Trigger warning: This podcast episode and post contains content about PTSD as a result of sexual assault.
Renee doesn't often share this story but feels it's time to let it be seen, to let it go, and to close the loop. She also feels that it's important to share, as, although it's something a lot of people do (so unfortunately) experience, there's a lot of shame, pain and guilt surrounding it and therefore preventing it from being spoken about. And, as Murray acknowledges, this story is part of why Renee helps others.
But the main reason for Renee wanting to talk about this is because, amongst several other things, her daily yoga practice is really what helped her move through to the other side of her PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). And she's not just saying this as a teacher and yoga studio owner; in fact, both of these titles came about as a result of her journey with yoga - Renee completed her first yoga teacher training not to become a teacher, but instead as an act of devotion to reconnection to her body.
In 2015, Renee was assaulted by a housemate's friend in the home she was living in. In her bedroom. And, immediately afterwards, Renee disassociated - she'd always had a belief that men didn't hurt her, and so she couldn't comprehend that the person who assaulted her had done so. In fact, if anything, she was mostly confused about why they hadn't asked for her number, or to see her again, after the incident. It wasn't until she went to make her bed and saw blood on her sheets that she had the thought that something wasn't normal... but, again, she was confused, disassociating, and, mostly, just really annoyed about her sheets being ruined.
At the time, Renee's best friend lived a couple of blocks away, and Renee went to visit her. To share the story about what had happened, although still not fully comprehending. When Renee mentioned that she was feeling too physically uncomfortable to even walk home, her friend gently nudged her that something wasn't right. But Renee still didn't fully realise.
When she got home, Renee shared the story with one of her housemates. She advised Renee that she had just been assaulted, but Renee couldn't believe it.
It wasn't until a few days later, when she was still feeling too uncomfortable to walk properly and decided she needed to see a doctor, that she broke down and said for the first time, "I think I've been assaulted" when asking her boss for some time off for the appointment.
The incident was both a big blow and a big instigator of change for Renee.
She could no longer live in that house, or in that room. Mentally and emotionally, Renee had been put on a path that she wasn't used to - she describes it as a gremlin having been activated in her brain. It was a deeply dark and overwhelming time.
Renee reached out to all of the resources she had at that time (something that Murray feels is important to acknowledge - Renee's proactivity in getting help, in starting to understand what had happened and what was happening, and in reclaiming her power), but her kinesiology and energy work didn't feel like quite enough or as though they were quite hitting the mark. She was referred to an incredible psychologist, who laid it out for her: "You are the priority here, and your healing is the priority here. What is going to feel most healing for you? Registering the incident, and then moving on and looking after yourself? Or going through the legal process?". She assured Renee that there was no right or wrong answer, and that Renee just needed to determine what would be the most healing option for her. And Renee decided to take care of herself, and (as a firm believer) let karma take care of the perpetrator - she decided she didn't want to hold onto or prolong the pain by taking the legal route, especially when there was already so much doubt, shame, guilt and self-blame attached to what had happened.
The pandora's box of Renee's PTSD had opened in her being. Physically, mentally and emotionally. She had become a shell of herself and was operating in shutdown mode, just going through the motions of her daily life and work. One day, when she decided to visit the yoga studio around the corner from the new apartment she was living in with her friend.
Renee had done dance growing up and assumed yoga classes would be quite similar (ultimately, an amazing opportunity to show off flexibility). But, laying in Savasana at the end of that first class, she was gobsmacked. For the first time in over a year, her brain had gone quiet. The little gremlin had vanished, and the fog, the shame and the anxiety had lifted. She had found freedom, and she became hooked. That first class is such a vivid memory for Renee - it changed so much in her existence and experience. It's why she loves offering yoga and making it available to people. Because, sure, yoga has its physical and energetic benefits, but, for Renee, it gifted her freedom and saved her.
And Murray agrees - his first yoga class was the first time he truly felt connected to his body. As Murray says, it happens through conscious connected breathing and movement allowing the drop into the somatic container, creating a space for the nervous system to regulate and heal itself.
"Your story is a process of forever healing."
Murray knows that, at the time the incident happened, Renee wasn't fulfilling her purpose or her reason for being here. That maybe she was trying to run away from why she was ultimately here; trying to run away from her natural gifts, her intuition, and her ability to help others shift and change and move through things.
Renee no longer ignores the Universe or its messages. And Renee shares her story not as a method of self-pity, or "poor me", but as a way to hold the vibration and space for others to share their stories. As Murray often talks with Tim Morrison about, the people who go through the greatest initiations hold the strongest altars.
Even in the most terrible situations, there's an opportunity for a new story to start - one of great depth, great change, and great positivity.
And, for those who suffer from PTSD, you don't get to choose the moments it shows up. It will come up at the moments you're most vulnerable, most open, and least want it to.
There are practices Renee has put in place to assist her in, as she calls it, "taming" her PTSD, and working with it instead of against it - instead of shutting it out, and asking "Why this again? I've already dealt with this!". Ways to create space for some of the dysregulation to be regulated, and a new layer to be healed. And this is something that Renee is proud of herself for - for not blocking out or suppressing, but instead releasing and minimising the person, the face, the thing they did.
Yoga and daily meditation really helped, and continue to help, Renee. And, although they definitely wouldn't have worked just after the incident, and definitely don't work for everyone, plant medicine and breathwork, too have been very potent in helping Renee to move out of the pits of "this happened to me".
Find a modality and a practitioner that you are comfortable working and speaking with - that you trust to be open with. And know that, as your healing evolves, these might change. Every therapy has its place - as Renee says, sometimes in the spiritual space talk therapy is really knocked; but it's always about the right practitioner and modality that suits - and, for Renee, her psychologist was a game-changer.
Renee both hopes and doesn't hope that her story resonates. Although, the data states that there are 1 in 3 women who this probably will resonate with - and she sees and feels you.
If this has triggered you in any way, please seek support* straight away. Don't hold onto it - reach out to someone, and it will change.
*Resources for Support: