Updated: Feb 15
A Polykinetic Life
I began my Taekwondo training in 1992 at 8-years-old along with half-brother who was just a couple years older. Immediately, I stuck out. I was shy, overweight and just one of only a couple of other girls in the entire school since this was during a time when girls participating in male-dominated sports wasn’t remotely popular and even less encouraged by the media and masses---don’t even get me started on the “body positivity movement”---because it didn’t exist. Luckily, being a girl in a boy’s sport didn’t dissuade me in the least from learning how to defend myself against the fierce bullying I was enduring due in part to my body size and shy demeanor; both in school and at home at the hands of my half-brother. I was a “sitting duck” per se. My physical and mental safety and sense of personal security were constantly under attack, and with nowhere else to turn to but my classes, they became my go-to safe haven from the bouts of abuse and assaults, and since the only time I wasn’t targeted was when I would wear my uniform, the uniform became a metaphorical suit of armor that protected me and gave me superpowers, at least that’s what I would tell myself at 10-years-old every time I’d wear it.
Over the years, I rose through the ranks and with it, an unexpected reputation crossing multiple states throughout the Midwest for being down right “brutal” in the fighting ring despite my angelic appearance short stature and robust width. So much so, I was eventually disqualified from female fighting matches all together due to complaints of my fighting style causing several injuries, and was forced to fight the boys due to my “brutal” fighting style. To spectators, It seemed highly unusual, yet somewhat awe-inspiring for them to see a little girl possess so much aggression, never stopping to ask how a little girl came to become so aggressive.
After word of my fighting accomplishments began to spread throughout the area, I began to have high ranking Masters watch me compete. It was a honor to say the least. My mom couldn’t have been prouder of her little “brut”; a nicknamed given to me by spectators. I became her little superstar in the ring which only fueled my brother’s hatred for me to which his beatings would become more vicious over time. Eventually, my mom insisted we make a new start and moved us to a new state and new town in Illinois, where we ended up opening our own martial arts school in 1997, and where the bullying went from bad to life-threatening in less than six months.
The bullying became so rampant that as a last chance effort, I made my way onto a daytime talk show in Spring of 1997 for “Bullied Kids with Extraordinary Talents”. I was one of two guests chosen to appear on the show out of more than 48,000 people who called in about the topic. My hope was that my appearance would give a different insight to those who were tormenting me, but it didn’t faze them.
The bullying continued, and took such a toll on me, mentally and emotionally, that just a few years later after appearing on television, I attempted to end my life in the bathroom of my mom’s home; luckily, I was unsuccessful, and therefore, my survival gave birth to a deep resentment towards everybody, as well as, a deep depression due to school officials threatening me with expulsion (which meant goodbye to any chances of getting into a college and out of the hell hole I was stuck in) if I ever used my martial arts training to defend myself against another student’s attack. In other words, I was being forced to endure whatever treatment was handed to me without any expectation of justice against my countless attackers.
So that’s what I did, I took it. Day after day, incident after incident racking up bruises and broken bones in and out of the fighting ring. My life at that point was nothing more than a constant battle to simply exist. I clinched onto my training for guidance throughout it all. Looking back, there’s no doubt in my mind that my martial arts training kept me alive during the most disturbing years of my young life. Where I was being tormented in school halls, I was also being praised and paraded as a talented martial artist competitor and group instructor. The intensity of my internal pain was match by the intensity of my pride, and that alone is what saved my life, eventually allowing me to leave my mom’s house, the town, and all the horrible memories of the last decade of my life behind in the Fall of 2003.
Post traumatic aftershock
By October of 2003 I had retired my black belt alongside my uniform and containers of trophies; had my bags packed, heading off into a complete unknown and fresh chapter in life, college! I attended the first place that would accept me; which took a six page explanation on why I’m attempting to get into college with nothing but “D” grades, and absolutely no directional vision for my future, and yet through hell and high water, I made it---this was to be my big triumphant Lifetime movie special inspired happy ending to the trauma and pains of my past, but my optimism was nothing more than fallacious. It wasn’t the end of my ordeal, but only the beginning to what was to become an even more daunting challenge than the past I had left behind.
Entirely unaware as I sat in my classes and hung out with friends, that I was on the verge of a complete mental collapse, but yet, day after day, I just kept thinking happy thoughts and everything was good. I was good. Life was good. I tried so hard to convince my mind to remain positive; but the obsessive, racing thoughts and rising level of anxiety persisted. “Why am I having to fight so hard to do what seems second nature to others? Why can’t I feel gratitude? Why do I feel like I am literally dying? What is going on with me? I was completely lost so I did the only thing I knew to do; seek professional medical help. It seemed so simple therefore I assumed the process would be relatively simple as well. I was about to be served another dose of harsh reality.
You see, in the state of Illinois, if you don’t have health insurance (which I didn’t) then you must go through the public Medicaid health system which in Chicago, entailed waiting up towards 6 to 8 hours in waiting rooms filled to max capacity---only to be pushed from one nurse or doctor to another---until finally, I was seated in front of a psychiatrist just short of my 10th hour at the emergency clinic. I felt I was finally going to get some help by getting whichever medication and treatment plan I needed, and get back to being me. I was wrong yet again. After 10 hours of waiting and walking from office to office, I walked out of the clinic with nothing more than the skepticism and doubt from everyone I spoke with. They simply wouldn’t listen or would flat out tell me that there was nothing wrong with me. I returned back to my high rise studio apartment, furious, broken and defeated, not to mention, still very sick and progressively getting worse with each passing day with no help in sight.
Little by little, I slowly stopped attending classes, I began to be more and more withdrawn from everything around me. I wasn’t responding anymore to my friends, and when they did try to reach out and talk, I’d lash out with an intense anger without even thinking, only to have the reality of my actions hit me moments after. This wasn’t normal for me, but getting others to believe me proved to be more difficult than finding a mathematical equation to explain the philosophical meaning of life. Eventually, I had no choice left but to tell my mom what was happening, and as expected, she promptly brought me back to the same town and back into the same house I ran from in the first place. My brother was all too excited to have me back in the house and eager for him to make up for “lost time”. The overwhelming sense of failure eventually led me to my first psychiatric hospitalization in January of 2005 because I knew if I didn’t get to the bottom of what was happening to me, I would experience a similar fate as my dad who died of suicide when I was just 3-years-old after years of battling Bipolar disorder. Even with my past experience at the Chicago clinic, I knew I couldn’t give up trying to save my own life. I knew I didn’t want to die.
Hitting rock bottom
After I voluntarily admitted myself into the local psychiatric hospital just a few months shy of my 21st birthday. I stayed under medical observation for nearly a week, and needless to say, it really opened my eyes to how apathetic the system really was towards those like myself—those with mental illnesses and disorders who find themselves in a crisis. Most of my stay consisted of heavy medications and little bouts of novel therapies, none of which were nearly as effective as the counselors were making them out to be. Once I was released, I left with nothing more than a list of conditions including one that read “severe reoccurring depressive episodes” which I later found out was code for “major depressive disorder” and a bag of medications with a schedule of when to take each of them. No information given or even offered about my conditions or explanations on what to expect from the medications. Nothing more than, “take your meds and good luck”, and it was at that point, did I truly understand how subpar the quality care standards were within the mental health system all together, and for years, I hid my conditions from everyone; frequently denying their existence myself.
I was told it was a bad idea to tell others due to the immense stigma still attached to mental illnesses. So that’s what I did. I began to pretend there was nothing wrong with me. During which, I never secured a stable home. I hopped from one friends couch to another until landing my first apartment in 2006, and for the first time, I had real optimism in thinking that the worst of the worst was indeed over, and I can live out my life with some sort of peace, and with this confidence, I decided to give Chicago another try. In the summer of 2008, I packed up what little possessions I did have into my 1987 Chrysler Cutless and drove back thinking my condition would be cured if I just tried hard enough.
Life seemed to get a little better in Chicago the 2nd time around. I was still struggling with some symptoms, but wasn’t suffering as extensively even though I remained unmedicated. I was learning life skills that should have been taught years ago, I was learning how to live, and with that, came into my life the person who would eventually become my husband and the father of our daughter. Life was FINALLY looking up. We wasted no time with moving in together and starting a life. We had agreed to move closer to my mom so she would be able to help me with the pregnancy and birth, and settled into a quaint, cute apartment, got married, and in September of 2009, welcomed a healthy baby, Madison, into the world, and with that, I officially had a new purpose for living; motherhood.
Pain into Power
In the beginning of my marriage, things were good for the most part. There were superficial arguments and natural disagreements, but nothing to the severe. We had good communication, and he would often shower me with words of encouragement and motivation. He quickly became the only friend I had in the world, and when Madison was about 6 months old we moved into a lovely 2-story home, and for the next couple of years, our lives were rather blissful for the most part. I even created an online resale company to help bring in some extra money; which grew to actually making more than my night job was paying---so needless to say, I was thrilled, and even though my husband said he was happy for me as well, his actions weren’t matching his words. I found it odd, but didn’t let it deter my drive to keep working on my e-commerce business to be profitable enough to where I could give up working midnight shifts and get to raise my daughter while I worked during the day. It was challenging in the beginning. I was getting zero help from my husband. He would take to working more than 12 hours a day at times. Leaving me to raise Madison primarily on my own on top of everything else.
Until one day, my mom approached me with a peculiar look in her eyes, and told me, “Michelle, I think he’s being possessive over you. He’s trying very hard to distant you from us and everyone else”. Now, my mom was known to be a bit overly cautious, but I also didn’t knock the fact she also used to be police officer for many years, and had survived her own bouts of domestic abuse and violence. I defended him against my mother’s accusations, but at the same time, something she was saying was ringing truth with me; therefore, I began paying closer attention to his actions and the inconsistencies in his words---only then, was I able to see exactly what my mom was warning me about.
To be fair, I decided I would “test” my husband, and do something he was never fond of, me going out on my own. So that’s what I did. I went to my favorite coffee shop and told him I was going out to “celebrate” my highest selling month since starting my e-commerce business. I took our daughter to my mom’s house and spent a few hours playing on social media and sipping my coffee, alone.
I walked back inside the house with my daughter in my arms just after 1:00 A.M.—the house was dark, and at first I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary until I began to walk my daughter upstairs to put her in her bed which was just past my upstairs office where I ran my e-commerce business. I nearly dropped her stumbling over the clutter in the hall. I turned on the lights and it took me a solid 2 minutes of staring at my office for it to register---in an alcohol-fueled jealous rage, my husband had taken out all of his frustrations on my home business. Much of my equipment and inventory were damaged beyond repair, many thrown from the 2nd story window. Everything I had spent the last 2 years sacrificing and working tirelessly for, was completely gone, and for me, my business was like another child, so I was emotionally and mentally devastated to have lost something so important to me at the hands of the one person I did work up the courage to trust.
I found him passed out in the guest bedroom, and somehow I was able to maintain a calm demeanor as I put my daughter to bed in her room, walked into the guest room, woke him up, and told him he had 48 hours to get his things and get a new place to live. I cried so hard that night, my eyes were swollen by morning. It was the most severe act of betrayal I had experienced in my adult life, and I was only 29-years-old. My sadness quickly morphed into a form of pure hatred that I had never experienced before, not even with my past. For me, it was the ultimate act. One that surely would be the reason why I end up in jail or worse. I simply had had enough of the suffering and always being left to pick up the pieces on my own. My hatred was growing and I was at ends at how to stop it before it turned into a life-or-death situation.
A New Day with A New Way
I woke up early the next morning with the same insatiable anger I fell asleep with. I knew my marriage was over and my business was beyond recovery. I was an absolute mess, physical and mentally. The mere sight or sound of my husband at that moment was enough to push me over a metaphysical edge into insanity so the entire morning while he packed up, I played random songs, and did exercises I took from my martial arts and for some reason, started doing them in rhythm to whichever song I was using.
The tears were streaming down my face, and after just 11 seconds and at more than 220 lbs, I collapsed. This for some reason really made me angry. Just as angry with my subpar physical abilities as I was at my soon-to-be ex-husband. So I tried it again. I last 20-something seconds. Got even more angry, and so I did it again, this time, 39 seconds, and I just kept doing that same song over and over until I was able to do the whole song without stopping. It exhausted me physically and mentally, and took me three straight days, and sometime during that 3rd day, it hit me. I noticed I wasn’t feeling that same level of rage as I was just a few days prior when everything happened. I was still upset, but inadvertently, processed the mental pain I was experiencing through the mean of sequential physical movement, and the effects shocked even me.
Something clicked right there, and I found myself literally yelling out into thin air, “fitness?? Are you serious??”, but from that moment on, I began working on strengthening my broken body in order to help heal my mind, so that I would be physically and mentally able to take on whatever chaotic challenge was to come my way and be a strong mother for my daughter. Along with creating workouts, I began to read everything I could get my hands on: physics, neurology, psychology, etc. I read and studied as much as I worked out which was every day for more than 130 consecutive days—documenting my progresses through social media every step of the way.
This exercise strategy eventually came to be known as “Polykinetics” and the “S.E.L.F. Method”; the first systematic physical fitness method exclusively made to help aid those whom find themselves in a mental health crisis with no one to turn to or any place else to go, like myself; therefore, in 2015, I started a website and began putting the information online for others to learn and use. It’s still amazes me with every message I get from those who have used Polykinetics and to hear how it has helped them through their past traumas exactly how it helped me through mine.