The Resiliency Project: Ally’s Story

This blog post was originally posted on 11/4/2019 on the blog under our previous brand, Grand Rapids Healing Yoga. We hope you continue to find the insights offered here to be both fruitful and restorative.

My story is not linear. In fact, it began by playing itself backward, because in middle school, I recovered repressed memories of being repeatedly molested as a very young girl. Over the years, bits and pieces have come back to me, and for a very long time, I couldn’t tell if the events were something my head made up or if they had actually occurred. Once my memories started tumbling back, I didn’t feel them. It felt like there was something wrong with me because the abuse didn’t make me angry. I was able to feel through writing. I started to write poems about my assaults in high school, and this is when birds started showing up in my life. My abuser would make me choose an animal to pretend to be, and once I became old enough to process the events for what they were, I pretended I could go back in time and choose a bird. I wanted the innocent girl of my past to fly away from it all. I’d imagine my four-year-old self doing so, and it still brings me deep healing.

As time went on, I started to face mental and physical repercussions as I began to desperately crave the reciprocation of men. Once I started college, I became addicted to exercise and slipped into episodes of anorexia to become physically appealing. I dated men that were controlling and forceful in bed, even though sex still scared me. I drank a lot to numb my mind. I woke up naked in the bed of an ex-lover one morning with bruises and bite marks on my back. I didn’t remember seeing him the night before, and he didn’t offer me a ride home that day, despite me having lost one of my shoes and my keys. I tried telling others what happened – the things he used to do and say. Word got back to him, and the consensus was that I was just crazy. I believed it. I thought it was only my fault for not being careful. One thing that continued to strengthen the walls of the safe-haven within me was writing. Poems began turning into songs.

After college, I began having flashbacks of my childhood assaults during intimate moments. I rarely told any man to stop during a freeze-up. I didn’t know how to say no. You can be taught to say it, but when you’ve locked into the flight mode of the “fight or flight” dilemma, you have no idea how to take control over your own body. During the years 2017-2018, my body started to really push back. I had six surgeries on my left knee and one emergency laparoscopy, all separate accidental occurrences. I was living alone in a new city and threw myself around on crutches best I could. When I became “better”, things just got worse. My body would tense up with every step I took, scared my leg would be swooped out from beneath me again. I started feeling immense pain all over my body. Some days I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t sit or stand still without my whole body throbbing. Craters of pain down my back. I was so scared something bad would happen again to my body that I’d lie awake focusing on every little twitch my body made, worried I’d need an ambulance. An inflamed rash would form on my face from cheek to cheek over the bridge of my nose – loud, hot, and angry. Doctors couldn’t find anything wrong, so they tacked me with “fibromyalgia”. At least they started to believe me, I thought. Visually, I was going through a lot. But there was a deeper pain. I could not get my assaults out of my mind.

Later, I began my Yoga Teaching Certification with Grand Rapids Healing Yoga; I didn’t know why I was there, or what it would do for me. That group of women became an extension of the haven I had initially created only within myself. I could speak and be supported. I learned how to send the pained parts of me compassion. I learned I needed to slow down. I learned that anxiety affected my health. I learned I had dissociated my leg from the rest of my body, and traumatic thoughts of my assaults were driving my physical pain. I learned how to confront my trauma – how not to push it out, but how to accept it as part of me. I learned how to acknowledge a part of me as broken and sick and let her remain part of me, but not let her take over me. I let the more fruitful parts of my being bring themselves forward from my shadow.

I wanted to pass on these tools, so I began teaching trauma-informed yoga at a healing collective. While it is difficult to hear other stories of traumatic pasts however when similar words and energies to mine are present, it makes the work so meaningful. There’s this shared understanding that behind closed doors, we create a safe space together, and our throats need not clench so hard onto what feels good to have released. We can remain in our bodies but can express through movement any piece of us we hold inside that we want to be mirrored outwards.

I started to share my work; playing my songs at gigs and reading my poetry at showcases. To be on a stage with everyone else silent, you’re not only heard, but you are amplified. There have been many times that someone in the crowd speaks to me afterward, wanting to tell me their own story. I share my writing, not for myself, but because I want others to feel they can have their voice amplified, too. Creativity streams from any darkness in you that still lives. Creativity is accepting that darkness as part of you, without allowing it to consume you. Without an edge at which to meet yourself and release your vulnerability, you may surely drown in it.

With the women of Grand Rapids, I’ve found a family of one beating heart. I always used to think the world needed to heal before it hears, but now I know it’s the reverse that is true. To heal, it needs to hear. Those that have built themselves back up with tools of resiliency have such a wonderful opportunity to pass those tools on because now is the time. The most important guides to seek are those that know, and that may not have been left unscathed. I now feel sacredness where I once felt shame. My words that were once silenced are now heard, and that seems to increasingly be the case with others in the community. It’s such a beautiful thing!

Now tell me your story

Such a beautiful thing.
This is my story now tell me yours……

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