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Approaching Surgery

Hip surgery is imminent. I went to my preop appointment yesterday in preparation for my hip labrum surgery the first week of December. I signed all the paperwork and went home with the brace I will live in for 2-3 weeks.

Now, it feels real. Part of me wants to just do it and get it over with, get into the pain so I can put it behind me and actually heal. The other part of me does not want to do it at all and is rationalizing how I can live with the pain as it is now.

But, where have I been since altitude sickness on my last 14er? What have I been doing on my way from summer to surgery?

The altitude sickness may have concluded my pursuit of 14er summits for the year; however, it did not end my hiking. Our little group decided to hike half of Pikes Peak in the beginning of October (as opposed to the full summit last year).

We had a magical, euphoric, perfect fall hike. A chilly fog clutched the trail on our ascent to Barr Camp. Then the sun ignited the autumn colors on our descent back down. It was the perfect weather, the perfect distance, the perfect company–simply the perfect hike.

This hike highlighted a very long and successful fitness run for me. I was running regularly, returning to my normal mile pace (slow though it always may be), building up my distances over 6 miles. I was taking multiple barre classes a month and seeing the results. I had returned fully to belly dance and even had begun performing again.

My fitness cadence was exactly as I wanted it. My routine was solid and balanced, and so my mind was solid and balanced in reaction. Honestly, I felt like myself. And I felt pretty fucking happy.

When I hit that blissful point, I knew it was transitory, as it always is. I knew the pendulum was reaching its full extension to one side and would instantly be arching in reverse. It always does. Every time I feel like I have achieved my goal or am where I want, the situation immediately changes. The rug is pulled out, and I fall directly on my ass to start over. That is my cycle; that is the pattern of my life.

In this case, I thought it was because surgery was coming and I would inevitably have to start over after recovery. I was wrong. A debilitating, month-long sinus infection took me entirely by surprise and derailed me just as effectively.

Of course, I tried to fast and run through it and failed exquisitely. The illness finally bent me to its mercy. After three different antibiotics, two different steroids, and so many weeks, I am finally, physically back to more normal. However, all that progress and euphoria and balance evaporated. To reclaim my motivation in the waning window before I go under the knife, I have had to just accept this limitation. I have had to just do what I can.

I did not do that well or gracefully, but I think I have largely made my peace and moved past my frustration. Though being knocked so completely off balance paired with being so annoyingly sick sent my bipolar cycles into overdrive. It had been a while, and I was woefully out of practice, so that was fun for all involved. But again, I think I have regained myself, or at least control of myself.

So, next up, surgery.

At this point, might as well. Maybe it’s easier to go under and jump into the limits of recovery when I’m already below my expectations. Maybe the fall won’t be as far. Or perhaps it’s worse to have squandered these last weeks before I don’t have a choice. Or maybe it sucks either way. I need to just embrace the suck. I need to just do this and get it over with.

I’m not necessarily nervous about the surgery itself. I might have been earlier, but my salpingectomy (Fallopian tube removal) surgery went so smoothly in January that it actually calmed me. I, of course, cried hysterically after anesthesia. I always do. However, that procedure was also laparoscopic, and I healed near effortlessly. I went on a real run in less than 48 hours. I appreciate that was a far more minor procedure and recovery time, but it still gives me somewhat of a preview to pacify my rampant brain.

I dread only the recovery. Not even the pain. I can deal with the pain. I have been for two and a half years for this injury; at least surgery recovery pain might lessen and lead to actual improvement. It is the physical limitation of the surgery. All the ways I went off the rails by having a sinus infection amplified, the removal of my balance and my therapy.

To combat this anxiety, I am proactively choosing to focus on other things. I have scheduled lazy time with several friends. I plan to fast hard on the couch, and I plan to pour all my time into my writing (which has unexpectedly been neglected for the fast two months).

Until then though… I’m capitalizing on not dying and not being cut open. All the running and all the barre classes. My daughter and I choreographed a horror heavy metal belly dance number I want to get recorded. I am back to cramming as many activities in as possible before spending my holidays relegated to the couch.

Wish me luck! (And expect more frequent posting.)

 

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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Reading Running

Yes, I am in running withdrawals. I have not run, jogged, wogged, anything in weeks. So, instead, I read about running (or listen to books about running – I have no time to actually read these days). I just finished What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murahami.

I loved this book. The memoir is unraveled with such an effortless honesty and authentic humor that I was more than content to listen to the random interconnected fragments of life stirred up by marathon training.

I am no marathoner or ultramarathoner or triathlete like Murakami. I am no professional novelist like Murakami (yet). Even on my best days, I am just a zombie turtle wogging along and a horror writer on the side of being a mom and a software engineer. Yet, Murakami ruminates on such universal truths about running and writing and the relationship between the two that it resonated deeply with me. At times, I could confuse his voice and his words for my own. I laughed when he irritated me when he was being and talking like me.

This book helped me understand myself better, as both a runner and a writer. I suddenly saw the correlation between long distance running (yes, I am considering 10-13 miles distance running) and writing a novel. Murakami identified connected traits and attributes of both that categorized me so well, made me see myself more clearly.

As I listened to Murakami discuss both how he became a runner and a writer and how he was currently training for the New York City Marathon, I became awash with my own nostalgia about my journey with running and how it intersected so many points of my life, how it defined so many parts of me. I was entertained by Murakami’s story, but I was also able to wallow in the pleasant memory of my own.

The book inspired me, both to be more persistent and more lenient, to push myself and appreciate myself.  And it made me want to run again, be back with that version of myself.

While reading (listening) about running exacerbated my withdrawals, it also pacified them in a way. I felt closer to the activity, reassured that it didn’t dry up and vanish in these brief weeks away, confident that I can return and retrain back to my mediocre performance but obsessive commitment.

Deep breath. Take care of the body and the mind. Then find my way back to the trail.

Christina Bergling

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Plasma!

Three weeks ago, I received my platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection into my relentlessly injured hamstring. This came nearly on the day of nine months since the injury. It still unnerves my mind to consider all of these months of constant pain sprung from one split second of lifting my hands as I was doing the splits. Yet, after so little change so many months, this procedure was hope.

As a recap, a PRP injection includes removing the patient’s (my) blood, spinning it down to the platelet-rich plasma, and injecting that mixture directly into the injury. This is said to stimulate the body’s own natural healing. The procedure itself is brief and out patient.

The procedure was uncomfortable, as advertised. I bent over an exam table, a hole strategically cut in my awful paper shorts. My doctor’s assistant dug the ultrasound wand into the flesh of my buttcheek as the doctor struggled to make the tip of needle appear in the field. He did not find it quickly or easily. Zings and flares flashed over my nerves as he moved the needle side to side and poked it deeper into my joint.

I just breathed and tried not to focus on the pain. The pain snapping at my spine, riding my synapses in waves. My body flinched and jerked involuntarily. I tried not to focus on the detached way the doctor worked on me like an inanimate pig carcass and his assistant called me sweetie to compensate.

The pressure increased as the small amount of spun down plasma was deposited directly in my injury. Then it was over. Of the variety of medical procedures I have had, this was definitely not the most painful. Unpleasant for sure but at least brief.

The worst part of the whole experience was trying to extract information from my doctor. Throughout his minimal appearances in my treatment, his (and his assistant’s) bedside manor have been lacking. Or I have failed to communicate my symptoms, like, at all.

I initially sought treatment because of my pain level. I was functioning fine, still able to be active. It was the pain. I told that to my primary care doctor then this orthopedic. I told them the persistence of the pain was affecting my personality and causing negative behaviors like yelling at my children too much.

And yet, this orthopedic treated me with the passing attention I would expect if I came with a mild ankle sprain. I had to fight to explain my symptoms. I had to nag to get any information on recommendations on recovery or activity. I had to get pain medication from my other doctor. He just seemed to not really take me seriously, either because he thought I was exaggerating or because he thought my injury was trivial.

In either case, it made the treatment and interactions in the office unpleasant and less fruitful. However, I was willing to indulge his medical expertise. He seemed knowledgeable enough, and it would have cost months to get a different referral for my insurance.

When I initially researched PRP injections (I had to Google on my own since my doctor provided zero information or expectations), I learned that the procedure actually stimulates inflammation in the injury to inspire your body to heal it. And since inflammation is the source of most pain, the information forecast a pretty miserable couple weeks after the injection.

However, I did not live up to that prophecy. It hurt, yes. I was exceptionally uncomfortable for a couple days but neither as much as I expected nor more than I had grown accustomed. Plus there were finally pain meds to take that miserable edge off.

But did it work?

I have just completed my two weeks of rest. Two weeks of zero activity. It was rough mentally. But, over the weekend, I was able to begin gently moving again. I have gone for a walk. I have taken a barre class.

And it is feeling better. Day by day, very slowly and incrementally, it is feeling better. I am not cured or fixed, by any means, yet the pain is retreating. I have pain medication that I am not even taking. I still have aches and zings and soreness, but I am not crying from the severity. I am not miserable and bitchy all day long.

I can feel myself starting to surface again under this injury.

I wish it was just cured. I was wish I was just fixed. I feel like I have earned it after this long. Yet it is happening painfully slow for my lack of patience.

Now the challenge is to temper myself. Every day it hurts less, I want to go run a half marathon (and I did not want to run another after I ran my first). So, prior to being liberated, I laid out a gradual plan to return to my normal activity level. I had to make it up myself since my doctor provided absolutely no post-procedure instructions. I had to interrogate his assistant for the slightest guidance then still just guess for myself.

I am on week 2. Two gentle workouts. A couple days ago, I went to barre for the first time. The origin of this entire mess.

I have not been active for really a month. In that month, I have put on about 10 pounds. Yes, emotional eating as I pouted over being inactive played a large role. Yet, it turns out that all my obsessive working out did serve a purpose; it was showing. I just did not notice until I stopped. Now I have to do all that work again, without being fanatical, without reinjuring myself. I am hoping that challenge will teach me to be more accepting of myself, to live with more balance.

My recovery starts over now. Not the nine months of suffering behind me. It starts over right now.

Right now, things are improving. Right now, I can get back on track with my eating and start easing back into activity. I can start fresh and maybe find some sort of sustainable balance this time. I wish I did not have to go back to trying to slim down again, but maybe this time I will appreciate where I was.

I am SO looking forward to getting back to running. It will be short and slow to start, but it will be far better than the nothing I am at right now. I want that time back. I want that sanity back. I want to feel like myself again.

Christina Bergling

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