Name: Debbie Verdicchio
Location: Dover, NH, USA
Occupation: Child Care Resource and Referral Outreach Specialist
Sexual violence happens to people of any age, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, religion and ability. One in three women is sexually assaulted in their lifetime—it’s an alarming statistic. At the age of 42 I became a part of that statistic. I never thought in a million years that I would be a survivor of a drug-facilitated, felonious sexual assault. I had no idea how much my life was going to change that humid June morning as I sat alone in an emergency room waiting to be examined. This violent crime was going to challenge my strength as a daughter, niece, aunt, friend and a women. With the support of family and friends I reported the assault a few days later.
As the summer went on, I suppressed any memory of what had happened, lived my life and tried to move on. My family was amazed by how well I was handling this and they waited for the ball to drop. By the end of the summer the man who sexually assaulted me was arrested and charged with aggravated felonious sexual assault. The story hit the media and more women came forward with similar encounters with the same man. This nightmare that I tried so hard to forget was now real and my life began to spiral out of control; I was on the edge of a nervous breakdown and my family encouraged me to seek help and counseling. Unfortunately, this man never stood trial for the crimes he committed against me and other women. He eventually pleaded to a lesser degree of simple assault and walked. As a result, I plunged into a dark tunnel of depression and anxiety.
That traumatic event that shook my core years ago started a negative trickle effect in my life. I battled demons for years. I was on and off of antidepressants and saw different therapists for interventions, all which helped only minimally. I wasn’t at a good point in my life. I was unhappy with my personal and professional life. I had a 20-year career as an Early Childhood Educator, but my career had hit a road block and I felt overworked, underappreciated and treated unprofessionally. I didn’t feel challenged in my job and I knew I needed a change. Something had to give. I spent countless nights laying in bed crying and worrying about what direction my life was headed. I had no idea where to begin to find the peace, happiness and balance that I was so desperately seeking.
It wasn’t until the fall of 2013 that things began to change. A co-worker of mine was doing this challenge called Bikram’s Biggest Loser 3.0 and she convinced me to join her at the studio in Portsmouth to take a class. Before that point I had never heard of Bikram Yoga, the 26 postures, nor the heat. I took the class and thought to myself, “What the hell am I doing?” During my first class I thought I was going to die. I couldn’t breathe and I lay on the floor the entire class, wiping the sweat off my head. But after class I felt amazing and slept like a baby that night. I went back a few times after and then stopped—I didn’t return for a long time. Actually, it was almost a year until I returned to the hot room.
With the encouragement of two co-workers who had done the Biggest Loser challenge before me, I decided to try this challenge myself. I’m not going to lie, the first few classes sucked! I thought to myself, “What the fuck did I get myself into?” I definitely struggled the first couple weeks of practice; I struggled with my body and the way I looked. After a month of practicing I noticed the health benefits of practicing Bikram Yoga. I noticed changes in my body, I was gaining more flexibility and strength and my clothes fit better. Physically I felt better. I didn’t feel as tired and the plantar fasciitis that was giving me pain in my right foot was resolved within two weeks of practicing. A visit to my doctor showed that my cholesterol and blood pressure were down and I had lost weight.
Being a full-figured women, I’ve struggled with my weight and body image for most of my adult life. But for the first time in my life I have learned to love myself, curves, rolls and all. I found a community where I am accepted for who I am and no one is looking at me or judging me because of my size. The more I practiced, the less I struggled with my body and the way I looked. I remember taking a class with Jaylon, the owner of Bikram Yoga in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and he said something that stuck with me and I will never forget, “There is no judgment in here today.” I began to realize that I wasn’t alone in my struggle and that others were battling the same uphill battle as me. This was very comforting to me.
As I approach a milestone birthday, I am at a point in my life where I am supposed to be. Everything began to fall into place. I love my job as a Child Care Resource and Referral Outreach Specialist and it’s very empowering to help others. I’m probably the happiest that I’ve been in a long time and I credit this feeling to practicing yoga. I feel strong, I feel supported and I feel peace.
Debbie Verdicchio is a Child Care Resource and Referral Outreach Specialist with Childcare Aware of New Hampshire, a Child Care Resource and Referral Program through Southern New Hampshire Services. She is an advocate to help stop sexual and domestic violence in her community. She resides in Dover, New Hampshire with her dog, Max. Find Debbie on Facebook here and on Twitter @debbiev315.
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