Tag Archives: working mom

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

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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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Impediments

My plan for the new year was to start fresh and get back into running. Unfortunately, all circumstances conspire against such an ambition.

First, my English cold morphed into the sinus infection, which was ultimately my own doing for pushing myself so hard and running miles in the snow while sick. Fair enough. I deserved that one.

Then, winter finally showed up. I love winter, and I love snow. I even love running in the snow, so usually this is not a problem. However, we got dumped on so hard that running became nearly impossible. I tried last week and probably should have worn snowshoes like the person I crossed paths with en route. Deep snow and a slippery mess.

However, most restrictive, I somehow injured my hip. This happened quite some time ago. I want to say even before the holidays. I have no idea what I did to it, but it has been getting steadily and progressively worse and is definitely aggravated by running, zumba, even walking. Of course, being the stubborn, addictive moron that I am, the pain and the injury never prevented me from pushing right through and clinging to my hardcore routine.

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The pain is not in my hip joint (which I think is a good thing?).  Instead, it is firmly nestled deep in the muscle wrapping up around my hip. I have foam rolled it. I have stretched it. I have had it massaged and adjusted. I have done just about everything but rest it.

Now, it appears I am at the point of needing to rest it. My chiropractor has drawn the line and lobbied heavily that I give it some time.

The whiny child in me wants to say, UGH! But I don’t have time! I’m already months behind!
But the responsible adult is begrudgingly saying, FINE. (And then pouting.)

Thankfully, this mandated rest comes at a time when my schedule would be completely destroyed anyway. I am working in Denver this week (instead of in my home), and I’m traveling to Wisconsin next week. All this eliminates my ability to commit to my daily homage at the gym or on the trail. I can only hope this disruption actually produces some healing.

I am trying not to freak out. I am trying not to get obsessive about workouts and training missed. It’s not like they were making huge impacts anyway, just another notch in the plateau. I am trying not to fret over what might happen to my mental balance.

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I am trying to roll with it. Instead, I am just going to keep starting over. I am at the perpetual starting line.

 

Christina Bergling

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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


Chapters

Running has just not been happening for me lately. After such a run-centric month in October, I just cannot seem to carve out the time in November.

Mostly, it is a time issue. There has been kids and weather and travel and simply no time to run.  I manage to still work out because I can still use the child care center at the gym and take classes during the day pretty consistently, though even those have suffered a bit lately. Yet it is the unadulterated freedom necessary to hit the trail that I am lacking.

I would have preferred this scheduling conflict arisen during the summer months, when running is somewhat ruined by the temperatures outside. Being prevented from lacing up in the fall and winter months is more tragic as it is my favorite time to run.

Under normal circumstances, this disturbance in my running force would leave me a bitchy, unsatisfied mess. However, this time, I had the realization that this is just not a running chapter in my life. After having my first child and before conceiving my second was a running chapter. Nearly exclusively a running chapter. I ran 20-30 miles a week and did nothing else for fitness (except when I was belly dancing before we moved back to Colorado).

My life has changed since then. I have a second child. I live in a different place. I have a different job and added author responsibilities. I have added other pursuits to my fitness regime. My life is simply different, and I cannot expect to maintain the same devotion to running as I was able to commit under different circumstances.

That also does not mean I will never return to such practice of my passion. It does not mean I am over running. It simply means that I cannot realistically do it now. There will be other chapters in my life. Like when both kids are in school full time and I will have more flexible hours during the day to balance between work and fitness. This chapter has me running very little in comparison; perhaps the next will have me returning to my obsessive origins.

This realization, this peace with the reality of my current situation, has made the lack of running easier to deal with. I am focusing on enjoying the thing I am doing right now. Zumba, dance, and different classes at the gym. I am running when I can and trying to maintain some level of training. Perhaps my fitness routine needed to become more balanced anyhow.

The dance, on the other hand, has been rather fulfilling. It is not the belly dance from Tennessee I so desperately miss or that I recently had a brief opportunity to visit and recall, yet it is something in that vein; it still engaged that part of me so blissful when moving to music. So while the running part of me is left wanting, the dancing part of me is granted more attention and expression. They cannot all win simultaneously, so they will have to take turns.

I do miss the trail though. I miss when I met it frequently. I miss when it felt more like home. But that, apparently, is for another chapter.

 

Christina Bergling

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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


Threshold

I believe I have discovered my threshold. In nearly every aspect of my life. Physically, mentally, emotionally, professionally, personally, familially (I know, not a word), financially. This is it; this is how much I can do.

The most obvious and apparent area (and the only one in line with the theme of this blog) is the physical. It has been well documented in my series of annoying rants that I have been trying to kill myself since the doctor gave me her blessing after the birth of my son. And it has not been easy or successful. I am neither dead or back to my pre-baby state, be it in conditioning or size.

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I have waged a frontal, varied assault on my body for months. I dove back into running with desperation and unquenchable demands. I joined a gym on steroids (just like its members), started taking a barrage of classes, and participated in 90-day weigh in challenges (that made me want to kill myself weekly). I potentially spend more time at the gym than anywhere else than my home office. I changed my diet. And changed it again. And tweaked it once more.

I do not relent because I do not see results, and I do not know what other course to take. Healthy eating and exercise equals weight loss; I know no other equation. I have no ambitions of chasing the media manufactured definition of “hot.” Rather, I just want to be back to what I would consider myself, feeling like my skin is my own again, fitting back into the wardrobe waiting in my closet. I am changed, and that is ok, but I can still quest after something at least reminiscent of my remembered physical body.

However, my physical regime is not merely aesthetic. I use both routine and the endorphins released by exercise to control my own brain chemistry, to avoid the psychoactive drugs usually necessary for someone of my mind. This approach creates a strange conflict. Obsessive exercise can be rooted in a faded eating disorder, yet that same exercise keeps me sane against the more pervasive condition. It becomes a delicate line to walk, and with my sloppy lack of grace, I often stumble and fall all over it.

I feel like I live at the gym or on the trail. I fucking hate gyms, always have. The mass of bodies counting reps in front of their reflections just looks like sad masturbation to me. Who am I to judge what makes someone happy, but it most certainly does not make me happy. I try to sprint through to child care and into the classes, where I can lose myself in the group activity, most often dancing. I disappear into the music and shake it until I am red-faced, panting, and drenched in sweat.

This physical commitment is daunting, especially coupled with the lack of progress. Just physically, I am often exhausted or sore. I seem to be in perpetual recovery. Yet it is also a time suck. A 10 mile run takes me a significant chunk of time. Driving to the gym, picking up and dropping off the kid, plus the actual class eats up time. I feel like this devotion (read: obsession) is taking away from my performance in other roles. I worry that it affects my work, that it gnaws away at my time and relationships with my family.

I have absolutely no spare time. I keep my children’s social calendars full. We are constantly on the way to preschool or dance or swimming or playdate or another activity. I work from home full time. I (try to) work as a published author, both promoting my existing works and drafting my next. I exercise 6 days a week. And I am finding that not all of these things are possible simultaneously. Obligations and necessities are being compromised in the attempt to do it all.

As a result, I just feel inadequate in all aspects.

I feel like my arms are heaped in tasks, laundry is stacked on my head. And I’m doing squats. With my children climbing up my back. And my partner is asking me to spend time with him. And the empty page is mocking me. And the scale remains unchanged. And my customer is waiting for his delivery. And my editor is asking where my next book is. And my daughter wants me to just sit down and play with her. And my son is crying where I can’t see him. And I don’t even remember what it is like to sit and be with myself for a quiet minute.

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I don’t know where to go from here. I don’t know what to sacrifice. For so long, by some twisted miracle, I was able to do it all, somehow magically make it all happen. I have reached the threshold of that. I have fallen and skidded across it on my face.

I know my priorities. Family first, the work that supports them second. But can I let go of anything else and keep the demons at bay? Can I be good at anything if I keep myself so torn in so many directions?

At the end of this rant, all I want to do is lace up my running shoes, push the door open, and sprint until I can’t feel my face, until I’m panting so hard I can’t think, until my body is buzzing so loud my thoughts have disappeared. But that might be part of the problem.

Christina Bergling

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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


Back!

Somehow, last week, I did not lay down a single mile. I am not sure if this has ever happened in my running career aside from when my doctor cut me off while I was pregnant with my son and while recovering from birth. Life just got in the way. Specifically, a pink eye infection ran rampant through my house (which is another story for a parenting blog I have yet to launch tentatively titled “That Time We All Got Pink Eye from my Niece’s Shit”).

Yet the half marathon looms just two weeks away. When we lined up for the Revel, I felt ready; I felt trained up. Unfortunately, that training fell unconsummated. Now I feel horrendously far from that.

However, we hit the trail hard last night. When we set sneakers on the pavement, we intended an 8 mile second of our downhill practice run.

The run ended up being a strange blend and blur of running states. Initially, I felt revitalized by being back out in the increasingly crisp evening air, felt at home back on the run. That gave way to feeling every day off and every missed run in early aches and pains in my muscles and joints. Then I coasted on a gracious float. Then I tumbled right into an exhausted wall. Then I ascended into another float. It was a schizophrenic internal battle every mile.

Then it turned out we did not do our research well and actually selected a 10 mile section. The addition was unexpected, especially for our running mate who had previously only run a 6 mile stretch before.

In the end, despite my internal struggles, the run felt AMAZING! After my conclusion sprint, I was completely cashed and flying high. Plus I felt much better with a 10 mile practice run over an 8 mile, much closer to the 13.1 we are facing.

It hurt, but it was good to start back into the rhythm. I have to stop fucking around. I have to kick the running into gear. It is the redemption half marathon then three races in October (including Cripple Creek and a 10 miler). I am booked on races until New Year’s.

My first week off breastfeeding has not gone well. I have been crazy sick, feeling like I am pregnant. I spent the 10 mile run nauseous with heartburn and cramps all appearing and vanishing randomly. I have just felt exhausted and ill, assumably from changing hormones. Hopefully from changing hormones that will pass. Then my poor breasts are like heavy boulders waiting for the milk to dry up. I have been counting down to this day for over a year, yet I still don’t feel free. And I have also put on weight and fat in this week, so it seems like all the more of a slap in the face.

But onward. More slow miles. More healthy moderate eating. More dance. More (ugh) strength and lifting.

I am walking a 5K with my family this month; then my daughter is joining me for a series of 5Ks (doing the associated kid run) in October, November, and December. I am excited to share this fitness with my family, especially to bond with my daughter with it.

Christina Bergling

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facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
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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


May Stats

Running and zumba and yoga and barre, oh my! May was an active month.

I began by continuing to torture myself and falling as easy prey to my eating disorder. Yet I caught myself on the downward spiral. I finally recognized my bullshit and was able to talk myself down, coax myself back to some semblance of sanity and zen.

So I have let go. I have let myself have rest days again. I have let myself eat again. I have let myself not care so damn much again. And it has been liberating.

Once I let go (and also let myself recover and also fed myself), my running improved. I successfully completed the 11 mile, and it felt great. At the end, I actually felt like I could keep going. Perhaps it was the weight of my pressure and expectations in my limbs the previous time.

While scale continues to not favor me, the tape measure has been a bit more friendly. So there has been progress, even against the breastfeeding weight cling-on. I will take being happy and flawed over obsessive and still not perfect.

may

 

Total miles: 52
Total miles run outside: 52
Longest distance: 11 miles
Best times: 6.7 miles in 1:24, 11 miles in 2:25

Total weight loss: 25 pounds
Weight loss in May: 1 pounds

Total inch loss: 5″- 5″- 4″
Inch loss in May: 0″- 1″- 0″


April Stats

I don’t really want to talk about how April went. I am so over this post partum recovery process I could puke. If I didn’t have puking PTSD from my last pregnancy. April was the first month I not only plateaued but moved in the wrong direction.

I don’t even really know what to say I’m so sick of thinking about it.

I went to my doctor. She confirmed that, even 6 months later, my thyroid levels are still low after having my son. She upped my dosage a little. So far, that is not resolving the issue at all. She did tell me that most likely my body will retain the last 10-15 pounds I have to lose until after I stop breastfeeding. No matter how I work.

I also completed the 90 Day challenge at the gym. After three months, I lost all of 1 pound and 3% body fat. So all that work for pretty much absolutely nothing. Each weigh in was just frustrating and embarrassing.

So since I can’t really do anything, I will continue to eat clean and healthy; I will continue to workout manically. I will return to 10 miles and hopefully my normal pace. I will just have to wait to find my body again. If it ever does return.

After puking for almost 10 months, three failed epidurals, pitocin-fueled back labor, carpal tunnel, sciatica, a displaced rib, I just want my body to feel like myself again. I want to live in my temple rather than this vandalized version. I don’t need to be skinny; I just need to feel like me again. After pregnancy and nursing and belonging to the children. I just want this for me.

All in good time. I try to remember to savor these phases as this is my last (intentional) baby.

Conversely to my anti-progress in weight loss, running inches closer and closer to prepregnancy. I finished a 5 mile in near normal time, same for my 5Ks. I just need a little bump in pace and to jump back to 10 miles, and I am there. Maybe if I do it baby weighted, I will be even better when I am myself again.

april

Total miles: 59
Total miles run outside: 59
Longest distance: 8 miles
Best times: 5K in 35:19, 5 miles in 58:44, 8 miles in 1:45

Total weight loss: 25 pounds
Weight gain in March: 1 pounds

Total inch loss: 5″- 5″- 4″
Inch gain in March: 0″- 1″- 0″