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Six Weeks Later

Six weeks later, the first phase of my recovery from hip surgery is done. In some ways, it flew by must faster than I expected; in others, it has been brutally slow.

After surgery, it took a good three days to detox from the anesthesia. I did not move from the couch much. I slept a lot. Though I did not take any pain medication because I did not have any pain. Despite the numerous warnings and promises of how miserable recovery would be, I began mine with six days pain free. I didn’t really feel any discomfort until I started moving around.

I did my two weeks in the brace and on the crutches. These were definitely the longest and most irritating days in my recovery so far. I loathed the brace and struggled to keep it on. I also never mastered the crutches.

When pain started with walking on the crutches, I was confused. In a typical case, the patient would wake from surgery and be utterly miserable for several days; then the pain would reduce to an ache as they started moving around. In my case, I woke pain-free for the first time in over two years; then my pain increased as I started to move again. Did that mean the pain was getting worse? Did that mean I was finally aligning with a normal track? I didn’t know. And my doctors and physical therapists didn’t seem to know either since, as always, I’m atypical.

I didn’t let the pain or the crutches stop me. I continued with life and activities as much as I could. The crutches were endlessly inconvenient. I could not carry anything, which is especially challenging as a mother of young children. I moved very slowly, again rough with little kids. I hobbled on through life and physical therapy.

After two weeks, I was liberated. It was near blissful to be free of the brace and the crutches. Again, my pain increased though. It was only a fraction of what I was experiencing pre-surgery, but the pattern was definitely increasing. Yet I still did not know if that was a bad sign. I resolved to just follow the rules and wait.

I also finally got to remove the tape and see my stitches. Then the nurse promptly cut them out. They are tiny little marks that may even vanish in time. Amazing they could do all the repairs to my hip joint through these two small holes.

While I was liberated of the physical restraining devices, I remained held back by multiple movement restrictions. At this point, my brain decided it was an apt time to remind me that I’m still bipolar as fuck. I have managed my cycles effectively for years using routine, exercise, and infrequent therapy. And it has worked. More than I even thought it had been. Once these systems were impeded, I got to fully experience what I have been suppressing.

I knew this was a risk so much so that I made multiple contingency plan to deal with it. I knew my system is what kept the symptoms managed and that when I would not be able to maintain it, I would see some reemergence. Unfortunately, the depression still managed to descend on me before I could enact them.

The prolonged anesthesia detox really derailed me. I planned to focus on writing and tasks and being productive with sedentary tasks. Instead, I experienced some of the deepest depression I have experienced in years.

I surely did not miss it. I was working, mothering, recovering, and I felt like I was drowning. I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to see anyone. Textbook symptoms I know well. It made the holidays a struggle, to feel so weighted and disconnected. I powered through, well I think.

I resigned myself to the suck. I knew I was going to be low. I knew why I was low. I knew I had to ride it out. So I did. I missed out on some festive fun. I ruined some minor moments. Thankfully, it was nothing too traumatic. Mostly because I didn’t resist, and I remained communicative about it.

When I returned to work after the holidays, I was able to snatch at some normalcy. Though I still could not move much, I finally launched into all my productive plans. Working made me feel less worthless. I forced myself back into my new novel (and actually enjoyed the progress I made). I wrote multiple short stories and even some horror poetry. I loaded on the tasks and fixated on them.

And it helped. Even still immobile and devoid of the endorphins I needed, being busy and focused tamed the beast.

The pain also leveled off then began to steadily decrease. My body recovered. I do believe the pain was a large contributor to the depression. Whenever I hurt, the base part of my brain panicked that I was returning to my pre-surgical pain. As that threat dissolved, my control over my mind returned.

As I have reached the six week mark, my movement and activity restrictions have been lifted by degrees.  I can now go for short walks or hikes, belly dance gently, move my hip and stretch however I want, carry moderate weight (read: my four year-old). These minor things make a world of difference. Doing gentle yoga and fully stretching my body was near orgasmic. Dancing , even if it was slow and labored, made me feel like myself.

I am still itching to go for a run or do anything until I hit a sweaty high, but that will come in time.

I am proving challenging for my physical therapists. Atypical, as usual. I hit full mobility effortlessly by my six week check. They cannot seem to provide me stretches that actually stretch me. Especially after they have spent so much time smoothing my hamstring with some bizarre butterknife-like torture device. The exercises also do not challenge me. They don’t hurt; they aren’t hard. Yet I’m not allowed to do more. So we go through the motions with no effort and just wait.

Now, I have six weeks to go. Six weeks until I can run, dance, go back to barre, do whatever the hell I want. If it continues without pain, perhaps it will go even faster than the six weeks I have already pushed through. I’m excited, anxious, but at least waiting is easier with the surge of depression fading behind me.

In the meantime, as a teaser to myself and full activity, Pratique Photography finally edited and released my Pennywise belly dance video. It was nice to see what I was able to do in constant pain so I can plan on what I can do when I’m finally healed. Check it out on YouTube.

 

Christina Bergling

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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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Surgical Options

Now looks like a good time to start over. Again. It seems like I have done nothing but physically start over for the past four years, and (if I’m honest with myself) I think I’m having a small adult tantrum about it.

When I was violently ill through my entire pregnancy, I thought it would get better when it was over. When the birth was rough, I thought it would be fine after I recovered. When recovery stretched out into years, I thought it would normalize eventually. When I pulled my hip, I thought I could run through it and get better. When I tore my hamstring (and apparently my labrum), I thought I would suffer the couple months and be back to normal. When my hamstring finally healed after 18 months and two PRP injections, I thought it might finally be over.

Yet here we are.

Nothing has been debilitating or unbearable, just an endless string of discomfort and inconvenience, of tasting recovery or “normal” just to be shoved back to square one. And perhaps the root of my suffering is the resistance to the idea that this is my new normal, my foolish attachment to how I should be after all these changes.

Maybe this chapter of my life is about a series of physical recoveries, rather than the mental and emotional recoveries in the previous chapter. Maybe life is all just a series of events and recoveries.

Or maybe I’m just whining.

I went to my orthopedic for my steroid injection follow up today. At my previous appointment, they injected steroids into my hip joint to troubleshoot my continued pain. Though my hamstring showed healed, the pain continued as an unusual presentation for a labral tear. The shot helped. A lot. For about a week before its effectiveness started to fade.

Since the shot seemed to indicate the root of the pain, we discussed options. I could do nothing and live with the current discomfort level. I could do maintenance steroid injections until they lost effectiveness. I could do PRP or stem cells to stimulate healing, despite the lack of evidence that the labrum can heal itself. Or I could have laparoscopic surgery.

I found myself torn between the extremes, as always. Nothing or surgery.

Typing it out, my logic does not make any sense, but my instinct was to do nothing. To just continue to deal with it. It seems ridiculous after lamenting the issue for nearly the past two years. It seems like it should be an easy answer to finally fix it. Yet it was the idea of recovery that tempted me to stay with the pain. Though I am known to develop Stockholm Syndrome type attachment to my pain.

I didn’t want to face another lapse, another step back after it took this long to regain this ground, after how many times I already had to retread. Spoiled complaints of the mostly functional. Yet beneath that is the fear.

Exercise and endorphins are the foundation of my precarious little balance on life. It sounds silly to say that two weeks on crutches could be unbearable, but… I know that if I don’t exercise hard enough in 2-3 days, the depression starts to swell and my thoughts begin to twist and contort. I know that it’s just one step back towards that darkness. So the idea unnerves me, and my self-preserving instinct is to just not. To just run through it.

Truthfully, I still want to do that now. Just keep running and tell myself the nerves will give up.

More superficially, I am frustrated to release the progress I’ve made. I’m reluctant to go back to adding miles and shaving off seconds, to rebuilding the muscles and conditioning that abandon me so immediately. I finally got back to where I thought I left. I even just said, foolishly aloud, that I was finally almost there so it must be time for something to send me backward.

With this injury, the universe takes what I say way too fucking literally.

However, after being scolded by at least three people, I know that all of this is my stupid, irrational fear and obsessions clouding an easy and obvious decision.

So, next step, surgery…

 

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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bodyboss

I have started a new fitness program.

I know. I wait for your unmitigated shock to pass…

A friend and running mate decided to try bodyboss, so we, her running club, decided to go down with her.

bodyboss is a exercise program delivered via a booklet (physical or online) heavily pushed on Facebook. Most simply, the program is high intensity interval training (HIIT). It advertises as a quick 30 minute workout 3 days a week. What it neglects to mention is the 10 minute warmup and cooldown that bump it up to pretty much an hour.

The entire deal is 12 weeks long, and I am about 2 and a half into the process. So I have done enough to taste the workouts but not enough to truly gauge the whole system.

With this much of a taste, I can say that it fucking sucks.

I hate interval training. I also hate jumping and planks. That is literally what these workouts are. Almost all the are. 7 minutes seems like such an innocuous commitment, yet during the intervals, it turns into a damn eternity. I sweat and struggle and swear so much. There is no high; there is no rush. There is only pain.

Like barre, nearly all of the exercises also irritate my hamstring. After a year and a half, every twinge just stirs a rage of frustration and hopelessness. I have to modify many things, just to continue to acquiesce to the injury.

And so far, I feel no results. I have been working out daily and doing barre multiple times a week, so while I struggle with the workouts, it is not a huge difference to do them. I get sore sometimes but not often. If anything (despite also tightening my diet), I feel fatter.

But it has only been two weeks.

Stay tuned to see what I have to say after 12!

 

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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