“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

-Philippians 4:13


Drake, which did turn out to be his real name, asked me if he could call after a few texts. The first thing out of his mouth when I answered was, “You have an accent! I love it!” After spending May, June, and July the previous year in North Carolina, I brought my accent back with me. This was a normal reaction and I was used to it. Apparently, southern accents are charming and cute? I tell everyone that it’s my “first” language, and when I go home it follows me back. My children have let me know that whenever I was angry, it would come back then as well. 

We talked for a few minutes, then he said, “Want to go get a milkshake?” He was moving pretty fast! Typically, that’s how I liked it anyway because then you know that who you’re talking to is really the person they say they are. Too often, I had shown up only to find that the man I thought I was meeting was actually very different from who they said they were. Sometimes they even looked very different from their photos on the site.

Knowing that there was no way it would go anywhere, but realizing it would be nice to get out of the house after pouting and crying all day… I thought, “What the heck! This will get me off the floor and finally dressed for the day. It will be my last date. The bonus is I’ll get a free milkshake out of it! Woohoo! I mean, a girl needs a milkshake when she’s depressed, right?”

“When? Where?” I asked.

“How about in an hour at Chili’s?” He replied.

What? An hour? I hadn’t even showered, and I was a hot mess. Oh well…. it didn’t matter anyway…. I really didn’t expect it to be more than just one date. 

“You bet,” I said. “I’ll see you there.”

Sitting right there on the floor for the next 10 minutes I waited for my daughter to get home. I told her I needed the car. She said that she had wanted to go hang out with her friend. I told her that was fine, but asked if she could drop me off at Chili’s and come back and get me in an hour? She agreed.


Journal Entry: “Bad day. Stuff is catching up to me. Life is so hard, and all of the balls have dropped. I don’t know how to pick them up.” 


The jeans, pink v-neck t-shirt, and flip-flops didn’t look super cute, but I didn’t really care. Pulling into the Chili’s parking lot an hour later, I saw Drake standing there with his arms folded, looking very military-like. He had on a nice black polo shirt, cool jeans, and stylish shoes. Boy, oh boy, did he look good in person! Flat top and all, Drake was very well put together. Phew boy! Very nice to look at! That would make the evening much more bearable. For a few seconds, I felt kind of bad that I was dressed so casually because he looked so well put together…. but only for a few seconds.

He saw me through the car window as we drove by and smiled, so I knew it was him. I decided right then that I had to tell him he needed to change his profile photo on the site because he was much better looking in person.

Drake looked so nervous! He tensed up when I tried to give him a quick hug. Oh boy! He was so stiff that it was like hugging a rock, and not just because he had amazing muscles…. He went downright rigid head to toe. He gently patted my back with one hand, and I thought, “Oh man! He either still misses his wife, he’s not even close to being ready to date, he doesn’t like hugs, or he doesn’t like me.” All of these things were huge red flags for me. He immediately refolded his arms across his chest when I quickly pulled back. I could tell he was uncomfortable. 

After the usual introductions, he let me know that Chili’s had a 45-minute wait. He asked if I would mind riding with him to Culver’s just down the street. I had the feeling he was a pretty good guy, so what the heck. “Sure, let’s go.” Walking to his truck, he said, “My truck is super dirty. Sorry, we went dirt biking earlier, and so there is a lot of dust.” 

He had a big white Chevy truck which brought up the question of, “What kind of truck do you like?” This had actually been a reason several of the guys I dated didn’t like me! I like Dodge, and when they heard that, they didn’t want to date me if they weren’t a Dodge guy. Crazy! But, seriously, I was ghosted after this question in the past. No lie! To his credit, when I said I liked Dodge, Drake agreed that Dodge made a good truck. My family owned a few Chevy’s so I admitted they weren’t too bad either. 

“First test passed… he won’t get rid of me because I liked a different truck.” Wait.… What!? Rolling my eyes at myself and thought, “Where on earth did that come from? There is no test here. This is just a free milkshake! Right?”


Journal Entry: “There are so many negative things going on with me right now that I feel like a huge boulder is on my chest.”


I texted my daughter and told her to still come to pick me up in an hour but that we would be at Culver’s. A few minutes later, we got our milkshakes and found a place to sit in the back corner. There were no extensive COVID restrictions yet, so the restaurant was packed. Almost every table was full. It was so cold! I was glad we wouldn’t be there very long.

Small talk got us through the first 20 or 30 minutes of the date. Questions like, Where do you live? What do you like to do? How many kids do you have? How old are they? What do you want to do in the future? Drake turned out to be very easy to talk to. He held a good conversation so it wasn’t just me or him doing all of the talking; it was a two-way conversation. Questions were asked, stories were told, and the conversation flowed. It turned out we had a lot in common. We both love the mountains and hiking, and our families were our lifeblood. It didn’t take long to realize that he was way out of my league.

After a while, I noticed that Drake wasn’t looking me in the eyes. He was watching my mouth, which felt weird. Did I have something in my teeth? “Why are you looking at my mouth? My eyes are up here, soldier,” I said. He laughed and said that I had the most beautiful mouth, and he loved to watch me talk. 


Drake Journal Entry: “I found her on an online dating site, and she had the most amazing smile.”


Waving his hands as he talked, I noticed that he was still wearing his wedding ring. At the same time, he saw the ring too. He apologized asking if I wanted him to take it off. I said, “No. Why should you take it off? You were married for 29 years, and you’re still married since you were sealed in the temple. That love doesn’t just go away. Why take it off? If any girl you date tells you that you should take it off, then you shouldn’t date them.”

For some reason, I felt the need to tell him what to do and expect while dating. There were some real weirdos in the dating world! He needed to tread carefully if he didn’t want to get hurt. It would be terrible if he ended up in a relationship different than the one he had with his wife. In a way, I believed he was naive when it came to living outside of his fairytale marriage. Yes, he had been blessed. And if he wasn’t careful, he could end up on the dark side of fairytales. That would be tragic! Drake was so charming and had such a loving heart. He had no idea what happened in some marriages.


Journal Entry: “Two of the things I’ve always wanted in a man is for him to want to be better every day and to chase me as hard as I chase him. Do I deserve an amazing future?”


The dark side of fairytales was a familiar place to me. Drake was telling me about a light side I didn’t know existed in real life. It seemed somewhat unbelievable and certainly impossible to achieve.


* * * * * * * * * *


Several years before my breaking day, I was in a deep dark place, not as deep as my breaking day but pretty close. Gloom had taken over and made it hard to do just about everything. During this challenging, bleak time, I would tell my children, “There’s a dementor in front of the light at the end of my tunnel!” 


Journal Entry: “Contention will never be an ally of progress. There is so much contention in our home! Talking back, mood swings, fighting, and yelling. What can I do? What would Heavenly Father have me do?”


For those who may not be as big of Harry Potter fans as I am; A dementor is a soulless creature that gradually deprives humans of their happiness and intelligence. Basically, they suck the joy out of a person leaving them totally empty, unable to find even a mustard seed’s worth of hope. Trying to go toward the light at the end of my dark tunnel sucked out all of my hope, peace, happiness, and light. My brain would go blank and I would shrivel up full of fear in the emptiness, leaving me unable to think logically.


Journal Entry: “Maybe this is the way Heavenly Father is helping me become more humble. I am disappointed that He had to do it this way and that I couldn’t do it myself.”


Several years before my breaking day, I was feeling particularly close to the dementors. They were doing their thing, and winning! My mentor called and asked if I wanted to chat. “I had a feeling I needed to call you,” he said in his usual cheerful voice. It was late in the afternoon, and I was still in my PJs. This seems to be a trending pattern when I’m depressed. The shades were closed in the bedroom where I was still in bed, and it was as dark as night. Things had gotten so bad that I hadn’t showered, probably in a few days. It had happened so slowly I didn’t really realize how bad it had gotten until I considered the prospect of speaking with someone who knew me so well. There was no way I could lie to him. I’m pretty easy to read even without seeing my face. I didn’t even know what had compelled me to answer the phone. At that moment, I wished I hadn’t! But, I will eternally be grateful I did.


AJ Pruis and Matthew West

Lie number one you’re supposed to have it all together
And when they ask how you’re doing
Just smile and tell them, “Never better”

Lie number 2 everybody’s life is perfect except your
So keep your messes and your wounds
And your secrets safe with you behind closed door

Truth be told
The truth is rarely told, now
I say I’m fine, yeah I’m fine oh I’m fine, hey I’m fine but I’m not I’m broken
And when it’s out of control I say it’s under control but it’s not And you know it
I don’t know why it’s so hard to admit it 

When being honest is the only way to fix it
There’s no failure, no fall
There’s no sin you don’t already know
So let the truth be told


After hearing my voice, he wanted to FaceTime so he could see me while we talked. I told him, “No,” and that I wasn’t presentable enough to be seen. I was worn out mentally, spiritually, and physically. After insisting, saying that he felt strongly that we needed to talk face to face, I told him to give me a few minutes. I pulled my hair into a ponytail, changed my shirt, opened the shades, made the bed, sat at my computer desk, and tried to find the gumption to put on a pleasant face. This was going to be difficult. As soon as he saw my face his countenance changed. “What’s going on?” He asked. 

Since he had mainly been a business mentor, I spoke about my businesses, hoping that would be all he wanted to talk about. My businesses were not doing great, and I was struggling financially. The businesses had started being a drain on me because they weren’t fulfilling. This made it harder to do the work, much less marketing. There needed to be some changes to keep moving forward, and I knew what I needed to do. Still, it would be challenging in my mental state, and time-consuming. The work would include me being on social media daily, and throwing together some sales funnels. The most challenging part would be going back out to speak at events or putting on my own events. Speaking to women business owners and trying to encourage them would make me feel like a failure and a hypocrite.

He started asking about how I was doing personally. Stalling, I told him what was going on with my five children, who were due home from school in the next hour or so. The more questions he asked, and the more I talked, the easier it got to let things slip that things were not going well. It was like he could read my mind, as usual, because he was asking all the wrong questions. The ones that I did not want to answer. It was probably all over my face how things were really going, and he wasn’t going to stop until he got answers. It was painful mentally and physically to continue the conversation.


Journal Entry: “I feel empty. I haven’t been feeling right in months. I am in survival mode. Just trying to make it day by day, or most days, minute by minute. It’s almost like feeling nothing. But somewhere inside something keeps me going, so nothing isn’t the right word. I give all I have every day. Just when I feel like I have done all I can and I cannot do anymore somewhere deep, deep inside of me, I find a way to keep going. I take the children to their activities, clean the house, and feed the children. I continue to help my friend with her needs because she can’t do it herself, but mostly because I love her. Honestly, she does more for me than I do for her. The only answer I can find is that Heavenly Father gives me what I need when I need it. Otherwise, I would just sit down and stop.”


Obviously, my depression and daily panic attacks were a big problem. It had become hard for me to do anything but the basics in business and life. I don’t think I was even doing that much. For the first time ever, I said out loud what had been happening at home. I told him things that my family and friends didn’t even know. After I cried and vented he changed my perspective forever with one simple statement. 

“It sounds to me like you feel like you are in prison.” 

He put perfectly put into words what I had been feeling for the last three years. That one word, PRISON, described precisely how every cell in my body felt. The prison doors were locked, everything was dark, and I was in the depths of despair. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t do anything about it. My entire body and spirit screamed out in pain and agony. Physically weak I fell to the floor.

The verbal, emotional, and mental abuse was getting close to physical abuse. A few days before this call, Cooper was being particularly rude. He was yelling at me when my daughter came into the room and stood next to me. In her young mind, she was probably hoping that having her in the room would calm him down, or give me support, or maybe a little of both. I was impressed with her bravery because I was afraid too. I had been hoping for the storm to pass, but as she stood next to me, he suddenly looked at her with what can only be described as evil in his eyes saying, “What’s wrong with you? Are you afraid?! I’ll show you what it’s like to be afraid!” Then he lunged at her with his hands coming up as if to grab her.

Everyone always wonders what they will do in a situation like this, and now I know. I jumped between my daughter and Cooper, put my hand on his chest, and pushed him back as I yelled at him, “STOP!” I had never yelled at him before, so it was surprisingly effective. He stopped and walked out of the house. I told her that I would keep her safe no matter what. For the first time since we had been married, I didn’t justify his actions. Being married to Cooper was terrifying at times, and this was one of the biggest reasons I was currently in such a difficult place. 

Understanding women who can’t walk away from an abusive husband suddenly made sense…. If that’s possible. Well, at least now, I have learned why. It’s about power and control. Threats of any kind, aka domestic violence, destroy families from the inside. When women who love their husbands are abused it can take years to realize it, and even longer to be brave enough to take action.

Things were stressful, to say the least. Feeling I had no control over my life, I could barely keep afloat. Other people’s choices and decisions were altering my path. Fighting back felt impossible. The ebb and flow of life tossed me around like a paper bag in the wind. When it came to my children, however, like jumping between Cooper and my daughter, I would fight with everything I had. But, taking care of myself wasn’t on my list of things to do. I had lost the strength to overcome my own shortcomings.


Journal Entry: “If no one needed me, would I keep going? Maybe not, to be honest. There isn’t much I do for myself. Who am I really? What does God expect me to do or accomplish? What is my daily purpose? When I die, what will I have done that will please my God, my Savior, my family, myself? My relationship with my Heavenly Father is more important than ever. This is what I focus on daily. So, why do I feel so empty?”


After what seemed like a very long time of crying uncontrollably, I told my mentor, “Yes! I AM in prison, and I don’t know where to find the key to get out!” This feeling was too familiar and I wanted to know how to put a stop to it. I wanted out of the deep dark dungeon!

The next few words out of his mouth were just as life-altering. They seemed so simple yet they were so powerful too! The next four words gave me the key to open the first prison door and let in a tiny bit of light.

“What are your options?”

The chains around my mind and heart fall away. It was like someone turned on a light switch and put a magical key in my hand! That key unlocked the first prison door that held me captive. As the door to my prison swung open I saw the path! Like a yellow brick road, it showed me the way. The dementors vanished. The light was so bright! I instantly knew everything I needed to do to get out and all of the resources I had available to help me. It was all right there in front of me. All I had to do was take action! 

Once I got off the phone, I called my parents and told them what had been going on for the last few years. Before I could even ask, my father said, “Come home.” I knew I wasn’t alone. I had options! I felt strength return to my mind, body, and spirit in the form of hope. 

There was strength in my decision. I knew I could start over because I had done it before. Full of hope for the first time in a long time, I did what I needed to recuperate and set the plan in action.


Continue Reading…

Start at the beginning of the story

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