I’m Markie Williams and I’m a competitive bodybuilder. I am a pro bikini athlete in two Natural federations and I’m currently training for my first NPC National show, with the hopes of earning my pro card in that federation as well. I’ve been competing for less than two years and I’m absolutely thrilled to be in the position I’m at, so early into my fitness career. It’s been an amazing journey, especially since this isn’t something I ever imagined myself doing.

Bodybuilding was completely random for me. I wasn’t an athlete growing up, I played soccer for a couple seasons here and there during my childhood but I wasn’t involved in any sports throughout high school or college. So bodybuilding came about quite randomly and it was at a time in my life where I was dealing with a lot of depression, anxiety and PTSD from having escaped an abusive relationship. The abuse I endured during that relationship was physical, sexual, mental and emotional and when I finally escaped after about 4 years, I was a complete mess. My abuser had destroyed my entire life and when I finally got away from him, I had nothing; no housing, no money, no friends, no support system and basically had no self-esteem or self-worth either.

I’ve been asked “Why did you stay for so long if he was abusing you?” and that’s a very complicated question to answer. First of all, I did try to leave, I did try to call 911 and I was always overpowered and restrained by my abuser. Additionally, since my abuser controlled all my personal finances I knew leaving would mean I would be homeless, which eventually was still the better “choice.” There was also the constant threat of more physical violence and my abuser even threatened me with death if I tried to escape so there was a strong element of fear that prevented me from leaving. Another issue, that I think most victims of domestic violence experience, while they are still in the abusive relationship, was that I didn’t fully grasp my situation, I didn’t really have an accurate understanding of what was going on and part of that was because my abuser used all kinds of tactics to manipulate and brainwash me. It was repeatedly drilled into my head that I was responsible for the abuse, I needed to change my behavior if I wanted him to stop abusing me. I was brainwashed into believing that the abuse was the result of my words or actions and my abuser was really the victim of his “anger issues” and I was triggering his anger. My abuser also constantly downplayed the abuse by saying things like “it’s not that bad”, and he didn’t beat me “as much as some guys beat their women.” And so it wasn’t until after I was “free” of the abusive relationship, and I was getting counseling from a licensed social worker, that I was able to start processing what had really happened. It wasn’t until after I was completely removed from the abusive relationship that I was able to understand that I had been a victim of countless crimes at the hands of my abuser.

So processing all of this was extremely traumatic, and I remember feeling so lost and confused and hopeless and I think most survivors of domestic violence can relate to this feeling. My entire life had been controlled by my abuser for years and by the time I escaped, I had completely lost my identity, I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted to do. I had nothing, I escaped with some clothing, but I had no money and I felt completely worthless and I felt like I had nothing to live for. So I realized that I needed to do something pretty quickly to get myself to a better place, mentally and emotionally. I didn’t want to take any kind of antidepressants or medication so I thought exercise would probably be the best route to go. Problem was I couldn’t motivate myself to go to the gym and I didn’t have any friends around or know anyone that could workout with me so I decided to join a crossfit gym and that’s where I started training.

Crossfit is kinda known for being not just a sport but a community of friends and people who support each other and so that was a great environment for me sorta get back on my feet because all of a sudden, I had a group of people that I saw almost everyday, people who encouraged me and looked forward to seeing me and I looked forward to seeing them. And even though I never talked to anyone about what I was going through, just being around nice people and having some sort of routine and normalcy really helped me to deal with a lot of the anxiety, the depression and ptsd I was going through. And it was challenging, crossfit challenged me mentally and physically. I remember when I first started that lifting weight over my head was pretty uncomfortable and kinda difficult for me. One of the ways in which my abuser tortured me was he used to partially dislocate my shoulders and would frequently twist my wrists, threatening to break them, so even months after escaping him, I still experienced pain and discomfort in these joints. Fortunately at my crossfit gym, we were encouraged to modify all movements and weights as needed to avoid injuries so I was able to gain strength and rehabilitate my shoulders and wrists.

So after training for a couple months, I started to develop more confidence and self esteem and when I heard about crossfit competitions from a couple people at my gym, I was kinda interested and thought maybe it was something I could do too. At the time though, I felt like I didn’t have the strength or endurance yet to be able to compete in crossfit so I started looking around for something that I could do. And that’s when bodybuilding came to mind. Now how or where it came from, to this day I really don’t know other than maybe God put the idea into my head. I didn’t know anyone else that was into bodybuilding, and I didn’t know any trainers or coaches in the sport so like I say, bodybuilding was a completely random idea but I just couldn’t let it go. I started researching the sport and watching the pro bikini athletes on YouTube and I became fascinated by not only the physical discipline but the mental discipline as well that bodybuilding required. And that’s when I decided to go for it.

I felt like I had lost everything including my identity and self-worth because over the years, my abuser had absolutely crushed my spirit. So when I thought about competing in bodybuilding, I saw it as an opportunity to set a goal for myself and that if I could achieve that goal, if I could train and compete in just one show, that I was going to be alright. If I could train and compete in one of the most difficult sports, I was going to be able to tackle the other challenges I was dealing with and become a better and stronger person for doing so and that’s exactly what happened.

Now when I started, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing! As much time as I was spending in the gym I was also online, searching for information on exercises, and nutrition and diets and trying to figure out what made sense for my physique. I definitely made a lot of mistakes along the way without a coach to guide me and I’m still learning a lot today. BUT back then, after training for a few months, when I got to the stage of my first bodybuilding competition, I can’t even describe the immense feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment I had. At that point, the trophy I won was just Icing on the cake. Because Where I started from at the beginning of the year (escaping my abuser, dealing with homelessness, depression, anxiety, ptsd) , coming from there, compared to where I ended up, I knew I had overcome some of the biggest challenges that domestic violence victims face which are challenges like, Will I be able to recover from all the hurt and pain? Will I be able to start over? Will I be able to find something that makes me happy? And the answer is YES. There is Life after abuse and I want to be the living proof of that..

And so through what I have come to know as a survivor of domestic violence, and as I continue to train and compete, I strive to be a source of hope and inspiration for other victims and survivors of domestic violence. Domestic violence happened to me; but it’s not the only thing that’s happened to me.