crazy), actually accept and love what I am. It can be worse; it has been worse. Lament never changes circumstance, only squanders it.

I know all of these things! I know better. I made all these realizations about my mind years ago. When will I extend these lessons to my body? When will I stop being so hateful to the physical? I have not changed from the teenager who loathed her young and slender body only to look back years later with regret. I squandered my youth on this bullshit. I don’t want to waste more time in pointless obsession. The fixation never leads to satisfaction, only perpetual, unrelenting discontent.

With this constant lower back twinge, I would happily run back to just my hamstring balking. With my achy hamstring, I would have happily regressed to my slowest running pace. Yet when I am healthy and functional, I am never content. That is when I turn on myself the most. Rather than basking in my own functionality and relishing the activities I can participate in, I viciously scrutinize my performance and results.

I made peace with my mind long ago. Most of the time, I do truly accept what my brain is and what that means. Most of the time, I even love it the way I am. It appears I turned all that critique to my flesh, to an impossible moving target that has nothing to do with reality.

I should know this. The lesson here is already one of my life mantras, tattooed on my goddamn arm so I could never forget. What sense could it possible make to make an exception for my body? I have drawn the correlation between the two. I no longer have an ignorant excuse for being so ridiculously foolish and emotionally masochistic.

Now, I have to draw the line and step over to the other side. I should probably start by resting until my back stops sending its cries tearing up my nerves.

run

Christina Bergling

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Two survivors search the ruins of America for the last strain of humanity. Marcus believes they are still human; Parker knows her own darkness. Until one discovery changes everything.

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Beatrix woke up in a cage. Can she survive long enough to escape, or will he succeed at breaking her down into a possession?

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Exercise: The Bipolar Hack

I think I have come to accept that my obsessive, demanding fitness regime has simply become a way of life. Initially, after having my son, I told myself that I was killing myself just to recover from him. I told myself that I was dial back the effort once I was back to maintaining. Even as I fixated on my shallow pursuit, I think I always knew, deep down, that was not true.

At some recent point, I remembered who I am on multiple levels. I remembered that I do not care about being skinny enough or a certain size; I remembered that it is not really my priority. Instead, I care about sanity. And I remembered that I need this, that obsession, fixation, and self-abuse are at my core. Channeled addiction, directed negative energy.

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I was diagnosed as bipolar when I was 19 years old. By the point I finally sought help and a diagnosis, I was scarcely functional, and my self-mutilation escalated to an alarming degree. What I would later learn were my symptoms emerged when I was 17 yet I can remember hints back into my childhood. I remember feeling so much and never being able to adequately explain or understand it.

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Like most, I railed against my diagnosis, alarmed by the permanence of the idea of being defective or broken. I resisted what it meant, fought what I needed to do, and continued to be a self-destructive mess for a long time. Making peace with what I am, with the way my brain is was probably the hardest point of growth in my life. The idea of who I am, how I identified being defective or undesirable was a difficult pill to swallow.

I tried medication once. And by once, I do not mean one kind of medication; I mean one pill, one time. The experience was horrendous. I was unconscious for over 12 hours, borderline catatonic for the entire next day, then suicidal for two more. I vowed to never attempt medication again, so I had to find an alternative method to deal.

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I did not want to hide in pharmaceuticals, but the chemical component of my disorder is undeniable. I cannot ignore it without it tearing apart my life. I cannot control the structure of my brain. I cannot affect the way my neurotransmitter receptors react to chemicals or the natural levels of serotonin or norepinephrine. However, I learned I can control two things: 1. The chemicals and activities that change my brain chemistry and subsequently moods, and 2. How I react to and process the moods I experience.

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Therapy handled learning how to react and process better. After I got past the resistance to what my diagnosis meant and entailed, sessions could actually be productive. By the end, I learned to suck any fraction of worth from 50 minutes out of a paid hour like a vampire. A reduction in alcohol intake and elimination of detrimental chemicals tamed the peaks of my extremes. Enter exercise as my medication.

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All my self-destructive behaviors included trying to eat and drink myself to death, so when I surfaced from the depths of my depression, I initially started exercising to lose weight. That shift, in itself, was a change from self-destruction to self-care. Instead of trying to kill myself slowly in every way possible, I made one step in the direction of taking care of myself, of deciding my body and my health was worth the investment. Then it was habit and routine to maintain the loss. It took years, but I discovered the mentally therapeutic benefits of fitness when I began dancing and running. When there was a high.

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The high is the key, which is why exercises like dancing and running are more effective for me than walking or weight lifting. I am chasing that wave of euphoric endorphins. Like a true bipolar, I am at home in extremes. Like a true recovered masochist, I always want to push until I hurt myself a little. That high can extract me from depression or level out the waves of my cycles (fun fact: Monster energy drinks also serve the same short term purpose but too much can lead to flirting with psychotic mania). So regular high intensity cardio exercise both helps keep me level and helps level me out when I do cycle.

This realization and practice, nearly a decade of bipolaring in the making, has changed everything for me. I did not have to wean off of medication or forego breastfeeding when I had my babies. I do not have to worry about side effects, the ones I experienced with my one dabbling or others like excessive weight gain associated with psychoactive drugs. I am unshackled. Unchained yet also completely and solely responsible for my own functioning. I’m even off the therapy leash these past few years.

However, this approach is definitely more demanding than popping a pill. Usually, I exercise 8-12 hours per week. Balanced between a full time job, two young children, writing, and a social life with my family stretches me pretty thin (and not in the aesthetic way).

This much self-care requires me to be selfish at times I probably should not be; it makes my relationships inequitable at times. I have to make sure to go run when I should be with my children. My partner has to consider me and make sure I can take care of myself before himself. It is often gravely unfair, but doesn’t my condition need to be considered and attended? Does my neuroatypical brain not require different things than the typical ones around me? Don’t I have to take care of myself to be worth anything to anyone else? These are hard questions to answer, and I do not think the answers are always the same.

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Neuroatypical is a new word to me. So much more comfortable than crazy or broken.

This concept, my way of dealing, has been weighing on my mind with extra heft lately. Recently, additional snippets of family history have been revealed about breakdowns and hospitalizations. The history always just feels like a damning roadmap of my future. But I want to be different.

I already am different. I am living my life out in the open. Part of me hesitated to publish this mental history lesson publicly under my real name, but this is who I am. I am bipolar. And if anyone can benefit from the lessons I have suffered to learn, I am willing to put them out there. I am not hiding or denying, like past generations had to. I have cultivated a support system who are familiar with my challenges and are able to support me through them.

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I am being proactive. If working myself out to the bone is what keeps me sane, I am committing to this fitness lifestyle. It’s a hell of a better reason to do so than just trying to be some kind of skinny.

 

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
chrstnaberglingfierypen.wordpress.com
pinterest.com/chrstnabergling

SavagesCoverChristinaSavages

Two survivors search the ruins of America for the last strain of humanity. Marcus believes they are still human; Parker knows her own darkness. Until one discovery changes everything.

Available now on Amazon!
savagesnovella.com

TheWaning_CoverThe Waning

Beatrix woke up in a cage. Can she survive long enough to escape, or will he succeed at breaking her down into a possession?

Available now on Amazon!
thewaning.com