As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer. If you have a story you'd like to share but aren't sure about how to put it into words, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "As Told To" for your story to be featured.
This is Brittany Autry's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.
Have you ever met someone and said to yourself, "yep, that is absolutely going to happen"? Well, that was my first impression of my ex. For the sake of the story, let's name him Uncommitted Chad.
Uncommitted Chad and I worked together, which made it incredibly easy to get to know one another in a short period of time. We didn't tell a single soul at our job and actually, lowkey didn't even engage with each other while at work.
He was fine, charming, spontaneous, and on top of that, he loved the Lord. We bonded over being from the south, our love of music, and our desire to change the community. I was smitten with everything about him. We dated for about a year without an official title. Throughout that first year, everything was great. We made each other dinner, we toured the city. We even had an incredible sex life. Everything was fairytale perfect.
It wasn't until we celebrated my birthday at dinner with my closest friends that I started to notice that something was off. He didn't express interest in getting to know them and he rudely made assumptions about who they were. I decided to stop bringing him around my friends and individualized our time.
As time went on, I wanted more clarity on our situation, but he made it clear that he didn't want to be in a relationship until he reached a certain income level. I thought it was ridiculous, but I also rocked with his ambition, so I reluctantly stayed. Around a year or so of dating, we stopped seeing each other. He wasn't making any moves towards us being together. He wasn't happy, but he didn't try to stop me either. So, I ended it.
I didn't hear from Uncommitted Chad for months until one day, out of the blue, he called to ask me to lunch. He'd since decided to move back south to start a new business venture and support his family. It seemed like he was in a more positive place, so we slowly started to date again. This time, he expressed an interest in a real relationship and asked me to meet his mother. I was thrown off, but secretly ecstatic that we had come this far.
I bought a bus ticket, to make an 8-hour trip to visit him. On the day of my trip, I grabbed dinner with friends and I planned to Uber to the station directly afterward. Just as we were finishing up, he called and said he wasn't comfortable with me coming anymore. He didn't feel like it was the right time.
He. Didn't. Feel. Like. It. Was. The. Right. Time.
I was embarrassed, pissed, and genuinely hurt. I could not understand how in the hell he could decide an hour before my departure to tell me this. And most importantly, I couldn't believe that I had allowed myself to give this man another chance, only for him to show me yet another example of his inability to be in a relationship. How is it possible to be so wrong about someone?
I gave myself three days to be sad and then I decided to pick myself up and move forward. I blocked him from contacting me and didn't talk to him for six months.
Here's our pattern: every time I got away, he made small progress, and we would try it again. I don't know what type of spell he had over me, but he was a master at reeling me back in. He had moved to the south permanently, purchased a house, and invited me to visit for Valentine's Day. He even purchased my flight this time—which for my ladies who have been involved with an Uncommitted Chad, you are familiar with this mind game. I had decided that people mess up all the time and given that I'm a therapist by trade, who am I to believe people can't change?
So, I went.
The first day was great. We played games, had dinner and made breakfast together the next morning. I cannot pinpoint the exact moment that things shifted, but he told me that he was considering a position in two different places, neither of them being where I live. He discussed his business prospects, salary negotiations and even renting out his home, but he never included me in the conversation. As I listened and robotically gave feedback, I knew this would be the last time we gave this foolishness a shot. He was making future plans for himself. There was no "us" in the equation and if I stayed, I would just be hoping he would one day choose me. I got on my flight the next morning and never looked back. And I haven't spoken to him since.
Self-Therapy & Taking Control
When I returned home, I made a playlist of sad songs and began journaling as a means of coping. It sounds a little crazy, but I am huge on processing, so both allowed me to be sad, mad, frustrated, grateful and ultimately relieved. But I also knew I needed to process the end of the relationship in a real way; I needed a break. I remembered watching Eat, Pray, Love and thought it would be cool to have a similar experience. One night, I got an alert for a roundtrip flight deal to Bali for $650. I bought the flight and started planning my solo trip right away.
When I arrived, I sat in silence. I hated it. But I made myself sit in the discomfort and be present with my thoughts. I sought after activities for healing, so I spent intentional time with myself. I went to a coffee farm and tried different Indonesian blends. I rode elephants. I went to temples and prayed for myself and my family. I treated myself to fancy dinners where I sat at an actual table alone and ate food while I people-watched. I went to the beach to watch the sunset. I took yoga classes. I read by the pool. I wrote about my life thus far and the future life I wanted. I created commitments for myself. I also made a list of desires as well as non-negotiables for my next companionship.
Being with myself was so necessary. I knew I was leaving with something I absolutely did not arrive with.
The Birth of Wellness Retreats
Courtesy of Brittany Autry
After returning home, I began thinking of the sheer inner peace I felt being away. I thought about how I made the trip happen for very little, and the ways in which the trip helped me heal. A retreat seemed like the next logical option. I began doing some research and focus groups with my girls, and the Cent(her)ed Collective was born.
As I was setting goals for what I wanted to accomplish when back, I realized that I wanted to recreate my experience for other Black women. Given the stress that we deal with on a day-to-day basis and the various life events that impact us, we need more opportunities to be vulnerable, present and focus on ourselves. Mental healthcare is quite expensive if you don't have great insurance and I want to be a change in that.
Manicures and brunches are great, but they won't sustain us long-term. We must make our mental wellness hygienic and that requires daily practice, even if for just a few minutes.
I know for sure that my cultural impact is about creating healing spaces for my people. I want to ensure that I do my part to create access to quality mental health practices and resources for my generation and those who follow. Ultimately, I want to make sure that I relentlessly pursue ending the mental health gap for black women and girls.
So, ladies, let’s make it a priority to heal—whether it’s from a bad experience, a traumatizing job, or an Uncommitted Chad.
Brittany's next retreat will be held in Houston, TX from March 5th-March 8th, 2020. You may email Brittany for more information or visit her website.
Featured image by Brittany Autry.