This is the eleventh profile in our Society Nine Storytellers series where badass female fighters across all sports, media and culture in our community share their definitions of femininity, strength and empowerment and discuss what they fight for.
Have a story to tell? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org – tell us who you are, a little bit about your journey and what you fight for – in life and sport.
When I was thinking of title ideas for this blog post I immediately thought of the Christina Aguilera’s song ‘Fighter’.
She emotionally sings about her triumph through pain, and the very last words in the song are “thanks for making me a fighter.”
The more I thought about it, the more they completely summed up the essence of my story. You see, I’ve always been a fighter, but I haven’t always been given credit to the difficult situations I’ve been through for making me one.
In 2008 I moved to Los Angeles from Sydney, Australia, in order to further my career as a TV host and pursue bigger opportunities. I also had a boyfriend at the time and my move to LA seemed coincidental to my burgeoning relationship.
I had met this man (who I won’t name, because this isn’t about him, it’s about me) in 2006, and the guy who I married in Feb 2009 was a completely different person to who I ended up divorcing in 2013.
When we met we were both in our mid 20s, full of hope, ambition, love, and youth. He had a tough upbringing living with a single mother who ended up being married multiple times to abusive men, and he also battled a serious drug addiction (which took on many iterations during our relationship).
Now that I can be honest with myself, I saw the red flags. I saw the complete breakdowns he would have back when we were dating over the simplest things. He had called me names, I brushed them off. It was love, wouldn’t you say?
When we got married, I was in the middle of applying for a visa, so that took all my focus. We were heavily involved as leaders of our church and no one cared to see how we were doing as a married couple along the way.
Cut to the end of 2011, I had had enough. Neglect of me and what I cared about, compounding addiction fueled by lies and secrecy, verbal and mental abuse which had obliterated my self-esteem and confidence, and money troubles had worn me down. I wanted out.
So I got out. But that wasn’t the end. I was told I was going to hell because I refused to stay in a toxic situation where I remained the emotional and verbal punching bag for a guy who refused to face up to his addiction. I was told by him and his parents they were going to report me to immigration for fraud, because I refused to continue to enable their drug addict son who they were in denial about. I was told if I ever set foot in my church again the pastoral team would all band together and kick me out – because how dare I, a woman, stand up for myself and demand change yet walk away if I don’t get it (just an aside: no one at my previous church ever made me feel like that, it was only a threat from my ex).
I was told I was going to get taken to court and sued for alimony because I had a TV job at the time and he thought he was owed half my salary so he could blow even more money on his filthy addiction.
I have no family in LA, only friends. It broke my heart to hear my parents crying over the phone all the way from Australia because they couldn’t protect me from what was happening.
I spent the entire year of 2012 waking up crying and instantly feeing depressed the moment I opened my eyes. My career the few years previous wasn’t exactly going anywhere great. I now see that my toxic living situation was the reason. I was basically waiting for a savior to come along, give me a phone call and say I had the job of my dreams. I had a few moderate opportunities here and there, and I had started to work on a blogging side project.
Every dollar I made went into the joint account I had with my ex husband, and every dollar I put in there was whittled away by his drug addiction, video game obsession and complete and utter disrespect of the fact that my family lived overseas and I might’ve liked to go and visit them from time to time.
He emptied out that bank account one day without me knowing, and that was the last straw for me. I started divorce proceedings. The first step is sending paperwork which includes a restraining order prohibiting him from doing anything harmful to me. My friend and counselor at the time, (who had been through the exact situation with her husband many years ago) gave me the idea to start divorce proceedings because it would make my ex do one of two things: recognize how serious I was about wanting change, or carry on the way he was proving that he doesn’t actually care about me.
Can you guess which one he did?
Eight months later, in February 2013, I was officially divorced. Just like that, no fanfare, no celebration, just gone…
He was physically cut off and gone from my life, the constant stream of abusive texts eventually stopped, the nasty emails from his parents to mine had stopped, and the threats had also stopped. But it was only the beginning of my journey.
I lost a lot of weight from stress and anxiety. I didn’t sleep very well. I started dating another guy who I don’t know how he stuck around even to this day because I was such a mess. I didn’t eat properly. I cried all the time. I didn’t take care of myself at all.
However, my finances started getting back to a place where I felt in control. My job opportunities improved. I started going to a different church and moved to a new city to start fresh.
I launched my website GirlTalkHQ.com in November 2012 and knew more than ever what my mission was with it. A few years earlier I had somewhat of an idea to create female-centric content online, but there was no purpose or passion behind it.
After going through a divorce and seeing so many other women in my life go through similar and other really difficult situations, I was really shocked at the lack of mainstream media content that catered to us. It was all about superficiality, Kim Kardashian, Real Housewives, fashion, beauty, etc etc. Where were the websites where real women could share their stories of pain in the hope that it brought solace to another? Where were the platforms that focused on positivity, encouragement and sisterhood, rather than competitiveness, bitchiness and hatred?
I realized more than ever what my goal was: to use my 10+ years of experience in the media to create something meaningful for women. I didn’t have a huge goal in sight, my aim was just to start and see where it goes.
It was the best decision I ever made. Slowly, as the months passed with this blog and I built it up to become the brand it is today, I recognized one key thing: none of this would’ve been possible had it not been for my horrible gut-wrenching divorce that I fought and clawed through to regain my sense of power.
But I also should say how blessed I feel that I got out relatively easy. Others are not so lucky. There have been many times I have pondered writing to my ex and giving myself closure, but I never know what I would actually say without dredging up the past.
I don’t think I will ever write to him, but right here, I want to publicly acknowledge that I am thanking not just him but my situation, and God, for making me a fighter. I didn’t go to court, I didn’t get taken for more money than what was in our joint account, I didn’t get deported, I am here living and thriving and believing I have a wonderful life ahead of me.
My focus today, while also on my career, is to take care of my health. One of the biggest things I learned was that stress catches up with you. I am 31 going on 32 and I have noticed the difference in my energy levels, my fitness, my skin, my hair, my eyes etc. My next big goal is to make health a priority because I cannot be a help to anyone else if I can’t help myself.
I never want to go through my divorce situation again. Ever. But I am thankful. I would not be the fighter I am without it. They say “smooth seas never made a skilled sailor”. I can 100% attest to that. So in the words of Christina Aguilera and songwriter Linda Perry who helped her write that iconic tune, “thanks for making me a fighter.”
Asha Dahya is the creator and current editor-in-chief of GirlTalkHQ. She started this women’s daily news website with strong, empowered millennial women in mind. After working in the media for over a decade in Australia, the UK and in Los Angeles (Disney, Fox, MTV, Nickelodeon, ABC, TV Guide, Myspace.com, MSN.com, Nine Network Australia, Fashion TV and more), she wanted to see more from what she was consuming on a daily basis. She realized there was a huge disparity in the way women were represented in the media compared to men, so instead of complaining, she did something about it.
Her passion in life is to use her platform for good: To inspire my generation of young women to live their best life possible. She believes media is the most powerful form of communication, and today we have the tools to each be creators, influencers and tastemakers in our social networks.
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Photos provided by Asha Dahya