When I was 13, I tried to end my life. After multiple failed attempts, I gave up. Angry, frustrated and confused, I wanted to know why I kept failing. I’m a type-A all the way, so there was frustration all around.
It wasn’t until weeks after my last attempt that I realized I was saved all of those times for a reason. I didn’t know why and that question would continuously nag at me. It wasn’t until I began running that it became clear. I was to be a voice. My traumatic past wasn’t for naught. I wasn’t sure how I could help others, but I knew that was it. Again, running made it clear.
I’ve touched base on my past on my personal blog. My name is Dyenna, and I’m a survivor of my past. I was born and raised in Korea. After our father died, brother and I were sent (by our mother) to an orphanage. We were quite lucky and were adopted in less than a year. I thought we hit the jackpot. Living as a mixed race in Korea was a life – especially when your mother’s occupation was questionable, and your father was usually absent (working on a Navy ship). My own grandfather never spoke to me. I was abused by my mother’s pimp. My memories of those times, starting around 3yrs of age, are pretty horrific.
The orphanage was dicey. Again, we were outcasts and because I was the elder sister I had to take the brunt of the bullying to shield my brother. I was also touched and chased by boys during my time there. I remember tripping and falling down the stairs in front the church as I was running away from a group of them.
We came to the US, and it wasn’t long before our new dad started abusing me. He used to creep in at night and try to touch me. It was a nightmare every night. He’d try to videotape me changing, showering or bathing. He’d read my diary and blackmail me with threats of sending me back to Korea.
Five years later, his abuse was discovered when he tried to do the same thing to another family member. That day, he took his life in his bedroom while I was in the kitchen.
While my story didn’t end there, the sexual abuse did. But any survivor will tell you, it never really ends. It was during this time that I tried multiple times to end my life. Obviously depressed but simply put, my mind, body, and soul were tired. When they found out about my suicide attempts, I was yelled at for making their life harder. “Don’t you know what I’ve been through?!” my adoptive mom screamed at me. I didn’t feel anger but shame and guilt for causing more trouble. I was told before they unplugged him from life support that I was to never tell the secret; I was to act “normal.” Here I was, causing problems again. Nevermind that I’d spent over a week trying to cut, electrocute, hang, drown and poison myself – even searching in their room to find the gun that ended his life.
I was moved from one family to another — even back to Korea to live with my birth mother. The uncertainties in my life continued, but I never attempted suicide. But I did continue with my bad relationship with food. The self-loathing had already dug in deep and with the aid of my birth family’s history of calling me fat, I use food as my comfort. Or punishment. I went on a path of self-destruction in ways of bingeing and starving myself for decades. I was an expert at hiding – my past, feelings and the real me- and putting on a front that I was okay.
I struggled for most of my life but still had faith that I’ll find my path to helping others. And it took awhile to find my voice. The topics are sensitive and taboo. I was never at fault for the things that happened to me, but I felt that deep shame. I felt like I was tainted and used. What I’ve gone through didn’t leave scars, but I feel them. A therapist once told me that working through traumas is like going through surgery. It may remove or help to ease the cause of pain, but the scar will always be there.
Running has been my guide. I hated running, by the way. It wasn’t until I was able to use the pain of my past to fuel those races that I realized how much it had helped me to heal. I placed at many short distance races using my anger. I threw out virtual middle fingers to everyone in my past as I sped towards the finish line. Not the most positive way to deal with life but it was effective. And I had a lot of anger and questions to work through.
It’s evolved in that now I use running to count more blessings than hurt. I’ll never forget crossing the finish line at my first half Ironman and having to run even further to have a good cry alone as I screamed in my head “I’m LIVING. I win.”
That’s why I run. I don’t care if I’m not the fastest out there. The fact is that I beat the odds. If you look at the numbers of each trauma I went through (not all written here), I shouldn’t be here nor be successful. But I’m here, living my best (and healthy!) life. Running supported me on my toughest days, it has pushed me beyond my comfort zone and given me opportunities I’d never had imagined for myself and meet some pretty incredible people along the way.
I still have some dark days that I battle through. Some worse than others. It’s a daily task to detect the lies that my brain is telling me – I am not stupid/worthless/fat/(fill in the blank). I refuse to give in; I’ve come too far. The past does not claim who I am now, but it has shaped my mind to be stronger and more resilient. It has helped to develop my character and my endurance in sports, but it does not define me.
I am a survivor; I am a runner.