Learning how to be audacious was something I developed in my mid-twenties. Childhood into my young twenties was anything but easy; I have overcome many obstacles along the way! Now in my thirties, I can reflect on my past, and be grateful for the life I’ve created.
Growing up, I was constantly mocked and shamed for my weight, compared to others in a way that told me I would never be good enough. With the perpetual abuse from my grandmother, it molded me into shy and apprehensive little girl that was afraid to be confident and courageous. She started me on diets around 8 years old, which lead to an eating disorder that lasted until I was 22. Managing my weight included starving myself, living on coffee, and abusing diet pills.
With having very little self-esteem, I was constantly craving love and affection. At 18 I believed I found it. OH BOY WAS I WRONG! I was introduced to a guy that would change my life forever. At first the feeling of “love” was truly amazing, I had those butterflies everyone was talking about. He made me feel like I was a princess in a fairytale. Since I was longing for love, I was blind to see the abusive, manipulative criminal that he actually was. Although he always promised he would never hurt me or get me in trouble—he lied! He kept me under his thumb by telling me “he was all that I had, no one else loved me, my family hated me, and that he would always find me.” Once the physical abuse started, I tried to leave multiple times but he would threaten me. Coming to know his erratic behavior, I took his threats seriously. Always reminding me that if I tried to leave, he would do unspeakable things to my mother and burn her house down. There were several other threats, but he knew that one scared me most, and I wouldn’t leave. The last time I ever saw him, and finally got away, was the day the police kicked in the door and arrested all of us. He was committing crimes in my car while I was locked away in a room. Ironically the abuse saved me from going to jail, but not enough to walk away without a criminal record. When the police brought me to the station I was wearing shorts and a tank top, my body was covered with bruises, which was documented in the police report. As they were taking pictures of my bruises they were fingerprinting me at the same time. I knew then my life would never be the same.
At this point, I went from being shy and timid to a full-blown introvert! Not wanting to leave my house or interact with anyone, I separated myself from social situations. At that time it didn’t matter so much because I lost all of my friends while I was dating that guy. After getting arrested they really didn’t want anything to do with me. Most of my time was spent working (thankfully my boss let me keep my job), worrying about court dates, and wondering if I was going to jail. I was so depressed and anxious. My world turned upside down because of “love.” Since the depression medications made me want to jump, I figured it was best to try something that always made me happy and social—diet pills. Slowly coming out of my shell and starting to interact with people was quite difficult. I was only interacting with people that also had hardships. I felt like they wouldn’t judge me.
After a few years, I could feel myself changing, becoming bored with the same ol’ routine, and wanting more out of life. The only problem was that it was really hard to make changes when you’re a felon. Craving something new in my life I started to look at schools, but admissions told me it was pointless because I would never be able to get a job. Receiving more bad news made me feel hopeless. I wanted to be happy, and one thing that made me happy was dancing, so I started to go to clubs every weekend. After a couple of years of alcohol and diet pills, I laid in my bed one night and felt my heart skip a beat, and another, and another. Laying there terrified, I whispered to myself "Holy shit you're gonna die… this has to stop.” The next day I started to look up ways to lose weight and detox naturally. I wanted all of the toxins out of my body and I wanted to be healthy—physically, mentally and emotionally! That search opened my eyes to so many forms of health and healing: organic foods/diet, herbal medicine, massage therapy, energy healing, yoga, and I wanted to learn about all of them… AND I DID!
After seeing an ad on TV for a massage school in the area, I decided to try again. I prayed for a miracle and a second chance at life. While sitting with the woman from admissions, I explained my situation. She kindly told that my record wouldn’t be a problem. As I sat there, tears of joy rolled down my face and into my lap. I knew my prayers had been answered! After graduating in 2006, I worked in a salon for many years building up my clientele. My dream was to eventually own a wellness center. In 2011, I moved from the salon and I opened my own massage practice. Currently, I’m rebranding into the wellness center I’ve always dreamed of! Holistic health changed my life!
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I was comfortable enough to tell my story. Life was going really well and I wanted to give back to the community. I felt a calling to help other women that are in abusive relationships. I contacted the Sojourner House and asked if their shelters needed anything. When the woman on phone replied with soap I knew I had to help out. I held a fundraiser collecting toiletries and was able to collect almost 2400 items for their shelter! The woman I was in contact with from Sojourner House asked how I heard of the shelter and I explained that when I was going to court many years ago the advocates always gave me their brochure. She encouraged me to talk to at their weekly meeting and share my story and that it’s far too common for women in domestic relationships to get arrested. WRONG PLACE, WRONG TIME, WRONG CROWD! She explained that I could inspire other women with my story. Showing them that there is life after an abusive relationship. Encouraging women to create the life they’ve always dreamed of!
I’m proud to say to that I found my courage and confidence even when the odds were against me. I’ve overcome the fear of walking into social situations and having to speak to people. I traded in starving myself for a healthier lifestyle, found romantic love in the process, and learned to give myself the love that I deserve!
Loren Mendozzi is the owner of L. Marie's Wellness, your destination in Providence for holistic treatments & workshops that feed your spirit and repair your body.