“My attic is full of bones and full of hopeless young emotions that just won’t grow up”

Completely blanking on the English word for milk and panicking on the plane.

Landing at Dulles International Airport.

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air playing on the TV when I walked into my cousin’s house.

These are the only three distinct memories I have from December 18, 1995. It was probably just a normal winter day for most people in the Northern Hemisphere, but for me, it was the day my life changed. I wrote more about that day in this post

It’s been 25 years since my family left our home to become immigrants in a foreign land. This is the first time that I’m home on that anniversary. 

There have been a lot of feelings. 

But I’ve been thinking about my life as I’ve worked on taking back my narrative and healing my wounds. This year has been pivotal for my mental health, for my relationships, and for my identity.

Much like the beautiful city I get to call home, my soul lives on two continents, but the bridge in my heart is not as steady as the one over the Bosphorus. 

Until recently, I felt that this sentiment was an exaggeration, but to be perfectly honest, I have felt completely alone since that day 25 years ago. In being a first-generation immigrant who had to grow up fast, I’m not the first nor am I unique. 

But as with everything in life, my experience is uniquely mine. 

My family, my thoughts, my fears, my struggles to belong to two worlds that never completely felt mine. 

There are a few distinct patterns in my relationships and struggles for the past 25 years. 

They bullied me the first few years I went to school in Maryland. My first “best friend” in middle school was the first in a lifetime of people who would take advantage of my need for belonging and gaslight me. I hated my life in middle school so much that I made my parents transfer me to a different high school so I wouldn’t have to spend 4 more years with those people. In hindsight, I had people try to reach me in middle school to help me separate from that person, but I am so fiercely loyal that I saw them as the threat instead of the one in my life.

High school was the first time I found my footing, and I made some pretty great friends, even though I was a transfer. I’m still best friends with one, though she and I didn’t really become best friends until junior year. I floated through a few disparate groups my freshman year, the most reliable being the seniors I met through my cousin. It wasn’t the first time I connected more with people older than me. My experience in high school wasn’t the worst, but my home life was getting worse and the loneliness I felt grew. Everything was a constant battle. It was exhausting trying to explain to my friends the hoops I had to jump through to simply go to a movie or why I had to always bail on plans. I began to feel like I couldn’t actually really belong anywhere and I kind of floated in and out, even with my closest friend group.

High school was when I carved out a secret life for myself, at times destructive but mostly, just wanting to have a moment of relief and control. I always got along with authority figures, gaining their trust, so when I would walk into my first period class my junior year, asking my teacher if I should be there and walking out without being marked absent wasn’t uncommon. 

I didn’t realize it then, but I was building a fortress around me because if I was going to feel lonely, I would also feel protected. I don’t think I was ever truly protected because my heart has been shattered so many times. 

In friendships and in love, I’ve been drawn to the people who “needed” me in the sense that they would use my energy until our relationship got so incredibly toxic that it blew up. It’s the friendship breakups that hurt the most, to be honest. 

I have trust issues. While I felt alone in the place where I had to learn how to belong while fighting daily battles with my family, I was feeling more and more disconnected from my home and my identity. Anyone who’s met me knows that I have fierce pride and love for my Turkish identity and my home. But every time I visited, I felt more and more disconnected. I felt like an imposter, so much that I stayed away for 11 years

I don’t look or sound like an immigrant

“Wow, you don’t have an accent.”

“Oh, you’re Muslim?”

I’m white-passing, but any time I fill out a form, I always put Middle Eastern. I no longer have an accent unless I’m extremely tired or drunk. And the accent I have is more east coast than Turkish. 

I’m more of a foreigner in my home than I am in the United States. 

I can’t even explain the toll that takes on a person and how makes me feel alone, but the one thing that’s been the hardest has been my name.

I lost my name. 

Unless you’re Turkish, you’ve been pronouncing my name wrong for the past 25 years. I was 10 years old when we moved to the US. I was already in battle when I finally began school that the first time a teacher tried to pronounce my name and it came out as “Brock” I just said “Yeah, that’s how you pronounce it” instead of correcting her. I was already an outsider. My outfit was already getting weird looks. I had an accent. It was the middle of the school year.

I gave up my name to keep fighting bigger battles.

Later on in life, I would take on a pen name, losing my identity more and more. 

It wasn’t until when I was in Turkey last summer and I could use my real name when ordering coffee and hearing the barista call out my name I realized how completely lost I’ve been without my name.

I’m not unique in this but the thing is, after 25 years, I now have an accent while pronouncing my name so I have to get over that before I can teach others how to say it correctly. 

I still don’t know where I belong.

I think I will always feel alone because the older I get, the harder I’m finding it to tell my story over and over again to people that I want to let into my heart. The more I share, the more alone I feel because how do you fit in a lifetime of straddling two worlds and every scar that comes with it into a conversation over a bottle of wine or two?

How can I trust people not to take a sledgehammer to the bridge in my soul with every microaggression or every letdown? 

How can I explain the battles in my head when I don’t fully understand them myself?

25 years ago, my world got split into two and I’ve been trying to keep the bridge from crumbling ever since.

I was hoping to have a clear epiphany by the time I finished writing this post, but honestly, I’m still not completely sure how I’ll ever feel complete.

The only thing I can do is keep healing and hope that along the way, I eventually find peace.

*Lyric in title is from “My Attic” by Pink

“When I find ground to rest my feet on, I will lay my weapons down”

As the flames rose, the rational voice in my head told me that it was getting late and I should go inside. The louder voice in my head kept whispering, “But I don’t want to go inside. It’s still early, and I just want to sit here and read my book by the fire.”

All the windows around my yard had gone dark, and yet I still felt exposed. But I didn’t care. All I knew was that I didn’t want to go inside, and there was nowhere else to go because my safe escapes were all closed due to the pandemic.

I ran out of firewood a couple of hours into my Saturday night plans of sitting in my yard, having a whiskey drink, and reading my book. Instead of just enjoying my book in the soft breeze of the night, a voice in my head kept yelling that it didn’t feel right without a fire going. I needed the fire. But I’d been drinking, so I couldn’t drive to get more firewood.

Then I remembered the pallets against the side of the house. The massive, imposing pallets that were twice the size of my fire pit.

As if I was just grabbing a small piece of wood to throw into the fire, I walked over and grabbed one of the pallets and calmly walked it over to my firepit, putting it on top, with its sides hanging off the edge of the pit. 

I threw a little starter brick into the middle of it.

A couple of small flames began to take form under the pallet in my fire pit. In my head, it made perfect sense. I went back to my drink and my book.

About an hour later, as the flames got going, the wind started picking up. It was a soft breeze at first. 

It was only 1 AM, it was a Saturday, and I wasn’t listening to any music or anything, just sitting quietly in my yard.

My rational voice started to speak up, but there was no way I could go back to the house. Not yet. I couldn’t do it.

The flames got higher as the wind picked up. A light went on in one of the apartments around my yard. My neighbor walked out of his house. Asked me what I was doing. I looked up and noticed that the smoke had started making its way to their third-story window.

Without saying a word, I stood up, grabbed the hose, and watered down the flames that had engulfed the pallet. My fire pit was deformed. The pallet was more than half gone. I went inside my apartment and waited an hour, holding my breath the entire time. Then I went outside, grabbed the remnants of the pallet, put them against the side of my house, moving my fire pit back to its place, and making sure my yard was empty. I didn’t leave my house for two days after that. 

I didn’t know it at the time, but that was my most severe hypomanic episode, followed by a depressive one. 

The following Monday, I talked my therapist through what happened, and that was the session where I finally suggested that it might be time for me to do a psych evaluation. 

It took me four months after that to schedule my psychological evaluation. It was supposed to take 90 minutes. The doctor had me diagnosed in 30 minutes flat. 

In addition to Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I also have Bipolar II Disorder. 

At the end of the diagnosis, she asked me if I was interested in treatment options. 

“Of course,” I replied, surprised. It turns out that a lot of people who get the diagnosis aren’t ready to tackle it.

I wasn’t surprised at the diagnosis. I was surprised at how emotional and relieved and overwhelmed I felt once there was a name to everything, but that also meant that I would need to go back through memorable points in my life and evaluate what my diagnosis meant.

Bipolar II vs. Bipolar I

When people hear “Bipolar Disorder,” they usually think of Bipolar I. Think Claire Danes from Homeland or Ian Gallagher from Shameless. Part of the reason why Bipolar never occurred to me is for that same reason. Sure, I’ve suffered from insomnia and depression and made some reckless decisions, but I’ve never had extreme manic episodes. 

A few years ago, I had a psychiatrist as a client and wrote copy for his webpage around depression and bipolar disorder, but I didn’t dive too much into Bipolar 2 during that project. 

After I got off the phone following my diagnosis, in tears, I looked up Bipolar 2. I found a chart outlining the symptoms of depression and hypomania associated with it, took a screenshot, and sent it to one of my best friends.

“This is literally me.”

Here are the symptoms of hypomania that I can map to precise moments in my life: 

Having higher-than-normal energy levels, being restless or unable to sit still, having a decreased need for sleep, having increased self-esteem or confidence, or grandiosity, being extremely talkative, having a racing mind, or having lots of new ideas and plans, being easily distracted, taking on multiple projects with no way of finishing them, having decreased inhibitions, having increased sexual desire, engaging in risky behavior, such as having impulsive sex, gambling with life savings, or going on big spending sprees.


Hypomania differs from full manic episodes because they don’t include hallucinations, paranoia, or delusional thoughts. 

The depression is pretty much the same.

What’s next for me

I’ve checked off the most difficult steps: Getting diagnosed, beginning treatment, and talking to my brother and dad about it. 

But the diagnosis is just the beginning.

I can’t just write off responsibility for 20 years of decisions. 

Yes, the average age-of-onset of Bipolar Disorder is about 25, but that doesn’t mean every reckless decision I made in my 20s (and OK, early 30s) was because of my disorder. Without a doubt, it probably increased the severity of everything, but what does that look like?

And more importantly, can I begin to forgive myself without holding on to the “What ifs” of my past?

Would I have finished getting my degree? Would I have drunk less? Would I have been more successful in my career? Would my finances be in better shape if I didn’t ruin my credit in my 20s?


I don’t know. Possibly. 

All I know is that I’m not scared of my brain as much as I used to be.

I have a road map. 

There are signs to recognize.

And there is so much more to understand about my disorder, my own brain, and what this means for my future as a creative professional.

As I do with everything in my life, I will be sharing this journey as it makes sense for me. I’m not sure what that will look like just yet, but if you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, I imagine I’ll be sharing more frequently on there and when it makes sense, share longer posts on here.

I also have to reflect and come to terms with what this means for my professional past and future.

One thing is for sure: I have felt so fucking lonely and lost in my mind for 30 years, and if I can help one person feel a little less alone in their journey by sharing mine, it will be worth it. 

As with everything in my life, there will probably be memes and jokes, and I am always open to talk about it. But it is a heavy lift for my emotional state, so if you ever reach out to me and I don’t respond right away, give me space and time to get back to you.

I will leave you with this one distinction: When it comes to the language around bipolar disorder, there is no consensus around whether or not you should say someone is bipolar or has bipolar disorder.

My personal preference is that I have or suffer from bipolar disorder.

If you want to learn more about bipolar disorder, NAMI is always a great resource to start, but I also really like this breakdown by healthline.

*Title song lyric from “Take It Easy” on me by Beth Hart

You Can Go Home Again

Eleven years.

It had been eleven years since the last time I stepped foot in Turkey. 

Somewhere along the way, I decided that I wasn’t worthy of returning home. 

Part of me felt that I wasn’t worthy of seeing my family until I could prove that my work and life have value. 

Until I could make them proud.

Because I’ve taken an unconventional approach to my life and my career, I had some missteps.

I failed a lot, but at some point, I felt that I couldn’t explain away my failures until I had an undeniable amount of success.

But it turns out, all I needed to do was be a good person and show up. 

Well, I had to show up and be vulnerable. 

“Hello, have we met? This is who I am now.”

It’s scary to show up with your scars in a place where you feel whole and wholly misunderstood at the same time. It’s strange being home and feeling like a foreigner because you have an accent when you’re speaking your native tongue.

It’s difficult overcoming the Nostalgia Conundrum.

But it felt right. I knew in those moments, no matter how difficult it may have felt, there would be nothing that kept me from going home once a year. 

I’ve been working on defining my values. If I’m honest, it’s been for the past year, ever since I got on a plane to leave Istanbul. On the flight back, I had a plan. I would split my time between my chosen home (Seattle) and explore my roots, but then 2020 happened.

Not only did we get hit with a pandemic, but my company got acquired, which meant that I could no longer work remotely from a different country. 

I was lucky to have a job. 

It would be irresponsible of me to quit while my friends were getting laid off and struggling to make ends meet.

But we were in the middle of a pandemic, and I kept yearning to be in a place where I belonged. 

A place where the simple act of walking down the street would surround me with the sights and sounds of home, even with a mask on.

I felt stuck.

I screamed. I held on. I lashed out. I felt burnt out on life (and work).

I discussed it over and over with my therapist. 

The decision was clear.

I put in my request for a leave of absence.

I budgeted. 

I discussed it over with my brother.

I tossed and turned.

I planned for worst-case scenarios.

The decision is made: I’m going home, and not just for two weeks this time.

I’ll be home for two months, even if that means sitting in my aunt’s apartment because we’re in the middle of a global pandemic.

Even if it scares me because the last time I made a life decision this major was when I packed my car and moved to Seattle.

Even if I’m going to miss the hell out of my cat and the people in my COVID bubble in Seattle.

Even if it means that this will be the first time in 8 years I won’t be spending the holidays in my chosen home.

Because I’m worthy and I belong at home. 

I keep a record of the wreckage of my life

I was supposed to be in Seattle for Thanksgiving. I wanted to be in Seattle the day after I called off my engagement. But instead, I lived in the same apartment with my ex for 10 months after breaking things off because I was financially unable to leave. The situation kept getting toxic but I did my best to make every day livable as I kept making my plans to move cross country. To the outside world, we were just taking a break from wedding planning while I navigated my new career path as a freelancer, but in reality, I needed to save money. I needed to somehow get a new car. I needed to secure some freelance contracts. I needed to stay awake so that I wouldn’t be startled out of sleep when he slammed the front door when he walked in drunk in the middle of the night. I needed to keep it together for the days he broke down in tears, begging me to stay and make it work while flipping the switch 5 minutes later to call me an ungrateful bitch who just used him for money. I needed to remember to lock the bedroom door so he wouldn’t try to crawl into bed with me while I was sleeping. I needed to survive one more day. One more day. Until I could finally leave.

Then the day came and I finally got in my car and began the drive to Seattle. It took me 3.5 days in December to go from DC to Seattle. Every time I stopped the car long enough to nap, I worried that I would wake up back in that bed in DC. I made it to Seattle but I couldn’t cut ties with him. He called and texted every day, using the excuse that he was taking care of my cat. He promised he would give her back to me once I got settled. He screamed at me. He cried and told me he didn’t know how he could survive. He continued to hack into my emails. He catfished my friends, who all turned their backs on me, leaving me completely alone in a new city. He stalked me. He threatened me. He never gave my cat back. He told lies to his family about me, who ignored my pleas to take care of him because he wasn’t OK. He put my life in danger from 3000 miles away.

I kept moving forward, trying to make a life for myself in this new city. I came within 48 hours of being evicted from my apartment. I lashed out at my family. I found myself at the bottom of the bottle whenever I could afford it while writing for content mills for a penny a word to keep my head above water. I changed my password a million times. I slept with a knife under my pillow when I did sleep.

I never told anyone what I was dealing with every day.

I got a job. I got more clients. I met people who relentlessly pushed through my walls to make me feel safe even when they didn’t know just how much scar tissue had been building up for years.

I moved, two steps forward three steps back. Or is it the other way around? I can’t tell most days.

I survived. Somehow. Barely.

I made it one year. Two years. Created new traditions. Constantly ran away from Seattle because I didn’t think I could call it home. Setting down real roots in this place meant that they would probably get ripped out.

But slowly, I found my people. I found a glimmer of light in myself. I pushed. I slept sometimes. I grew a lot (I think). I gave my heart to others. I gave all the pieces of myself to the universe. The pieces came back jagged, cutting into my scars, yet I keep moving forward somehow.

But here’s the thing.

All I want to do most days is scream.

I still have vivid nightmares where I wake up and I’m back in my bed in DC, stuck in a loop, feeling a prisoner in my own life.

So I don’t sleep.

Heartbreak after heartbreak, resentment has been building up and I don’t know how to release it other than to push people away because I want to just scream at them for not just getting all of who I am right away when I don’t even know who I am today.

Who am I now that I’ve realized I can stop running, that I can forgive and begin to heal?

Who do I deserve?

What do I deserve?

What kind of love will accept me not just with my scars but with the uncertainties of who I will continue to evolve into?

I say that it feels like I’ve lived lifetimes since I moved to Seattle but the truth is that I relive the events that led to the move and the following few years where trauma after trauma hit me on a constant loop. I say that I’ve grown and healed and while that may be partially true, the fact is I am still holding on to who I was then as a way to keep people away.

I don’t know how to share who I am today without the postscripts and the post-postscripts and the context and the prologues and and and

Happy anniversary, Seattle.

It’s been 7 years.

Maybe next year the healing will be a little less messy.

I guess that means I need to actually begin to forgive myself for wanting to move on.

Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself

(Updated in Nov 2023 – I definitely need to write a more updated version of this but ya know, life) 

So, there’s this funny thing that happens when you’ve spent 20 years talking to people on the internet, sharing both your personal and professional journey.

You wake up one morning, 34-years-old, with the realization that a majority of the people who have “met” you over the past 5 years only know you in your professional capacity, while you have your high school friends, your blogger friends, and then your girlfriends who aren’t bloggers but still like reading your writing (you assume).

What follows is a bit of an identity crisis.

I had this little crisis a few years ago when I was meeting a lot of people at conferences and even attempted to “segment” my posts on Facebook for the different audiences I had.

Needless to say, that fell apart pretty quickly.

Then there’s the whole thing where I decided to build a business on my own strengths, without separating the business from who I am, and so my Twitter & Instagram feeds have become a mix of both personal observations and professional insights. Oh, and then I decided to go in house at an agency after being a freelance consultant for a decade, so that was a fun transition. 

While all of this has been happening over the course of the past few years, I’ve also lost ownership of my own narrative. The most basic truth about human nature is that we all only share parts of our stories to certain audiences. We package up our life to serve the anticipated expectations of the people we encounter. Before the internet, this was limited to our families, our friends, and coworkers that were physically present in our daily lives.

With the growth of our perceived audience, the anticipated expectations of people have grown exponentially.

For me, the consequence of that was being so afraid to share my narrative to my segmented audiences that I just stopped sharing, not only with the world but with myself.

I lost touch with my own healing process—I stopped writing.

I began censoring myself.

I tried to fit the mold of so-called “best practices” not only in my professional journey but my personal life too.

My depression and anxiety began taking over my inner monologue, making it even more difficult to express myself to the outside world.

I became lost in a sea of expectations, seeking validation from people who don’t even know how to accept themselves.

I began to shrink.

Then I had an epiphany.

The most radical act of self-care is reclaiming the narrative.

So, I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself and tell you a little bit about who I am today.

I’m Berrak Sarikaya, a 38-year-old April Fool Baby who is Aries AF and feels no shame about it. According to the Enneagram Institute, I am Type 2: The Helper.

I am an immigrant and proud of it.

I’m multi-passionate, and no, I do not want to monetize every single hobby that I have because I want to just enjoy things without feeling judged.

Being multi-passionate also means that if you’re following me on social media, you will see me go from geeking out about the latest Doctor Who episode to talking about politics (both in the US and Türkiye) to sharing memes to sharing marketing tips to amplifying job postings to connect people to…whatever it is that’s on my mind that day.

Life is too short, and I am too busy living to have a curated persona for your benefit.

I’m a writer, first and foremost, but I’ve also worked my ass off over the past decade to curate a career that combines a few of my different passions.

While I am growing as an integrated marketing strategist, I’ve also got a soft spot in my heart for small businesses, content marketing, and freelancers/solopreneurs.

I am not an expert in anything, but I do have a lot of experience.

I am curious as fuck, and I will ask questions. If you have the answers or an opinion, I want you to answer those questions.

In case you haven’t noticed, I am expressive. I am easily excitable.

I take big leaps. I am more scared of being successful than failing. I make mistakes. Lots of them. I let people down.

I make snap judgments. I let my insecurities take control.

I wear my soul and scars out in the open.

I am thirsty for knowledge. I am overwhelmed.

I am a survivor.

I’m living with bipolar 2.

I am evolving.

So, welcome to my life. If you’d like to be a part of it daily, here’s a little cheat sheet to connect with me.

  • The B-Roll: A weekly letter from me to you about what’s on my mind, what’s caught my eye, plus a Language & Culture Corner where I will begin sharing pieces of my Turkish culture. Plus, the best way to stay updated on my creative projects. You can see the past editions of The B-Roll here to catch up and to get an idea of what you can expect. 
  • Instagram (@BerrakBiz) (personal): This is where my biggest identity crisis is happening, and things are shifting. I wanted it to be a curated experience as a small biz owner, but I’m shifting back to it just being me. I use the stories a lot, and I’ve begun posting a little bit more to just share daily thoughts, books I’m reading, etc.
  • LinkedIn: This is where I’m professional AF. Obviously. I’m pretty selective about who I connect with on here but if you want to connect, be sure to send me a note with your request.
  • Since my favorite platform is gone, you should connect with me on Threads & Mastodon. You can engage with me daily on here for random thoughts, industry insights, cat pictures, random observations about Seattle life, and generally geeking out. 

Twitter (@BerrakBiz): This was my favorite platform. RIP

Now, I’d love to meet you. Tell me something you discovered yourself in the past year. 

How I Found My Groove in the Orange Zone

Growing up in Turkey, I was used to running around all the time. Our days in elementary school were long because we had recess between every single class. So I would spend half the day in the schoolyard in my dress uniform, running around behind a soccer ball, heckling most of the boys in my class. Fun fact: My biggest expense as a kid was tights because of how many I tore through running around during recess.

When we moved to the U.S., I spent my weekends playing soccer, baseball, and tennis with my cousins. In middle school, I hated running in track & field but in high school, I tried out for the volleyball team every year. I was never the most athletic kid but damn if I didn’t try so hard to be part of a team. I loved playing volleyball but just could not get over my own insecurity issues to ever make the cut. Of course, this being high school, I threw myself into kickboxing in gym class and threw food right out the window. My body images issues have been around for as long as I can remember and I’ve already written about that.

When I finally moved out of my parents’ house and in with a house full of roommates when I was 24-years-old, I threw myself back into working out. I would come home from happy hour to do the 30 Day Shred in my tiny room as my roommates slept.

I was feeling strong and about to dive into P90X when I got in my first major car accident. My car was totaled, the whiplash was awful, and I never got treated for the injuries. My shoulder spasm issues were already under way when this happened so I just gave up. I slowly started to gain weight and stopped taking care of my body. 

I never really found a way to make peace with my body to the point of trying to become active again. My ex was a runner, so when we first started dating, he pushed me to go jogging with him once. It did not go well. The first time we went hiking was encouraging but then we took on a more challenging mountain and well, we made it to the top but I didn’t feel like my best self. 

That was the last time. 

Fast forward to January 2018. One of my best friends had started to do barre and she gifted me a 5-class pass. “You can go at your own pace,” she told me. The first class was absolute torture but something in me finally clicked. We started our Saturday mornings sweating at barre class and little by little, it became sort of easier. 

Then I got into another car accident. This one was brutal. Thankfully, I had health insurance so I finally went to see a chiropractor. The first thing he said to me was that I had a “10 year old car accident on my spine.”

Needless to say, the adjustments were NOT easy. I went back to barre class about a month later and it was so fucking painful but I didn’t back down.

Yet, there was still something missing. Barre was great but I knew I needed to also get back into cardio work. I didn’t want to go to the gym, and I didn’t want a personal trainer. The last time I had done a spin class was a disaster. A few of my friends had seen success at Orangetheory Fitness. They encouraged me to try a class but I was terrified.

“I’ll go when I’m a little stronger,” I kept telling myself. I kept delaying, and delaying, and delaying…until I finally made the commitment. I texted my friends.


On November 7, 2018, I walked into my first OTF class. Everyone was super nice, and my coach showed me the ropes. They told me I didn’t have to run and I could do the tread blocks as a power walker.

The biggest selling point of OTF for me was that it’s a guided workout, but everyone goes at their own pace. You don’t have to worry about anyone but yourself. Except my first class was a partner workout. They begin every first-timer on the rower, so the person who was at the same number station on the treadmill was my partner. As the rower, I was the one keeping pace for our switches. 

Y’all. It was the most intimidating situation and I was worried about holding my partner back. I was in pain. I was out of breath. I was cramping up. I wanted to drop the handles and run out—and never look back.

Except I didn’t. I have no idea how but I pushed through the class.

Then I signed up for another one.

My next class was a different format and a little “easier” in the sense that it was not a partner workout and I was able to get in the groove a little more comfortably. It was also a different coach, so I got a more well-rounded perspective about OTF in general.

And I kept coming back. I went from going 2X/week to 4-5X/week depending on how I’m feeling.

Here’s what I’ve accomplished in the 5 months since that first class:

  • 2,000 meter row benchmark. Twice. Beating my own personal record the second time
  • My first DriTri
  • Numerous personal records when it comes to the weight floor
  • My first 90 minute class


I stopped caring about the scale. When I began going to OTF, the number on the scale was the highest it’s ever been my entire life, but I made a choice not to focus on that number. I am focusing on how I feel, how my clothes fit me, and the fact that I keep showing the fuck up.

So, what is it about Orangetheory that helped me find my groove?

  • For those 60 minutes, it is only about that workout. Whatever’s going on in my life and the world that day, I leave it at the door as soon as I step into that studio. My phone is left behind.
  • The coaches are fantastic. They’re hands off because they have an entire class to pay attention to but they don’t let me slack either. They encourage me to keep pushing, just a tiny bit every time.
  • I don’t have to worry about making any decisions except for which station I will begin on, and how will I push myself for the next 60 minutes. I have decision fatigue during my everyday life, so not having to think about which workout I should be doing, or how long I should be on the rower, or which core exercise I should be doing…it is a literal sigh of relief.
  • If I don’t give my all in one class because I’m having an off day, it’s completely fine. That is ONE class. I still showed up. I still did the work, and I will be right back in the studio the next day.
  • I have never felt stronger. I am still not a runner but that’s OK. The tread and rower workouts are fine but when a coach comments on my form on the weight floor, that means the world to me.
  • My left shoulder is still incredibly weak and I still suffer from muscle spasms. Yet, every time I go into class feeling “off” and planning on hitting the lighter weights on the floor, my body surprises me.

Orangetheory taught me that after decades of feeling at odds with my body, it is possible to make peace.

It’s possible to slowly gain confidence and strength.

It’s possible to listen to my body, understand its limits, and then push past that comfort zone.

I can’t wait to see what I can do next.

If you want to follow along with my OTF journey, I post all of my updates over at @BerrakLava on Instagram.

“My heart it is racing, but afraid I am not”

“I’m going through a rough patch,” I told one of my best friends last night as we sipped our nightcaps after a great meal and a show at one of our favorite venues.

She looked at me straight in the eyes and said “a rough patch where you have a roof over your head, a job you love, and pretty solid life. You’ve been through worse.”

She’s right, of course. I have been. In fact, earlier that night, I had given her a highlight reel of one of the toughest periods of my life. I met her right at the tail end of it, when I was still healing and wasn’t really talking about the details.

There’s so much of my story I haven’t shared with even my closest confidantes because I met them after I had come out of the fire. It’s never about “hiding” my past but choosing to only share the details as they become relevant to today.

And sometimes, honestly, because I’m so open with them, I just assume that I’ve already told them everything, even though I’ve lived lifetimes before our paths even crossed.

So this is 34. It’s no longer about just moving forward and just surviving and thriving in small, present moments but owning my full story.

It’s going back to my roots of sharing my pain, my flaws, my weaknesses, and the lessons I’ve learned, not only to begin healing but to help others understand my story.

This is 34.

It’s owning my anxiety and my bad days and being honest about how much I’m struggling.

It’s reminding myself that I am allowed to cry it the fuck out when my heart is broken into pieces.

This is 34.

It’s being selective with how I choose to spend my limited energy, and not feeling guilty about leaving people behind when they’re no longer a good fit for who I am becoming.

It’s about not only growing out of my own comfort zone, and remembering that I will grow out of other people’s comfort zones. It’s knowing that I do not have to apologize for either.

This is 34.

It’s being able to stop saying “I’m too much” and instead, pivoting to proudly owning my personality without feeling the need to shrink to fit into anyone’s expectations.

It’s loving things and people passionately and enthusiastically without justifying my feelings.

Oh, and I guess it’s safe to say that this space is going to get a little busy again.

I’ve missed writing. I’ve missed sharing. I’ve missed my community.

So, if you’re new or if you’ve been around for a while, I hope you’ll stick around.

Because this is 34, and y’all, I have a lifetime’s worth of stories to share.

“The moon stays bright when it doesn’t avoid the light”

When I set out to clean my apartment this morning, I never imagined the kinds of breakthroughs I would have while picking crud out of my dishwasher filter with a toothpick. It wasn’t until I was on my stomach, cleaning the dust filter underneath my fridge that everything clicked together.

I know, what a visual, right?

2018 has been rough for me but if I’m being honest, I’ve been struggling for about a year now. There have been ups and downs, yes, but mostly, it’s been this weird limbo. I’ve felt like I’ve been walking around with that feeling of needing to pop my ears but never being able to, no matter how hard I blew my nose.

I’ve been stuck emotionally. Mentally. Professionally.

I’ve been stuck in a walk-in freezer, unable to push the handle while the words I need have been haunting me through the frosted window.

<Insert endless metaphors about feeling stuck and depressed here.>

A few weeks ago, I had another candid heart-to-heart with one of my best friends. Right before my 30th birthday, she had asked me if I was freaking out and at the time I wasn’t. My 30th came and went with the regular amount of fanfare and not too much freaking out. I was happy.

“I think my 30th freak out is hitting me now, 3 years later,” I confessed while crying into a glass of red wine. That night, I went home and sat down to write.  Read more “The moon stays bright when it doesn’t avoid the light”

My Very Grown-Up Birthday Wish List

On the eve of my 33rd birthday, I’ve been thinking a lot about presents, experiences, and the people in my life. One of my biggest goals over the past few years has been to focus on spending quality time with people in my life and creating memories. Flowers and chocolates will come and go but the laughter and tears you shared over a bottle (or three) of wine live on forever.

So, when it comes to birthdays and birthday presents, my only wish has been about experiences with friends. I have the annual Vegas trip with my girlfriends. In Seattle, I do my best to have dinner & a fun night where my friends can embarrass me (last year, it was a dueling piano bar). When it comes to things, the beauty of being an adult is being able to actually purchase what I want on my own terms. Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate thoughtful personalized presents from friends that touch on inside jokes or my quirky obsessions that make me who I am.

This year, though, as I began thinking about my birthday, I realized that my wish list is very…grown-up. As I come to terms with that, and in my attempt to actually start writing more often, I figured it would make a good blog. Read more My Very Grown-Up Birthday Wish List

Hi, I’m Berrak and I get awkward crazy eyes when I meet celebrities

My very first comic con was in Seattle in 2013. I was struggling with adjusting to life in my new home, and I was beyond excited about comic con.

The most exciting part? Seeing Misha Collins in person. I knew that I wanted to do a photo-op with him, as well as an autograph session.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve met celebrities before – I love meeting my favorite comedians after their sets. Sure, I’m a little awkward, but I look normal in the pictures.

So when it came time to meet Misha, I was nervous and ecstatic, but I had no idea what was about to happen. I got in line for my photo-op and waited for two hours. Mind you, this was my first con experience, so I didn’t know what to expect.

If you’ve never done a photo-op with a celebrity at a convention, let me enlighten you: Read more Hi, I’m Berrak and I get awkward crazy eyes when I meet celebrities