By Mark McConville
MEET the mum-of-two who used fitness to overcome her crippling depression and anxiety following years of abuse at the hands of a relative.
Fitness coach Chrissy Hales (31), from Indian Head, USA, was molested by a relative at the age of nine as he was supposed to be looking after her. She was then raped by him when she was 11 years old.
Chrissy, who now has two sons aged four and two, only found the courage to speak out when her relative was facing jail time for a separate offence, but her parents refused to believe her until a doctor confirmed her claims.
Depression and anxiety then took hold of Chrissy and she only started to recover a few years ago after a failed suicide attempt led her to commit to God and use exercise as her reflection time.
“When I was growing up, my parents worked crazy hours and were always gone so my relatives babysat us,” she said.
“He was like my best friend, we pretty much did everything together. One day, while my parents were gone, he asked me to come watch a movie with him and that’s when he proceeded to molest me and make me watch a pornographic film. I was nine.
“The abuse continued, and I was officially raped at 11. Eventually, I did speak up when he was already facing some jail time but the real heartbreak came when my parents didn’t believe me.
“I had been known to be a little colourful so they insisted it wasn’t true until the doctors confirmed it.
“The following years were filled with school visits from detectives, social workers, years of bullying. The news got out and I had kids say awful things to me such as “I heard you had sex with your relative”.
“Through my teen and adult years, I struggled badly with depression and anxiety off and on.
“It got really bad after having my second son. I didn’t feel connected to my kids, I felt alone, and I was not taking care of myself. I would spend most days crying, screaming, or just doing whatever I could to try to keep them and my husband happy. Nothing was working.
“My whole world felt black and in April of 2015, with a 2 year old and a 2 month old, I put a gun to my head and planned to end my life, but in that moment, something washed over me.
“I just sat and cried for hours. I prayed, even though I wasn’t sure God really cared anymore. I had committed to God years before but found myself influenced by several men along the way and turned my back on my faith.
“It was that moment I decided I had to get it together because my family and myself couldn’t keep going on that way. I made the decision to start taking care of myself.
“I started doing home workouts every single day and those 30 minutes were my reflection time, my outlet, something just for me when I felt like a servant to everyone else. I was able to release frustrations, increase my endorphins, and slowly but surely, I started to feel alive again. I’ve been using fitness as my therapy ever since.”
Chrissy also credits a program she attended at her church as helping in her recovery and had a message for anyone who has gone through the same situation.
“I found a program called Celebrate Recovery at my church and I started attending. It’s a 12 step program that uses scripture and biblical principles to help people recover and overcome their hurts, habits, and hang-ups,” she explained.
“I was sceptical about it at first, I wasn’t an addict and only addicts did the 12 step thing. But I found people like me and going through the program really helped me learn to let go of what I couldn’t control.
“I was able to come to peace with what happened and I was able to forgive my abuser. I finally feel free of the pain, shame, and guilt that I had carried for the last two decades.
“My husband has been pivotal in all of this. We went through some very rough patches but when he realised how hard it was for me, he stood beside me and was there when I needed to vent. He encouraged me and he is one of my biggest supporters.
“I want other survivors to know that what they went through doesn’t define them. It’s something that happened but it is not who they are. I want them to know that life can be beautiful and things like sex don’t have to be dirty or shameful.
“We are beautiful and everything that has come against us has made us more that way. We are strong and we are capable of overcoming any darkness we may face. I want them to know that forgiveness is possible and that it is unbelievably freeing.
“But I also want them to know that they are not alone and that there are others just like them who know exactly what they are going through and how they feel. I have a vision to start a foundation to support young girls who have been through abuse so that they can have a safe place to go and to find healing.
“I would love to see more women on this mission with me. I never thought I would be able to share openly. I never planned to tell anyone but I’ve learned that we find strength in our struggles and messages in our messes.
“We can all grow, heal, and love together but we cannot do it alone. Find someone to help you heal, it makes all the difference.”