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Happy 3rd Anniversary

Happy 3rd anniversary, hip/hamstring injury!

Three years ago this morning, I stepped out of a dance class and began doing an extra stretch sequence. I slid my left leg forward into a front splits and was surprised at how effortless it felt compared to the previous time. I was startled to find myself in full splits, seated all the way on the ground. I smirked in my own pride, finally able to lift my hands from supporting me on the floor. I took a deep, satisfied breath and felt my muscles release a little more.

And my hip half dislocated from its socket.

My leg that was sitting flat on the floor managed to fall lower, in an alarming snapping motion. I was not sure what had happened; I just knew it hurt. The pain seized me. I hovered in some awkward calm over my panic. I just kept thinking to myself, This is really bad. I think this is really bad…

As the past three years have shown, it was really bad.

I would eventually learn that as my hip rolled out from its joint, it tore the labrum along the socket and also 20% of my hamstring in the center. I would go through two orthopedic doctors, multiple medications, multiple steroid and PRP injections, and eventually laparoscopic hip surgery.

And here I am, three years later, eight months after surgery.

I often think back to that moment three years ago, when I lifted my hands and felt my muscles relax. I meditate on how that split second has rippled out, how much that inane decision has affected everything. And how much that is like everything in life.

Every decision is a fork in the road. Every decision is irreversible.

Deciding to stretch gave me years of debilitating pain, pain I have not even completely shaken yet. It is something I would have never expected, but isn’t that like so many decisions that change everything?

So, my injury becomes like all other life-altering decisions for me, intended and unexpected. It fades into my shadow as a formative mark on my timeline. The only thing I can do is accept the reality and the trajectory of the journey.

I do not plan on taking any more measures for this injury. Some pain still lingers, but none of the options for dealing with it are favorable. Instead, I am just experimenting with exercise to decode what aggravates it. I don’t want to do more injections, and I will not have additional surgery (especially the hamstring one), so there is no point in continuing with an orthopedic or getting another MRI. Physical therapy might be beneficial, but I have exhausted my insurance coverage for the year.

That leaves me here, three years later, nodding a cheers to the past and moving the hell on.

Christina Bergling

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Healed

It has been a while since I posted! Honestly, I was exhausted of posting the same thing (plus I was painfully busy). Trying and failing to lose weight. Trying and failing to recover from my hamstring injury. The same circle for over a year and a half. It had to be as mundane to read as it was frustrating to endure.

However, I can finally say with some measure of confidence that I have progress on both fronts!

Following my latest PRP injection several weeks ago, I returned to my orthopedic for a follow up. While my injury was definitely improved, the pain lingered. My doctor offered further injections, but I requested an updated MRI to see where we were and if any progress was being made. Last week, I had the MRI with additional contrast this time (which I mostly slept through), and today, I got my results.

The MRI revealed that, compared to my previous MRI over a year ago, my left hamstring appears NORMAL. Meaning I have actually healed!

My two hamstrings looked the same on the MRI. All the time and pain and resting and injections have ultimately done something. I had a mini celebration when my doctor told me and then had to struggle to focus on the rest.

So why am I still in pain? The MRI also revealed a tear and some other issues in my labrum. However, I do not present with labral tear symptoms. The pain should be in my groin rather than at my hamstring attachment. So we did a steroid injection into my hip joint as troubleshooting. If it has an effect, it must be an odd presentation of the labral tear. If not, perhaps to physical therapy to work out the last of the pain.

In any case, MY HAMSTRING IS HEALED!

As far as weight is concerned, I think fasting is my answer. I have been fasting (as described in The Obesity Code) since January-ish. I have lost 20 pounds with no rebound. I don’t think or obsess about food. In short, I feel like myself again, physically and mentally.

The fasting suits the binge and purge nature inherited from my eating disorder days but reapplies it in a way that it balances my body’s insulin rather than destroying my mind and body. It just works for me. It is so much simpler and easier than I thought. I am saving a shit ton of money on food, brain power on not having to plan, and soul on not torturing myself by counting the calories in every bite.

FREEDOM!

And it’s working. Slowly and steadily. To the point that I don’t care anymore. I’m just happy.

Some days, the fasts are not easy. Some days, I don’t succeed. But I just let those days fall away and try again the next week. I can have pizza and beer until I’m sated and know that my Monday morning fast will balance me back out.

I think this might be my solution. It was a long and maddening journey to get to both of these points, but I’m happy to finally see them.

PLUS I am running more and faster again. I might even be able to fully get back to that. This is a running blog after all…

Christina Bergling

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Doctor vs Doctor

It was been 19 months since I went into the splits and tore my hamstring. Yesterday, I went to a new orthopedic.

I began treatment with my first orthopedic about a year ago, last January. He gave me a steroid shot and sent me to physical therapy. After dry needling, massage, and strength training did nothing or potentially made it worse, he finally sent me for an MRI. He told me I had a minor tear with no details. He gave me a PRP injection then told me we were at the end of my treatment.

I had this initial PRP back in May. It cut my pain in half, so a vast improvement, but then it just plateaued. It was better but not recovered, improved but not healed. I was fine to deal with it. Besides, my doctor had given up on me and told me there was nothing more he could/would do for me. However, when the pain seemed to increase again and it was driving me from my bed at night, I decided it was time for an evaluation. If nothing else, to verify I wasn’t making it worse.

I understand that hamstring injuries are notoriously slow to heal. Yet the lack of any progress and appearance of regression concerned me. Also, my doctor’s treatment (or lack thereof) left me with so many questions. Was I doing something that could be making it worse? At what point should I be worried? I had to know, so I got the referral for a new doctor.

After just my one visit yesterday, I can say that my experience with this doctor is a night and day contrast to my previous orthopedic. I did not know the extent of my dissatisfaction with the first until receiving the superior treatment from the second. Allow me to compare the two experiences.

My first doctor and his nurse were very rushed and impersonal. They asked questions but did not seem to actually listen to the answers. I spent extended periods in the lobby and patient room, waiting. I told them in my first visit that I was there to resolve my pain. I then repeated this every visit, yet they never wanted to treat my pain. They only wanted to get me back to activity.

Conversely, this new doctor and his nurse were extremely friendly and attentive. At each stage, I waited for normal and reasonable amounts of time, yet they continually checked in on me to communicate a status update. They were so attentive that it was startling. They also both connected with me. They looked into my eyes when they spoke to me. They responded to the previous thing I said. They waited for me to speak as if they wanted my answers.

I felt so much more comfortable at the new office. I felt like I actually mattered instead of being dismissed and ignored.

When my first doctor got my MRI results, he told me I had a minor tear. That was it. Despite any queries, he only said that and also that the technician probably would have never seen something so insignificant had he not pointed it out. He and his nurse seemed to trivialize and minimize my injury at every appointment. Their dismissive demeanor made it feel like they either did not believe I was injured or doubted its severity.

I learned yesterday from my new doctor that this same MRI showed that I had a labural tear tear in the same hip. The outside of that hip also showed inflammation, most likely from the injury I had before the hamstring. He told me my hamstring had a partial tear, approximately 20%. However, he said, the tear was not on either edge, instead it was in the center of the hamstring, making it extra difficult to heal.

All information that would have been useful A YEAR AGO.

My first doctor told me I could have a steroid shot and gave me one. He told me I could have a PRP injection and gave me one. Then he terminated my treatment, deciding he was done and there was nothing else he could do for me (another indication to me that he did not consider me actually injured).

This new doctor explained my six different options and quoted me the out of pocket price for anything not billed to insurance. I could:

  1. Get a new MRI
  2. Get one or more PRP injections
  3. Get stems cells from a donor
  4. Get stems cells harvested from me without anesthesia
  5. Get stem cells harvested from me with anesthesia
  6. Have the reattachment surgery

Not only did he provide me these options with price tags, he then walked through the pros, cons, and his experience with each choice. He told me that surgery would be his last resort because, with my injury, it could potentially sacrifice the 80% healthy hamstring to repair the 20% damaged. He told me he would prefer the biologic options (PRP, stem cells), but PRP has the most data and evidence behind it. If he did stem cells, he would recommend harvesting my own to eliminate risk of cross-contamination or rejection.

Then he encouraged me to ask questions and share what I thought I would like to try first. I opted to start with another PRP injection, which he then provided me at this same appointment. Then he set a follow up appointment to check how the PRP took and determine next steps.

Yet, with all this, the most glaring and important distinction between the two doctors and my experiences with them was the administration of my PRP injections.

At my first PRP injection, the nurse took my blood and spun it down in the room with me. When the doctor came in, he had me bend over the examination table. This aggravated my injury and felt very awkward. The nurse jabbed the ultrasound into my butt while the doctor stabbed the needle into my tendon. Afterward, he informed me this was all he could do for me. When I told him I really needed something for the pain, that the constant pain was affecting the rest of my life and making me short with my children, he reacted as if I had never mentioned pain and was drug seeking. He gave me Tramadol. As if being unconscious would solve my problem.

Yesterday, the nurse took my blood. While she was waiting for it to spin down, she checked in on me and told me how much longer I would be waiting. She set me up laying on the exam table on my stomach with a pillow. When the doctor came in, he covered me (as much as he could) with a paper blanket. He informed me he was going to start the ultrasound and placed it gently against me. He told before he marked for the injection and inserted the needle. He communicated each step before taking it. After, he sat down with me, and we discussed recovery and expectations and follow up appointments. He shook my hand before leaving. Then the nurse came in and set up my appointment before walking me out.

The two experiences of the exact same procedure were so different, so polarized. After the first one, I felt very uncomfortable and unnerved, generally unhappy. Being bent over the table, stabbed, and then dismissed so impersonally made me feel violated somehow. It never sat right with me and doused any hope I had that the injury pain might actually subside.

In contrast, I left yesterday’s appointment feeling optimistic. I felt like the doctor had actually heard me and I once again had options. And even if my circumstances do not change and the injury does not heal, I at least feel like someone gave a shit and tried. It was simple subtleties and seemingly insignificant details that made me feel violated and dismissed versus cared for and treated. I don’t think anything unethical or inappropriate happened at my first shot and I don’t necessarily doubt my original doctor’s medical knowledge, but I do see now how wholly unsatisfied I was with the treatment I received from him.

These experiences reminded me how individual doctors are and how unique a medical experience can be. Getting an injection is not just getting an injection. The circumstances, environment, and care are crucial factors. I am hoping a more favorable experience cultivates more favorable results as well.

For now, I will be on the couch, willing my body to heal itself.

 

Christina Bergling

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Back Again

I went for a run yesterday. A real run.

Embarrassingly, I have not gone for a real run in a long time. I have gone for runs, sure. Group runs at various paces for various distances. I have been content to jog and cut off miles, which is very uncharacteristic of me. I have even gone for solo runs. Yet I have been talking myself into keeping them short or slow.

I am not entirely sure what had been happening. I felt gun shy about running. In theory, I told myself I missed it and wanted to return to longer and harder running, yet I would permit myself the excuses for it not to happen. Again, not like myself.

I would say it was perhaps my perpetual hamstring injury, but that has not hindered me from running or exercising in the past 18 months, so why now?

I have definitely been distracted by other fitness pursuits. bodyboss was extremely time-consuming. Then there is barre. I have been practicing a lot of belly dance for an upcoming performance I’m traveling to next month. I also picked up a hip hop class (I am terrible, by the way). So maybe I have just been too distracted.

Whatever the bullshit reasons and excuses, I finally forced myself out for real yesterday. I didn’t permit myself the 2 mile or 3 mile I have been clinging too lately, even though they have come to feel like my comfort zone. I forced myself to do the 5 mile route, with the 2 horrible hills.

And it felt great. It felt just like it always did. It sucked; it hurt; I wanted to die. Then it was the amazing high. It was all so familiar, so comforting, so exactly how I left it. I even ran faster than I have been lately. I even managed to improve after such neglect.

That was comforting. Now, I remember why I need it. I recall it’s place in my life and my fitness routine. There may not always be time to satisfy it, but at least now I can keep in mind why I should try and prioritize it.

After reading The Obesity Code and recovering from mild surgery, I find my exercise addiction tempered. Finally, it is not the end of the world if I can’t fit in a workout every day. Finally, I am not doubling down on workouts multiple times a week. Finally, I am allowing myself rest days. It feels foreign and awkward but also like a relief. I have no intentions of falling off the fitness wagon entirely, so I am hoping this reduction is actually healthy.

In all my questing for the next time and the answer, I am hoping this is actually it. I might have just needed a good run for it to feel right.

Christina Bergling

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The Next Thing

The last three years have seen me attempt diet after diet, exercise routine after fad. They all begin the same, with such hope, motivation, and optimism. However, after the infatuation wears off, they all have fallen into the same disappointing pattern. I rarely fail at them, but they consistently fail to deliver me results.

I have tried traditional calorie counting, low glycemic, Whole30, near ketosis. I have joined a gym, run constantly, started barre, used a personal trainer, done bodyboss. I am sure I have forgotten multiple tangents and detours.

Nothing.

I have been ramming my head into the same wall all these years, trapped at the same weight (or more) no matter how I work or starve myself. I am progressively dieting stricter and stricter, working out more and more regularly. I have worked myself into multiple injuries. Deeper and deeper into the obsession.

Nothing.

I have felt completely crazy. I have spent far too much time fixated on something I do not want to run my life. But here we go again, onto the next thing. Or things in this case. Two things.

First, I have been working with my therapist, who also happens to be an integrative medicine specialist focusing in eating disorders, through this struggle. With her advice, I went to my primary care doctor to have my hormone levels tested. My estrogen (and iron) came back high, while my testosterone was nonexistent. Quite possibly, I could be experiencing estrogen dominance from my hormonal IUD. So I went to discuss with my OB/GYN, and she immediately removed it to allow my body to self regulate.

Hopefully, normal hormone levels will balance my weight, as well as my mood and energy. Having a monthly cycle should also level out the iron level in my blood. So I am going back to being natural. And getting my tubes tied in a couple weeks.

Second, I have shifted to yet another diet/exercise program. I am still doing barre and running. I am still finishing bodyboss (nearly two thirds of the way through it now). However, my coworker introduced me to a new app to try for food tracking and planning.

The app is called noom and is ultimately not much different than MapMyFitness or MyFitnessPal or Spark People or anything I have tried previously. The main divergences are that the program is psychology-centric (which works for me on multiple levels) and that it includes an individual couch who messages you and an online support group (hence why it costs money).

My experience so far has been positive, but don’t go holding your breath just yet; we’re scarcely out of the honeymoon phase. I have seen some results then seen them mildly undone by Christmas. The psychological approach to the app is pretty transparent to me, both because they are transparent about it and because I’ve been in eating disorder counseling periodically for years. However, that does not prevent it from working on me. I know the compliment every time I log a work out is a manipulation, but it makes me feel good nonetheless, so the manipulation works. Same with the coach and the group, though my group is pretty inactive and lame. It is an extra layer of accountability without the pressure of real interaction.

I have noticed improvement in my thought patterns and emotional reactions, if nothing else, which is surprising since all that counseling over the years has done shit against the same problems. The app does not tell me much I do not already know, but for some reason, things appear to be clicking now. I hope it is not some false sense of enlightenment meant to lull me into complacency to then fall into old patterns again, but a girl can dream.

I hope one of these things is the answer. I’m ready to have an answer, any answer. Yeah, it would be great to fit into all my pants and be my pre-pregnancies weight again, but more than that, I want my body to be healthy. My blood sugar finally came down; I want it to stay that way. More than anything, I want to not think about this bullshit all the time. I want it to not be 10 hours out of my week. I want it to not be tormenting me every meal and every workout. I want to just be.

So, here we go on these next things. Fingers crossed.

Oh, and by the way, my hamstring is still torn. bodyboss aggravates it greatly. I’m headed to a new orthopedic to see what the hell is still going on next month. Maybe that problem needs another next thing too.

Christina Bergling

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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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On Recovery Running

Calm down.

You cannot sprint off into the pace and distances you left before the injury.

Calm down.

You cannot run like the past weeks, months, and pounds never happened.

Calm down.

It is OK to be winded and weak and dying. It is OK for the pain to still crawl up the back of your leg and nestle firmly in the root of your hamstring.

Calm down.

You are still recovering.

Calm down.

Do not make it worse.

Breathe. Just run. Gently. Just enjoying being able to run. A little.

You’ll get back, just like you have before. Running will still be there.

Calm down.

Baby steps. Baby little zombie turtle wogs.

Take what you can get. You will find the float again some day. You will sprint again some day.

Today, calm down.

 

***

 

I am trying to be good. I am trying SO HARD to be good. I am trying to run infrequently, short distances, and slowly. I am trying to modify barre classes to avoid the exercises that aggravate my hamstring. I am trying to not work out every day or twice a day.

I am trying to temper myself. So far, I think I am managing to tame my obsession, but I am struggling on the mental side of it.

I feel that itchy, uncomfortable anticipation experienced in the race chute all the time. Those terrible last seconds before the start gun. Those wretched little pregnant eternities. Yet I feel that all the time. Restrained, held back, contained. Like I’m coming out of my skin.

Getting back to some exercise has helped, but babying the leg still gives me this trapped feeling. The benefits I glean from exercise come from pushing myself to my brink, from making it hurt until the endorphins wash over my brain. I can’t do that yet, so I’m just left feeling perpetually unconsummated.

I’m trying to think of this as an investment in my body. I am trying to process it as purchasing health on the other side of this injury. Yet, with my mental balance in free fall, I am finding it challenging to sell these ideas to myself.

Patience. Breathe. Calm down.

 

Christina Bergling

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