If you have been a participant at any of my speaking events, you know that three years ago today I removed myself and my child from a dangerous situation and unhealthy marriage.

Many people (including family and friends) did not know the severity of the situation and how it had progressed over a decade.

I was once a happy, smiley, outgoing and talkative woman with a bubbly personality and many friends. I could talk to anyone, anywhere, about anything, and we would laugh as if we knew each other for years.

After the ending of a long-term, seven-year relationship, I was feeling lonely and bored and decided to try online dating. It would be the last time I take that route.

It was love at first sight and quite the chemistry between us. I was in awe of his charm, charisma and good looks. However, each month, a truth about his past was revealed, and pieces of the mask would fall off until the real person (and their various addictions) were exposed.

Eventually, I learned when to speak and when to hide and retreat, how to look down at the ground when in public, so as not to make eye contact with strangers, and how to hug a male family member ‘correctly’, so that I was not portraying myself as ‘easy’ or a ‘slut’.

Any friends and family that texted or called were slowly discouraged from continuing, as he convinced me they were jealous of our relationship and did not have our best interest in mind. He ultimately convinced me that he was the only person who truly loved me and wanted to be with me forever.

A decade later, after contemplating death, beaten down in every way possible, and unable to take the brunt of his drunken, drug-induced episodes any longer, I took my child and left.

But this wasn’t like in the past, where I would put him out, and he would stalk me and threaten me until I let him come back. This time I left our current rental and leased a new home. I was serious this time.

Not surprisingly, he already had my replacement on the sidelines waiting, and took less than three weeks to sign the divorce papers.

Believe it or not, years later, I am still in talk therapy, trying to ‘forgive myself’ for staying so long, falling for the lies and fake tears, and exposing my child to that environment. Certain loud noises and close situations with males affect me, which my therapist has labeled as PTSD. It is an ongoing healing process.

So how do you reverse brainwashing and rebuild your life, regain your peace, and revert back to the happy-go-lucky person you were before? One day at a time.

I feel like I am 75% healed after three years, but continue to hear the negative words in my head at times, affecting the way I feel about my body, my career, my medical conditions, and more.

Through counseling, my faith in God, and a supportive church family, I believe I will succeed in resurrecting the ‘old Cheryl’ once again.

And even though I still have to actively block contact in various forms, I am remaining strong. I love my peace and quiet, and I am focusing on building my company, my book brand, and increasing my book followers. I am finally loving life.

My advice to any woman who thinks this story sounds familiar and is struggling in the same ways…do not be afraid to reach out for help.

There is nothing to be ashamed of, and it could save your life, and eventually, improve your quality of life substantially.

And lastly, take all the time you need to heal. Don’t rush the process. When you are ready to jump back into the dating game, you will know it.

Until next time…