Brittney Moses grew up in a home with loving parents. But their divorce in her pre-teen years upended the life she knew, and she fought to get by. As one struggle after another continued to pile on, her life became about simply surviving. This week on Overcome With Auntie Anne, I'm talking with Brittney about how she went from surviving to starting over, rebuilding, and beginning again.
Often with a New Year comes new beginnings. It's a great time to think about where and how we want to start over. And I believe Brittney's story will encourage you as you start this New Year and think about where you might want to begin again.
Listen to the podcast to hear my entire conversation with Brittney or keep reading below to catch the highlights.
Growing up in LA
Brittney was born and raised in inner-city LA. Her parents were Christians who were in love with one another and involved in the church as youth and young adult pastors. Brittney says she has fond memories of her childhood. But in her pre-teen years, her parents went through a divorce and things got difficult.
In the aftermath of the divorce, her parents, both broken and vulnerable, met other people who took interest in them. But these new people also turned out to be mentally, verbally, and emotionally abusive. And they became a part of Brittney's life too.
Because of this, Brittney's teenage years were difficult. "I was experiencing a lot of emotional and verbal abuse at my mom's house [and] psychological manipulation abuse at my dad's house with his wife It was every day, and I was walking on eggshells. I was living in constant anxiety and survival mode."
Brittney says that her stepdad most likely had mental health issues that went unaddressed, but it left him with an explosive personality that manifested itself everyday. And her stepmom was intent on severing the relationship Brittney had with her dad out of jealousy. Brittney basically spent her days just trying to get by and survive.
Trying to survive
The fallout of just trying to survive was great for Brittney. School became a way for her to escape the tenuous home life she was experiencing. But she wasn't mentally engaged with her work and didn't do well. Thankfully, she had a great group of friends and was involved at school in other ways.
But she struggled. "I struggled with self-harm for a time because I think I was starting to numb out of my situation, and I maybe physically wanted to feel something, or I don't know, was trying to express myself. Or maybe the pain was so built up and I didn't have the language or the space to really express it." She also struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts even though she feels she never really wanted to take her life. She was just very unhappy and miserable.
Over time she learned to suppress all she was thinking and feeling. She knew she couldn't change her situation, so she worked to survive.
Not surprisingly, Brittney left home when she was 16 and went to live with her grandparents.
She says being with them was wonderful, but their age kept them from being more hands-on than they probably should have been with a teenager navigating teenage life "and all the shenanigans that that involves."
Brittney says this put her in the perfect position to meet her son's father. "I was lost and broken and confused and adrift about my life at the time. I also didn't really have a foundation of faith." Her belief in God at the time was that of a "cosmic dictator," and so she kept her distance from the faith she had grown up with.
But she did spend a lot of time with her boyfriend and his family, and eventually, at 18 years old, got pregnant with her son.
Becoming a mother
Brittney was freaking out when she found out she was pregnant. She had no idea how she would raise a child, and she just wanted to be rid of the situation, so she went to Planned Parenthood to find out her options.
But when her son's father found out that she was pregnant, he embraced it and said they should definitely keep the baby. That assurance, coupled with a friend of hers who said, "I think you know what you need to do," gave Brittney the confidence that she needed to keep the baby. So she did. And it's the best thing that's ever happened to her.
In fact, having her son took her back to church. At first, it was just for him because she thought she was "too far gone for Jesus to save." But she wanted her son to know some sort of morality, and the church seemed the best option to provide that.
While there, though, she heard a message about God's arms always being open regardless of where you've been or what you've done, and if you let him love you, he'll work to change you. This re-opened the door of faith in Brittney's life, and she kept going.
But she was also living with her son's father at the time, and, wanting everything to be above board so she didn't feel like they were living in sin, felt they needed to get married. So they did--no formal wedding, no rings, just in a courthouse in Los Angeles. Looking back today, though, Brittney doesn't endorse that decision and doesn't believe her reasoning was one for getting married. But they tried to make it work.
Going through a divorce
For a while, they were a family and even moved to Texas to be on their own. Brittney vowed internally not to get divorced because of the situation she came out of with her parent's divorce. But even though her husband was a kind, loving, and respectful individual, he had an addiction problem, and it was affecting their life.
While in Texas, Brittney's husband lost his job, there was no money coming in, and Brittney was once again living with anxiety everyday wondering how it would all work out. Her husband did go to rehab, but over time decided "to go in a different direction with his life" and moved back to California, while Brittney and the baby stayed in Texas.
Brittney grieved the loss of her marriage but admits she didn't really process what happened. "I crashed because I wasn't facing my emotions. I wasn't dealing with it." She eventually fell into another bout of depression.
"I felt stuck. I couldn't see my future. I felt aimless. I felt like a failure I felt like I was constantly waiting for the sky to fall. Just this sense of dread, like all the time, because so many things had gone wrong in my life that I just felt like things were just going to continue to go wrong."
After some time, she decided to move back to California, back into her mom's house.
The slingshot effect
Moving back in with her mom felt like a step backward. "But," she says, "it really was like a slingshot those slingshot moments where it’s like, you’re being pulled back, you’re being stretched back. It feels like a step back, but it's really to launch you further. And that's what that was. It was taking a step back to get my foundation to rebuild, to get situated for the plans that God had ahead of me."
The first thing that happened was she secured a job doing content creation. It allowed her to work from home with her son while she was in the process of rebuilding. During this time, she also started to develop an interest in mental health. She got interested in psychology and was doing research on her own, so she decided to go back to school. She became learning-oriented, was learning more about mental health, and excelled.
And she started going to therapy to help deal with the anxiety she was still experiencing. It gave her an outlet to talk about all she had gone through with her marriage. She was also paired with a mentor, an older woman who gave her the encouragement she needed to keep moving forward.
Eventually, she met a new man named Jason, started dating him, and in April of 2021, they got engaged. And as far as her son is concerned, she says, he and Jason are great together. "I feel like I just get a complete second chance at life, and it's very redeeming."
Today Brittney is a mental health advocate. She's been an NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) certified support group facilitator and a text-line counselor. She aspires to encourage those who are quietly wrestling in the shadows by bringing mental health issues into the light and making them accessible and relatable. She also does "a lot of work at the intersection of faith and mental health, creating conversations mainly in the church, but also in the world and the community."
Brittney, you are so positive and full of life, a tremendous inspiration, and you have a lot to offer all of us. What an honor, joy, and privilege it's been to connect with you, to hear your story, and to know that you're going to keep moving forward and helping so many people. Wherever you go, you will be an encouragement.
If you'd like to learn more about Brittney, check out her website. There you can find all of her articles and updates, as well as links to her social media accounts and her Faith and Mental Wellness Podcast (which I’m a guest on!).
The post Overcoming a Constant Sense of Dread with Mental Health Advocate Brittney Moses appeared first on Auntie Anne Beiler.