Deana Overcame the Demons of Childhood Abuse

Deana

Warrior Woman

Deana Arthur

Trigger warning: sexual abuse

I grew up in St. Augustine, Florida in what appeared to be a "perfect" family. I had a little brother who loved baseball, I was a cheerleader, my parents seemed happy, my step-dad worked hard and we looked perfect in our suburban, ranch-style house. The outside world had no idea until I was 38 years old that my step-dad was an alcoholic who sexually abused me for six years, starting at the age of 11. Eleven. Eleven years old. By the way, my oldest child turned 11 last Sunday, September 16. The age where you are still a little kid, but can do SOME big girl stuff. Eleven, so innocent and sweet but with a little sass. Like me at that age, my 11-year-old does not know about sex yet. 

I still can't put together the list of feelings this brought into my already-confusing, big-kid/little-kid/tween world, but I do know that I was far too ashamed and terrified to speak up. I learned to live my life in fear and fake my happiness. I had a friend who ran cross country and I started to join her on runs when I was 15. It felt amazing. I learned that when I ran, my endorphins kicked in and I was able to escape the pain, anger, and list of other thoughts and feelings in my head. Nobody knew about my demons, but running was my therapy.

I ran distance for the next 23 years, including five marathons, 40 half marathons and too many 5Ks to count. I went away to college in 1995 and lost touch with that beautiful friend. We reconnected at our 10-year high school reunion and have stayed in touch ever since. She doesn't know my story (I have only recently become comfortable sharing it) or how she has touched my life, but I will be forever grateful for our friendship and how she unknowingly helped me. She is still running all these years later. Go Kim!! 

Following my third pregnancy, I learned that my sciatica would prevent me from running distance. I became depressed. I was programmed to use physical fitness as my outlet starting at a young age and I really didn’t know what I was going to do. I had some friends who urged me to try CrossFit and as intimidating as it was, I gave it a try. I went the first day, and even though I couldn't walk up my stairs the next day, I went back. 

It was around this time that I confessed many years ago I was the victim of horrible sexual abuse. It exploded like a nuclear bomb in my family, and it was horrible. And every single day, I went to CrossFit. Some days I was so sore I couldn’t even walk properly. Some days I was so tired from having three kids. Some days I just didn’t feel like going, and I still went. I can’t count how many times I have thrown weights at the gym, while yelling to myself in my head, “This is not your fault.” How many times I have counted reps in a workout while telling myself that I am finally free from the demons that crippled me nearly my entire life. I used to think that my story made me weak, but now I am well into adulthood and I realize that my story makes me STRONG.

Running and CrossFit have made me strong, both on the inside and on the outside. Thank you Kim Bott and Train Harder CrossFit. I will take these years to my grave for they turned me into a WARRIOR.

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Deana, thank you for sharing your story of courage. I am in awe of your bravery and wish you continued healing as you navigate life with such a heavy burden to bear. XOXO - Kelly

Do you have your own warrior woman story to tell? Please, share your story with me, here.

Sue's Journey from Grapevines to Saving Ape Vines

Sue_Fuenstra

Warrior Woman

Sue Fuenstra

I started teaching fitness back in the 1980s. The job title was relatively new and the word "personal trainer" had not even been invented at this stage. Yet, here I was hanging about in dirty old gyms, teaching classes inspired by the one and only aerobic legend Jane Fonda.
Yes, this was the 80’s, freestyle aerobics, brightly colored Lycra and thongs, not the ones you wear on your feet either. No, this was the lycra version that sat on top of black spandex leggings and were all the rage.

Over the following years, the fitness industry evolved and I developed along side it. I became a Step Reebok endorsed instructor, a Nike Instructor and was soon traveling the length of Great Britain attending fitness conventions that were by now popping up everywhere.

At the first opportunity, I became a personal trainer after completing an extensive diploma and was quickly sought after by Hereford's wealthy and elite residents. My life seemed a dream, traveling to castles and mansions all through the countryside that were homes to my clients, where we exercised on the sprawling lawns or inside unused banquet halls. It really was a time of much fun and lots of energy.

My job remained the same for the next few decades and I traveled the world working in some of the top gyms as the industry continued to change to how we know it now.

In 2007, and now living in Australia, my husband and I started our own gym, Platinum Health Studios, and using my knowledge from the years gone past, we created a family-friendly gym. A place where everyone was welcome and no one felt uncomfortable. We trained Vietnam Veterans, closing the gym for the hours they were there each week so they could mingle and reconnect with each other. We even created Naughty Nanas pole dancing, where the veterans and their wives would perform routines using the poles for stability, to their favorite old wartime songs. Again, another wonderful period of my life; however, sadly, all of that was soon about to change.

My back had never been great, but with the added classes and strenuous exercise required by myself running Platinum it quickly deteriorated. Over the following years disc after disc blew out, leaving me with no choice but to sell up and seek help.

A sad time for all.

Years passed by and my back was both good and bad. I felt my last name had changed as people would great me “Hello Sue, how’s your back?" and I would either be doing okay or not, the latter becoming more and more frequent. Slowly everything got taken away as running turned to walking, and sitting became impossible. Then walking became impossible and I could only shuffle, until finally by 2016, I was bedridden.

My life was then completely reliant on other people. I could no longer drive, and to travel anywhere, I had to lie in the back of vehicles. I was living on cortisone and painkillers and the only operation available was a fusion, with no guarantee I would be any better. Life sucked!

Not one to watch the daytime shows, my days were spent on my bed that was also now my prison. I daydreamed, I thought, and I contemplated a lot during the months that passed. 

“What if this is it? If there is nothing better than this and my best days are behind me at 48?” I thought to myself. “Am I happy with what I have achieved? My career of health and fitness? My children? My husband?”

While I had a lot to be grateful for, it wasn’t enough and I quickly came to the conclusion I needed to do more; there had to be a greater purpose.

So I decided that the story that had rattled around my busy brain for more than a few years should be written. A story of a young orangutan and his fight against a greedy palm oil plant owner who was out to destroy his forest home. I gave myself one rule and one wish: if I would do this, then I would have to finish it. And that if I wrote it and I could help these apes, whose homes are being destroyed due to deforestation, that somehow the world would work its magic and fix me.

On June 1st, 2018, I'll celebrate one year since my disc replacement surgery that changed my life. And four days later, June 5th, World Environment Day, Pongo, the story that got me through my darkest days, will be published. My gratitude book.

Life lesson? Never give up, no matter what life throws at you. Keep fighting. You just never know what you are capable of.

Order PONGO, here: https://www.hellopongo.com/

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Thanks so much for sharing your story, Sue! I wish you continued health, and can't wait to check out PONGO! XOXO, Kell

Are you a #WarriorWoman like Sue? Share your story with me here

Ta'She'Ana Combats her Diagnosis

TaSheAnaBanks

Warrior Woman

Ta'She'Ana Banks

"No Mountain Too High"

In 2009, I was diagnosed with lupus, shocked by the blood test reports lying softly in between my fingertips. I was crushed, devastated. At the time, the only person I knew battled with such a disease and was bound and determined to conquer it...was my mother. After watching her continuous episodes throughout my childhood, my heart sank thinking, “Please, God. I don’t want to go through anything similar to that.” 

Over the years, I was in complete denial, not wanting to face it. Finally, five different hospitals and five test results all came back positive for lupus. The final result from John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland in 2011 forced me to accept it, but the rheumatologist said its’ non-active status would probably never become active. I shed some tears because I thought, “Wow! God heard me the first time.” So, I thought maybe I was carrying a trait, although research stated that the disease was not hereditary.

However, he continued to speak and told me that my diagnosis was Sjorgen’s Syndrome, and that there was a correlation between the two. After skimming millions of articles, it seems, and gathering information about the syndrome, I knew I had to figure out the best way to take care of me. Thankfully, I only have to take one pill a day versus my mother who, once upon a time,  ranged from 25 to 30 pills per day. 

Today, I refuse to walk within the lines of what science says I am or what my body contains. Rather, I continue to journey along what God said I had always been and will continue to be in the future: His.

I wanted to share this because...YOU have to learn to love yourself first. Inside and out, regardless.  #livelife #dontstop #neverthevictim #alwaysthevictor

Ta'She'Ana, thank you so much for sharing your story with us! I hope you continue you fight your diagnosis with the strength you're showing now. xoxo - Kelly

Are you a #WarriorWoman like Ta'She'Ana? Share your story with me, here!

Rachel Teaches Feminist Self Defense

Warrior Woman

Rachel Piazza

Ten years ago, just after finally ending a 7-year toxic relationship, I started training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I had wanted to try it years before, but my boyfriend at the time discouraged me from doing so. While it took a lot of guts to walk into a jiu-jitsu school full of men, it was a liberating feeling. Day by day, I embarked on the long, arduous process of training in a full-contact grappling sport. 

The physical and emotional challenges over the last 10 years have been overwhelming at times. They’ve included surgery, hospitalizations, and confronting my inner strengths and weaknesses in a very visceral way; splayed out on the mat, soaked in sweat, and listless from exhaustion. Yet, from these challenges, a strong sense of power has emerged. Not only learning how to fight, but knowing what I’m capable of inside and out has given me more confidence and a stronger voice.

That’s why I founded Feminist Self-Defense. I wanted to help other women embrace the power inside of them. Women and girls are too often taught that they aren’t powerful. They feel vulnerable in a world where violence against women is rampant. Showing women that they are more than capable of being strong and effective fighters can ignite a transformation inside of them. 

Further, it was important to me to offer “self-defense” training in a way that is sensitive to the reality of women’s lives. I believe women don’t need to be reminded of their vulnerability, so I steer away from the scare tactics that many self-defense programs rely on. I’m also acutely aware that women often know the perpetrators of violence, so teaching them how to defend themselves from random attackers is not realistic. Instead, I incorporate boundary setting skills to help women navigate the more insidious nature of intimate partner and acquaintance violence. 

My goal now is to use Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a way to boost women’s self-confidence and give them tools to stay safe. While I acknowledge that violence is a social problem, and never the fault of the target, women deserve to have the resources to navigate potentially dangerous situations in their own lives. Women can discover an internal power through physical combat training and have fun doing it! 

Overcoming the emotional trauma of my past relationship has been a long process, but I’m proud that through jiu-jitsu and my creation of Feminist Self-Defense, I’ve created a path to healing and joy for myself and others.

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Rachel, thank you for sharing and for establishing a program like this. I can't wait to try out your class the next time I'm in NYC! XOXO - Kell

Are you a #WarriorWoman like Rachel? Click here to share your story with me!

Phebe Survived Both of her Miscarriages

Phebe

Warrior Woman

Phebe Shumate-Yawson

All I ever wanted was love. My father didn't know how to reach me. I know longer fault him for that. There is still distance between us, but I try to bridge the divide with laughter. 

During my younger days - very long hard days of wanting love - I left the country and lived in Ghana for over a decade. I volunteered with my family's nonprofit organization, Oiada Inc. Int'l, and did everything from dressing up like a clown to entertain orphaned children, to dressing up like a needle for sick kids, rapping, dancing, singing, and cooking all over the country.

I did not expect to fall in love but I did, and I fell hard.

We got married, and five years later, I got pregnant. Eights weeks after that, we lost the baby. I sobbed for what felt like an eternity. I was completely broken, gaining 20 pounds in 2 months. I can remember lying in bed with my husband feeling like this was my fault. So I told him that I was going to take a shower. I walked into the bathroom, turned on the water then I laid on the bathroom floor in a fetal position feeling absolutely broken. I told God, I feel broken, like I can't recover and I didn't know how to make it to the next moment, to the next day, but I did.

Some time went by, and I got pregnant again and we had our first child. She was beautiful and chubby and more than anything I could've imagined. We got pregnant again before she was two. 15 weeks into that pregnancy we were told after the ultrasound that our baby wasn't growing, and that, in fact, I was in the middle of a miscarriage.

I was in denial even though I felt the cramping. 

I went to my auntie and laid in her bed, and as she held me, I screamed in horror and pain as I felt my baby falling out of me. My cousin ran for my husband because although the baby was gone, the blood wouldn't stop. My other auntie who is a midwife tried to stop the bleeding in the car on the way to the hospital as I was finding it hard to stay conscious. I remember my husband asking, "Is the baby ok? Is the baby ok?" and my heart shattered even though I was half out of it. Even though my heart was already broken, it still felt like a sword pierced me. I almost died that day in more ways than one. 

Two weeks later, I found myself on the bathroom floor yet again, but this time I fell deeper. I told God that I needed Him to hold my soul because I didn't know how I was gonna get up. Then I heard my baby girl calling me, and I found the strength to stand for her.

I now have three children. They're all beautiful models of strength that keep me alive. They force me to live harder, be stronger, and fight for happiness everyday. I am now an award-winning author, full time mom on the path to opening a new business with my brother. All and all things are looking up and I'm proud to be happy!

Phebe, thank you for telling us your story of courage and strength, despite incredibly odds. xoxo - Kelly

Are you a #WarriorWoman like Phebe? Share your story with me, here!

I Survived My Toddler's Cancer Diagnosis

Meg

Warrior Woman

Meg Hammett

My daughter was 18 months old when she was diagnosed with a rare tumor. This required 10 months of weekly, in-patient, and out-patient chemotherapy, and one month of radiation. We had 15 life-threatening trips to the ER and spent 120 days/nights in two different hospitals. We've also helped her to have at least 20-25 MRIs, CTs, internal exams, and more.

Both my husband and I continued working full-time while taking care of our daughter. 15 months ago, she was declared NED (No Evidence of Disease) after 40-some weeks of chemo. She has since excelled in preschool, fallen in love princesses and candy, and will not stop talking! She is your average, wonderful, silly, amazing 3 year old...who happens to be a cancer survivor.

Our journey is far from over though. She could have lifelong side effects from the treatment and we still get follow-up scans every 3-4 months. If she has clean scans for two years, the risk of a relapse drops drastically. But she won't be considered cancer-free until she has five years of clean scans. Every day my husband and I both live with PTSD, anxiety, depression, and recovery from trauma. 

Being strong doesn't mean ignoring your weaknesses. It means acknowledging them and working through them, even if that means breaking down in tears. Being strong doesn't mean you don't break down; it means you get back up. My strength comes from therapy, acupuncture, yoga, and trying to find the good in every day. And most importantly, remembering to take care of myself so I can take care of my family. 

Meg, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. You truly are a Warrior Woman. Sending you my warmest wishes and heartfelt prayers for you and that lovely baby girl of yours. xoxo - Kelly

Are you a #WarriorWoman like Meg? Share your story with me, here!

Calling All Warrior Women!

Strength

Warrior Women

Share Your Strength!

Attention warrior women! Tell me about your feats of strength! Are you mentally tough? Physically? Emotionally? Spiritually? Intellectually? Have you done something extraordinary that requires tons of strength?

Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Have you built a business? What kind of strength made that happen? 

  • Have you raised kids that make you proud? Why did you need strength to do it? 

  • Have you accepted failure and moved on from it?

  • Have you chosen an alternate path for your life that few people have? 

  • Have you put health at the forefront of your life after years of neglect? 

  • Have you forgiven someone who hurt you?  

  • Have you conquered a physical challenge?

  • Have you excelled in your career?

  • Do you have another story to tell?

Tell me how you've demonstrated strength in an incident in your life for a chance to be featured on my blog! If you're chosen, I'll ask for a picture showing off your very best bicep flex, too. =) 

Writer tip: The best stories are told about a specific story. Choose just one incident or event from your life that best highlights your strength.

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Write about the incident that best showcases your mental, emotional, physical, academic or spiritual strength.