Hello and welcome to my yoga journey,
I provided a brief explanation of how I came to yoga and how it has transformed my life in my About page, but I wanted to start this blog off by going into a bit more detail. Before I begin, please understand that this is my and only my story. Trauma affects everyone in very different ways, and everyone has their own journey through both life and yoga. I do not claim to speak for everyone or believe that my story is the universal truth for others. Here, I only speak my truth in the hope that it will provide insight or assist others in their unique journey.
At the age of 15, having recently ended a relationship where I experienced being pressured into performing in ways that were far beyond my 14 year old development, I started another relationship with a boy who was three years older than me. While at first I was intimidated and not that interested in dating him, the flattery of having a senior be interested in me as a freshman convinced me to give him a chance. Afterall, dating a senior as a freshman was one way of proving your coolness to everyone. Our relationship started out well enough; he listened to heavy metal, had a car, and shortly into our relationship, graduated and got his own apartment. Then, about three months into the relationship, the same pressure I had grown so used to started to crop up. Having learned sexuality is what is expected from me as a female, I gave in and quickly found myself deep into this romance. As our two year long relationship progressed, it continued to spiral. Soon came the intimidation, control over every aspect of my life, and the justifications. His anger was of course out of love and wanting me all to himself. Others weren't to be trusted since they didn't understand our love for each other and only tried to pull me away from him. With each explosion, each item being thrown across the room, my self-esteem and sense of reality continually whittled away. Abusive relationships have a way of making you feel like your thoughts, your emotions, the person you thought you were are all crazy; that nothing about you is real or true. The isolation that's created only makes this worse. There are no others who you feel can be trusted to give you a sense of reality again, that there's a world outside the relationship.
Coming into my senior year, I began to think about my future beyond high school. What would come next? What did I want to do as an adult? I began to think about my life being spent with this person who had completely rendered me helpless as an individual. These thoughts and hearing concerns from friends allowed me to see what was happening from an objective view. I began to see the relationship for what it was and step out of the fog "love" had trapped me in. A couple months later, over two years into this nightmare, I began to gather my strength and voiced my opinions about the relationship. It started with small thoughts that led to me saying out loud that I could no longer be in this relationship. Saying this propelled me into setting boundaries that eventually allowed me to cut this man out of my life.
I wish I could say that my life took an incredible turn after this, but as many survivors know this is just the beginning. I was left with the deepest sadness I have ever experienced. There were moments when I thought the pain would never end, and thoughts of suicide began to move in with the promise of an end to all that pain. That's when a new friend came along, one that would take all the pain away within minutes and wrapped me in love. Using drugs became my refuge, a place to hide, a place to feel accepted. There was no pain here, only peace, happiness...as long as I continued to keep substances in me. This worked incredibly well for awhile. The suicidal thoughts abaded; I no longer turned to cutting for an emotional release. But, of course, other issues grew from my new found friend. I was still distanced from reality, from myself, and from those who had been there through it all, waiting for me to come back. So, after a year of escaping my pain, I decided it was time to face the past few years and work on myself..just in time to move out of my parent's house and begin life as an independent adult.
From all the years of being in toxic relationships and using substances, I had lost myself. I no longer knew who I was, what I wanted my future to look like, what healthy boundaries were. I had gotten to a point where I couldn't even trust myself; every thought, every decision was filled with doubt. I had begun dating a man who is now my husband (bless him for sticking with me through my worst!), and we had moved in together. Early in our relationship, I acted out abusive scenes with him again and again, a common occurrence for survivors of abuse. Abuse, as traumatic as it is, feels comfortable to those who have experienced it. It becomes all we know, the familiar, the predictable. It confirms our beliefs about the world and ourselves, which is far more soothing than the unknown of change. I had also completely lost my physical sense and was disconnected from my body. With trauma, we often talk about the fight or flight response, but there's a lesser known response, freeze. This was the response I had learned and turned to time and time again. My mind had learned to shut down the lower half of my body any time it sensed danger. This is something, I came to learn later in therapy, that my mind did in an attempt to protect me. I had come to learn that there was no escape, so dissociation provided some sort of refuge until the encounter had ended.
Two years later, during my junior year in college, the community center for the housing complex my husband and I were living at announced that they would be offering free yoga classes. I had always been a really athletic person, participating in multiple sports as a kid, and was interested in getting back into fitness as a part of my journey in finding myself. So, I nervously attended my first yoga class and found it to be helpful, both physically and mentally. Over the next few years, I came in and out of random yoga classes, finding it helpful but struggled to develop a practice. Then, during one of my classes something surprising happened. I was able to feel my feet on the mat for the first time. My lower half had finally decided to come back online, and I spent that class intensely focused on feeling every inch of my feet, from toes to heel. At the end, during a sweet savasana, I began to cry and released some of the long-held grief I was unable to process in therapy.
As I've continued my practice, I've been able to release more and more of the emotions that have been sealed tightly, deep within me. Yoga has allowed me to come back to my body, to appreciate and love it for what it is. The hate that I felt for so long towards myself has left, making room for acceptance. Through moving my body, I've been able to gather new awareness and move beyond the boundaries I found had been created by me and no one else. Through quieting my mind, I've found peace in the present moment and have stopped living in the past. Yoga and meditation have completely turned my life around, and I continue to gather new insights every time I come to the mat. The acceptance it allows me to feel with the promise of growth brings me back, thirsty for more.
Having these experiences is why I decided to become a yoga instructor. My hope is to take my past and all that I've learned from it to help others find their own path towards peace and out of the torturous grip of trauma. My aim is to create a safe space to explore, expand what's possible, and find acceptance. Please know that if you are going through trauma or addiction that things can and do get better. There are people who can help, and you are not alone. You are a warrior who has survived through unimaginable horrors. You are worthy of love, acceptance, and happiness.
May you be safe.
May you be healthy.
May you be happy.
May you know peace.