Shea Gardner

Me, Brave? I never really thought of myself as Brave. I know some brave people. Really Brave. They have done things way Braver than me.

I am literally just a small town girl from Michigan who ran away to Chicago to escape my past. And never looked back.

Until recently.

I have some pretty vivid memories of my childhood sexual abuse. I always envied the people who could block out their traumas. My memories still pop up every day and I struggle to push them away sometimes. They used to be so frequent and overwhelming that I used alcohol to cope.

My abuse started when I was around the age of 6, that is my earliest memory. It ended when I was 12 and had figured out how to escape my abusers. There were 2 of them, both family members who had access to getting me alone often.

I felt like such a coward for not telling anyone and allowing the abuse to continue for so long. I was even more ashamed when it all came out, right before my 19th birthday. I was coming up on my sophomore year in college.

It was that moment in time when alcohol became my best friend. Alcohol was there to help take away all my embarrassment from being a victim. I didn't have to face myself when I was drunk. I didn't have to think about how I didn't do anything to stop it. Alcohol helped me forget I wasn't doing anything to stop it from happening to others. I was depressed and hated myself. Alcohol numbed all my pain and self loathing.

As I sank deeper into depression I lost myself. I was always drunk or planning my day around getting drunk. I thought I was the party. I was a pretty irresponsible college kid but I thought I was in control of myself. And yet, I still haven't really dealt with the rape I endured one drunken night in a friend's dorm room. I quit college soccer and eventually dropped out of school altogether.

Even though I left school, I must have had some sort of self drive and determination because I ended up in Chicago working for City Year, an Americorps program where I engaged with youth. Everything from tutoring and mentoring to community service projects.

I managed to continue working with youth for the next 5 years all while mistreating myself on my off time.

I ended up in 2 abusive relationships. One right after another. The second one worst than the first.

From one form of abuse to another. There was no way I would ever call myself Brave.

Brave people face their fears. Brave people stick up for themselves. Brave people don't take shit from anyone. Brave people protect themselves. Brave people stand back up 9 times when they fall 8.

I have fallen like 10,598 times. I will definitely fall more.

Then it hits me, and I get up.

I am Brave. I AM a Brave fucking person.

I accomplished many great things after having my childhood turned upside down. Sadly I know what that trauma can do to a person. I have struggled with some very dark days. But through it all, I woke up day after day ready to go to battle all over again.

So I put together a list of things (kind of in chronological order) that I think make me Brave:

I was always smiling and ready for any outdoor adventure with my friends!

I put down the scissors when I was 14 and decided not to numb my pain that way.

I excelled in school and sports, receiving academic and athletic scholarships to more than a few colleges. And went on to play Women's Soccer for 3 amazing years. With a trip to Germany and Italy included!

I put down the pill bottle in my dorm room on a drunken suicidal night and decided to live.

I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2012 and qualified for the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:30 mins. That is an 8:00 minute/mile pace!

I replaced alcohol with researching health and fitness. I wanted to live well.

I went back to college and completed my degree at the age of 27. (It's never too late to follow through on something you put off.)

I met my best friend at the gym and 5 years later we are married with 2 toddlers!

I trusted in my body and gave birth to both babies naturally, without interventions. (My daughter was born at home in birthing pool!)

I quit my career to stay at home with our kids. I quit my career to spend more time with my husband and bring our dreams of creating change to reality.

I am writing and painting my feelings and emotions.

I am teaching myself yoga. I am showing up for myself.

I am taking deeper breaths before reacting to situations I feel powerless in.

I am sharing my stories with the world. I am connecting with the Bravest people on the planet.

I practice forgiveness. Daily.

I work on forgiving my abusers.

I work on forgiving myself. I think THAT is the bravest thing I have ever done.

I want you to know, whoever you are, wherever you are, you are a Brave Warrior who stands back up 9 times when you fall 8. And you keep going. Because I am right there beside you. We got this Brave Babes!

I am Shea. I am Brave.

I love and accept myself.

Kindra MurphyComment