kids

"I was forced to leave an unhealthy relationship with my three-month-old baby."

Twelve years ago, I found myself alone with no job, and emotionally fragile with my three-month-old baby boy.

The unhealthy relationship I was in with the father of my son had broken down. Having moved to Brisbane only a few years earlier, I was away from most of my close family and friends, so I was left to raise my baby on my own.

And all the while, I was experiencing emotionally abusive behaviour. It included repeated humiliation, name calling, and blaming – and eventually it affected my health and wellbeing and I lost significant weight.

For years I would cry myself to sleep. I felt so deeply low, I couldn’t face another day.

But I knew I had to stay strong for my little boy. Every day I would get myself out of bed and keep fighting to stay afloat.

signs of unhealthy relationship
Nicole and her son. Image: Supplied.

Building my business, Miss Henry Boutique, was my saviour. The thought of launching a fashion boutique and styling business with a young baby, and in the vulnerable state I was in, was petrifying – but it became my distraction, my outlet, and my passion.

I worked seven days a week, with my son often in store, to make ends meet. I wanted to build a business and a life for my son I was proud of.

It’s been a hugely challenging road – and there were so many times I thought I can’t do this any longer. The financial and emotional stress from raising my son, building the business, while enduring emotional abuse – meant I suffered anxiety often.

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But it’s been an incredibly grounding and humbling experience, and it’s been critical to rebuilding my confidence.

signs of unhealthy relationship
"It’s been an incredibly grounding and humbling experience." Image: Supplied.

Every day I get to see how women feel completely transformed. The joy I get from styling women from all walks of life, who thought they could never wear certain brands, cuts or styles, but who leave my shop, and still visit me years later, loving the way they feel in those pieces, is what gives me so much joy.

I see just how empowered, creative and alive they feel in them. And it eventually gave me the confidence to stand up for myself.

In 2016 I realised I could survive anything life could throw at me and I didn’t have to tolerate abuse and be a victim.

I applied for and was granted a domestic violence protection order by consent without admission.

From that point on, the abuse stopped. My experience living through and surviving abusive behaviour has made me stronger and empowered.

signs of unhealthy relationship
"My experience made me stronger and empowered." Image: Supplied.
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For me, being empowered through fashion and building my business and finding purpose in what I do to support my son – helped change my life, and it’s something I want to help others feel too.

And while I’ve worked hard to build my business and keep us on our feet, I know there are many other women out there who’ve faced these kinds of complex relationship issues, who often don’t have the same positive outcomes.

Hearing from survivors of domestic violence through charities we support – like Mangrove Housing and Mother of Boys – it doesn’t matter what world you come from – it can significantly impact you.

In the lead up to International Women’s Day, I wanted to share my story – and show how often finding your passion or ways to help rebuild your confidence, can be key to your survival and thriving after these challenging situations.

But importantly, I encourage any woman suffering from domestic violence or abusive behaviour to seek assistance from the many incredible people and organisations out there who can help you escape or get the support you need.

Miss Henry Boutique is a Brisbane boutique in Paddington, which now stocks more than 30 leading and breakthrough Australian and international labels – including L'agence, J-Brand, Sass and Bide, Camilla and Brisbane jewellery designer Christie Nicolaides.

Founder, Nicole Byrne is also a leading Brisbane stylist, dressing women throughout Brisbane and across Australia including leading influencers and celebrities.

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