Bree Burden

Whew, when I say I have more issues than a magazine rack at Barnes & Noble, I'm not kidding, and I really don't know where to start except with the fact that I grew up my entire life being told that depression and anxiety aren't real and I just needed to be happy. I was raised by two narcissists. One sexually and verbally abused my sister. The other verbally abused me. We were supposed to give the appearance of a Stepford family and, to this day, I still get friends from my old life reconnecting and saying, "Wow, if I didn't trust in your honesty, I would never have believed your home was that bad because you were always so happy."

I never really understood the damage and abuse until I was in my mid-20s and the veil was lifted as I started to question and look at those I trusted and how they advocated for mental health.

My mother chose my first husband when I was 16. She decided that he was the one I would marry, even going so far as to pack him up and move him with us when I graduated high school and we moved to Las Vegas. We married when I was 21, and he found his first girlfriend within that first year. I had also married a narcissist. My mother taught me the fine art of manipulation and tactics to gain power over others. I never saw that she was doing it to me. I have since testified against her in court for some of the manipulation tactics that allowed her to procure my grandparent's extensive estate when they passed away.

When I figured out what was going on, I had already emotionally detached and fell in love with an incredible man. My current husband truly helped me to become the person I am today. He taught me that it's ok to feel. When I made the decision to leave my home with my parents and (now ex) husband, I was physically beaten. My ex-husband threw me so hard against the wall that my head made a hole (which he called me a couple of days later and said, "I fixed the hole in the wall, you can come back home now.") and my mother kicked in my ribs so hard I thought they were broken. She also didn't love the fact I fell in love with a Black man.

I have not had contact with any of them in almost 8 years now (except for when I flew to Vegas to testify 3 years ago). I still struggle. I still feel the need to put on a happy face. I'm an expert at crying in a way where my face won't get puffy and you cannot tell I have been crying. I still have to forcibly accept my feelings and my waves.

It resonated with me when Nick mentioned the waves and the ocean. I often feel like I'm out duck diving on my surfboard. The waves are coming and I have just enough breath to dive under one wave, but not two. I have felt that way for quite some time. These past couple of years have been incredibly hard. I tried to seek therapy, but I think I got the bad egg when it came to therapists. My husband had just been diagnosed with kidney cancer and I had just been part of a massive layoff from my job where I worked for almost 7 years. I went the online therapy route and was matched with someone. I vented to her about feeling like I was doing everything for everyone in my home, and she responded telling me my husband was stonewalling me and that it was one of the first signs of divorce. She knew about his cancer diagnosis and lack of energy. I thought I was able to just vent, instead she put a thought into my head that still lingers. I'm apprehensive about therapy, but curious and optimistic.

Your site and your transparency has come around when I truly need it, and I'm forever grateful.

I'm a mental health newbie for myself, but a staunch advocate of it for others. I've seen the incredible work it can do and I'm ready to break into it for myself and find a better me. Thank you, Nick and Levi. As soon as I find a job and earn some income, some of it is coming straight to you to help others. And as soon as I figure out how to use emojis on LinkedIn, I'm proudly putting a thought-bubble in my name line!

- Bree Burden