The State Hornet

Self harm, depression: one former gymnast’s struggle

Megan Kyle's experiences with sexual assault started at six years old

Former+Sac+State+gymnast+Megan+Kyle+experienced+sexual+assault+starting+at+the+age+of+six.+She+competed+at+Sac+State+from+2014-2017.
Former Sac State gymnast Megan Kyle experienced sexual assault starting at the age of six. She competed at Sac State from 2014-2017.

Former Sac State gymnast Megan Kyle experienced sexual assault starting at the age of six. She competed at Sac State from 2014-2017.

Jordyn Dollarhide - The State Hornet

Jordyn Dollarhide - The State Hornet

Former Sac State gymnast Megan Kyle experienced sexual assault starting at the age of six. She competed at Sac State from 2014-2017.

When Megan Kyle stuck her landing on the balance beam on Jan. 29, 2017, she did something she had never done before.

It was Kyle’s third season competing for Sacramento State gymnastics and her first time competing in three events in a single match.

In the season opener earlier in the month, Kyle was competing on just the uneven bars. But less than a month later, the redshirt junior had earned herself a spot in the vault and beam lineups.

Everything appeared to be going well for Kyle on the outside, but on the inside, she was and still is fighting demons that date back to when she was 6 years old.

She has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has attempted suicide multiple times during her time at Sac State from 2014-2017 that has taken her out of school for long periods of time. Megan Kyle is a survivor of sexual assault.

Kyle grew up in Aliso Viejo, California and when she was 6 years old, she moved to Alaska.

“My mom and my dad separated and we moved in with my stepdad,” Kyle said. “That was who was sexually abusing me at the time. It started when I was six.”

Her stepdad worked on the Alaska oil slopes and Kyle said that until she was about 12, she was sexually abused.

“At the time I didn’t really know what was going on,” Kyle said. “My real father when I was growing up wasn’t really around so I didn’t really know what it was like to have a dad. So when all this stuff starting happening, I was just like ok, maybe this is what happens between a dad and his daughter. And he would kind of reassure me (and say) ‘This is what dads do for their daughters. Your dad didn’t do that for you because he wasn’t around.’ ”

Kyle lived in Alaska for two years before her family moved back to California.

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While the assaults happened until her stepdad died when she was about 12, she said the assaults were less frequent because her stepdad wasn’t always there.

“I did see less of him when we were in California because he was still working in Alaska,” Kyle said. “He did the oil slopes so he would be on for two weeks and be home for three weeks.”

She was full-fledged in gymnastics at that point, and was competing with future Olympians Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney on her club team. She would carpool with Ross and Maroney to practice and said they had fun and goofed off in the gym. She said that goofing around and talking with her teammates was one of her favorite things.

As she became a better gymnast, the workouts became more challenging. Being able to practice, and not go home, is one reason Kyle “stuck with” gymnastics, she said.

“It felt like a break,” Kyle said. “But I think, and the really kind of weird thing about it, was that he made me feel important and kind of worthy, so at the same time I kind of missed it. I missed the attention he gave me.”

When her stepdad died, she said that she was impacted in another way.

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“I felt better because he was gone, but then I felt guilty for feeling that way and I still deal with that guilt today,” Kyle said. “That was someone that my mom lost and I felt grief for her. My mom had a really hard time dealing with it.”

Megan said her mom didn’t know that the abuse had happened at the time he died, and didn’t understand why Megan was struggling with depression at such a young age.

“I started self-harming at that time and she just didn’t know what was going on and she was so confused,” Kyle said.

Matt Nobert – The State Hornet
Sacramento State junior gymnast Megan Kyle conducts her bar routine at UC Davis in 2017.

She was still able to compete at a high level, and when she was in high school, she received college interest from Southern Utah University, Eastern Michigan University, the University of Maryland and Sac State.

However, all that nearly vanished when she hurt her elbow in her junior year of high school, which kept her from competing until college. Sac State was the only school to still offer her a scholarship after the injury.

“I came out to visit for an unofficial visit and I love the people here and I love the campus,” Kyle said. “It just felt like home in a way.”

Her injury in high school continued to nag her and she redshirted her freshman year. She said that when she got to Sac State, she thought she would be normal. She had her first boyfriend, but then that turned into abuse.

“I don’t really know how to explain that,” Kyle said. “I didn’t feel normal in the relationship. That is the first time, because I kind of blocked out memories of my childhood and it started coming back.”

As she began to compete more in her second year, things improved. But that feeling would vanquish at times as the memories of the assaults during her childhood would return.

“The past had come back to haunt me,” Kyle said. “I became very depressed, school became very difficult, then I started coping in really bad ways, like self-harm, eating disorders and some alcohol use.”

She said that when she came back to school for her third year, the coaches sat her down and told her that they knew how she was coping. She said they gave her two weeks off of practice to focus on school and get set up with a counselor.

She said 2016 and 2017, her final two years at Sac State were the best of times and the worst of times.

“I got to go out and finally have that college experience,” Kyle said. “At the same time, all this stuff was going on inside my head at the same time. I had two suicide attempts that sent me to the hospital so that took me out of school for a while.”

Kyle said that during the fall of 2016 semester, she was training to compete in all four events as an all-arounder for the 2017 season that would begin in January. In October of 2016, her plans changed when she attempted suicide by overdosing and was sent to the emergency room.

She said that when she returned from the ER, she started to get serious help. She wanted to go to class and practice, but was told by her counselor that she should focus on herself. Kyle withdrew from her classes and didn’t practice with the team for about two months.

Although she was a junior in 2017, she would be competing in her final season. She wasn’t sure how it would go. She started the season just competing on vault, but by the time the fourth meet rolled around on Jan. 29, she was competing in a career high three events.

Anthony Galvan – The State Hornet

 

Midway through the season, she broke her finger on bars, but fought through it to complete the season. She said that before her senior meet, she re-tore her elbow ligament, but again, fought through it so that she wouldn’t miss the last three weeks of the season.

The injury made the decision easier for Kyle to end her career at Sac State after her junior season, which made the March 4 meet against Seattle Pacific University and UC Davis her early senior day. When the competition was over, the families and coaching staff played a surprise video honoring the seniors, which included Kyle.

RELATED: Senior night ends in second place finish for gymnastics team

Through everything, Kyle said her mom had been there for her. While her stepdad was assaulting her, her mom didn’t know. When Megan was 17, she told her. She was thankful that her mom believed her. Her mom, who had been on the journey with Megan from Alaska, California and college, got to come celebrate senior day with her daughter.

“They showed the childhood pictures, the parents and friends got to speak, it just brought everything together for the closing of our sport,” Kyle said. “I don’t normally cry at those things but I definitely did. As soon as I heard my mom’s voice, I just sort of lost it.”

Today, Megan Kyle works at Elevate Gymnastics Academy. She coaches the Hot Shots program for 6 to 9 year-olds who have shown natural ability and the aptitude to learn skills easily. The classes meets for three times a week for two hours and while it is something Kyle enjoys, she isn’t sure if she wants to do this forever.

 

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