This photo of me and my son was taken about 6 years ago.
It was the day after my sister's wedding, and we took a short trip to a local winery where this picture was taken.
Though the joy of being with family and having my son was present that day, I was deeply unhappy in my life. The relationship between me and my son's dad had badly deteriorated, yet much of my energy was spent on trying to project an image of a perfect, happy family.
Everyday I thought of leaving. Some days, I even thought about taking my own life. I couldn't bear to stay.
So I left. I knew leaving would be hard, and I even changed my mind on the first day I was set to go. But I thought I could get through it, and I thought I would be fine. I was wrong.
The split devastated me. There were many reasons for that, like guilt, the destruction of what it meant to be a family to me, and my hopes of creating an unbreakable bond with someone I thought would be my life partner.
I spiraled into depression, grief and sadness. Days and nights were a blur, and I could only muster enough energy to keep my son safe and fed. I could not eat, or sleep, or focus.
Despite not being religious, I prayed to God for help, for release from pain, for some light in this unbreakable darkness.
One night I remember clearly was me on my knees, wailing and sobbing, asking for my life to be taken away so I didn't have to go through this anymore. I can still see myself there, and I can still feel the tug of that ache in me.
And though I didn't think I would make it through, I did. Day by endless day, I just stayed alive. And as my head and heart slowly raised up from underneath the pain, something else began to form inside.
I wanted to understand what happened, why things hadn't worked. I wanted to deeply know myself, so I wouldn't make the same choices that led me to that situation. I started on a path to self-discovery, to waking up to my unhealthy patterns and behaviors, and the harmful beliefs I held about myself and others.
I read books, took classes, went to workshops, did mind/body work, sought out inspiring people, created community, and more. What took shape for me as I progressed through this healing journey was a realization -- I didn't want other people to go through this pain. I wanted to give others the knowledge and lessons I got that might help them recognize their destructive patterns before they went through the same thing. And if they already had experienced this type of pain, I wanted to help them get through and beyond it. To realize there is joy, love and potential on the other side.
My realization of this purpose has led me to a very different life than the one I had. In it I'm able to deepen my sense of self-worth, to forgive myself in knowing I did the best I could at the time, to be present and find joy in my relationships, and to love the possibilities I fully believe still await me.
My realization has given my life meaning in the form of doing what I can for others who've shared similar pain, and today -- it has led me to you.
For that, I'm endlessly grateful.