Today’s guest blogger is Wholistic Woman Retreats member Tiffany Richardson. Tiffany is a 2018 scholarship recipient and writes about her life experiences and how she came to find our 2018 Be Creative retreat. Welcome, Tiffany! We are so happy you found our community!

Earlier this year, someone told me about Wholistic Woman Retreats and how they meet once a month during dinner time. We talked about it briefly and then the topic was never brought up again.

However, I was so interested in learning more about it that I Googled it and found the website. As I was scrolling down to look for future retreats, the words “Be Creative” caught my eye.

You see, I used to be so creative. I wrote many short stories and I shared them with family and friends who enjoyed reading them. I told hundreds of stories using sign language in front of an audience who kept asking for more. I even sang songs in ASL at my Deaf church. I was in theatre arts at my church, at my college, and once for a community theatre company in Houston, Texas. I used to draw all the time.

All of that stopped almost 25 years ago. Why?

My mind was blocked. I couldn’t get it to open up. I did attend a couple of those “Paint with Wine” events, but I wasn’t painting with my own creativity or my own ideas. I was painting by following the instructor’s steps and all of the six ladies who were there had the same image as the one I painted. It wasn’t unique as if it had come from my own creative juices. It’s like coloring a picture that has numbers to indicate which color that specific spot had to be.

So what happened 25 years ago? I went into full survival mode without realizing it or even knowing that specific term. I was in an abusive marriage with a man who was a classic narcissist. I mean, if I were to read an article about what a narcissist abuser is usually like, I would find myself nodding because the characteristics matched.

When our daughter was only eight weeks old, I called the police because my husband was threatening to kill me that night and he was so angry that his whole body shook with both hands shaking too. I knew that my baby and I weren’t safe there – we never were – but that night he couldn’t control himself. I left him without looking back.

However, he did almost everything in his power to try to destroy me and to take custody of our daughter. He harassed me to no end for ten long years after I left him.

My daughter is now 18 years old. We haven’t seen him or heard from him for eight years now. I took care of her by working two full-time jobs when I first left him. I realized I couldn’t afford to keep the roof over our heads, so I took on a third job, but it was only part time teaching ASL at a community college two nights a week. I lived paycheck to paycheck for 18 years. I struggled to keep my head above the water.

There were times when we had to live with strangers because the other option would be to go to a homeless shelter. We used to get our food from the food bank or use food stamps.

But we finally got an apartment of our own in 2012, with just the two of us. I’ve managed to stay afloat since then. I used the food bank for the first three years since moving to that apartment.

By 2015, things started to look better for us. I still am living paycheck to paycheck, I still struggle, but I do see hope because I’m still recovering and yes, it is taking a long time for me to heal.

I remember when I saw a video of a strong Deaf woman teaching self-defense to Deaf women all over the world. I asked her if she would travel to our city. In my email to her, I wrote that I wanted to learn self-defense because I was a victim of domestic violence.

Know what she said?

“Tiffany, you are not a victim anymore. You are a survivor!” 

That was so empowering for me. I saw myself in a new light.

Being a victim is so dark for me, so when I was finally able to say “I am a survivor,” things began to look brighter. With that said, I don’t want to be a victim anymore. I don’t want to be in survival mode anymore. I want to thrive and live to my fullest potential, whatever that is.

This is why I was interested in Wholistic Woman Retreats and I want to go to ALL of the events!

When I saw the Be Creative event I told myself, “This is it! This is how I will start my journey of shifting from my survival mode to my new way of living by thriving!”

I was getting so excited as I read the description of the event. I searched for the “register now” button and when I did, I was dismayed to see the price. I really wanted to go, so I searched to see if there were anything like a scholarship.

Of course, when I saw that there was one, I was overjoyed and I applied right away.

I don’t really remember everything that I said in the application, but I do remember saying that I understood or thought that for a woman to be wholistic, she would need to grow and develop some kind of harmony with her heart, mind, spirit, and body, and that it is a process that will require time, patience, practice, and lots of support from other women. I wanted to do that and I also wanted to thrive!

Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to attend the “Be Creative” retreat!

Since the retreat, I’ve been drawing, writing, and even dreaming again. I am so grateful for this wonderful opportunity to participate the retreat with you all!