Today, I interview Anna Ditchburn who grew up in Russia. Her father left when she was 4, abandoning their family to be with another woman. Anna was so young, she didn’t quite understand what was going on. She never processed her own feelings about it, but instead focused on her heartbroken mother and helped to keep up appearances, never revealing what was happening behind closed doors.
She helped to care for her infant brother while her mother worked nights to make ends meet. Six years later, they were still struggling when her mother met a man they all thought was wonderful. A few months into the relationship, he showed his aggressive, abusive side. He was a military man, and the family lived in fear, keeping everything spotless and in its perfect place.
When Anna turned 15, he began sexually abusing her, forcing her to undergo two abortions, one of which damaged her reproductive system. At 21 she left, hiding her secrets and holding herself back for fear of judgment. She felt so much shame over her past, feeling undeserving of love and acceptance. She struggled with job interviews, having so much fear and anxiety that she would become physically ill.
And then she met Laban, the love of her life (who has also been a guest on this podcast) and her now husband. They experienced several miscarriages together, but her doctor told her it wasn’t a physical problem; it was an emotional and psychological one. Anna was later able to come to terms with the fact that she was afraid of this experience because of her past trauma. She was able to give her trauma a name, ask for help, and begin the healing process for the first time in 20 years.
Anna Ditchburn has faced some of the most traumatic things a young woman can possibly experience. And that’s what motivates her to tell the world that if she can rise above it, others can too. She uses her own podcast to tell others that they’re not alone, and her passion is “helping people to realize their potential, and align with their heart, thoughts, feelings, and wishes.”
Anna is known affectionately as the world’s best life-optimization coach. She empowers others with her ultimate courage, stories of healing, and forgiveness. Systemic sexual abuse, two forced abortions by a stepfather, and then sixteen consecutive miscarriages were once Anna’s only story. Now her story is that she has reclaimed her power, freed herself from the tether of shame and pain, and made her life-purpose to help others to do the same to live the life of their dreams.
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Transcript of Interview
Transcript of Interview
Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast
Podcast Host: Dr. Doreen Downing
Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com
Episode #70 Anna Ditchburn
“Triumph Over Trauma”
(00:36) Dr. Doreen Downing
Hi, I’m Dr. Doreen Downing and I am a psychologist and I’m host of the Find Your Voice, Change Your Life podcast. What I do on this podcast is to invite guests who have some sense that somewhere along their life, they had a voice but they lost it or something stopped them from being able to feel comfortable and confident speaking up. And today we’ll hear one of those stories from my good friend Anna Maydonova. Is that how you say your last name?
(01:11) Anna Ditchburn
Yes, Maydonova. It was my maiden name. I’ve changed it to Ditchburn now, when I married— Laban Ditchburn, also one of the guests on your podcast.
(01:24) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes, that’s right. Well, welcome. I’d like to say a few things. You’ve sent me a bio. Just so we get off to a start so people know who you are. Okay, Anna is known affectionately as the world’s best life optimization coach. I need to take a big breath on that one, because that’s such a beautiful designation, a life optimization coach. That goes along with this whole idea of you and a number of people nowadays are saying, you can be the best at what you are meant to be, right?
(02:04) Anna Ditchburn
Absolutely. 100%. Doreen, I think, just a quick explanation. The world’s best is not an ego thing. It’s now my commitment to myself, to be best in the world at helping people to realize their potential, and align with their heart, and with their thoughts, feelings and wishes.
(02:35) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes. Well, that’s pretty much what the next part says about you in your bio. She empowers others with her ultimate courage, stories of healing and forgiveness. So that’s what we’re here today is to hear some of your own healing journey. This is what was in the past, systematic sexual abuse, two forced abortions by a stepfather, and then 16 consecutive miscarriages. This is part of your story. I already am feeling, wow, this kind of opening of a deeper space for holding this kind of journey that little girl had to go through. Here you are transforming yourself, having transformed yourself and now eager and able to help others. Now, her story is that she has reclaimed her power, freed herself from the tether of shame and pain, and has made her life purpose to help others to do the same. To live the life of their dreams. So, Anna, I always like to start, because that’s what we want to know is the beginnings. Where were you born? And what kind of family were you born into? Because usually, when we go, hello world. We’re little ones and we have a big bright smile, which I see on your face today. People reflect that back to us. There’s a welcoming, there’s an embrace of our beings. So many of us didn’t get that. We were ignored, or we were put down, or we were in some way, misused, misunderstood. Why don’t we start with wherever you want early on in life?
(04:43) Anna Ditchburn
Doreen, thank you so much for such a wonderful introduction. As you mentioned, my story is not easy to hear. So, I just wanted to say to your listeners, if you have experienced anything similar in your life, this is the day, I really want you to listen carefully and make some notes like your life depended on it. Because I know how hard it is to carry this burden. I know how such a negative impact it makes on your life. I’ve been there. I went through this, and I want to share my experience. For me, everything started, when I was a child. I was four years old. I was born in Russia. Here I am, looking at my mom up, she’s crying. I’m looking at her and wondering what is going to happen to us? What is next? Watching my biological father, just leaving the house with his big bags. I want to just protect my mom, and I want to stop him, and I just want to run after him, and hug him, and beg him, please don’t go, and I remember he just looked down at me, and he just said, move out, and he pushed me out of his way, and he just left. He left with another woman. At four years old, we’re still developing. We still don’t understand what’s happening. So, my belief was, my feelings don’t matter. My voice doesn’t matter. Anna doesn’t matter. I have to grow up so quick, Doreen, because my mom was a 24-year-old young woman. At those time, in Russia, you just get married, have kids, and you live with a smile. Never share whatever is happening in your house. My younger brother was just nine months old. I remember I had to look after my brother while my mom was working at the radio even during the night shifts. I was taking him to the kindergarten and was going to another group in the kindergarten. How young we were. Now when you think about it, it’s crazy. That’s how our emotional roller coaster started. For six years, we’ve been struggling financially, and physically, and mentally, and emotionally. I remember I was ten and my mom met this amazing, wonderful man. I would say, he was our idol of a man, strong, an army guy. We thought this is the one. He comes to save us. He was a wonderful man. Everything was going so great. But just a few months after, he revealed his true face. A few months after, we were walking on the eggshell. A major, very disciplinarian, a very aggressive, and abusive man.
(09:03) Anna Ditchburn
We didn’t know what to do at those point. My mom, growing up, she was a people pleaser. She never ever tells my stepfather anything against him. Looking at her behavior, I thought that was normal. So, we will try to please him with everything. As an army guy, he would come home and everything has to be spotless. Everything has to be on its own places. Coming from the school, quickly running, putting my gloves all the way to my armpits, and just making sure that everything is cleaned perfectly. Checking if there is even any small speck of dust, because if he would come home, and he would find something in the corner, he would grab us by our necks and push our faces against the floor. Growing up in this environment, we didn’t know that there is a better thing. To be honest, I thought everyone lives like this. I learned how to be a good girl, how to please my stepfather without asking any questions. And when you think that the things cannot get any worse, when I just turned 15, that’s when sexual abuse started. It was a second time when my voice was taken away from me. When my stepfather told me if I ever revealed his crime, his secret, he will destroy my mom’s and my brother’s life. Knowing how abusive he was, and what he could do to us, I believed him. I was shut down at that point. Six years. I was keeping my secret quiet until it stopped. I left the house when I was 21. I thought, finally I have a freedom. But no. Everything that was happening, firstly, it came with me. And secondly, Doreen, it nearly destroyed my life.
(11:33) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes, I want to say that that’s exactly what I think the point is, is that we have experiences and even though it happens to be what we consider our past, it has still affected our psyche, our sense of ourselves, and we always carry that forward. That’s what I hear you say, but before we go on into that part of your story, I just want to take a big breath and hold this image of this little girl at four who had no other alternative. I also, at that age, my father left and I had a little sister. She was my age, just 11 months younger, so it wasn’t as if I had to learn to take care of a little baby, but just the responsibility you had to take on. Then also the connection that you had with your mother, trying to be there for her. I understand that. And then wow, there’s this big, strapping man who’s your savior, and what a disappointment, and what a trauma. I know that you have a podcast and it’s about trauma recovery. I think the whole point as we go further right now that you’re saying is, trauma exists in our bodies, our minds, our sense of self, and even though you were free at 21, you were not free really truly inside of your psyche, your body, your sense of self.
(13:28) Anna Ditchburn
Not at all, Doreen. My stepfather gave me a great gift to be strong. I was strong, but in the bad meaning. Outside, I was looking like I have it all together. I was dressing up nicely. I was pushing hard and all this stuff. But inside, Doreen, I was destroyed by crippling fear of judgment, making mistakes. I would rather die than make a mistake. I was such a people pleaser. When I wanted to say no to people, I would say yes. At work, I would spend virtually 12 hours a day just to make everything perfect. I would take so many things on my plate just to seek the approval from people, to prove myself that I can, I am worthy. I am worthy of something. This crippling feeling of shame as well. I was just so afraid that someone will find out about my story, who I truly am. I couldn’t live my full potential. I have never been authentic.
(15:12) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, what is authentic actually? When you’re in an environment where you learn to make these adjustments, and cover up your pain, and your voice. It all feels tangled up. Yet on the outside, you’re trying to be the best you can be.
(15:33) Anna Ditchburn
Exactly. Can I tell you a very quick story. In 2019, I was looking for a new job. And job interviews were like a nightmare for me, honestly. Before every job interview, I would spend hours, days of researching about the company and preparing for any questions that may arise, trying to anticipate anything. Every time I would go to the interview, I remember myself standing and my whole body would start shaking. I would start sweating. My palms would start sweating. Really, it was so bad. I would feel like I’m having diarrhea. That’s how bad it was. It wasn’t just the public speaking. It wasn’t just the talking to a person who I didn’t know. I had a fear of people in authority because of my stepfather. Here I am standing, shaking, trying to calm myself down. Okay, I have to walk in, sit down. Then suddenly I would black out. Suddenly, I just could not remember literally where I am. What am I doing? What am I supposed to say? That was it. It was torture for me. I just realized something is going wrong with me. Something is not good. It’s not supposed to be so hard. Job interviews are supposed to be fun.
(17:32) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, they can be challenging for a lot of people. But I think it’s also for those who listen right now and do have challenges around showing up for interviews. They might get the hint that something in the past might be at work here. Something’s operating about your sense of self and what you believe about yourself. So yes well, that moment those moments. Was that a wake-up moment for you then, those blanking out?
(18:06) Anna Ditchburn
It was the biggest wake up moment for me. I had another moment where I met a person of my dreams, Laban Ditchburn. We had an amazing relationship. I thought, compared to my stepfather, this is the safe place. We wanted to start our own family and have our own kids. But then, a first miscarriage happened. A second miscarriage happened. Third miscarriage happened. I remember I went into deep depression. What’s happening with me? Ten different doctors in Australia could not find any physical reason. Once, one doctor called me on the side, because I had four miscarriages with my ex-partner previously. He said, “Anna, it’s not about partners. There is something within you. That is something you need to work on.” And I knew exactly what it was. Because I had two forced illegal abortions from my stepfather and one abortion damaged my reproductive system. That was it. It was my fear of having a child because I had such negative experience with that. I remember, I just wanted to yell to the doctor, “Please help. It’s because I was sexually abused.” I wanted to yell. My whole body wanted to yell but I was like, okay. I shut down again. At this point, I decided to tell my partner at that time, what was happening because I couldn’t carry the burden of this shame and this pain anymore within myself. And Doreen that was the best thing I’ve ever done, telling someone else what was happening.
(20:28) Dr. Doreen Downing
I get it. The voice came out.
(20:32) Anna Ditchburn
Finally, for the very first time in 20 years.
(20:35) Dr. Doreen Downing
But it was in a safe place. So that’s one thing I want to note, is that the voice coming out in a safe place makes all the difference in the world. Wow.
(20:46) Anna Ditchburn
Unbelievable. I just wanted to say to the listeners, if your partner feels safe and is compelled to share their story, please just listen. Just listen and just be there for them. Because it’s not an easy one. It’s not an easy thing to open up. That’s how my healing journey started. Laban was able to provide an amazing support for me. He understood. He got me. Two and a half years, in September last year, I was able to tell my mom what happened. She was the hardest person for me to tell because my stepfather was always telling me firstly, that he will destroy her life. Secondly, if I tell her, she will hate me, she will expel me from the house, and I will never ever see her again. It was the biggest fear for me as well. I love my mom from the bottom of my heart. I didn’t want to lose her. But I just realized that this is the time to open up. This is the time because I felt like she needs to do some healing. They separated when I left the house. He literally threw her out of the house, telling me that it’s my fault. If I leave the house, he doesn’t need my mom anymore. It was a lot of manipulation. And she just became a mama bear. Honestly, Doreen, after I told her, her reaction was what I was always hoping she will react. 20 years just went in front of my eyes and I thought, why did I wait for such a long time to tell her? She straightaway pressed criminal charges against him. Doreen, that was the moment I had to face all my demons. I had to confront him. I was living in Australia at this point. I had to go back to Russia to testify against him and to tell my story. And I did it. I confronted him.
(23:28) Anna Ditchburn
I told my story and what else I did? I told my story publicly. I realized that in my hometown, we have no childhood sexual abuse support at all. I wanted to do something. I called the biggest publisher in my hometown. I told them my story and I said, “Would you be interested to publish?” And one journalist said, “I will.” The story, the article went viral. And Doreen, I left my email address saying, if you are in a similar situation, whether you’re a woman, girl, or boy, if you have no one to talk to, send me an email. Hundreds and hundreds of emails. My inbox was just exploded. And Doreen, one email particularly struck me the most. She got pregnant at 16 from her stepfather and she was so ashamed to tell who is the father of her child that she had to leave the house and she would sleep on the sofas at her friend’s houses. But when she had the baby, no one wanted to have her in their house. She would sleep sometimes under the bridges, sometimes in the abandoned houses. She’s 44 years old woman, she loves her child, but she’s still so terrified to tell her story to anyone. I was the first person she opened up. That was the moment. I’m getting emotional. I’ve realized how many people are out there, are still afraid to tell their story. For me, that was the moment when I decided I want to be the biggest voice for those people. I want to be the power, I want to show with my example, that everything is possible. Everything is possible. You can turn your story into your superpower. You can reclaim your voice. And you can live the life you haven’t even dreamed about. So, when I started my podcast, and I invite people who have a powerful story, who overcame different adversities, and now inspiring people with their own beautiful stories.
(26:09) Dr. Doreen Downing
You are exactly where you are meant to be. Life was a journey and it still is for you. I think what we’re taking today is no matter what, this is your message. No matter what, there is more to you than what you believe. There are people like you, Anna, who have programs that help people tell their stories. So how do people find you? What do you provide for people?
(26:43) Anna Ditchburn
Thank you for this question, Doreen. people can find me on my website. it’s Anna Ditchburn, A-N-N-A-D-I-T-C-H-B-U-R-N. You can also find me on link tree. It’s a wonderful app where you can see all my social media links. It’s linktree/Anna Ditchburn. Or you can search me on Facebook or Instagram. It’s Mrs. Anna Ditchburn. I’m helping people to overcome their shame and guilt and pain and limiting beliefs and negative self-talk and teach them how to use the power of their mind to achieve miraculous outcomes. I have coaching programs where I use a power of hypnotherapy. I’m a certified hypnotherapist. I can be your guide to face the deepest and darkest, to come up with another side, stronger and happier.
(28:00) Dr. Doreen Downing
What an invitation, Anna. thank you so much for being the brave soul that you are and for having such a brilliant insight that shines now out into the world and guides.You’re like a beacon of hope for others, especially those who have had trauma. Thank you so much for being with me today.
(28:27) Anna Ditchburn
Doreen, thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for such an amazing opportunity to share my story. And I’ve been knowing you for a year nearly now. I just wanted to say thank you for your work that you do because when I found your seven secrets of public speaking, that’s what helped me to get out there and start telling my story, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
(29:06) Dr. Doreen Downing
Good. Thank you. Thank you.
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Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.
Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.