November 2016, I met who I thought was going to give me everything I needed. I was right in the thick of my post-grad depression, finding myself, figuring out what I wanted out of this life, and how I could make the most out of it. We met via social media (of course) and I remember telling my friend that it just seemed way too good to be true. He was just "too perfect". Well, he was.
It began as any normal relationship, however, that quickly changed as time went on.
He didn't want me to be around any of my male friends. He would get jealous of what I wore or try to check my phone to see who was texting or calling me. But, he made me feel a way, a way that made me look past all the red lights that were constantly being thrown at me. A little over a month into our relationship is when the psychical abuse actually began. He got mad at me for something so dumb, so we argued about it, and then he hit me. I remember being so shocked that someone had the audacity to put their hands on me.
It was the first time, but it was not the last.
For the next six months, we fought. We went back and forth. We'd fight and then he would apologize. There were plenty of times where I thought that I was for sure going to be killed, but I was so terrified of what people would think of me, a girl who thought things like this wouldn't happen to her. I didn't say anything. The only one who knew at that time was one of my best friends and my roommate at the time. Still, all the while, he'd observe my insecurities and use them to his advantage, which pulled me into a deep depression. I lost weight, dealt with suicidal thoughts, and allowed myself to be consumed by this toxic environment.
Every time I said I was done, he would do something to make me think he would change. I was always the strong friend, the one who other people would call when something bad or crazy happened. So, for me, being the girl who's life had completely hit rock bottom, I was beyond embarrassed. Embarrassed of what my family and friends might do or say. Embarrassed that I allowed something to continue for way longer than it should have, because I knew better. I knew deep down that the situation would never change but maybe I was just too scared to actually leave him.
After a few weeks went by of me trying to get the actual courage to leave, I found out that I was pregnant, and then I really felt stuck. I was so depressed, because I knew that having this baby would mean that I was connected to this man for the rest of my life and that was something I did not want to do. Maybe it was God, or just the negative energy I was giving out, but I ended up having a miscarriage. And while of course losing a baby was hard, the sense of relief I got made me realize that THIS was my sign, my chance, my opportunity to let him GO!
Once I finally found the strength to walk away, I still dealt with the aftermath of the remnants from that relationship. It was not easy at all.
Picking up the pieces and trying to find myself again, I found myself at rock bottom, pleading with God to give me a reason to keep going. None of my family knew about the abuse, so I was dealing with it all on my own. Holding that pain in is too much for anyone to deal with by themselves.
I remember sitting on my couch literally talking to Him and asking Him what was my purpose? I was trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel, but I just could not. So, everyday I would write and journal my thoughts and feelings. It took real work to acknowledge that I was in such a dark space, and maybe that's what God was waiting for: For me to actually acknowledge that I was in a very dark space and I couldn't come out of that alone.
A few months later, He gave me the idea for Glow Candle Bar. It would become the business that saved my life and changed me. I always had a love for candles, the way they made me feel when I lit one and how the different scents lifted my mood, even when I was at some of my lowest points. I started just making them for fun and I found out that I was actually pretty good at it, so I decided to see if I could make this into an actual business. I wanted the candles to be a reminder of the light I found at the end of the tunnel, and in turn being that same light for someone else who might be going through a certain situation and they can't find hope. I wanted my candles to be the thing that held everyone accountable for their own happiness and journey.
Courtesy of Brianna A.
Once I started sharing my mental health journey, at first, I was so scared. I thought if I revealed this about myself, I would be made to feel like I was a victim and that I would be judged. But the exact opposite happened. Even though in the beginning of that journey, I did not share the parts of my abusive relationship and miscarriage because I didn't want to reveal that part of me, writing this and sharing it all with you now is the biggest breath of fresh air I've had in years. I'm grateful.
Nowadays, people from all walks of life tell me how sharing my truth has inspired them. I was overwhelmed. A few months after launching Glow, I started "Mind Your Business", a mental health event in Charlotte, NC that is catered to black and brown women and men to help bridge the gap on the stigma we have in our community. I realized that creating safe spaces for people who look like me is also a part of my purpose.
The light at the end of the tunnel.Courtesy of Brianna A.
Finding the light at the end of the tunnel from my situation is helping others find their light. I sit here grateful that this made me realize 1) I am not a victim, I am a survivor, 2) I can use my story to help others find their light, 3) I rebuilt my life and became a new person who speaks her truth always.
And lastly, I am not weak, I am stronger than I could ever imagine.
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