I absolutely cannot wait for you to listen to this incredible, powerful conversation with Ashley Abercrombie. Ashley is a beautiful, amazing woman, and the author of the book, Rise Of the Truth Teller: Own your story, tell it like it is, and live with holy gumption.
Ashley's story is powerful, and is also really heavy. You'll hear a lot of it in the podcast episode, but I would not recommend this book if rape or abortion are triggers for you. I want to be honest about that up front so that you can be aware of that.
Even if you haven't experienced trauma or you're not one of the many, many women who have been raped or had abortions, come into this conversation with headphones, first of all, for your little ones to not hear, and with an open heart because there's so much goodness in here. I'm really honored that I get to air this conversation on my podcast.
In This Episode Allie & Ashley Discuss:
Ashley’s story and how trauma has impacted her life
Ways that they manage the tendency to want to control
The importance of processing trauma so that digital media isn’t a constant trigger
Practical steps to move forward and deal with traumatic events
Mentioned in this Episode:
Decluttering with kids doesn’t have to be a struggle. Let me help you.
I’m teaming up with a child play therapist to bring you a new FREE web class.
We’ll shine a light on the things you need to know and teach you how to begin the process of minimalism with your kids (or succeed in it if you’ve tried before!).
who doesn't love a GIVEAWAY?
Reviews are everything on iTunes! Would you take a minute and click here to leave a review? Email email@example.com with a screenshot of your review on iTunes. You'll be entered to win one of Allie's amazing courses for FREE!
Mom life. We are surrounded with the message that it’s the tired life. The no-time-for-myself life. The hard life. And while it is hard and full of lots of servitude, the idea that motherhood means a joyless life is something I am passionate about putting a stop to. I’m on a mission to help you stop counting down the minutes till bedtime, at least most days. I want you to stop cleaning up after your kid’s childhood and start being present for it. Start enjoying it. I believe in John 10:10 “that we are called to abundant life” and I know mothers are not excluded from that promise. Join me in conversations about simplicity, minimalism and lots of other good stuff that leads to a life of less for the sake of enjoying more in your motherhood. I’m Allie Casazza and this is The Purpose Show.
Friends, it is that time of year again. It's October and we are doing Allie Reads October in my little corner of the Internet. It's so fun. This is our second time doing it. If you were around last year for Allie Reads October, you're going to notice it looks a little bit different this year. We’ve structured it differently to fit where I'm at in my personal life this year. The amount of time that I've had to read for pleasure is much less than it was the year before, so we adjusted as needed. It's a different set up today, or this month, this year, whatever. And I'm really excited about it.
Here's what Allie Reads is - basically it's intended to draw your attention to books and remind you to read more. Reading for women has always been a really important issue. There have been times where women in other cultures, countries and parts of the world were not allowed to read.
I'm really passionate about cultivating strength and community among women and raising a strong woman myself in my daughter, and being a strong woman, I'm very passionate about feminism and I just really want to be a part of drawing attention to the fact that women, especially moms with how busy we are and how much we're balancing, we need to read books.
Maya Angelou said, “know better, do better,” and I think one of the best possible ways that you can know better and then do better is by reading good books, so I want to draw attention every year to the type of books that I read that really made an impact on me, that they changed the way that I think about things. They really helped bring clarity to something that I was struggling with. They made me know better, do better. To draw attention to those books and to those authors. To have conversations with the people that wrote those books. To have conversations with you about the books without the author there. Really celebrate the fact that we have the freedom to read. That it's such an important thing. It's such a great way to grow. And as I said, as Maya Angelou said, “know better, do better.” So that's what Allie Reads is all about.
This year we have a couple of authors coming on the podcast, but the rest of Allie Reads October will be discussions about different books that shaped me as a person, as a parent, the books that I read this year, the books that have helped grow my business this year, the books that help my kids understand minimalism and that can help your kids understand minimalism. We're doing lots of different things like that and it's all happening at Alliereadsoctober.com. It's a landing page for all the things about this month. Take the opportunity, go dive in, and let me know what you think.
ALLIE: Friends, hello! I am going to dive right in because I absolutely cannot wait for you to finally listen to this incredible, powerful conversation with this beautiful, amazing woman who is my guest today.
But before I let you hear, there are some things that are really important that you hear me say to you, so don't skip ahead on this. I have a disclaimer and some warnings and I just want you to hear me.
Before I do that, I want to let you know that my guest today is Ashley Abercrombie. She lives with her husband and her two sons in Harlem. She is the author of the book, Rise Of the Truth Teller: Own your story, tell it like it is, and live with holy gumption. What I love about this conversation is that Ashley and I talked just like I normally do to you. I want everybody, no matter what your beliefs are, to be able to hear my podcast, take in my content, simplify your life, lighten your load, and live better whether or not you share my faith. This book is very faith-based. It's absolutely a Christian book, but the conversation here is for everybody.
I want to welcome you into this conversation and I would love to hear your thoughts on it. As always, please share and tag Instagram and social media for me.
The other thing I wanted to tell you is that Ashley's story is really a lot. It's really heavy. You'll hear a lot of it in the podcast episode, but I would not recommend this book if rape or abortion are triggers for you, unless you're ready for that to be triggered and you're ready to deal with it.
In the conversation here, she doesn't get into any details, so you're good to listen to this. But I am recommending this book and I don't want to do that without saying that there's a lot of heavy stuff in here. She paints pictures with her words of the things that she went through, things that happened to her, and the trauma she endured and I want to be honest that that could be very triggering for some of you. I want you to be aware of that and be honest about that upfront.
This is such an important conversation. I've had a lot on my heart for a long time about abortion and women who have had abortions. I want you to know that you are so, so loved and so welcome here and I know that you're about to listen to this conversation on purpose. I believe that with my whole heart. I'm so glad that you're here.
Even if you haven't experienced anything like that, if you haven't experienced trauma or you're not one of the many, many women who have been raped or had abortions, come into this conversation with headphones, first of all, for your little ones to not hear, and with an open heart because there's so much goodness in here. I'm really honored that I get to air this conversation on my podcast. This is such an honor. Having said that, let's welcome Ashley.
ASHLEY: Hi Allie! I'm so happy to be here with you.
ALLIE: Yeah, me too. I always feel so awkward when we do the fake “hello” after we’ve been talking but how else do you start?
ASHLEY: You have to do it. Hello!
ALLIE: Before we connected with you guys, Ashley and I got on the phone together and I told her about how I don't want it to feel podcasty, fake or weird. I want us to talk and be friends and just have a conversation together. But it's so funny because there are some parts of that you can't avoid. It’s so dumb.
ASHLEY: It’s so true. Yes, very awkward.
ALLIE: Oh my gosh. I saw this on the schedule…I don't know about you but I can only handle looking at the next day. I will kind of give my week an overview on Sunday night like, okay what's going on, but I don't really know what's happening until the night before. And so, I saw your name on my calendar and I got so happy because you are such a freaking light. You're one of those people where it's like, “How can I get more of this person in my life?”
I read this study something about our primal nature that it's a survival technique that you're drawn to people that you think, “This person can help me or this person's really awesome, I feel something about this person that would make me better.” And you're one of those people for me.
I think that you're magnetic, joyful and you've overcome so much. Your life story is almost the opposite of mine. And I think that's so interesting to me to hear you work through all these hard things at such a young age. I'm really excited to have that conversation with you today.
ASHLEY: Oh my gosh, Allie, thank you so much! That means the world to me. I feel like I have learned so much from you and Brian. I just last night was thinking of you as I was cleaning out my bathroom for the hundredth time in the last two years - Allie would be so proud! It’s a constant, ongoing journey, but you really are making the world a better place and I’m grateful for you.
ALLIE: Thank you!
I have to just say that this has kind of become a theme on the podcast lately where I feel I've been learning about this a lot lately, maybe in the last year in my life…I don't know if you know, but I was a stay-at-home mom and then I started my business and became not only a working mom but the CEO and the boss and having people working for me, just the opposite. I was pregnant all of my twenties, super stay-at-home mom, homeschooling, and now it's really the opposite. And so, one thing that I've been learning is taking ownership of the strength that God gave me, stepping into my role and becoming a confident working mom, and not apologetic that I work or anything like that.
So strong women has been something that I've been coming back to over and over again. I love…you are so raw in your book when you say…almost like a little jabs, you're not really talking about that but you'll throw it in, “also if you ever have felt this or you believe this, you're not my people and you're not going to like me very much.” And before we get into some of the deeper stuff, I just wanted to draw attention to one section where I highlighted the crap out of it.
ASHLEY: Oh! I love that so much.
ALLIE: And I wrote, “Yes! Let's talk about this!” You said something funny…it literally had almost nothing to do with the section…you were talking about when you met your husband, but you talked about the “Christian girl lists,” who you were going to marry and I was cracking up and also annoyed at everything and frustrated at the same time because I grew up in a really conservative Christian school and went to youth group and I did all of those things, so our teen years and our college years I feel like were opposite.
But I was in that circle where all of my friends were making these lists…so specific like, “he will have gray eyelashes and a hard butt.”
ASHLEY: Because that’s what you say when you’re 18, “he needs a hard butt.”
ALLIE: “He'll love Jesus so much and always put me first.” I remember partaking in that at one point, but feeling really weird. I remember telling my best friend, her name was Juliet and I was like, “Jules, if a guy is making this list about me, I'm gonna smack him so hard, and be like, ‘You're the worst!’”
ASHLEY: “And no, I will not go on a date with you! You’re awful!”
ALLIE: “No I'm not going to conform to your stupid list. Burn it!” I would have been so annoyed. I was cracking up because anyone listening that was in the Christian circle growing up knows what we're talking about and it's so dumb. I was laughing so hard!
And you said, “Oh, he didn't fit my future husband items,” but really, who does that?
ASHLEY: Literally who does that? Who makes a list on the front end for somebody to fail? Who does that?
ALLIE: And then it's like, what do you do? You meet somebody and you really feel connected to them, but you're like, “I really wanted brown eyes.” This isn’t a latte order that you send back.
I just had to point that out because I was laughing so hard and feeling like, “oh my gosh, I'm going to raise my daughter so much different, and my boys, if they ever make a list.” I get the idea of it was really important to me that this person is generous or something like that.
ASHLEY: Character, but not image and all the other things that we think.
ALLIE: Yeah, like he really needs to shop at Target. If he goes to Walmart, I just can’t do it.
ASHLEY: I love it. Walmart's off the list, you know?
ALLIE: Oh my gosh. Okay. So, I would love for you as short or as long as you want, tell us about yourself. Your story is basically this entire book and I know you can't do that, but your story is so incredible. So, I'll let you dive into that and let these women hear about how incredible your story is.
ASHLEY: Thank you so much. I grew up in a really tiny little town in North Carolina, which I loved. I mean there were like 14,000 people in our whole town, so this is very, very little. And what's beautiful about that is that you kind of know everybody, but what's not beautiful about that is that you also know everybody without anybody really knowing who you are, so for me it became very easy to hide.
I was also a master performer. Captain of everything. President of everything. I always had lots of achievements and saw my significance in a lot of the things that I do. And so, because of that, from a very young age, I feel like I had a PhD in pretending and performing. I knew how to put a mask on. Even if I was dying on the inside, I knew how to turn it on.
And then when I went off to college and left my little hometown, on my campus there were 28,000 students just on the campus, not even in the town, so to say I was overwhelmed is a complete understatement. I started that year with drugs, with alcohol, eating disorders. The eating disorder sometimes can be about image for people, but for me it was a lot about being able to continue hiding and controlling my life, and also finding a place where I could release pain and release emotion. That's what the eating disorder was about for me because I didn't know how to have reciprocal relationships. I knew how to be the one that people came to. I knew how to be the strong one, the one who had advice, the one who could be ready for friends, but I didn't know how to courageously let down my guard and say I also have needs and I'm also really struggling. And because of that, because I didn't have anywhere to push all that negativity out, then I began to self-harm.
Then my second year on campus I was sexually assaulted and raped by a guy on campus that I knew. I know that sounds really heavy even to hear it now. And at the same time, it doesn't have the same hold on me that it used to, so I don't share that in a way that is belittling the experience or skipping over the pain of it, but to say that it doesn't have the same hold over me.
I remember waking up the next morning and because I was such a master pretender, I literally went to work as if nothing had happened to me and I did not know another way to live. I thought that when bad things happen to you, you just stuff them somewhere where nobody can see them and you run. You keep running. You keep doing your life. You keep filling it with busyness. Keep filling it with achievements. Keep filling it with other things so you don't have to really dive down deep into stuff.
And so, for me it all came to a head when I made the decision to move to Los Angeles, which was 3000 miles away from North Carolina. Two days before I moved out, I discovered that I was pregnant and unfortunately made the decision that evening to have an abortion. I went out to LA with that weighing heavy on my soul and didn't know a person when I moved to LA, so I really, truly thought, “This is my opportunity to start all over. This is my opportunity to do something different with my life.” And I remember getting out there and for the first couple of months it really was like that. It was like no one knows me. I don't have to be anybody. I don't have to turn up as Ashley, this girl who does all these things. I can just be myself. I can let it be.
And then of course everywhere you go, there you are. So, I soon discovered that all my stuff had followed me. Lucky for me, I ended up meeting this wonderful group of people. I had actually grown up in church but left the church when I was 16. There was only women's quilting with the sweet, sweet older women in our church. They were beautiful and I loved them, but at 16 that was not a fun experience for me so I decided to leave. I met this wonderful group of Christians who went to this faith community. Actually, they never even invited me to church, they just started hanging out with me. You know, I would rage, party, do drugs, drink alcohol, do all this stuff, and they would just drink Diet Coke and sometimes drive me home and just were so kind.
I remember asking them like, “Why are you guys like this? I have never met Christians who are this kind. I've never met Christians who are this loving, who didn't call me names, who didn't treat me poorly. I want to know who this God is that you're serving.” Then I began to walk alongside them, journey in my faith and begin the recovery process, through a series of relationships.
I remember the climax moment for me of really deciding to admit my life was out of control, as I was driving around one evening (I used to smoke cigarettes) and I was smoking trying to release stress. I pulled over in a parking lot. It started dumping buckets of rain. I just remember shouting, “Where are you God? Where are you? If you exist, where are you?” And just feeling the heaviness and wanting it so badly to go away.
I remember immediately feeling the presence of God, feeling the lightness of God, and recognizing for the first time, “It's okay. My life is totally out of control.” And saying that out loud to myself and saying that to God brought a new little light of freedom into my heart, into my soul.
I wasn't brave enough yet to begin telling people my story, to begin telling people what was really going on with me, but at the same time, just having that moment with God and then alongside these people who were full of joy, full of life, and full of freedom made me think to myself, “Man, maybe we can be broken and still love each other. Maybe people can still know my story and not reject me, not abandon me, and not push me out.”
And I discovered that that was really true. That even though people knew my story, even though they knew the things that I had experienced, or even the bad decisions that I had made, the fact that they didn't walk away from me was revolutionary. I didn't even know that was a thing - that you could put stuff out in the light and it be okay. So yeah, that's the short version of my story.
ALLIE: Yeah. I think that what I connected to you in your story…because when I first…I knew what this book was about before because the publishers had reached out and I got the whole rundown and I remember thinking, “I don't know…” I would be listening and not really relate, which is fine.” And now that we were talking before we recorded, we both know that we're 8’s on the enneagram and I actually really related a lot to your need to control and your need to perform.
My parents actually never really did anything to make me feel like that, but it was like I translated a lot of things that they said and did as, “Oh, you do good then you are good.” And actually, my mom, we've talked about it and she is really not like that, but it was just my translation of things. I was the oldest of four. There was a lot going on. And so, I was like, “I need to show up and be helpful, and then I'm good.”
I'm curious to see, I don't know if you've ever even thought of this, but in your story when you were sharing that you needed to control things and that that's where the eating disorder came in for you, I read that and was super emotional because I was around the same age that you were when you were in college that I got married and my controlling came in my relationship.
I was really controlling and I would notice it and not want it, but I would just find myself going to controlling everything, almost manipulative control. And whenever I say that, I'm grateful for this, but people will say, “That doesn't seem like you at all and I can't believe that.” And I'm so, so glad. Please keep saying that because that was the worst. I was a very different person. I struggled in that same way with that control and it just came out different. And, you know, maybe that would've been your story too if you had had a relationship or been married or whatever.
But I think that what I took from that is that when we performers perform so much that we start to break down. There was no safe place for me, even in my friendships. My best friend growing up had a really hard life and my family life was really healthy. And so, I felt like I was always the rock. She was there for me, but I wouldn't let her be. My parents were there for me, but I wouldn't let them be. It was my bad. So, I think that control comes out of desperation, out of anger, and not having anywhere to vent. Even in my relationship with God, I performed. I don't know if you relate to that.
ASHLEY: Right. Oh, I relate to this. And control is a very real thing. I think sometimes…I talk about this a lot because I think it's important for us to recognize that things like control, pride, or anger are not a personality type. Sometimes I think you could assign those things to more dominant personalities. You could think to yourself, “Oh, Ashley's probably a person who struggles with pride or control or anger,” and you'd be right about that. I think the facts are that we all are very concerned about our image, whatever our personality looks like, image is a very real thing for us. We care about what people think. We care about the way we present ourselves. We care about what others are going to say about us. And I think because of that we all struggle with some level of control around our image and around the way we do lives.
And for me, control made me feel secure, so having control was actually the root of my security. It's like when I have control, I feel secure. I feel like no one can hurt me. I feel like if I could get my way, then I can establish my environment. And everything's going to be okay. And so for me, that's a lot of what control is about. And I think most of us can relate to that. Whatever our personality types are, we want to be able to cultivate an environment where we can’t be hurt, or an environment where things go according to plan, or an environment where we don't have to respond to something that is an uncontrollable variable. But that's just not actually life. There is no way for that to be our real life.
I think most of our journey is discovering how do I not live in perpetual disappointment because I was expecting perfection. How do I adjust my expectations? How do I adjust the way I do my life so that I can flow with the ease and grace that life really is and that God really created me to have?
ALLIE: Yeah. So, would you say that that control issue has resurfaced as you've done life and you did get married and you did have kids, is that still a core? You know, everyone kind of has their thing? My thing is control and then my other things come out of that.
I tend to yell. I was raised in a really loud house. I'm Cuban. I'm loud and out of my need to control comes yelling or being manipulative - accidentally, kind of not really accidentally - and then noticing and having to call it.
Since you're saying “yeah” you still struggle with that. What are the things that you do in the moment as a person who tends to get really controlling that stop that cycle? Because for me it just starts and it's like, “Shoot, I'm being controlling again.”
ASHLEY: For me, I have a couple of practices that I put into place. One is that I don't expect myself to be perfect anymore because when I expected myself to be perfect, then that meant every time I didn't do it right, I became even more controlling. I was like, “I'm going to control myself to control the environment to control everything that's happening.” For me it was about recognizing I wasn't created for perfection and nobody can live up to this impossible standard that's in my head.
But my husband and I, we both have been in recovery, and so we talk so often about the neurons in our brain pathways. My husband calls this “creating an exit ramp” because once you have an established pathway for which you respond to life, it creates this sort of rut or a divot in your brain and it's a well-worn path that you can easily travel on. I’ve heard it called “the crazy train.” You just jump on that thing and ride it. It happens without your permission even. And so, creating an exit ramp.
For me, I do a couple of things. One is I'll take a deep breath. I know that sounds very small, but for me it's very big for me to just stop in the moment. That's me creating an exit ramp - stop, take a breath. And when I exhale, then I think to myself, “What is the word that will help me get off this train?” For me, instead of control, I want to choose love, so I think of the word “love” literally, and it is like an exit sign for me. It's like a big green sign that says “love” and that puts me on a different ramp.
And as I think about love, then I think to myself, “What will happen in this situation? What's a better way to respond than me trying to control this moment?” Whether it's my kids and I want them to just put their shoes on because I'm impatient, I'm ready to go, even though we might have a little more time than I'm giving them. Creating that little big green sign of love helps me go, “You know what? I can sit down on the floor. I'll help you put your shoes on. I'll calm down.”
And then same thing in marriage. If I think to myself, okay, I'm trying to be controlling about our life, our schedule, our plans, or even the way you're driving right now. Just ridiculous things - there's no need to control that, but for some reason I think there is.
ALLIE: Sometimes it feels like there's a need when you miss the exit, even though I said it three times.
ASHLEY: That happens to us too, by the way.
But yeah, creating that little love ramp. When I see that word love in my mind, then I think to myself, “It would be better if I was just quiet right now. It's not necessary for me to speak, so I'm going to hold this. God help me hold it.” I think for me that's a very internal process.
Then on the external end of things, I try to create opportunities for me to share and process what happened, so I need a few good friends. And none of mine live here unfortunately. I have some great friends in the city, but my closest, oldest friends that know my rhythms, know my habits, know my marriage, I'll reach out to them and just say, “You know what? I'm really struggling with control right now.”
And then I'll process with them what are the stressors that are creating my need to control. Am I over-scheduled? Do I need to look at my calendar and see am I too busy? Am I really missing some time to replenish myself? Oh yeah, I haven't had a moment to myself in three days. That's probably part of the problem here. Then creating room in my life for myself to be replenished because I need that.
I think everybody has to discover what are your things that you need but that's my internal process and then those are my external ways of doing things.
ALLIE: Yeah. I think that a lot of stuff like that, like even just as you were saying it, the common denominator in a lot of that is knowing yourself. I am preaching to the choir here, I need to do it myself, but self-care (and that word is so annoyingly overstated today) is not something that is frilly and extra. Just taking a freaking second to be still and just connect with yourself, when I do that I always have a takeaway. Something will just come up for me out of my own self even if I just sit for a moment.
I know my husband does this and I've called him on it and he's like “no, I'm just in there,” but he'll go in the bathroom for way longer than any human needs to. I totally know you’re doing self-care in there. Let’s call a spade a spade. Stop. Are you seriously ill or are you trying to sneak in a few extra minutes in there?
But sometimes I will take a cue from him and just sit in there for a moment and even turn the sink on for white noise for 30 seconds just standing in there and not letting myself think about anything. And something will come up like knowing, “You really haven't had any time to read and you love to read. You need to make time for that,” or “You really need to apologize for what you said to Bella earlier that day.” Something will come up that the thing that was making me feel like I needed that moment in the bathroom. So, I think that stillness is so important. If you're a Christian or not, if you pray or not, just be still.
ASHLEY: That's right.
ALLIE: It's everything.
ASHLEY: It is. I also love something you just said about apologizing to Bella, your daughter, because I think that's another part of it, right? No one's expecting perfection from us, but being able to say “sorry” when we get it wrong is huge, because then we're teaching our kids that wasn't the right thing. Instead of control is a way of life, we're teaching them, “Oh I didn't do that right, and I want you to know that I didn't do it right and I'm sorry.” And I think that's a really important practice as well. It's huge.
ALLIE: Yeah, and I also have learned because saying “sorry,” which I'm sure you'll relate to this, but saying “sorry” has been a very long time coming for me. I absolutely would not do it before. I never did it. I would actually find ways out of saying “sorry,” only in my marriage; I didn't really do this anywhere else, “but actually it's your fault,” and things like that. That is a manipulative side where I am my least healthy self, when I'm the furthest from God. That's my personality.
I have learned to say “sorry” over the last maybe five years or so, and I will say the more you do it, the better you get at it, the more you notice that you need to say it and the easier it gets to say it.
ASHLEY: I wholeheartedly agree with you.
Hey girl! Quick interruption because I've got something new that's coming! It's totally free, it's going to be amazing and I want to make sure you know about it!
Do you feel like you are always picking up toys or nagging your kids to pick up? That they've got too much stuff? Do you feel like maybe your kids have a lot of toys, but all they want to do is play technology, video games, and all that stuff and you feel out of your depth with the limits on that? Do you feel like you've tried to declutter to the toys before but it just really didn't go very well? Maybe your kids' stuff has made its way into every part of your home. If you are struggling with any of these things and especially if you're struggling with all of it, you need to be at my next free workshop.
It's live and it's happening with Amy Tirpak, who is a part of Team Allie, and she is a Child Play Therapist. She has so much expertise to bring to the table. We are going to be talking about minimalism and kids and how you can take action and change these problems in your life.
I think the biggest thing I want you to understand is that as adults we can control how much stuff we have and what comes into our homes, but as long as you have kids at home, stuff will continue to pour in kind of without your control in terms of it initially coming into your house. Kids are constantly outgrowing clothes. They get new toys from other people and stuff seems to come in from school, Sunday School, birthday parties and presents from other people, school and art projects, birthday parties, holiday celebrations, generous giving relatives and all of these things, while at the same time studies show that too much stuff breeds some seriously bad stuff like materialism and ingratitude. It can hinder creativity and even their cognitive development.
This is where Amy Tirpak and I are coming together to step in and help you. This free live class is going to pack a punch. It's going to shine a light on the things that you need to know and teach you how to begin the process of minimalism with your kids or succeed in it if you've attempted before and feel like it was a big fail. And that's okay; you're doing great!
We're here to help you, encourage you, and lift you up!
To sign up for free, go to alliecasazza.com/kidsclass.
Live seats for this event are super limited, but there's going to be a replay and we're leaving it up for a good week so you will be able to watch this class. We're giving you plenty of time, but to get the information, the links, you've got to be signed up.
This is happening live October 8th! Again, it's totally free! I can't wait to help you with this.
ALLIE: Okay. I could talk about that for a long time, but I really want to hear from you about trauma because I told you before we hit record I've never really had somebody come on and speak really about trauma.
In today's world, and with everything going on, I feel like “trauma” is almost used for things that are not trauma; they were just hard for you. I say that so carefully, but like everything is offensive. Everyone is so sensitive and you can't say anything about anything. And really when you meet someone that has been raped, that has chosen abortion and dealt with the effects of that, that has had these serious things done to them that were traumatizing, I want to hear from you about that because I know out of the hundreds of thousands of women, amazing women that listen to this show, somebody has experienced real, awful trauma and stuffed it down and not really dealt with it well.
ASHLEY: I think that trauma is such a huge part of the reason we're seeing so much of what we're seeing in our world today is un-dealt-with trauma and we don't even realize it. I'm not a therapist. I'm not a psychologist. At the same time, I remember growing up we didn't have words like “trauma.” I don't know if you can relate to that, but we didn't just walk around talking about “this is trauma” or when we behave like this in our family or when the extended relatives do this, “this is trauma.” We didn't know that. You know?
I feel like it should be a class in school because we need it. Trauma and budgets should be required throughout the entire schooling, right? Because it’s two things we don't want to talk about but we need to.
I was reading this beautiful book because I'm trying to understand my children better. I am so out of my depth when it comes to parenting. I have a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old, so I'm learning, right? I don't know what I'm doing. I read an awesome book called The Whole Brain Child.
ALLIE: Yes! I have it right here on my desk!
ASHLEY: Oh my gosh. It's one of my favorite books and I love the integration of the different parts of the brain and just becoming a more holistic person. And it really helped me as a person grow. Well one of the practices in that book is called “name it to tame it.” The author is talking about how when something happens to our children, we need to teach them how to name it and how to tame it because once you can name something then you can tame something.
And for me, I didn't understand trauma. I couldn't name it. I didn't know what was happening to me. I was literally raped and then went to work the next day like nothing had happened. I mean that shows that there's been a series of trauma, a series of suppression, a series of shutting down of a person's whole self, and I really needed to deal with that.
I think for me that big step out was making the big decision to talk to people like I've already said, to begin to tame it, to begin to tell my story, to begin to own it, to begin to say, “These are the things that have happened to me.” And honestly that came out of a place of desperation where it was like, “I don't care anymore if you don't like me. I'm so broken. I'm so tired of hiding that I need to share this.” So, starting with the story and then getting into therapy, going to recovery groups, going to support groups, those were all huge things for me. And then I thought that the trauma would be over.
That's the interesting part of life is that we think that we're going to arrive at this beautiful place of euphoria where we have no issues, no problems, no pain. But even if you yourself are not personally experiencing trauma, you will know people in your lives who are and I think it's really important for us to understand these issues and to understand that they affect us.
And the reality is that one in every four women has been raped and that's only reported cases. One in every four women has had an abortion. That is a huge amount of the female population who is going through these things and maybe has no safe outlet to talk about them or no way of really going, “I made this decision or this happened to me,” and we need to create more spaces like that.
And we lose people. You know, we lose people to diseases, we lose people to different addictions. Things are happening all around us all the time. It is very traumatic and we have to learn to deal with it. We have to learn to process our pain in a really healthy way or it will deal with us. If you don't deal with trauma, trauma will deal with you.
ALLIE: Can I interrupt really quick and ask a specific question?
ASHLEY: Yes! Please!
ALLIE: We'll have to come back to trauma after, but…so I have never had an abortion, but I have known women who did and actively been trying to talk somebody out of it as it was happening and all of these things so I am aware of how common. It’s very common. I didn't actually know that statistic, but it doesn't shock me at all.
With all the things that were going on in New York recently, with the laws about abortion, all of these things, everyone on the other side, you know, pro-life, starts to post things and comes out of the woodwork all of a sudden. And I always wanted to ask somebody who had experienced abortion themselves, “Do you feel like we need to shift the way that we're talking about being pro-life and coming up against abortion?” Because sometimes I see these posts and I feel like “My gosh, if I ever had had an abortion this post from a person that I respect would have just sent me…” Even if you're healed and you have taken the issue to the Lord and you worked through it, I mean it's just so hateful. And I knew it was so common. So, are all these women seeing us “Christians” posting about this and being so awful?
I guess my question for you is, I would love to hear your thoughts on that. How can we speak about this without having experienced it ourselves and not be so…It’s really condemning and really hurtful and I hate the “speak” in the pro-life circle.
ASHLEY: Yeah, I agree with you. And it was a very, very painful experience. I mean digital media is new so we are underestimating what it's doing to our brains and we are underestimating its impact. And while I love it, these are the times where I'm like, “Oh, this just breaks my heart.” And I was getting phone calls from women and text messages and direct messages like, “What do I do? I'm going crazy.” I'm like, “Just turn your phone off for a week. Don't go on social media. Don't even go look.” Because these are women who are trying to step out of shame and trying to step out of hiding and now it feels so condemning. It feels like God's never going to love me or these people are never going to welcome me in. And that's actually not…
ALLIE: They keep posting the facts like, “did you know a baby feels…” But some people have had that done and regret it. I feel like it’s not productive on changing the people that are for abortion and it’s not productive at all in our neighbors, friends, and the women that follow us that are hiding this secret.
ASHLEY: That's right. It isn't productive. That's exactly what you said. And I think if we could be more loving, be more understanding, and be more gracious to value all life. So not only do we have to value life in the womb, but we have to value how our words are going to impact the life of the woman who has dealt with this trauma. And some people might even think to themselves, and I've heard this, people say, “Well, she deserves it if she made that choice,” which is a terrible thing to say because we all have things that we've done, we all have made mistakes and no person should be held to the worst decision they have ever made. No one would want to be held to that.
And I think because this is such a private issue that's become so very public, I think it's been a very difficult time. So yes, I affirm that that is not the best way to handle this, that there are other ways to talk about being a pro-life person that also value the women and the families who have made these decisions and are trying to overcome that hurdle.
ALLIE: Yeah. I don't even know. Again, we talked about this before we hit record but I'm going into action-taker mode and I'm like, “Let's start a movement. Let's start an Instagram page.” There needs to be somewhere safe for women to go when all those things happen and they are, “I’ve done that and it was the worst time ever.”
Everybody has something that they just wish no one would ever find out. And they can't believe that? What? That's not them anymore. That was so difficult. And then for that specific one to get thrown at you, maybe once a year, maybe whenever something happens, “Yeah, you are the worst and I can't believe you…” Or knowing what if it was a friend that you were getting to know and now you know that girl feels this way about something I did. I just only see it causing dissension and pain. I don't see it doing anything positive.
ASHLEY: I wholeheartedly agree with you.
ALLIE: I’m glad we talked about this. Somebody is listening…I can feel it even though they're not listening. They're going to find freedom in that.
ASHLEY: And hope and the comfort of knowing that they're not alone.
ALLIE: Yeah. It’s okay to turn your phone off when things are happening.
ASHLEY: Yes! And unfollow people, do whatever you need to do.
ALLIE: Okay. So thank you.
And then getting back into your story about trauma…I would love to hear since you've worked through your stuff, you've gone to therapy, you’ve done classes, you did Recovery, what are your biggest takeaways for somebody? I would really like to focus on the person listening who has experienced trauma and never talks about it. It's kind of like that dark closet door that you shut.
I'm specifically thinking about my mother because I know that she's experienced so much trauma and she does go to therapy, but it just is always coming up. So, the woman who has experienced something has shoved it down and needs freedom. What does she do? It seems silly to ask a practical step about something so heavy, but what did you learn? What are your takeaways and what could you offer her now?
ASHLEY: Well I think that you know, the practical stuff is actually the real stuff and it isn't silly at all and even though this feels very heavy, I think that we really need ways out. We actually need tangible ways forward when we are dealing with something this traumatic. I would say the first step is stepping out of denial.
You know, it's the #1 step in the 12 Steps Of Recovery is coming out of denial and recognizing this is what happened to me, or this is what I did, these are my decisions and these are the things that have been done to me. And just laying it out on the table and really looking at it.
One of my dear friends and a mentor said to me once, “What is the worst that could happen if you do that? What is the worst that could happen if you lay it all out and look at it?” And I shared with her what I thought would happen. She said, “Could you survive that?” And I said, “Yes I could.” And that's guided me through the process of opening up. It's like, “I'm going to lay this all on the table and if I get rejected, if I get abandoned, can I survive that? Yes, I can.”
ALLIE: That's the process too, of working through anxiety, like exposure therapy, and I think it’s so interesting that it's both, you know? It’s kind of like the “salve” or the “how to” of those two problems.
ASHLEY: Yes. That's exactly right. And they go hand-in-hand, trauma and anxiety, right? Because when you've had things that happen to you, it's coupled with “what could happen now?” So, you're constantly thinking about the past as you move forward. But that's a big part of it is recognizing that. And then I think another practical step is discovering at least one safe person in your life, even if it does have to be a therapist in the beginning. But I encourage you, whether it's a person at the park, like a mom at the park, that you regularly see someone at school that you're regularly connecting with, a person that's in your life on a more consistent basis and taking a brave step forward. Just like, “Can we grab a cup of coffee? Can we go to dinner? I just want to talk.” And maybe start to unpack a few things in your story with a safe person because really that is the process.
Our faith is communal. The faith that I have is communal. And even if you don't have the same faith that I do, we all have this deep desire and this deep ability and capacity to live in relationship with others. We are created for community. And without that we can never really experience the fullness of life. And so, I think it's really important that we work at building that.
And I do know that some seasons change. You know, my community has changed so much in the last 16 years of my recovery journey. It's changed a lot. I've lost a lot of friends. I've gained some new ones. And so, I think it's really important to, at every season of life, do I have people that I'm opening up with? Do I have people that I'm sharing my life with?
And then on a deeper step, I have this great list of accountability questions that I could give you to put in the show notes. They're so great. I do it with a group of three girls. We did this on a weekly basis. They don't live in the same city as me, so we do a lot of this over Marco Polo, just to get very practical with you guys. If you have friends who are out of the city or out of the country, we do a lot of this over Marco Polo. But it's a great list of questions.
There are questions like do you like the person that you're becoming? Is your heart for God growing or shrinking? Is the pace of your life sustainable? Are you giving your family your emotional scraps? Have you compromised in your financial integrity? It asks these really awesome questions that we get to answer in the center of relationships, so it's not just like we don't know each other, we love each other, so whatever comes out, we're not going to be judged. We're going to be loved. And so, we have this great list of accountable accountability questions that we walk through.
That helps me experience safety and love in the context of reciprocal relationship. Then I'm more prepared to handle the stuff that life throws at me. Because I know it’s going to. I know things are going to happen. I know things are going to get hard. And because of that, I have a safe group that I can return to. I think that's sort of the process of stepping out of denial, entering into safe relationships, going deeper in your relationships.
Then the final thing I would say is to start serving somewhere. Honestly, serving has been such a catalyst to my healing. I don't even know how to tell you. I mean, it's changed my life to be able to give back.
I remember even doing this before I was fully healed, finding a place where I could serve, beginning to lead small groups of women where people could unpack their life and not feel like they were going to be judged for it. We had a safe space where we could suspend judgment and offer empathy to people. I've led groups in the past for women who are going through abortion recovery. I've led grief recovery groups. I've gone through many different ways that I could serve others. I've been a Chaplain in the jail. I think it's really important to find what is the outlet that you can serve somebody.
In some seasons maybe you have little kids and you're like, “Look, I'm serving no one.” But you are serving your children, you're serving your family. And that's okay. That is enough. You don't even have to find something big out there. But a way that helps me give back because that keeps me outside of my own head, it keeps my life from being insular, from the whole focus being on me.
It helps me go, “You know what? This world is larger than I am and I take great comfort in that, and Lord, while my inclination is to hold on, to take, and to critique, I'm going to open my hands in generosity and love. I'm going to participate instead of constantly being a spectator, you know? So, I think serving as the final key and catalyst to finding healing and breakthrough.
ALLIE: Yeah, absolutely. One thing that I really wanted to ask you…I know we're kind of going back and forth all over the place, but that's what a conversation is…I really had it on my heart to speak about this for the women that are listening who have had abortions, because I know they're there. I love them so much and I want to speak life over them.
But one thing that I learned from knowing someone who had multiple abortions is that after it's done and you realize that it was the wrong choice, but you feel glad that you don't have that child still, that you didn't have to deal with that side of things. Then the guilt that hits you that you're kind of glad. That is hard to hear, hard to say, but that's the real emotion. I was wondering if you would speak to them and speak to that about what you learned and anything that you went through if you experienced that. I want to give them something here to work through those emotions and then encourage them to go and really fully process everything that happened.
ASHLEY: Yes. This is huge because I think it's such a process. I don't think it's something that can be done in a moment. I think it's something that's done over time, over a long period of time. And yes, I did experience many of those things, just like many other women who make the decision to maybe not be in an abusive relationship or not want to put their child through the hell that they might be facing in their current life. I mean there's many, many reasons why women make these decisions and I definitely can relate to that.
And, in fact, having the abortion was the only time in my life that I would go to bed at night and pray I would never wake up. I mean I just did not even want to wake up. The decision was so devastating to me that I was unclear on how to even move forward in my life.
I felt so depressed, so down, so lonely, so isolated, and I just didn't even know who would accept me now that I've made that decision. And so, if you're out there and that's you and you're just like, “I don't know if anyone will ever accept the fact that I've done this. I don't know if anyone can love me on the other side of this,” I want to tell you that yes they can.
There are people who will care for you. I mean even the gentle way that you hear Allie speaking about you and to you right now, that is how so many women feel. There are arms open to you. There are so many women who have not only gone through what you've gone through but are on the other side of it. And experiencing great freedom in their lives. And so, it is possible for you too.
As silly as this is, Daniel Tiger Song, right? There's a great song where he talks about ‘sometimes you feel two feelings at the same time and that's okay.” I think it's important, as silly as it is, that's something that is real in our lives where we experience great sorrow and great pain and at the same time, great relief, even though the decision may not have been the best one. And so, I think that it's okay to be where you are. You don't have to push yourself out of feeling what you feel because that's not actually going to help you heal.
You have to acknowledge what you're feeling. You have to acknowledge what you're going through because that's the only way forward. When you deal in reality, then you know that you can deal in the future, you know, because it's important. If we face reality, then we can find our way forward. But if we don't, we won't.
ALLIE: Yeah. There's an expression in the world of meditating, manifesting, goal setting, all that, that “what you focus on grows.” So, if you focus on wealth and you really focus on abundance, that creates more of that. And I do believe that that is very true.
I wrote this in my journal, maybe six months ago, and I looked at it a lot since, that's not always true. Sometimes what you ignore actually grows. It's like that with anxiety too. If you ignore…“I'm not anxious, I'm fine.” If you ignore it, it gets bigger and bigger until you look it in the face, call it what it is, and say, “I'm feeling really anxious right now.” Then it's almost like you shed the flood light on it and then it kind of grows. So, in that sense, what you focus on grows. But I think that we ignore things that need to be looked at and because we're not looking at them, they're actually growing, getting bigger, darker, scarier and worse.
ASHLEY: That's exactly right. We have a saying in the recovery world, “secrets make you sick.” It's really important to recognize that the things that we hide and that we're the most afraid of are the things that are making us sick and it's important that we look at them.
ALLIE: Yeah, I love that. Okay. Well the last thing I wanted to ask you about, since we're over time, is I love that you took all of this and I know that there's so much in the book about how hard it was and what you went through to begin telling your story, but if there is someone listening who has something that's happened, a life story that they've lived and they're not telling it because they're afraid, worried, or whatever, how do you begin to take an action step to sharing your story? I love what you said about the mom at the park and just sharing it in your life, but is there anything you would add to that before we close up?
ASHLEY: It's just doing things afraid. I mean this life, whatever it is, you have to do it scared. You're never going to not feel afraid. It's never going to not feel scary. And so, you just have to do it. You have to make the choice no matter what's on the other side of it. You have to just do it afraid. And that's true whether you want to talk about your own personal story that you're trying to own and whether you really want to tell it like it is. And it's true. If you're trying to build a dream or a business or you're trying to build a nonprofit, whatever it might be, you have to do so many things afraid.
I think if you wait to feel good about doing it, you'll never do it. It just has to be a bold step that you take and it will help you live your life with grace and gumption. You just freaking do it scared.
ALLIE: Yep. Absolutely. I wholeheartedly agree. That's how I started my business and that's what I keep doing to make it what it is today. And that's what you've done. The proof is in the pudding, you know? That's how action-takers get to the other side of hard things.
ASHLEY: That's exactly right.
Well, I just love you so much. I’m so glad we talked. It seems like you like Instagram? Is that right?
ASHLEY: I love Instagram.
ALLIE: OK, what’s your name there so we can find you?
ASHLEY: @ashabercrombie, just like the store.
ALLIE: I'll link to it in the show notes.
We have your book, we're linking to it in the show notes, but also what is your website? Anywhere else you want to just direct people? Is there a specific page where there's something helpful or anything that comes to mind or just your website?
ASHLEY: My website has many things you can download. Bible studies on there if you like those from YouVersion. You can check out all the info about my book, watch my trailer.
And it's just ashabercrombie.org.
ALLIE: Perfect. Thank you so, so much! This was amazing! I really just want to hug you in real life and I hate that you're literally on the other side of the country. Thank you for being here in this space and for sharing hard things with us.
ASHLEY: Yeah, it's my pleasure and my honor, truly.
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Thank you so much for tuning in. If you are ready to uplevel and really take action on the things I talk about on my show, and get step-by-step help from me, head to alliecasazza.com. There are free downloads, courses, classes, and ways to learn more about what the next step might look like for you and to focus on whatever you might need help with in whatever season you are in right now.
I am always rooting for you, friend! See ya next time!