2022 A story without a title (yet)
"The final chapter" or "The turning point"
The title for this year's blog was undecided - "The final chapter" or "The turning point" - an Instagram poll decided for me.
Sometimes you want to keep things for yourself, sometimes you want to keep the silence, sometimes you have to yell and let it all out.
An untold story, a story that I'd hoped to keep a secret,...
When you reach the breaking point in your life there is not so much you can do but accept it and deal with it. Standing on top of a mountain with tears in your eyes is not ideal when you try to run back down. In a moment of sadness, a wrong choice, tripped, saw the world turned upside-down a couple of times and came to a standstill after a fall off 20 meters. All bruised up, it took me an hour to get back down and another hour to get to my car. Thought I got lucky, but weeks later it became clear what kind of damage had been done. Three ligaments got hit, one with a tear. One side of my body got totally bruised up.
Welcome to 2022
Let me be clear, I didn't mean to fall off the mountain. At the end of the year I always take time to reflect and think about past events in my life. The many personal attacks and harassments made deep scars, scars that will never disappear. Uncontrolled tears gave me blurry eyes. The descent that I made so many times before, became a nightmare….the rest is history.
I don't mind the injuries, they probably heal, but the mental damage is beyond repair. I thought I was stronger than this, but I must have underestimated myself. A moment of weakness…I can't describe it any other way. One should think that you get a thick skin after years of harassment, but that's not true.
So many people have no idea what these personal attacks do to a mindset. Too many times I see people who make posts with some kind of motivational or positivity quotes like: ignore what people say, don't listen to others, do your own thing,... If only it was that easy. Instead of making yourself popular by writing these posts, you should better take that energy and really help the ones who are fighting against this invisible enemy because now…the invisible enemy won again.
A lesson in healing
A friend once told me…"you can't break what's already broken. But you can heal. It may take time but it's your time to take. Use it well."
When you had your share of injuries, you might think you have become an expert in recovering. So a couple of weeks after my fall, I felt much better and my foot didn't hurt (so much) anymore. First race of the year was a fact. Mud, cold and wet, my kind of weather. A 20K race in the dredge, just the way I like it. All went well until 18K. I started to feel pain in my ankle again. So I started walking to the finish. Probably overloaded too soon after the injury.
So I went to the doctor who took some photos and I got a new subscription for a physiotherapy treatment. The photo showed problems with 3 of my outer ligaments, one was ruptured. I took it easy but after a couple of months of physiotherapy, there was still no improvement. I kept having trouble running long distances and at a sudden moment I felt heavy pain out of nowhere and that pain didn’t go away.
When you do all the right things and listen to the doctor, and still have no improvement, there must be something wrong. I started to wonder if the fall had done more damage than originally discovered. So I stopped my physiotherapy because they had no idea what to do anymore, and I went to a specialized doctor. He listened to my story and the many details regarding my injury. But there was one problem, in order to get another MRI, there must be a different injury established first. That's just the way the Belgium medical system works. One thing was always a constant in all previous photos and medical examinations…high levels of inflammation. My doctor told me it was a wild guess but he ordered another MRI. Conclusion: ligaments had healed perfectly, and underneath the inflammation became visible. Only one thing left, he said: a cortisone infiltration in my ankle. So after six months of struggling and heavy pain, one shot of cortisone and two days later, the pain was gone.
Out of energy
It takes a lot of energy when you are recovering from a severe injury. Once you’re back on your feet, your energy levels keep rising and you can start working on future plans and dreams. I worked hard, slow but steady trying to reach my normal level. My second year as ambassador for Trail-Series was a great help. I even had my ultra running plans back on the table.
But my energy level wasn’t rising at all, it even hit rock bottom. In the time that I was sharing my recovery with the world, some people were not happy with my return. Massive amount of harassing messages. Messages discouraging me to go to running events and when I went anyway, I received threats. Without hesitation, I closed my Instagram account.
No, this is not a victory for the bullies
I asked myself:
- “Why do I have Instagram in the first place?”
- “Does Instagram give me satisfaction?”
- “Do I need Instagram to be happy?”
Shutting down my Instagram account for a month gave me peace in my mind. I needed this timeout because I lost my love for running, my love for adventure. Is one month enough to heal your mindset? I really hope so. And if it's not, I've learned that Instagram is like a light switch, you can turn it off whenever you want, because you are in control.
The answer to the questions: no, Instagram does not give me satisfaction and no, I don't need Instagram to be happy. As a matter of fact, without it I am much happier. The reason that I have Instagram is not to share my life with the world, but to keep a photo journal of my running adventures, of my battle with pain and my road to live a longer life.
I don't need to be liked
I don't need to be loved
But as a living being...I deserve some basic respect
My running story started in 2016 but my fight against the heavy pain in my body was way before that. It's my fight, my fight to stay alive. Running keeps me alive. I don't understand why there are individuals out there who try to destroy me. Those who really know me, know that I'm a fun person, that I laugh a lot and make people laugh as well. That I'm always there when you need me, that I treat everyone with the most respect. The short time I have left on this earth should be filled with happiness and with less pain. It should not be filled with tears.
I turned off any kind of social media for over a month. Too many negative private messages, some of them with very detailed and personal things that only my friends would know. Confronting my friends with these messages wasn't easy and resulted in silence. This was not just a month of social detox, this was a month of living hell. I haven't felt this sad in a long time. I haven't cried this much since my mother died. Becoming outcasted by my friends was exactly what the trollers predicted. Feeling left behind in times where you need your friends the most, was extremely hard.
I had to tell myself that my life had to go on. I can do this by myself, I've done it before. I kept training and strengthening my weak spots. In August, I reopened my Instagram account and started posting pictures and stories about my upcoming trail events. It didn't take long before the messages returned. And they only appeared after a specific comment or when someone tagged me in their stories. I tried hard to ignore this, removed the messages immediately, reported and blocked the accounts. One thing became clear…the person(s) who is responsible for this, is also very close with my friends. I still have no clue who’s behind these fake accounts but after a couple of years, you kinda get the picture where this is coming from. Talking about it will only be social suicide, so I keep my mouth shut.
Back to the training and events
Having completely recovered from my injury, it was time to think about the future. Every time I'm in a situation where I need to recover, need to train or just want to smile, I go to my special places. The places that make me happy, the places that have a special meaning for me. I call them my deadmanrunningtrails. So there was lots of running in my forests, lots of training because trail events were coming up soon. I ignored every unwanted private message and kept blocking and reporting accounts.
Back on track
September is always the month where the new trail event season starts, and normally I'm always up for it. Last year I kept a low profile when appearing at these events because I didn't want anyone to see me. But I wasn't gonna let that happen this year. I knew in my head that my trollers could be at these events and sometimes my mind was playing tricks on me and telling me that everyone is a potential suspect. September is also the month where my favorite ultra event “Boslandtrail” takes place. Normally I would have run the 75km trail, but because of the injury that took so long to heal, I decided to do the 50km instead. I had trained hard for this event and was ready to shine again.
I could not believe this was happening
I was so ready for Boslandtrail. Running an ultra distance is always special because of the preparation. You need to prepare your body and mind for such an event.
The evening before the event, I got tagged by two friends. In their message they stated that everyone should cheer for the people who are participating in this event…they included my Instagram name. It didn't take long before the troller got busy messaging me. I didn’t read the message in full, but I could make out that they were going to be there and I should watch out. Again, I didn't get the full message, I deleted it because I didn't want it to mess up my mind. But it always does a little bit.
So the next morning I was present at the ultra trail…positive mindset…lets enjoy the ride…I was ready to do this. And off we went in the darkness of the morning, and this time I had my headlight with me (great story from last year)
I was feeling strong, and I had so much fun until…at about 7km in the race…my Instagram name was shouted very loud. It was still dark, not completely dark, but you still needed light to see where you were headed. At that moment there were no other runners in the neighborhood, so I was all by myself. After they shouted my name, there was more shouting but since I was listening to music at the time, I didn't really fully understand what they were saying. It sounded like “jij gaat eraan” - “You are going down”. And the other part I didn't understand. I stood completely still at that point and kept looking around to find my assailants. I couldn't believe what was happening. The only thing I saw were some mountain bikers in the distance with headlights. Minutes passed, I had turned my music off and it would stay off the entire race. At one point I saw the headlights of other runners, but still, I had no idea what to do. I decided to follow them since they were part of the race too, I should be ok. But they were much faster than I was, and I had to let them go. When I arrived at the first checkpoint, I was still in a state of unbelieve. I didn't take all my drinks and food supplies as I was supposed to. I was thinking very hard of ending the race at that point. There was no one to talk to at that moment so I just stayed at the checkpoint for about 15 minutes, just thinking about what to do.
I came a long way, injury after injury, and had worked so hard to get back, no way that I was gonna quit this race. So I continued my journey, 36km to go. I finally made it to the finish line. The hardest part was keeping my mind together. Ten minutes after I crossed the finish line, I was already in my car driving home, I couldn't stay longer knowing that they were probably there.
I didn't mention anything in my Instagram post regarding what had happened. That was probably just what they would expect, but I was not gonna humor them in any way.
I was proud of myself for the hard work I had done after my severe injury. Strangely enough I never received any “good job” or “well done” from anyone else, not from Instagram followers or other friends. Don’t really mind, it’s not important what others think, only the road you set for yourself. Follow your own journey.
With all that has happened I realized that it could not go on like this. The 50km run gave me lots of time to think about the future and the present. I made a decision to drastically change the present so I can have a better future.
Where to draw the line
Some things I can never understand. Why are people so shortsighted, why are people so easy to manipulate, why are people so scared. Many times I shouted it out to all my friends, but after more than two years of harassment the conclusion is that nobody wanted to burn their fingers. More and more I realized that whoever was doing this was someone from inside my friends circle. It's hard to imagine that nobody has a clue who's behind these attacks. The reactions, the silence,... when people turn their back on you, it’s just sad. I’ve learned that there is another side to the so-called runners community that nobody ever talks about. Well? I’m not afraid, not anymore. Whatever decision an individual makes, that’s their choice. We all make are own choices, that’s what makes us human (or non human)
Lost more than I have gained
When unknown individuals have the power to destroy friendships. When they have the power to turn smiles into tears, then it’s time for drastic changes. These past two years I have lost more than I have gained and that negative spiral has to stop. Everything and everyone who is connected (direct or indirect) to this negative situation, had to go. That’s the only way I see possible to survive this. Time to turn all negative things into positive things. A new job to start with, new goals in general, new running goals, and hopefully I meet some new friends that I can take along on my adventures.
What about the trollers?
They are finished. “Can’t touch this” I’ve learned that it’s easier to delete, report and block than have to deal with the words they are writing. If they really want to hurt me, they should stand in front of me and punch me in the face. At least then I know who they are.
I’m not afraid
One would forget that I still suffer from severe pain in my lower back. Sometimes the pain is bearable, but I still have lots of bad days. My focus must be getting better or finding a way to ease the pain. Pain or no pain, you can always find me in the forest with a smile on me face.
"The final chapter" or "The turning point"
Honestly…I don't know. Will this be my comeback year, or will this be my farewell to the running community? Time will tell.
The Instagram running community should decide which side that they are on.
- Do you tolerate harassment because it's just part of this world and everyone should deal with it themselves?
- Do you think it's not ok but you don't wanna stand up against trollers, because you are afraid?
- Do you hate trollers and want to stick up for your friends, because that's what friends do?
- You just don't care at all, or have no opinion about it?
Trollers are like rotten apples, if you don't stand up against them, you become one.
As for myself, I will always protect anyone from trollers in any way possible, because harassment cannot be tolerated.
I will let the Instagram running community decide. The result will be published at the end of 2022 and that will also determine the title of this year’s blog.
In my head I’m ready to say farewell…for now it’s just goodbye and see you later.
Instagram poll result
- 65% Harassment is ok because it's part of our life
- 25% Is afraid to do anything about it
- 10% Hates trollers and will stand up for his friends
351 voted out of 1143 viewers. So 792 didn't have an opinion.
The majority decided that harassment doesn't concern them, and that worries me very much. This is not a world I can identify with.
Farewell…this was the final chapter