I am concerned that if I start talking about the things I love and respect Mary, I’ll never stop.
I met Mary for the first time in person at a DDP Yoga workshop but we had been working together on the Hardship Fund prior to that. Mary is one of the most selfless people I have ever met, and is always the first person to volunteer for tasks we need to get done for the fund. On top of all the extra work she does for the Hardship fund, she also runs her own charity that grew out of her own story of triumph over terrible adversity. She took that drive and determination to the DDP Yoga instructor certification process, and blasted through the program at a record pace.
Mary has as amazing story to share and is a wonderful person. I am honored to call her a fellow DDP Yoga instructor, and lucky to call her a friend.
How did you discover with DDP Yoga?
I think I have to back up to way before that point. I was bullied nearly all of my life in school, and then married an abusive man. For the near entirety of my life, I was made to feel I was a nobody, not important enough to be cared about, and I was extremely shy. I have never had good balance or coordination, had many back problems my entire life and just never found my niche so to speak. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome while in college, not long after my daughter was born. After my son was born, I went into a deep depression. I would go in and out of that dark hole many times after that. In 2009 I woke up with my ear stuck on my shoulder, unable to move my head at all. In 2010, after seeing 3 neurologists, 2 chiropractors, a massage therapist and spending countless hours in physical therapy, I had a surgery to remove a badly herniated disc and fuse c3 and c4 in my neck together. Afterwards, I could move my neck and arms, but still struggled with radiating pain down my arms, sharp pains in my neck and of course the low back pain was still there as always. I had nearly no muscle tone in my arms, and would drop things all the time. Forget the little kids needing plasticware and sippy cups, mom dropped more than they did! There were no glass dishes in my house, because I broke them all! In 2013, things took a much darker turn for the worse. I was divorced and struggling to emotionally free myself from an abusive ex husband that was still in control of my life, even though he didn’t live with me anymore, I herniated 2 more discs in my neck, and began being plagued by some sort of painful, blistering rash that doctors still haven’t figured out.
Between the neurotin to block the radiating nerve pain down my arms and up my face, the antidepressants, the painkillers, the muscle relaxers and the extremely high doses of prednisone, I gained over 30 pounds that year, and I was already overweight. My doctor looked at me in October and told me my cholesterol levels were through the roof and she would be waiting for a call telling her I had had a stroke or heart attack.
In December, 2013, I went to New Year Eve’s services at my church, and as we prayed the old year out and the new year in, I prayed for God to kill me or heal me. I told Him if I were hit by a drunk driver on the way home and never woke up, that would be ok with me. The night of either January 1 or 2, I sat down on the couch to go through my nightly ritual. Eat until I fell asleep. As some point, the TV woke me up, with a wrestler’s voice screaming (the TV was up loud!).
I saw DDP on there and watched what was left of the documercial. I was too lazy to get up to find the remote to change the channel. I tried really hard to forget about it the next day, but I couldn’t. The next day, it was on again in the afternoon. I sat and watched the whole thing. Then I went online and tried to find every problem I could with the program. And I found more of Arthur’s story, and Stacey’s story, and tons of blogs and vlogs and nothing negative.
I began to feel like maybe I could do this. I didn’t want to stand on my head, didn’t want to be part of the ‘crazy’ people that I kept seeing online, but I did want to feel better. I felt like this program might let me do that. I have to add here that those people I once thought of as crazy are now closer to me than some of my actual family. They are the support system that holds me together on my worst days and celebrates with me on my best. And I think I have become one of the ‘crazy’ people I promised myself I would not become….
What were your original goals with DDP Yoga?
My original goal was to just feel better. I told myself I was not giving up my Pepsi, I was not going on some diet. I was not giving up sugar or dairy. I was already gluten free, I wasn’t doing anymore than that! I told myself I was just doing this to help my back, nothing more, nothing less. I was so unhealthy! No gluten, so I considered myself to be healthier than most, in fact, when I had first gone gluten free due to an allergy, I had lost a bit of weight. But then, I found all the gluten free goodies and frozen foods and junk and gained it all back. Due to my back and neck issues and no balance and coordination, I had no fitness levels either. I was so clumsy when I first started! I fell so often I would hide and lock the door when I did it so my teens wouldn’t see me and make fun of me.
Almost immediately I began seeing differences in the pain levels in my back and neck. It got to the point I was doing energy every day just to ease the pain. I started in January, and by March, I had cut out the Neurotin completely, and the muscle relaxers and pain killers were only as needed. By April, the painkillers, muscle relaxers, cholesterol meds, and antidepressants were all gone.
Are there any other ways DDP Yoga has helped your life?
DDP Yoga has changed me in so many ways. Like I said, I was so unhealthy. As I began to feel better physically and started participating in the online world, I started changing the way I ate and started losing weight. As I was able to do things I had never done before in my life, like touching my toes, have balance and coordination, I started to realize my mental state was changing as well. When I first started, I hid in my bedroom with a locked door to keep the teens out. I absolutely forbid them from telling their dad what I was doing. Even though we were divorced, he was still a big loud voice in my head. The last thing I needed was him making fun of me for trying DDP Yoga. By November, I had gained so much confidence that I didn’t care anymore if he found out, and even set it up to make sure he would find out. DDP Yoga gave me a confidence I have never had in my entire life. The confidence to stand up for myself and for what I want out of life.
Did you experience any obstacles along the way?
I have dealt with little to no support from my teens, lots of jokes at mom’s expense were made when I first started. I also have had some minor drama situations from my church family and have come to realize that not everyone ‘gets’ it. I have come to realize that everyone has their own battles to fight, and if, when and how they choose to fight that battle is their choice, not mine. All I can do is be available to help when they ask for it. I still struggle with a very bad, tight piriformis muscles that cause low back and hip pain. I sit for a living, and it shows! Thankfully, I have an arsenal of moves from DDP Yoga that I know will help me feel better, I have a really great chiropractor and an amazing support system of DDP Yoga family members that keep me going on the days I don’t feel like hitting the mat.
What are your current goals with DDP Yoga?
My biggest goal is the one I said I would never want to do…I want to stand on my head. I want to do inversions so badly! I still struggle with Black Crow, but someday, I want to be able to go from Black Crow to plank and I want to get a forearm stand.
What made you decide to pursue DDP Yoga certification?
In the beginning, I never wanted to be an instructor. Then in August, 2014, my best friend Annie and I went to Hammer’s Fitness for our first ever DDP YOGA workshop. Afterwards, she made me say not YET to becoming an instructor, instead of never. Even though I said not yet, I really wasn’t thinking about it, but she planted a seed. In October, as I was finally standing up to the demons in my head and in my life that had bullied me for so long, I realized I needed to give back. I felt called to give back. To take DDP YOGA to those that needed it, to those that felt broken due to abuse.
How did you find the certification process?
I loved the process. It was hard, but I enjoyed the challenge. I signed up the end of November, and planned on being done in April or May. I went back and started counting hours from August, but didn’t have all of them documented. I knew my job was going to keep my very busy for the month of March, so that was out for me. Things lined up in ways I never expected them to, and I finished and was certified in February.
I loved the mentoring process, of course, I had some great ones! Having those people I once thought of as ‘crazy’ now being so supportive and helping me through the process was extremely helpful.
What has being a certified instructor done for you?
My goal was to take DDP Yoga to those that felt broken due to abuse. When I started certification process, I began going to the local domestic violence shelter that helped counsel me and get me through the roughest parts of life after my divorce. I also started working with a residential therapeutic foster home for teenage girls. I love it. Seeing those people overcome adversities and seeing them achieve new things, the light in their eyes when they ‘get’ a move is extremely rewarding.
I have also begun teaching at a local Community Center, working with those that are broken not so much from abuse, but just from environmental and financial circumstances. I am a full time special education teacher for an online school. I am currently still trying to find balance to be honest. Some days, I finish teaching and run out the door to go teach DDP Yoga.
Balance is something I look forward to finding someday.
What’s next for you and DDP Yoga?
I am currently working with another agency to take DDP Yoga there, and I continue to look for other opportunities. This summer, the goal is to gain a certification in nutrition, to be able to take even more into the those agencies where I teach DDP Yoga.
You’re a member of the Hardship Fund. How did you get involved with that?
I happened to be part of the initial conversation that started the Fund and was invited to be a part of the Fund by Liz Collins. The experience has been so rewarding. Especially to those that stick with it and keep in touch. To see how much they have changed their lives is truly incredible.
You have since started your own charity! Please tell us how that came about:
As I said, I really didn’t want to become an instructor in the beginning of my journey. It was never a thought that entered my head. It was only after Annie planted that first seed, and then when I began to really see how much I had changed in my own life that I realized how important DDP Yoga could be for someone that had a shattered spirit.
I was so broken in so many ways when I when I started this journey that I didn’t even know which way to turn. I have used DDP Yoga and good nutrition to build my life into something new, and I wanted to help others do the same, thus, Building the Broken was born. I donate my time, mats, heart rate monitors, blocks, yoga straps, and whatever else is needed to the agencies that serve those that have been in some way broken, either through abuse, bullying or other life circumstances.
Building the Broken is not yet a charity or nonprofit, as that takes time and money that I currently don’t have yet. (On a side note, if anyone out there wants to help out with this process, please contact me!) I am finally an official business, which is the first step in the process of becoming a non profit.
In the beginning, I fully planned on contacting agencies and having them tell me to contact them once I was done getting certified. However, it didn’t happen like that at all! I contacted the first agency in early/mid December and they wanted me there the first of January. I had no time to save money to buy mats as I originally planned. I (not so bravely, but with encouragement of a few friends) sent out a Facebook post asking people for used mats. I could not believe the response that I received. Within just 15 minutes or so of posting, I had over 45 mats promised to be shipped to me. I am so thankful for the DDP Yoga family that have generously supported me and Building the Broken by either shipping me mats, buying t-shirts from me, or donating financially. Diamond Dallas Page even donated mats and 2 combo packs!
Where can people find you?