Disclaimer: This story contains details and mentions of suicide, miscarriage, and abuse that may be triggering to some.
“I grew up a tomboy. I played sports and was strong, bullheaded, stubborn, and relentless. I knew what I wanted and knew I had to work twice as hard as the boys to get there. As a young child, these characteristics bode well for me. It was unusual, but graciously accepted—as a child. As I grew into a pre-teen and teenager, these were no longer very acceptable. They began to be confused and labelled as bitchy, disobedient, rebellious, and unworthy of love—so it seemed.
When I was thirteen my parents (finally) separated. Something that was a long time coming. My older brother and I can remember from a young age nothing but fighting, yelling, and bullsh*t from my parents. It was time for it to happen, although at thirteen, you really don’t know how to handle it. I blamed my father, because I didn’t know what my mother was really doing to contribute to the downfall of the marriage. (Cheating, drugs, abuse.) This caused a lot of anger and resentment between my father and I. When my parents split, my mother moved on pretty quickly to someone who was a very psychotic person—who brainwashed her in some pretty sick ways. However, it still doesn’t excuse her behavior—I’ll get into this later.
My father moved onto a new relationship when I was fifteen, and by this time our relationship was quite strained. The anger and fighting was at an all-time high, and he no longer saw me as the sweet but feisty daughter who knew what she wanted. He saw me as a tyrant he wanted to disown. My mother, given her relationship with this man, George, had gone through many turbulent times. To the point she had disconnected from everyone in the family and distanced herself from most reality—and it drove her to attempt suicide. I came home to a suicide letter in the mail my dad and stepmom had tried to hide from me and my brother. At fifteen years old, it was pretty horrific to deal with.
I admit, I did rebel. I blamed many people and situations to try and justify why she would do such a thing. How she could abandon us so many times in real life, but then to try to end her own and abandon and give up on us forever. I blamed my father. My stepmother. George. I didn’t realize until years later she too is a human and she too has pain—severe pain from years of lies and deceit through her family life, her parents, her siblings, and then her failed marriages (she was married prior to my father), as well as the abuse she took in her previous marriages. She had severe PTSD and I had no idea. Although at fifteen, you certainly don’t see or understand these things. It took me years to see it from this perspective. She was a human who needed help—unfortunately, still to this day, she never sought the help she needed.
Unfortunately, I do not have a relationship with my mother. I tried for years to view her as a person who was so extremely broken who needed help, support, and love—which is still true. But I realized I couldn’t no longer offer this. It was exhausting, it was a constant battle of lies and sabotaging. I realized, although this person was my mother, I simply couldn’t have her in my life if I was going to be happy. The last time I saw her was to let her know I was pregnant with Jack, but that, unfortunately, she would not have a place in his life. I wanted her to hear it from me, seeing as at this point she did automatically assume she would be present. It was a hard discussion, but it was necessary.
My stepmom and father got into a relationship quite quickly and she became pregnant. My father’s life turned quickly into a split attention and love to a very narrowed one. I took this very hard, seeing as my was mother out of the picture, and then to have my father be out of the picture as well, emotionally and mentally, as he had a new family to care for. We all fought. Excessively. I hated my stepmom, I hated him, and I resented my new little sister. It go to the point of physical abuse in our household, and after being thrown into a wall and retaliating by punching my father in the face, I chose to move out at fifteen. At the time, as I was in high school, I moved in with my high school boyfriend (and his father)—bad choice, but only choice at the time. I lived there for almost a year, but it became quite abusive. He was cheating on me, I was not willing to accept this, and he was not willing to accept that I wanted a real relationship. Funny to think of these things in hindsight.
I ended up moving back home, very, very temporarily. From the age of 15-20, I moved roughly eight times. Bounced around, not knowing what I wanted to do in life, where I was going to end up, and having next to nothing to my name. It was embarrassing. I hated who I was becoming and the fact that I felt like I wasn’t accepted anywhere. I always kept at least two jobs, even when in school full time. I had some incredible friends whose families allowed me to stay with them when I was really in need and they truly cared for me—people and circumstances I will never forget. When I was 20 I was with a guy, we’ll call him Phil. He was quite a bit older than me, but I was smitten. We moved in together and things were going really well. Until I accidentally got pregnant. He acted as if it wasn’t real. He disappeared and left me to deal with it.
I ended up having a horrible miscarriage. I can still remember the night it happened. It was storming outside, and my friend Ashley came by. I was bleeding profusely and had on a giant adult diaper she brought me. I ended up going in the shower when she went to work, and when I stepped into the shower something dropped and hit the tub floor. There was blood everywhere. I just dropped to the tub floor and bawled and was in so much pain. I sat there for half an hour looking at it and trying to make out what I was looking at. I called his mother, she was the sweetest woman. She had no idea what had happened. She collected what fell out of me in a Ziploc baggie to take to the hospital for a D&C. A few days later, Phil came back. I had left voicemails about what had happened, and his mother called him to tell him he needed to come back. He came back as if nothing had happened and we were perfectly fine.
Clearly, this lead to a great deal of trauma emotionally for me, and ended up leading to the demise of our relationship. Once again, I was on the move. At 22, I met my first husband. I was swept away by what seemed like a fairytale. Travelled to Europe, fell madly in love, got engaged and married way, way too fast. By Christmas of my 23rd birthday, only two and a half months after getting married, I had found out some pretty disgusting things about this man, who I thought I knew (but clearly did not). He had many claims of sex addiction, pornography addiction, and the NEED for women to please him. There were many claims this was something instilled in him based on his father’s infidelity history with his mom. I called bullsh*t. We fought. More than I knew people could fight. It was almost as if his ‘demon’ was exposed, and it gave him the right to allow it to run freely.
This ‘prince’ quickly became a nightmare. A nightmare I was living and married to. He became verbally, physically, and sexually abusive. I was belittled at home but fawned in public. I was told I was too manly, too bulky, and I needed to lose weight, stop lifting weights, and dress nicer. My clothes were too plain, my style was too boring. I needed more makeup, and I needed to cover up at the beach because my body was unflattering in a bikini. I was once sunbathing, in my own backyard, and took my top off while laying face down. My husband came home and physically picked me up and threw me inside the house and then threw me into a wall, telling me I was trying to attract men from the yard next door to come over.
Then, there were the other women. These picture-perfect women. I would find phone numbers and cell phone messages. He had an easy out with his profession that he could work late, take extra shifts, and have many excuses to be ‘at work’ when he was out with other women. When I would question it, he would threaten to quit his job and have us lose our house because he made more money than me. When push came to shove, he blamed his faith. He said he was a proud man, and believed God was taking away his sins and forgiving him—and I should do the same. His parents only reinforced this, as their marriage was nothing but lies and cheating as well. I could tell why he believed what he did and stuck by it so strongly.
I got pregnant again at 24. I was terrified I was going to have a child with this person. And he would be the father to my child. I was devastated and depressed. However, this too ended in miscarriage—likely from stress and anxiety, and the fact I had developed an eating disorder. This I consider a blessing in disguise for all involved. I was sick. Sick to think I had married this person. Sick to think I had become a horrible version of myself for trying to change to meet the desires and standards of this person. I was sick I felt that this was the rest of my life and I was so trapped. After two and a half years of living in this state, I couldn’t handle it anymore. I didn’t love this person, I didn’t even love myself. I decided it was time to leave and to try to save whatever self I had left.
The divorce was a painful, long, and drawn-out process that left me with nothing. No money, no place to live, and barely any dignity. I lived in my car for a while with my best friend, my dog Nova. She was there for me through everything life had to throw. And I mean EVERYTHING. She saved me. Truly, saved my life. Throughout my 20s I took any job I could get. I never had less than two jobs at once and would work 16-18 hour days if needed to try to get my life back on track and push toward something I was proud of. This was one thing that hurt me the most. I didn’t have a life I was proud of. I had nothing to show for myself. I felt defeated. I was a failure. I didn’t have much family. I wasn’t working any job that was something I enjoyed, it was just a stepping stone. I moved more throughout my 20s, roughly another eight times.
I never had a home. I never had a safe place. I never felt like I had something solid and safe beneath my feet. I truly felt this was how my life was going to be forever. Forever fighting through the trenches, forever getting lied to and cheated on. That I wasn’t worthy of real love or happiness. When I was 27, I found CrossFit. It quickly became a huge part of my life. I hadn’t felt this rush of happiness and excitement in over fifteen years. Playing sports growing up and being on a team, having that camaraderie and support for your accomplishments, was something I had missed more than I realized, until I started this sport. I fell in love with it. For many reasons, but for the main reason it gave me so much purpose. I felt safe, accepted, welcomed, familiar, and celebrated. This was something I had missed and hadn’t had in my life in YEARS.
It filled me with so much joy to have something like this I could make my own. Fast forward a few years, and I had pushed myself to the point of being able to compete at a pretty high level in the sport. I was proud of my accomplishments and felt like I was becoming someone I recognized and loved, and wanted to just keep going! In 2013, opened my own CrossFit gym with a couple friends, although still working two other jobs while doing so. I knew this is where my heart was and where I was meant to be. I became so d*mn determined to find a way to make this my path. To find out how I could create a life around this ‘thing’ that filled me with so much joy. In 2014 I met my current husband, Jim. We were both with others at the time, but we were all friends within the CrossFit gym. In late 2015, we got together.
We both had large wounds, having been divorced, cheated on, lied to, and stolen from for years in the past. We both knew what it was like to live with nothing, to sleep on couches, to have next to nothing to our names. We both knew what we wanted in a partner and in life, and we were never going to settle or sacrifice ourselves ever again. We laid everything out on the table within the first month. There was no bullsh*t, no lies. We were exactly who we are. On day one and to this day, we are still true to ourselves and each other. We moved in together after only four months. We were engaged a year later (Feb 2017) and married in September 2017. We have done A LOT in our years together. Feels like 50, but it’s only been five and a half! (Crazy!)
In September 2017, we got married in Greece and it was an absolute DREAM. In 2018, we began building our dream house together on a beautiful property. We designed the house together and built it together. We got pregnant with our son, Jack, in 2018, and he was born in April 2019. We are now pregnant with our second child, due in August 2021. Our marriage is built on communication. We have literally never fought because we talk. We discuss, we analyze, and we respect each other’s perspectives. We know we truly want the best for each other and know when our spouse is happy and healthy, so are we. He leaves me notes on my coffee cup every single day, and has since day one. I leave him little notes hidden around the house and when he travels for work. We do the little things, we show the love, and we feel the love, every single day.
We make each other laugh hysterically pretty much everyday. We support each other in whatever it is we want to do and we know we truly are each other’s best friends. Today, we have been married for almost four years, have a beautiful son, a soon-to-be daughter, and a beautiful home full of love, that is safe, that is our place. We are grounded here with each other and our family, and we are HAPPY. Day in and day out, we are so incredibly happy. We each have our own businesses we built with passion and joy and we absolutely LOVE what we do. In 2016, I took a huge leap and quit my full-time job and jumped in with both feet and bought out one of three partners for what was then called CrossFit St. Catharines, now Fit Collective St. Catharines. I had a partner, Justin, who has been with me since day one on this business journey.
Fit Collective is now a successful business serving over 250 people on their journey to become the healthiest, happiest versions of themselves. We support mental and emotional wellbeing, resulting in better physical health as well. And the best part is we do this through fitness, yes, but also through mindset, encouragement, support, welcoming people of all walks of life, celebrating success and this journey, and helping people feel PROUD of themselves. I was missing those feelings for over fifteen years, and this path gave me that life back. I cannot describe how it feels to be able to give back to so many people, every single day.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ashley Mathewson of Thorold, Ontario Canada. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her website. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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