April 14, 2016

I Carried a Dark Secret Inside for Years: This is How I Found Freedom.

Ashley Magown ocean not for reuse

After almost a year of living in a nightmare of pain and darkness, I found this little house of wellness with a gentle chiropractor. After reading reviews from people whose “lives had been changed” I made an appointment.

I hoped that maybe I could be helped.

On my first visit, I was given the typical type doctor first visit sheet—medical history, circle where it hurts, sign away my whatever paper, check no to all the conditions I do not have. And then the other question that is on them all:

Have you ever been abused?

I had always checked “no” on that box, with a twitch in my hand that belied my calm. Something in that moment, sitting on the white couch in the waiting room, screamed at me from deep inside to tell her the truth.

For the first time in my life, I checked the box. The perfect line of “no’s” turned into a confession of my broken heart—my shame, my secret, my darkness.

Then I met Dr Summer and I knew why my soul screamed at me to check the box. She read over the history, pulling her finger down the paper over the boxes. She asked me about my physical pain, then she asked about the checked box. My entire body folded inside itself, my shoulder trying to make a place to hide. Tears streamed down my crumpled face as I confessed to her my secret that I had been mentally, physically and sexually abused for two years as a child. She asked if I ever went to a therapist, I replied I had never really told anyone.

And now I had.

I walked out of her office with her recommendations and an appointment to return in a week.

At my follow up appointment she told me she could put my ribs back in place and help my body heal recover. Then she told me what my soul already knew—I had work to do as well. Therapy, meditation and yoga. She knew the truth, that the pain I was holding inside was manifesting physically.

Looking back almost a year later I know my heart was breaking. I was sad deep within my soul and my ribs were unable to hold it all. I wanted to live, to feel joy; I knew there was more than how I was living. I longed to live in my body, in my breath, in my soul again. I was longing deeply to be, but I was so lost I wasn’t sure what I was even looking for so I followed the directions, as best as I was able to.

First I saw Dr. Summer every week for two months and slowly I was able to take a breath without being in pain. I was able to lay down for a few minutes without having to stand again. I started to become aware of how much pain I had been living in because the pain started to go away. I could see my heart would be able to heal one day so I continued to see Dr Summer at least once a month and she lovingly eased my bones and muscles back to the place they once belonged.

Then came the next steps, therapy and yoga. When I started therapy, I had no idea what I was about to walk into. I was terrified it would be questions I was unsure how to answer, like someone saying, “What brings you here?”

Sure enough that is what happened and it made me break down as I told her I didn’t have an answer to that and I was afraid she would ask it. So she reworded herself a bit and I was able to talk about my ribs and darkness and checking the box.

For an hour I sat there watching tree branches sway and rock in a thunderstorm, rain pouring from the oak leaves and falling to the ground. And I sat there, tears streaming down my face as I confessed how much I hated myself. How I lived in fear everyday, never completely feeling safe. I told her how dark I felt, how dark my life felt and how much I hated myself for it all. I told her what he did to me, how abandoned I felt by my parents and how much anger I still carried from it all. I told her how much I love my children and because of that if has made me want to be free.

I walked out a different person.

I was a caged bird and I found freedom in that dark little room telling my secrets to the trees as they listened in the storm. My wings had been broken for so long I had forgotten about them. But now that I felt them again I wanted to learn to fly.

So I started yoga and cried through most of the classes. Feeling my body for the first time, giving my soul a chance to sing for the first time. Energy would pulse through my body, painful and full of life and joy all at once; each asana releasing or revealing  a layer of life I had suppressed.

I am learning to love myself, I am learning I am worth loving.

My journey has only begun, and I have only started to feel the light. But I can offer you this:

Holding onto a secret can never heal a wound. Working so hard to be perfect and happy will never make pain go away and darkness can only be buried and hidden for so long before it breaks free. Shame hurts and it multiplies in dark places. Real joy can be found right next to sadness, it hides there in plain sight.

The first step to finding your freedom has already begun because you hear the voice telling you it’s okay to want more.

I should warn you though—the path can be pretty ugly. It’s muddy, complete with fallen trees and deep puddles.

Your entire reality could change, the beliefs you have about yourself will be questioned and it will probably be scary. There will be lots of times you want to run away to hide or just stop and turn around on the path. It feels sh*tty for a while; and it hurts. Years of hiding, shame and self hate come peeling off layer after layer and it can feel ugly. There is no rush in the layers coming off—learning patience is part of this journey of self love.

People close to you won’t understand, be gentle with them. Most importantly, be gentle with yourself. After all, this is what we have been avoiding and craving all our lives—living in our bodies and being in our imperfect lives so we can find our hearts, learn to fly and sing from our souls.


Author: Ashley Magown

Editor: Sarah Kolkka

Images: author’s own/ courtesy of the author’s friend, Jessica Eileen

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