#OwnItCampaignNote from Natalie: Stacey thank you so much for sharing your story with us!  You have a beautiful way with words and I was really touched reading about your struggles, courage, and how you have found strength through your fit fam (I can totally relate to that!).  You are doing a great job mama.  Thank you for being brave and sharing your story.
Much love,
Natalie

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I still have a hard time posting my “Then” pictures, because, well, despite how horrible I looked, I remember exactly how horrible I felt.The first picture was taken a year ago. I had just had 3 kids in 3.5 years and was suffering from severe depression. I remember feeling like there was no hope for me. I remember wanting to give up, on everything. I was exhausted. I couldn’t bend over to pick something up off the floor without feeling winded.

I was angry. Sad. I felt worthless.

I had been through hell in the form of in-laws. I was surrounded by people who chose to purposely tear me down and spent their time truly trying to destroy me and my marriage. I wasn’t good enough for their son. I wasn’t Godly enough to be accepted by their cult they called religion, simply because my beliefs differed from theirs. I was too skinny (before babies). Too blond. (Even though it’s dyed…) I wasn’t smart enough, even though I rarely got below an A in high school and paid for half of my college years with scholarships I earned. (And the other half with money I earned.) I was “stubborn”, though in my world we call it independent. I came from a “rich” family just because my parents worked their asses off every day of their lives to give us the best lives possible. So if richness is measured in love, hard work, and acceptance, then yes, I come from a rich family. But if it is measured in money, I come from a family who believes in budgets, clearance racks, and cutting coupons. These horribly cruel people cut me down for everything they possibly could, just for the satisfaction it brought them to bring pain to another human. I didn’t even hug good enough for them. Seriously. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

After literally years of trying to “be the bigger person” I couldn’t anymore. I was exhausted from trying. I was exhausted from having to defend myself as a person, while trying to raise 3 babies.
I finally reached a point where I couldn’t take it anymore, and I knew I had a choice. Either I could let the lies these people were telling about me consume and destroy me, or I could become the best me possible and shut them up by doing so.

So, I took a deep breath, cried A LOT, wondered why this was happening to me, and I took the first step to changing my life. I didn’t want to live under the heaviness of depression anymore. I physically, mentally, and emotionally couldn’t do it any longer.

I didn’t want to take pills for my depression because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to control myself. I didn’t need something to numb me, I was already numb. I had no feeling. I felt like a failure because that’s what they drilled into me. For years. I wasn’t good enough. For anyone. For life.
So I asked myself, if I wasn’t going to take pills to help, what the hell else was there?
The answer I found is what saved my life. The answer I found is why I’m here today. The answer I found is why I know most of YOU and am able to refer to you as my “Fit Fam”. I found health through fitness.
I found support through strangers.
I found confidence through positive reinforcement.
I found courage through fear.
I found pieces of myself coming back, through sweat, tears, frustration, and persistence.
I found hope for happiness through encouragement.
And so, as I post my transformation today, I label it as “Then” and “Now” because while it is my “Before” picture, I’m still a major work in progress and don’t feel like I’ve achieved my “After” yet.

So this is my NOW picture. My proof that I’ve learned the process and the hard work it takes to achieve the results. My proof that I am overcoming my past. My proof that every day is worth the effort it takes to grow, to be better. My proof that I AM enough. My proof that even when life is hard, I can and will overcome it. I will not be destroyed by people who are unhappy with their own lives. I control my life. I choose health. I choose success. I choose positivity and love. I choose to believe in God and the power of dreams. I choose to be a role model for my kids. I choose to be someone who supports others and brings them up. I choose happiness, even if some days, it’s just the pursuit of it.

Stacey Lee OIC——–
The #OwnIt Campaign shares encouraging stories of people who are ‘owning’ their stories.  It can be body-image related, personal-history related, or any personal struggle you have ‘owned’ and gained confidence from that action.  You can read more about the campaign by clicking here.  Use the hashtags #OwnItCampaign and #OwnIt to be featured or emailownitcampaign@gmail.com **NOTE** It’s important you use the #ownitcampaign hashtag so we can search through that hashtag later to see your story.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” – Brene Brown