Ashley Michael Martin
Warning: Possible triggers regarding bullying/violence/suicide.
In Ashley’s words:
Peyton Heart Project Ambassador Essay: By Ashley Martin
Throughout my life I had to overcome and rise above those who chose to be cruel to me. When I was little, the kids at school would make fun of me for every little thing. They would point out my flaws and call me names such as “buck teeth”, “freckle-faced cartoon” and “trailer trash”. I kept it quiet and suffered in silence. I was too scared to stand up for myself so I became a pushover. As I grew older the emotional torment turned physical and they would push me around, throw stuff at me, steal my stuff–the list goes on, I had no choice but to defend myself. My brother, who is three years younger than me suffered through the same things. We fought like cats and dogs but I always had his back and he had mine. In 2008, my brother got into a fight with his childhood bully. This boy tried to kill my brother. He was stabbed twice. Once through the back (puncturing a lung and breaking a rib) and once through the back of his neck barely missing my brother’s spine. This boy also tried to slit my brother’s throat but he was able to take the knife away and throw it off to the side. My brother was able to get away and hide in a vehicle until the ambulance arrived. I received a text message from my brother saying “I love you.” My heart sank, I knew something bad happened. My baby brother died three times that night. Thank the Lord he had guardian angels watching over him. He was resuscitated and he’s alive now 10 years later.
My early twenties were horrible. I was at my lowest. I didn’t know how to deal with things so I turned to pain killers. I developed an addiction while suffering through serious manic depressive episodes being triggered by a sexually and mentally abusive boyfriend. He told me everything that happened to me was my fault because he loved me too much. I remember taking six or seven Loratabs and a handful of Percocets at one time. All I was trying to do was silence the demons [that] kept me up at night. Instead, my whole body went numb. I felt like I was floating. I couldn’t scream for help and I couldn’t move my body at all. I remember praying, “God, if you let me wake up in the morning, I swear I’ll never do this again.” I woke up to the bright and early sun so thankful to be alive. I finally mustered up the courage to leave my boyfriend a few months later.
My next boyfriend made me a mother. All I ever wanted was to be a mom, to have an unconditional love that was all mine and no one could take that away from me. I call this child My Sunshine. My life had purpose. I was no longer lost. I had something to live for. When things started to go bad between me and my baby’s father I contemplated taking my own life by running my car into a tree. For some reason I thought that was my only way out. Right before I reached the point of no return I looked up into my rear view mirror and I [saw] my baby’s car seat. I changed my mind. His car seat reminded me of why I needed to be around. My Sunshine saved my life. I wanted to live. A couple of weeks later I found out I was pregnant with my second baby. He’s my miracle baby. He’s so beautiful and he’s another reason to live.
Despite my best efforts I couldn’t make things work between me and their father so I left. I didn’t want my kids to witness all the fighting that was happening. They deserve a loving home where everyone is happy and everyone is loved. I moved on and found my perfect match. He has a daughter and I had always wanted a little girl. I fell in love. We got married last year, we are a complete family of five. There’s no abuse; no harsh words. it’s all love here. We are happy and I am so thankful to still be alive. I found out the hard way that life is beautiful. You just have to be there to see it.
Two years ago, my best friend’s baby sister [died by] suicide. It’s been really hard on her family and everyone who knew her. We love her, she was so smart and so beautiful. It broke my heart to have to tell her goodbye. Last year I organized a team in her honor for the Hike For Hope walk we had here in our hometown. It was a beautiful experience and I’m so glad we had a good turn out. At this Hike For Hope ceremony we got to hear other people’s stories, listen to live music, and we celebrated life. We began healing. This fall I plan to attend the Out of the Darkness Walk in Nashville.
While searching for Hike for Hope posts I came across The Peyton Heart Project. I read [Peyton’s] story and fell in love with a child I never got the chance to meet. I never knew that such a small gesture like finding a hand-made heart with a quote on it could have such a big impact on whoever finds it. I want to be a part of that. I want to make a difference. I want people to find these hearts and feel good about themselves and about their lives. I want to help save someone; I want to brighten up people’s lives and let them know they are never alone.
As a Peyton Heart [Project] ambassador I plan to hide these little acts of kindness all over the city, everywhere I go. I want to hand them out to my friends and co-workers who may be going through a hard time. My children usually participate in baseball so I would like to hand them out or leave them somewhere safe for others to find. When I attend the walk this fall, I want to give them away and share Peyton’s story. Words do matter, bullying is a real issue, and mental health is no joke; be kind, always.