Monday, December 31, 2012

The last run

The mountains showed themselves from their best side today. They were dusted with perfect white snow, kissed by the suns rays giving them a healthy glow, framed by a clear blue sky... a perfect setting for a run.

When I woke up and looked out the window I knew I had to run today and so the mad time management calculations started in my head. It was now too late to go before work... in my lunch break I was going to be pressed for time... and the evening was reserved to spend with the family. I felt my heartrate increase at my desperate attempts to find a time to run. I got edgy. I reached for the good old notepad  and began to write out a time plan, breaking down the time I'd need to get home, changed, get back, shower, eat and get back to work. I was left with a bit over 30min running time, not good enough in my world (I know, 30min is better than nothing, but I can't bring myself to accept it). I'm sure other endurance athletes will understand that anything sub-hour is just not justifyable. What to do? I decided to assess the flow of business that morning and workout the potential of how busy it could get (which realistically you never can) in the afternoon. After assessing the situation I decided it would be quiet enough for me to, shyly, ask my co-workers if I could take an extended lunchbreak so I could run. Of course they, without hesitating, exclaimed a loud YES! Hallelujah, my day was saved.
From that moment on my legs were in running mode and my mind was counting down to the running hour.

The day had developed into a warm winters day, which made running conditions ideal, creating the perfect surface to run on; grippy yet not slushy snow. Two layers of clothes sufficed and a few minutes after leaving work I emerged out of the house in my running gear (it pays to live accross the road from work).
I decided on my usual 10km run, which spoils you with the glorious view of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau skyline the entire way. People were throwing snowballs (not at me), kids were playing in the snow, people were smiling. This was going to be a good run, I could feel it in the air, my last run for 2012.

2012 has been an incredible year of running for me, and as my feet hit the ground memories started whizzing through my brain like electric currents. My favorite (running) memories are running with my best friend Shayne. I can always call on her for an adventure, we hit the same stride, we talk and laugh, we philosophise about life, we talk about boys, we have fun. There have been mornings we'd meet at 4:30am just to fit in a 20km run before work. Every run is then ended with a PRC (post run coffee), our little tradition. That's a big part of why we get up so early, just so we don't miss out on our well earned PRC...
Back in Australia, every sunday was reserved for sunday long runs with an wonderful running group made up of diverse, interesting, motivating and amazing people, lead by the running guru, Chief Al (as we call him). We would run anywhere between 20-30km along Newcastles gorgeous coastline, chatting, laughing and challenging one another. As a group we trained for the Newcastle Hill to Harbor, where I had my first half marathon victory.

When I moved back to switzerland, the beginning of April, my running became very solitary, which triggered me to  channel all my focus into training for a 78km Ultra. Training solo was a great time for soul searching, learning discipline and self motivation, and getting to know my bodys limits and abilities. For a long time I have flirted with the idea of an ultra marathon, and once I crossed that startline I didn't stop until my feet crossed the finishline, 8hrs20min later as 11th female. It was the run of my life.

The Jungfrau Marathon soon followed and my ambitions were set high, however, that race turned out to be the trough of my running season. I learnt a valuable lesson that day, that sometimes you are missing a piece to the puzzle, the piece to a successful race. That day I was certainly missing the fitting piece to the race I had imagined, but I filled it with another piece, finishing and creating a different outcome to the original image I had painted in my mind.

New York called as the final race for the year and we all know the outcome of that race. Some things are out of our control, such as a cancelled race, but that doesn't mean there can't be another kind of race. On a truly beautiful day, which was meant to be race day, a group of wheelchair athletes and I set out to do our own Marathon through NY, although mine wouldn't be running but on a bike instead. It sure wasn't the exact race any of us had prepared for, yet cruising through the streets of New York, seeing fellow runners, watching a city being revived will forever be embeded in our memories and a truly unique take on the New York Marathon.

As I was reminiscing about the past year I rapidly got pulled back into the present when I found myself running on the ski piste instead of the trail, dodging skiiers left right and center. Lucky I didn't run off the cliff I say ;)

I walked back in the door with 15mins to get showered and changed, but I felt revived and alive. Running has given me a new breath of life. The beauty of the sport is no matter where you are you can run. No matter where you run you will meet a fellow runner who shares your passion. No matter what your level of fitness is, it's always challenging. It fuels the soul.

My last run in 2012 has evoked wonderful memories not only of running, but also of many other aspects in my life. Had I not have had that extra time to run today I would have, most likely, missed out on that time to reflect and appreciate a blessed year.

... with that said, bring on 2013! Happy Running Year, I mean New Year.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Since I was a little girl I have had a love affair with perfume. Some of my earliest memories are of me walking into the bathroom after mum or dad had spritzed on a scent. I remember feeling incredible comfort at the train of scent they left behind. Dad's aftershaves were always dominant, masculine and herby; Mum's perfumes were feminine, gentle and sweet.

It's amazing how we can associate a scent with a particular person, how it can evoke memories and feelings, and exactly that happened to me the other morning. As I was rushing to get out the door, I randomly grabbed one of my perfumes and spritzed some on. The little dust pearls instantly woke my sense of smell, which lead to awakening my memories letting them flood into my conciousness, inviting me to reminisce.

One summers day, while I was still in hospital, Mum came to visit me and brought me a little present - a sample perfume of CHANCE by Chanel. Her reasoning for it was because she felt I needed another chance, more importantly I needed to give myself another chance. She also thought it might make me feel better about myself, that it would make me smell life again. I tentatively sprayed some on, tentatively because I have a very particular taste when it comes to perfume, tentatively because I didn't like it when I didn't have the control of choice. The moment I got my first whiff of that chance I fell in love, I knew that was the scent for me.

Sporting my new fragrance, I walked down the hospital ward headed in the direction of Dr. Prinz's office. I so vividly remember walking past the rooms of the other sick children, and it struck me that we all need a chance (or more) sometimes, another chance at starting something, another chance at love, another chance at LIFE. It was then I realized that my chance was right infront of me, that I just needed to take hold of it and run with it. The kids I shared time and space with on that ward of the Insel Spital didn't have the same chance as me. They're conditions, unlike mine, weren't self-inflicted; their chance rested, mainly, in the hope and trust of the doctors, whereas my chance rested, predominantly, in my actions. I could actively make myself better, I just needed to see it, take it and do it... and eat.

We all get given chances in life if sick or healthy, young or old, poor or rich, skinny or large... but in the end it's up to us what we do with that chance. It may sound silly, but everytime I put on chance, I am reminded of the chances I have been given and continue to be given. It feels like a new start and reminds me to appreciate life, to open my eyes and recognize the chances I have.

Dear girl,
Anorexia is not a chance;  Anorexia takes away and hides your chances. You are her chance at gaining power, don't let her do that. Never stop seeing and believing in the chances you have, the chance to get better. I am so glad I took that chance to get better and gain my life back eventhough; it still, isn't always easy. Believe in yourself, believe in the chance of life and don't believe in Anorexia.

Dear Mum, Dad, Family and Friends,
Never stop believing in the chance of hope; because where there is hope, there is a chance. I know, from the experience of my family, that anorexia can be incomprehensible, frustrating, frightening and seeming hopeless. My family never gave up on me, eventhough it may have been the easy thing to do at times. Never stop giving your daughter, son, wife or friend another chance, as sometimes it's exactly that one last chance they need.

Dear self,
Always remember the chances you have been given and the chance you have within your own choice. Never forget that you chose to get better and with that choice come responsibility and commitment, not only to yourself, but also to those who gave you chances and showed you trust. Keep that knowledge close to your heart, because you are one of the lucky ones who had the option of choosing between life and death.

I'm so thankful to my mum for giving me chance on that warm summers day. I'm thankful that it awoke me to the subtle, sweet, playful, comforting and dramatic scents that life brings with. I wear my chance.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


So recently, well since I've moved back to switzerland, I have been totally engulfed in the world of vampires, addicted to watching Vampire Diaries and True blood. For that I will blame Jenny, my step sister, who introduced me to the (fantasy) world of those blood suckers. It is something I tried to avoid for a long time because I thought it was stupid, a waste of time and served no purpose. Call me a hypocrite, I'll take it, but have absolutely fallen in love with the shows. I feel slightly better liking them now that I've got my best friend Shayne hooked. She is probably the most level headed, kind hearted, determined and funniest person I know (that she is also a great runner goes unspoken). She doesn't put up with crap and I knew if she didn't like Vampire Diaries then I was going to have a hard time justifying my love for vampires. To my great luck however, she loved it, and I think she devoured the first two seasons faster than I did (and that was fast too). In short, thats my justification for watching the shows.

As Jenny and I were snuggled up on the couch last night, sucking in the lastest episode of Vampire Diaries, I had a sudden epiphany; Anorexia and Vampires aren't all that different and if I could give Anorexia a face she would look sweet and angelic, to lure you in, but she would have her vampire like fangs hidden so she could latch onto you at the right time. Okay, admittedly Anorexia doesn't drain you of blood, but once she pierces her fangs into you, she slowly drains the life out of you.

Anorexia finds you at a vulnerable time, pretends to be your friend, gains your trust, galmours you. Just like vampires can glamour you into believing every word they say, creating a different reality. She forces you to gradually cut the ties to anything that gives you hold in the REAL world, so she has more pull on you in her IMAGINARY world.

The more a vampire feeds on human blood, the stronger it gets. Same goes for anorexia, the more she feeds on you, the stronger she gets. Ultimately they both want to suck you dry, taking your life away.

Statistics on anorexia have revealed that mortality rates are higher than from any other psychological disorder, and that 2 in 10 sufferers will die from the illness. It's unfortunate to say that the numbers of people anorexia has latched on to is increasing not only in females, but also in males. Those are frightening statistics which evoke the question in me - how can we kill such a force?

Vampires are killed by piercing a stake through their heart. In Vampire Diaries there are original vampires, the origin, the source the other vampires evolved from. These vampires can't be killed with an ordinary stake, like other vampires are killed. It is only with a rare white oak stake that they can be killed. If they are staked through the heart, with any ordinary stake, and it is left in place, the original vampires go into a "temporary" death, until the stake is removed.
We need to find a white oak stake equivilant to kill anorexia, but to my knowledge that does not exist as yet. My Vamporexia has a stake through her heart, but occasionally, for unknown reasons, she comes back to life and attempts to sink her fangs back inot me, so she can be brought back to life.
She did exactly that recently, glamouring me back into her world, making me believe that I missed her and needed her in my life. She slowly gained strength and control over me. The stake wasn't completely removed and before she could feed on me too much I managed to kill her (temporarlily) again.
The thing is, I was letting her flirt with me again, until I realized the trap I was falling in to. I found myself doing self distructive things, loathing myself and my body, questioning my life. I told an amazing friend about Vamporexia slowly taking hold of me, which eventuated in me telling mum and dad. They were the antidote to Vamporexia's venom. Anorexia stands alone, she is strong, stronger than you alone, but if you have an army behind you, and you are at the force of that army ready to battle, she stands no chance.

I am incredibly thankful and fortunate to have family and friends who are there for me, unconditionally, without judgement.
If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that the only way Vamporexia can be staked is when a family unites. The only person who can stake Vamporexia though, is the sufferer themselves.

I always knew there was a purpose for my love of these shows, and with that in mind, I will continue watching them... who knows what else it may reveal about anorexia.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Ping Pong

Christmas is in the air and my favorite city at this time of the year is Bern, Switzerland. As you emerge out of the train station you are greeted by the massive window of one of the stores, which is always elaborately decorated to suit the season or event. Yesterday was "chlousetag" or  "Santa day" in Switzerland, where Santa comes to your house, determines if you were good or bad, gives you mandarines, peanuts and a present. Yesterday however, Santa was inside the window taking photos with little kids, infecting them with the joyous christmas spirit. Vendors selling christmas cookies were lining the streets, the scent of cinnamon and pine was drifting through the air and the roads were elegantly laced with christmas lights. It was going to be a good day.

I awoke with excitement, because today was the day I was going to see one of my favorite and most trusted people - Dr. Prinz. I still remember, so vividly, the first time I met him. I was a frail girl, lost and lifeless. He was a larger than life character with a mighty laugh and with a genuine interest to help me. We instantly clicked and he became a fundamental part in my recovery.

The perception we have of psychiatrists is, generally, very stereotyped. There's a sofa on which you sit, the psychiatrist sits opposite you with his notepad firmly placed on his lap. Often the index finger sits somewhere near the corner of his mouth to give him an analytical look, eyes slightly squinted in thought, attempting to decipher the root of your problem.
Dr. Prinz was the opposite of that. We both sat in chairs as equals, I got to choose my spot. His office was decked out in Disney and Pixar posters, the notepad lay on the table not on his lap, he was interested in me as a person, not me with a problem.
The thing is, a person batteling an addiction, a condition or an illness is still a person. That "condition" isn't what identifies them as a person, it is simply a part of them, it is not the essence of them. Admittedly, when I was in the grips of Anorexia, I did believe it was my identity, the essence of me. Dr. Prinz taught me otherwise and now, in retrospect, I believe that was a crucial part in my recovery.
See, as Dr. Prinz was more interested in me, the person Belinda, he also encouraged me to learn about myself, to peel back the layers and realize that there was more to me than just a "successful" Anorexic. With Dr. Prinz Anorexia never stood in first place, she had to take the backseat, behind me.
Prinz taught me to gradually let go of Anorexia and gradually start grabbing on to life. There were sessions where Anorexia didn't even make it into the conversation because we were too busy discussing Roger Federer, or the events of the 2004 Athens Olympics, books and movies, but my favorite of all - playing Ping Pong. Who would have thought that a Psych would play Ping Pong with a patient when, in reality, they should be taking apart your problem and "fixing" you?

When we first started playing I hit the ball tentatively, to ensure it would hit the table, I wanted to be "perfect" at the game. I didn't want to make errors, because I believed they would reflect my failings as a person. Prinz, an outstanding Ping Pong player, would adapt his game to my level, occasionally hammering a winner over my end of the table (at his usually level) which, in turn, encouraged me to lift my game. Over time my apprehensions vanished and my game loosened up, much a reflection of my state of mind. The idea of hitting a ball that went too long, or even missing a hit became much more acceptable. And instead of playing with determination and tension, I began to play with fun and ease. Thats how I started beating Prinz, that's how I began beating Anorexia.

As I took a seat in Prinz's office yesterday his first comment to me was " I brought another T-shirt to change in to so we can have a Ping Pong rematch". Wow, he was getting serious about this game. So after lunch and catching up as friends, no longer on Doctor/Patient terms, we ventured to the Ping Pong stadium.
We began to play and I was keen to show him that my game had become stronger (thanks to the recent lessons from some great friens), as had I as a person.
The ball was hitting the paddles at a rapid pace, tactics were becoming ever more evident and pearls of sweat began to trickle down our foreheads. GAME ON!! We both played with an equal portion of competitiveness and fun. We were literally  chasing the ball from one corner of the table to the other. It was intensely fun... except for the part where I (hmmmm, should I admit this...?) Lost.
I lost the game but won my life back.

The religious game of Ping Pong with Prinz has been a great reflection of the process of my recovery from Anorexia. I learnt that in order to improve my game I had to learn to work on my weak points, I needed to learn to read the game, to have trust in my ability and to accept defeat but not let myself be defeated. As I have become stronger as a person, so has my game. And watch out Dr. Prinz, I will be back for revenge.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The snowflake

Today I awoke to a lush curtain of snow infront of my window. Thick snowflakes were gracefully floating deep into the valley creating a fluffy white carpet on the road. Needless to say my running shoes laced themselves up in no time and, before I knew it, I was out dodging snowflakes that were attacking my face and kicking the freshly fallen snow up behind me.

There really is nothing, in my opinion, that matches the magical feeling that snow on a cold winters day produces. Sure, the cold is a minor minus, but once you get moving the heat you generate out-heats the cold, creating the perfect running temperature. So running in the snow is actually a big plus, just like the swiss flag.

My path took me along a 10km trail that runs along the waterfront. Dogs were frolicking in the snow, couples were walking hand in hand beneath the trees that were dressed in white and the smell in the air was hinting that christmas is looming. The wall of snowflakes was so dense that it impaired my vision, resulting in me running squint-eyed the whole way (I occasionally opened my eyes completely so as to be sure that my eyelashes hadn't frozen together):

Snowflakes are beautiful, especially the ones we see illustrated with their 6 branches that exted from a star-shaped center - pure, glittering, perfect. However, the reality of a snowflake is that each one is individual and unique in structure... no one snowflake is the same. From the moment they are created within a coud they undergo continual change in their shape due to the differing temperature and humidity zones they float through on the journey. No snowflake is perfect, but we know that, once the snowflake falls into its place, it becomes a piece of a bigger picture, it becomes a part of perfection.

We are not all that different from a snowflake. We are all individual and unique in our personality, shape, beliefs, prefrences, lifestyle etc. Our lives are in a constant state of movement which creates change, whether we realize it or not... Our bodies change.
As I was running throught the snowflakes I began to imagine the snowflake being a reflection of my body. I know the image I harbor in my head of my 'perfect' body, just like we know what the perfect snowflake 'should' look like. I began to realize, that just like the snowflake, my body is designed to change, to fit with the bigger picture that makes me up as a person. That image is not solely made up of the appearance and shape of my body, but also by my personality, values and the environment I live in and many more componants that, eventually, make up the bigger picture of Belle.

I think we place so much value on our physical appearance because its (often) the first thing that represents us before we have the opportunity to reveal ourselves through words and actions. Maybe we should change our attitude and let ourselves float through the different zones of change until we fall in into the spot that is waiting for us. Although we could debate if that spot even exists...? The point I'm trying to make is that instead of fighting change we should embrace it, in all its forms. A snowflake can be moulded into a snowball once it has fallen, so maybe we too, can mould change into a snowball that fits in our fist. The ball is in our hands.

In a trans-like state I kept running through the beautiful snowflakes, imagining myself being one of them, perfectly unique and individual.