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"I was sexually abused by my babysitter at a very young age and spent the next 20+ years of my life living as a victim. I was completely lost and in a constant struggle to find some sense of normalcy in my life, but I never let myself actually deal with what happened. I never talked about it. I was so ashamed and felt that if I could just pretend everything was okay, eventually it would be. Eventually the complete darkness in my heart and my mind would disappear.

I became a master of pretending. On the surface, everything seemed fine - I always had a lot of friends, did well in school and in sports - but on the inside I was a complete mess. I prided myself on proving my worth to everyone else, but I could never prove anything to myself. No matter what I did, no matter what I accomplished, I always felt like damaged goods. 

When none of that worked, I fell into a deep depression. I replayed that day over and over in my mind wondering why it had to happen to me and what I could have done differently. I became detached from everyone and everything and just went through the motions while hiding behind my mean girl persona. I started drinking, hanging out with a much older crowd, and making decisions I should have regretted but didn't. Eventually these patterns led me to being assaulted by a "friend", but I still didn't stop. I kept pretending.

I became the go-to party girl in college, and while everyone thought I didn't have a care in the world, I really just didn't care about myself. I felt dead on the inside. Completely hollow. And I was desperate to fill that void with anything - alcohol, drugs, sex, food - you name it. When I was 19 years old, I met my now ex-husband, and he tried to save me. To genuinely love me. And he did. For the first time in my life I actually felt something - I felt like I mattered, like I was special. He helped me break my bad habits despite my countless attempts to push him away and go back to being numb. I found a love and happiness with him that I never dreamed of, and I thought that if I could just keep doing that, I could be happy. I still wouldn't have to deal with what happened to me because someone else finally loved me and I could find myself and my worth in that.

Fast forward seven years of struggling with my weight and fighting off depression to early 2013 and my first yoga class. I showed up having no idea what to expect, but for some reason, I was drawn to it. I instantly loved the physical aspect of the practice, but I had no idea what else I would learn. In the silence, I started to realize how I talked to myself. How much hate I still had even though I was "happy". I had this great husband, this great job, this great life - but deep down I still didn't feel like I was worthy. 

Through my time on the mat, I learned how to change that way of thinking and for the first time I started to tell myself that I was good enough. That it was okay if I couldn't do everything. That I didn't have to be perfect. From there, I was able to grow and bring those same feelings off the mat and into my life. I finally felt self-love in a genuine way I had never experienced, but I also knew that if I wanted to love myself fully, I had to accept myself fully. I had to tap into that strength I'd developed through my practice and let myself deal with what had happened. I spent countless hours on the mat crying and letting go, and eventually I found peace and acceptance of my truth.

My practice saved me. I learned to love myself exactly as I am, despite my flaws and imperfections, and I learned how to give that love away to others. Love has become my daily mantra and now it's my mission to use yoga to bring as much love and light into the world as possible."