This is the story behind the beginning of my brand and the state of my life at the time.
Please be aware that some of the content of this may be triggering for some.
I am a survivor of domestic violence.
It has taken me time to admit this, to accept it, and to heal from it.
I spent years in a romantic relationship that cost me nearly everything, including my life.
My life during this time was a constant state of confusion. How could someone who claims they love me so deeply and truly treat me in such a way? How could someone that loves me scream at me until I cry? Then only scream louder once I did? How could someone that loves me scream so loud that I’m forced to find solace in a small corner in my bathroom, wedged between the door and sink, in an effort to escape them? How could someone that loves me purposefully alienate me from my friends and family? How could someone that loves me criticize every move and every decision I made? How could someone that loves me take advantage of me financially? How could someone that loves me attempt to convince me that I’d be a bad mother, just so I would change my mind about wanting children because they didn't? How could someone that loves me make me doubt my own sanity? How could someone that loves me try to control my eating habits, the way I dressed, the way I did everything? How could someone that loves me not let me enjoy my favorite things because they didn’t choose my favorite things? How could someone that loves me humiliate me publicly? How could someone that loves me put their hands around my throat because I made them too angry? How could someone that loves me claim that I am nothing without them and that they “created” ME?
Well, I've learned since then - that is not someone that loved me.
That’s someone who loved the power they felt from controlling me. Mustering up the strength and confidence to leave this relationship was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. It took years, it took loosing everything, it took this relationship becoming increasingly volatile and violent.
When this person left my life, I discovered that I no longer knew who I was. The ending of this relationship felt as though I had been living underground for years, and I had finally surfaced to see the sun. Except the new light that reflected back reflected onto a life I didn’t love and a person I didn’t recognize anymore. All I had was my business, my two amazing best friends who stuck it out with me, and a very clear vision of my current reality. My reality now was that I was suffering from a deep depression, a non-existent feeling of self-worth, a complete loss of identity, nightmares from post-traumatic stress, an empty bank account, and rocky relationships with everyone who was in the dark about the truths of my relationship.
This new reality was very difficult for me to accept. All my life I had held such high expectations and worked so hard to attempt to create a life I loved. How could I let this happen? How did I not see what was happening right in front of me? How did I work so hard, try to love so authentically, to just end up here? The temptation to surrender into my own personal prison, to let my depression consume me, and to end my life right then was a feeling so incredibly strong I could never accurately describe it to you. The uphill battle I would have to fight to win my life back was so steep, and I was expended. Those dark moments for me were proof that there is a clear connection between our minds, our bodies, and our spirit. My my entire being felt as if it couldn’t continue.
But I did.
During this relationship I had started this business. The name April May is actually a mantra for me that says ‘I Can’, at the time I needed all the encouragement and positivity I could get. Working a day job and starting a business at night while my mind and body were so exhausted from the abuse was extremely difficult. Most of the time it felt impossible, especially in the moments when it was sabotaged by my abuser. When they would purposefully break the tools I worked so hard to afford and ruin hours of work in acts of rage. Despite every challenge, I desperately knew I had to make it happen. It was just a feeling then, but what I realize now, is that it was my life raft. April May gave me a sense of pride and power that didn’t exist for me then. It contributed to the ending of this relationship as well. As my confidence and business grew the more volatile my relationship became, the less control over me he had. Out of all the moments when I knew it had to end, the last one, the one that pushed me over the edge, was when they tried to take credit for it.
April May, my two best friends, practicing Meditation, and my ambitious spirit gave me my life back. Accepting what had happened to me, no longer blaming myself, and letting go of shame has helped me to heal. As destructive as this experience was, I learned things that I am grateful for. I learned to truly love myself, I learned to never accept anyone else's version of love, and that my inner strength is immeasurable.
Opening up and sharing my experience publicly is scary. I have written and rewritten this countless times. Vulnerability is not something that comes as easy as it used to (thank god for Brene Brown). However, I refuse to live my life any longer with a single ounce of fear or hesitation. It's also always been my personal belief that sharing our stories honestly with each other is how we learn and continue to grow. This - this is my story. I own it, and it is mine to share. Thank you to those of you who are supporting me in this, and a very special thanks to Jessie for reading every single version I wrote, and there were a lot.
I should note that my intention in sharing my experience with abuse is not to hurt or bring attention to my abuser. My only intention is to do my part by shedding light on emotional abuse; what it is and to raise awareness around the fact that it is a form of Domestic Violence. My only hope is to help anyone who may be experiencing abuse.
"Domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, income, or other factors. One in four Women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In two out of three female homicide cases, females are killed by a family member or intimate partner." - Source SafeHorizon.org
The silver lining in this experience is that it has given what I do a new found and much needed purpose. I have always felt that something was missing from my creative work, that it didn't feel as important as I wanted it to, and that I needed to do more outside of myself. This has begun to give me that, and it has lit a new, fierce fire within me.
It's with that, that I am excited to announce that as of July 1st, I will be contributing a portion of profits from every purchase to W.O.M.A.N. Inc. (Women Organized to Make Abuse Nonexistent, Inc.) A non-profit, community-based, multi-service agency, serving survivors of domestic violence in San Francisco and the larger Bay Area. I have also started training for their volunteering program this past month as well. I'm looking forward to this path evolving and to creating more ways to implement change, raise awareness, and lend a helping hand.
If you suspect that a friend of family member may be experiencing domestic abuse from their partner, it is my personal recommendation if it is safe for you and them to do so, to reach out to them. Most importantly, to let them know that you are there for them unconditionally and without judgement. It can be a lonely world to live in. The few people in my life who did this for me, I am forever grateful to you. In an emotionally abusive relationship, the abuser goes great lengths to convincing you that you are the problem. As much as you don’t want to believe the things they claim, when you hear something so often from someone whom you love, who convinces you they have your best interest at heart, it becomes engraved in your mind so deeply that you believe them. Those moments when someone reached out to express concern, or to just tell me they were there for me meant everything.
If you are in an abusive relationship or perhaps are unsure but can relate to my experience, I desperately urge you to reach out to someone in a a manner that is safe for you. You can also find out more information on W.O.M.A.N. Inc. here, they also have a 24-hour support line with wonderful people on the other end ready to help, or to just be there for you.
If you have a story of your own that you feel comfortable sharing, please do so in the comments below, I'd love to hear from you. If you'd like to reach out to me personally you can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for reading, and for your support.
All my love,