Ashley Noel isn’t just theorizing when she says a person can heal from debilitating pain, grief and trauma and come out on the other side.

Ashley Noel Courtesy photo

Noel, 38, of Waterville is living proof.

She recalls the days of her younger self: drinking, taking drugs, smoking, and later suffering a devastating loss. She was in a black hole, feeling guilty, helpless, anxious, with no hope of getting better.

Noel never imagined she would become the happy, confident and grateful woman she is today, loving her role as a mother, writer and advocate for those who are struggling.

She wants them to know there is light at the end of the tunnel.

“There’s always light,” she said. “But the only way is down, and up and out. You can’t just put Band-Aids on it. You have to face it, head on, and be brave and know that it’s not always going to be easy.”


Noel in January realized her dream of becoming an author when she published “Metamorphosis: A Motivational Memoir of Self-Healing, Transformation and Successful Manifestation,” published by Black Rose Writing. The book, available at, Amazon and other online services, has received accolades, including from Marci Shimoff, New York Times bestselling author of “Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul.”

“I’m doing wonderful,” Noel said this week. “I just finished my second book. I want to become a motivational speaker. I just want to help people by sharing my story in a raw, honest way.”

Her story started as a young girl growing up in Waterville with a loving mother and father, though they were divorced. Her mother was white, her father Black. As an African American girl, she had a good childhood with lots of friends with whom she bonded, but she struggled with learning disabilities which made reading comprehension and math difficult. When she entered junior high school, she excelled in sports but felt stupid academically, she said.

“I just felt so out of place. I always wanted my hair to look like my friends’, and my skin was so dark. The hardest thing for me was growing up in a town where nobody looked like me. I just remember everyone thought I was adopted.”

As her high school years neared an end, she applied to Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island and was shocked to learn she had been accepted. She planned to major in marketing and advertising there, though her real love was writing. Her English teacher, Julie Letourneau, praised and encouraged her writing and she won second place in a statewide writing competition.

“She was so amazing and I just really thrived in her class,” Noel recalled.


When she graduated from Waterville Senior High School in 2003, however, she decided not to attend college after all.

“I just didn’t make the best choices,” she said. “I was a party animal.”

She moved out of state for six weeks when she was 20, continued with drugs and drinking, and blew an inheritance from her grandfather which she regretted. She felt as if she were wasting her life. She returned to Waterville and lived in her mother’s basement while waiting on tables.

“I just felt like a loser, I felt like a failure. That was a really hard place.”

She reconnected with an old friend from high school when she was 21 and they started dating. He eventually gave her an ultimatum — that she get clean or it was over. She got sober and later became pregnant. They were both thrilled and loved being parents. After their son turned 1, she enrolled in college and majored in English while working at a jewelry store. Her partner worked as an electrical lineman.

Four years into college, she decided to take a semester off, though she had only one semester left. But then, tragedy struck. Her partner was killed in a car wreck on his way to work. She was devastated.


“I had known him since I was 15, so I literally lost my best friend and my partner. It was severe. It was just so traumatic.”

The doctors gave her medicine to ease the pain of loss, telling her to take it as needed. She was dealing with crippling anxiety, bulimia and insomnia. She hit rock bottom, got into therapy and with time was able to control her anxiety and wean off the medicine she was prescribed. She worked as a behavioral health professional, still experiencing anxiety though her colleagues were unaware. She enrolled in college once more and obtained a degree in criminology and criminal justice.

But she didn’t really move through the trauma until after she began reading, a lot, about spiritual healing. And she wrote, furiously. She said she has a goal, by this January, of selling 111,111 copies of her book — a number that keeps popping up in her life as significant. She hopes her story helps others who are feeling lost and unworthy to find purpose and know they can heal and be what they want to be.

In the process, she urges them to be kind to others. When people from her past read her book, she said, they tell her they had no idea she was suffering so much. Had they known, they would have reached out to her.

“You just don’t know what people are going through,” she said. “You don’t know what your co-workers are going through.”

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 35 years. Her columns appear here weekly. She is the author of the book “Comfort is an Old Barn,” a collection of her curated columns, published this year by Islandport Press. She may be reached at For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story