My Story by Debra Smouse

I was talking to a girlfriend the other day – who is actually another life coach – and she gently chastised me for something in regards to all the work I’ve been doing to share the news about Finally Love Your Life.

“You have a great personal story. But you aren’t sharing what rock bottom looked like for you.”

I realized she was right. I haven’t.

How do I tell the story of the woman I was before?

The woman who believed that she was broken.

…And unfixable.

…And irredeemable.

Because I haven’t been that woman in a really long time.

And, I prefer to be the Phoenix rising from the ashes.

Not the sad, pathetic, beaten-down woman I was when I crawled into the fire.

My story begins like many others.

I married my “Prince Charming” when I was 19.

I believed that because I was doing “all the things” we should do, I should be happy.

Before I was 20, we moved into a 3-bedroom ranch with a picket fence.

But I was too naïve to realize that with every month I stayed married, I gave up tiny pieces of who I was so that I could be “The Perfect Wife.”

The Perfect Wife – who went to college to be television journalist. And actually got a job working in TV News before I even graduated.

First for the local NBC Affiliate. Then, working for ABC News at their Dallas Bureau.

The Perfect Wife, who gave up my dream because my husband said that if I wanted children, I couldn’t work in the television industry.

In the pursuit of being what my (controlling) (emotionally-abusive) (now-ex) husband wanted, I gave up my dream of TV News and Sports Reporting.

Despite having my foot firmly in the door.

And the truth is: I just wanted to be loved.

I was so desperate for love and approval and belonging that I gave up my dream and tried to twist myself into the person my husband wanted me to be.

Fast forward six years later.

I was The Perfect Mommy to two beautiful (challenging) (and ADHD) girls. Prince Charming elected to work the evening shift (3 PM to 11 PM) so he didn’t have to deal with his family.

I was Over. My. Head.


Alone and isolated.

Every morning I went to work my (safe and approved) office job from 8 to 5.

He went to the gym every morning, then worked (and left me) to deal with the shitty parts of the day.

I fielded after school pickup, homework, dinner, baths, and bedtime.

I was still so desperate for any crumb of affection that after putting the girls to bed and taking a little nap, I would get up at 11 PM to make him dinner.

He returned home around midnight just in time to shame me for serving what he called “crappy” dinners.
Oftentimes, he tossed it into the trash. Or he would thanklessly eat and rage about what a shitty Mom I was turning out to be.

I felt demeaned. Shamed. And so very afraid that the perfect, story book life I had would come tumbling down.

The worst was when he decided that I had broken some (unknown) rule of his. Then he would go days without speaking to me. Or the girls.

His most common solution if I dared speak up was… “maybe we should get a divorce….”

To which I would desperately beg and plead that I loved him and wanted to work things out.

At one point he got on a weight loss kick and dropped 200 pounds in 18 months.

His friends were now his cool gym friends. I was the fat, frumpy, and unlovable wife who he was stuck with.

I thought that if I got skinny, then he would finally love me. So I got skinny.

I worked out obsessively, often with a trainer. I restricted myself to less than 1000 calories a day.

At the end of the day I would usually arrive home, fill out my food log and realize I’d consumed less than 500 calories.

I made up the rest of my calories each evening with booze. Vodka mixed with sugar-free cranberry juice.

I reduced myself down to less than 12% body fat.

My trainer began begging me to eat.

Despite being ultra skinny, I couldn’t get him to love ME.

Rather than working harder on our marriage like I expected, he cheated on me with one of the aerobics instructors from our gym.

To add insult to injury, this was a woman who I saw socially and thought was my friend.

I was devastated. And embarrassed. And so incredibly desperate to be loved.

Then, I finally hit a breaking point.

My oldest daughter began harming herself.

She… so desperate to be the perfect daughter… began cutting.

I could no longer witness him shaming and blaming her for being an imperfect (yet smart, funny, and delightful) child.

When I discovered the cutting, that was the day I decided NO MORE.

It was one thing to feel as if nothing I ever did would ever be good enough. I didn’t have the gumption to stand up for myself. But it crossed a line when I realized I couldn’t protect my daughter from internalizing the inability to be perfect.

That’s what gave me the courage to decide I was DONE.

I began getting my ducks in a row: got my daughter into counseling, began putting a little money aside, and then the next time he blew up over some imagined infraction and suggested we should get a divorce, I said, “You’re right.”

I have never been so frightened in my life. And never so certain. It was time. For me, for her, for our family, and for our future.

Though I didn’t quite understand it back then, I was the victim of both emotional and financial abuse. Over time, he had isolated me from friends and even family until I had no one on my side.

He had a private bank account, saving money for his own rainy day. While I fed coins into the self-checkout at the grocery store to buy milk and hamburger meat, he had $20,000 in his bank account.

At the time, I was so grateful that self-checkouts existed because I was so embarrassed that I was having to feed pennies and nickels into the machine to buy food to feed my children.

That way, I didn’t have to be witnessed in that low and shameful moment.

THAT was who I was in 2004.

I don’t share that part of my story very often because the girl who so desperately wanted approval and love doesn’t really exist anymore.  And even sharing this with you now makes me nauseous.

What kind of weak ninny allows another person’s behavior to destroy her?

But that’s what happened. And the thing is, I didn’t love myself enough to leave.

But, what I did discover was that doing it, leaving him and the fear behind, for the sake of someone else led me to discover that I could never truly love anyone if I didn’t first love myself.

Because when you don’t love and respect yourself, you aren’t capable of being the kind of friend, daughter, wife, mother, or human you most desire to be.

It didn’t happen overnight, that’s for sure. But over time, I built a solid foundation of acceptance, gratitude, and unconditional love for ME.

That girl who sacrificed her dreams, her dignity, and her self-respect is now a ghost of the past.

Debra SmouseToday, I am a woman who wakes up feeling loved, secure, and happy.

My life will never be perfect. Yet, I have found the path to seeing beauty in ordinary living.

In the last fourteen years, I have gone from depleted, embarrassed, lonely, and miserable to a woman who wakes up and is excited about the day ahead.

Rather than being in a relationship where I am shamed, abused, and taken for granted, I am in a healthy relationship with a man who loves and values me.

I have learned to take a spark of desire and nurture it into a burning flame. And in that process, I have learned to be loving, compassionate, and patient with myself.

Because… shifting from feeling abandoned, shamed, and unlovable to true sovereignty and belonging doesn’t happen overnight.

It is from this space, though, that I created Finally Love Your Life.

Because if you’ve ever felt ANYTHING like I did, I want to help.

I became a coach to help people go through the process of creating a foundation for real, happy, lasting change.

Look, I don’t know what cosmic event happened to put you here with me right this moment. But I can tell you that I am incredibly grateful you’ve found me.

Whatever motivated you, to not just BE here, but to read through this nakedly honest love note to you, that is a whisper from the heavens.

Let that motivation carry you towards making real changes in your life.

Maybe you’ve become bitter and disappointed at how your life has turned out. So much so that you can’t find pleasure in anything. Maybe you see that people you love are hurting and you’re so depleted you don’t have the energy or courage to help them.

Maybe you used to be happy and content, but can’t seem to find the fortitude to do anything but simply exist.

Maybe, like me, you realized that for the sake of someone else, you need to change how you’re doing things.

Allow me to guide you along the path to a deeper, more fulfilling, and nourishing life. To discover what you truly need in order to love yourself the way you deserve.

Because if I can find the way, I know that you can, too.