Queering the Triathlete (and Other Discomforts)

A Melancholy Zebra determined to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Tri-ing to Survive (A Focal Shift)

Leave a comment

So, I’m outing myself.

Rather, I’m shifting the lens of the blog a little. As I transitioned out of a stagnant and wistful time of my life and I rejoined the human race again, the inspiration for blog posts here waned. I’m pleased to be back on track, but I’m not pleased that I’ve let this blog wither, and the Muse does not descend just because I want her to, the wretched bitch.

After a time of careful deliberation, I’ve decided to “change lenses” (as they might say in an obsessively methodical English class) while maintaining essentially the same topic: how the hell to survive when things are going Just Great. 

I’m stalling…

I am a triathlete. I’m not only a triathlete because I love the sport but also because it’s the only way I know how to survive the circumstances of my life.

Even though I’m outing myself, I’m not going to state my name. At least not today. I’m not that stupid. Anyone who shares the list of acronyms I’ve had pinned to my charts and sticky note labels glued to my forehead would agree that full identity disclosure is a dangerous thing to do.

I’m a statistical improbability. Let’s take a peek at the most notable oddities:

  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (type II-III, blessedly mild for now): 0.04%
  • Electric shock migraines (idiopathic): ~12%
  • Borderline Personality (4-5 of 9 criteria, so on the fence for this and pretty high functioning): 1.6%
  • Major Depression: 6.7%
  • PTSD: 8%
  • Panic Disorder: 0.6%
  • IQ (just to be an ass and use a terrible test): somewhere within top 1% of the population on both scales.
  • ACE!! (… I’m going to leave this alone for now.)

So, the chances of all of those occurring in one person = 2×10^10, or 1 in 50,000,000,000. (Fifty billion.) Of course, this is with the disclaimer that the statistical probability of any person’s particular combination of crazy is infinitely improbable. We are all really fucking special snowflakes.

But really: EDS, possible BPD, trauma, and a brain that doesn’t shut up? Fantastic!

The people who truly know me know how much of a struggle it is to get through each day, how much energy it takes. The research says that my brain is probably 4x more reactive than a normal person’s, and the initial emotional impact of events lasts 20% longer. Basically, my amygdala most likely throws a complete shit-fit several times a day, and through dangerous medication and utter stubbornness do I keep it from showing or wrecking the atmosphere. Usually.

I’ve talked about how BPD often plays out before here and here.

It’s the BPD that I’m the most afraid to out myself about, but you know what? It carries the worst freaking stigma. It’s misunderstood. It’s horrible to have and horrible to watch.

Maybe if enough of us stand up and say, “Yes, I do, and I am more than those three letters,” things might get better for us. Maybe the examples of those of us doing our damnedest to do right by everyone (including ourselves) will outnumber those of us who don’t have the strength or the skills yet. So I’m standing the fuck up. Shoot me again; I ain’t dead yet!


EDS is new. I’ve always been obviously hypermobile as hell in my hips, elbows, and fingers; I have some excellent gross-out party tricks.

IMG_2494

Gross elbows!

I can subluxate my hips, fingers, and jaw on command. Wounds take longer to heal. I’ll bruise for really stupid reasons. I can stretch certain patches of skin in really strange ways. Opiates and sleep medications don’t affect me unless I’ve taken ~3x the normal dose- try telling that to a strange doctor! Don’t get me started on my digestive system.

No one put the puzzle pieces together until I tore my labrum and strained both hamstring(s) insertions back in October and the orthopedist saw how I was sitting (i.e. with my hip halfway out of its socket like nothing was wrong.) I thought I kept getting injuries because I was clumsy or stupid. Nope. My collagen is stupid!

12072630_531691343647788_4074324401016120248_n

Poppity pop pop.

I’m lucky because I’m strong, and I’m strong because I’m lucky. I was an active kid from the start, a youngun swimmer, so I’ve always had muscle. Those muscles, as I understand it, are holding my joints in place, so I’m not nearly as inhibited as some people with EDS, thank goodness.

But it’s uncomfortable.

Anyone who has been in a room with me for more than 30 minutes in the past couple years knows that I can’t resist cracking every knuckle and joint possible, stretching things, and constantly shifting positions. It’s gotten worse as I’ve grown older, for sure. Only in the last couple months have I started wearing knee braces some days because my hip and hamstrings still have not healed enough since October to help stabilize my knees 100% of the time.

(Panic attacks, unable to sleep in proper silence unless someone else is in the room, freaking out in certain locations or circumstances, and generally being an awkward academic are hardly worth discussing right now.)

It’s like driving with the gas light on, but the gauge is broken, and maybe there’s a gas station around the next bend, but maybe not; you keep going because that’s all you can do, but there’s no guarantee you have the gas to get to the next pump. It’s inconvenient.


This is where my new lens comes in!!

TRIATHLON! EXERCISE!

IMG_2321

First 140.6!

AFEV9931

Aerial love

IMG_3038

Contortion practice

Triathlon is my main love, and it saves my pants on a daily basis. I’m a water baby and an endurance junkie foremost. I have some serious and super cool goals for triathlon (Kona, Celtman, Arch to Arc), I finally got a badass coach to help me get there, and this year started out with an age-group win = what in the hell?? Things are looking up. I’m not going to give away the goodies just yet, but I hope I can give some excellent race reports over the next few years!!

Aerial pulls a double shift as strength training and my main if not only “feminine” indulgence. (Though I argue it’s more of an androgyne indulgence, and I’m sure I’ll discuss sexuality/gender later.) But circus pursuits ultimately come from the fact that I’m not a ballerina nor could ever be. Yes, I quit ballet when I was 5 or so because I thought it was super sissy and gross, but when I got older, I became infatuated with the grace and beauty of these athletes. Every movement is perfectly controlled and aesthetically interesting. Aerial lets me express a bit of that. It works all of the muscles I desperately need to get stronger (entire core, shoulders, hips/glutes) while avoiding the tedium of a gym. As long as I am careful and listen to my body, this poses no more risk to my joints than weights, isometrics, plyometrics, etc. And when I develop that insane muscle control aerial requires and master a new move, I feel beautiful.

Contortion I’m not sure if I can legitimately call myself a contortionist yet. I am a natural frontbender instead of a backbender, and most of the “cool moves” frontbenders highlight require a strong handstand, which I’m still working on. Ask me to pretzel up on the floor or in a chair, though, and I’m only a foot away from being able to kiss my own *cough*. Furthermore, I need to stretch my muscles. They tighten up very quickly from triathlon training, and I find this extremely uncomfortable around my major joints. Thanks to a fantastic contortion mentor, I’ve been trained to stretch my muscles and not my ligaments or tendons. She has an incredible bodily awareness and encourages her students to develop it, as well. The beginnings of that awareness have saved me several injuries already, and I dream of going back to work with her for that mental training.


So, this is all to say that the fabulous life lessons I shall be imparting henceforth will follow my triathlon journey. I’m actually going to frame this blog in a narrative of something really important to me and to my continued survival. Triathlon saved my life once, and it continues to do so.

This is a story of a handicapped but stubborn as hell human striving for Stronger-Faster-Longer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s