"She needed a hero, so that’s what she became." When I see this quote, it always makes me teary. As an abused kid with no self-worth, I spent years hopeless and suicidal. I remember feeling like I just needed someone to save me. Someone get me out of here. Someone please save me. I had no control over the unbearable pain and there was no way out. It was devastating.
Many years later, as an independent adult still struggling with depression and PTSD, it was a powerful breakthrough to realize that I had SAVED MYSELF. It took me years and it was painful work, but I saved that little girl. I made her safe and strong. My demons made my life a living hell, but I have emerged from that hell as a badass warrior. I became the hero I needed.
For me, fitness isn’t about looking amazing in a bikini (which I do!), it’s about strengthening my brain chemistry and building perseverance and resolve for life outside the gym.
As an abused kid, I felt that life happened to me, that I had no control over anything, even myself. Most of my life has been spent unhealthy, depressed, and hopeless. I faced depression, abuse, low self-worth, addiction, self-harm, bulimia, anxiety, and PTSD. Everything in life felt completely out of my control.
For more than fifteen years, I tried, with greater and lesser degrees of success, to find normalcy. No matter how normal or hopeful I would start to feel, sooner or later, I’d always collapse into self-hating darkness that swallowed up my entire being and dissolved my will to live. Each time it was even more devastating and demoralizing.
So, at a very painful, very low point in my life, after almost fifteen years of battling severe depression and self-hatred, I had a quietly life-changing moment.
A close friend was talking about someone in my life who was an actual genius but was extremely unhappy. My friend said, “If he’s so smart, why can’t he figure out a way to be happy?” I’d NEVER thought about it that way before. I then determined that I was, in fact, smart enough to figure out how to be happy.
Now, I know as well as anyone that it is impossible to think your way out of depression. But you can, like I did, do everything you can to stack the odds of happiness in your favor. Because you have power.
At this point in history, human beings have compiled an immense amount of scientific data about the way our bodies and minds function. (Yes, it sometimes seems that for every study there is one that refutes it, but there are incontrovertible facts that we can and should heed!)
So I researched scientific findings on depression, neurobiology, the science of behavior (why our brains act the way they do), and the science of happiness. Based on this data, I slowly changed my lifestyle to stack all of the odds of happiness in my favor.
It was a kind of experiment. I wanted to see how well I could get. Now I'll never go back.
I quit smoking cigarettes - after more than ten years of heavy smoking - and researched cancer prevention in an attempt to make up for the damage I had caused to my body. Turns out that cancer prevention and depression treatment overlap extensively! Why? Because depression happens in the brain and the brain is not separate from the body; the brain is a part of the body.
Mental and physical health and fitness became a crucial, indispensable element of my life because my life depended on it. When I applied what I had researched, it totally revolutionized my life.
So much of our lives are out of our control, but we have control over much more than we think. We control how and when we move, what we put into our bodies, and the thoughts we have. These things can change everything.
WHY HAD NOBODY TOLD ME ABOUT THIS BEFORE? None of my doctors or psychiatrists or counselors had stressed the powerful therapeutic results of proper nutrition and exercise. I was always led to believe that pills were the only solution, even when they didn't work.
The obvious but neglected truth is that the mind is not separate from the body. If you want the healthiest mind (whether it’s to be more focused, to fight anxiety, or to just be happier), you must take care of your body—that’s where your mind is!
So I took charge of my body by quitting smoking, kicking my terrible caffeine addiction, cleaning up my depressed diet, and doing full-body workouts. As I perfected all aspects of my fitness, I developed my mental and emotional health.
That was a lot of difficult work. I built a relationship with a trusted counselor, I drudged through and untangled my past, and I faced and battled my deepest fears. I used targeted affirmations to transform my thought patterns. It was mental and emotional heavy lifting.
After a few years of working hard to recover my mind and body, I stood back and looked at my life. An overwhelming truth washed over me. It was a dramatic and deeply powerful realization that broke me into huge sobs of relief, triumph, gratitude, and pride.
I had saved the little girl I used to be. The abused kid who just wanted to escape—just wanted someone to save her. I got her out of there. I saved her.
I CAN'T BELIEVE IT.
Fitness of mind, body, and soul took me from POWERLESS to POWERFUL. I still sometimes can't believe that I survived.
Over the years since I took control, I’ve continued to get stronger and fitter. Despite my triumphs, I still sometimes struggle with depression and anxiety. There have been many new hardships and obstacles on this journey. But now not only do I have the tools to handle these episodes, but I have the experience of knowing that I can overcome whatever problem life throws at me.
I NEVER could have imagined I’d be the kind of person I am today—the kind of person who loves herself and her life. Today I stand humbly proud of the person I have become. I have fought relentlessly to survive what I’ve been through, and that fighting has made me strong. It has made me grateful for the life I have. I never want to take my life for granted, because it wasn’t granted. My life was earned.
Now I'm a bonafide badass who has the privilege of helping other people empower themselves and rise above their struggles to live incredible lives.
If you have experienced depression, anxiety, abuse, low-self worth, or any kind of mental illness, you know how difficult, lonely, and exasperating it is. You have to FIGHT if you want to be normal (you know what I mean by "normal").
The good news is that you CAN fight it. And the intense appreciation for existence you will feel when you fight your way out will be so much deeper and more meaningful than any typical person could experience. Strength and wellbeing taste infinitely sweeter when they come after such miserable pain.
Now that I’m here on the other side, I must show others the way here too. This is my purpose. This is why I am here.
If you don't feel good about yourself, no matter what the reason, you don't have to suffer so much anymore! It doesn’t have to be as hard for you as it was for me. No matter how desperate or hopeless it can feel, you can find your power, strength, and confidence. And you can USE IT to live a uniquely badass and beautiful life.