The Real Life Spouse Stories Series is part of our Wellness Unfiltered™ program. It’s a platform for military spouses to share their struggles with tougher wellness topics in a Facebook Live series. They’re sharing these stories to help with their healing, open up conversations so other military spouses know that they aren’t alone, provide resources to people struggling with something similar, and to help the community know how to better help others who are going through difficult wellness issues. Below is an excerpt of Bree’s feature.
Bree Carroll is a wedding and event specialist, speaker, and coach who transforms spaces and hearts through authentic design and purposeful planning.
How have you been feeling as the national conversation has moved to racism after a horrifying string of deaths in the black community? How has your personal wellness been impacted?
These have been a rough few weeks. Acts of hatred have been captured for the world to see and finally they are not ignored as the African American community has simply had enough. I’ve personally gone through a roller coaster of emotions from sadness to rage to hope to pity. I have had to sensor the amount of media I take in that is showing the harsh realities of our nation 24/7. As if going through a pandemic wasn’t enough, we’ve been thrusted into a revolution on race to the point where the country was literally on fire. I’m a doer, so I felt compelled to act and advocate, while being aware that I can’t try to “fix it” all by myself. I’ve given myself time to cry and process my feelings. I’ve taken naps after being emotionally drained and have found comfort in using my voice and perspective to encourage anti-racism.
How can we as individual military spouses and as InDependent support you?
On Juneteenth (June 19th) at 8 p.m. EDT I’m hosting a Military Family Town Hall. This is an open discussion on race and the impact on the military family. I’d love for military spouses and InDependent to not only tune in, but continue the conversation in your homes, at your places of business and most importantly in your hearts. The real work to impact change starts within us.
Do you think the COVID-19 pandemic helped prepare the country to face the centuries old virus of racism in the United States?
I think COVID-19 forced us all to pause long enough to pay attention to some real issues and the injustice that has been going on for too long. It created a perfect storm that unveiled racial disparities in fatality rates, access to healthcare, and economic hindrances. It exposed the need for police reform and biases that we previously didn’t want to admit. At the same time it has given way to lite up voices of change like Black Lives Matter and local heroes in and out of uniform that are being the change this world needs.
What impact has social distancing had on military marriages and wellness?
Social distancing amplified the current state of couples. If couples were happy and thriving prior to COVID-19, they have been enjoying the time that the pandemic has given some of us back. If the relationship wasn’t built on a good foundation then those relationships are hurting and possibly on the verge of separating. Others are in the middle and really need resources to support their relationships. Those are the couples I sought out to help with the free Combat COVID Marriage Summit I offered in May, via my podcast and with future coaching offerings.
Tell us briefly where you are now in overcoming a tougher wellness struggle.
My coach always says that you don’t have to be a perfect ten. If you’re a five you can still help those that are ones to fours. I say that to say, I’m still on my journey of understanding that I am enough and deserving of love and fruitful relationships. Professionally, I have worked as a civil engineer for the USAF for ten years, I am the owner of a wedding and event planning and design business and podcast host on Hearts & Stripes. At the core of all these things I’m a problem solver, encourager, and connecter.
How did your story begin?
Many may know me by my accolades, degrees, or titles, but what many don’t know is that I struggled with having healthy relationships all my life. As a little black girl that was unsure of herself, I worked hard to leave the inner city struggles of New Jersey for hopes of doing and seeing more. I always had the pressure of working twice as hard, which was exhausting, but I figured it would be worth it. Still, I’ve known damaging relationship after damaging relationship, which started when I discovered my father was unfaithful to my mother. From there I was in and out of unhealthy relationships that left me having an abortion alone and in a depression all while hiding behind a mask and seeking success. Finally I found myself at my lowest point, being strangled by a man I’d planned to marry.
From that defining moment I realized that successful relationships require planning. I spent so much time stumbling through relationships and just seeing what happened, but I’m here to share that you should be working toward your “expected end,” just like you would if you were planning a wedding day. It starts on valuing yourself. From there you build healthy relationships, which is a key to being successful in your life. In marriage you should be aiming for a fulfilling and loving journey toward “death do us part.” That is why I am helping couples design their Marriage Bridge Blueprint.
How did being a military spouse affect your situation?
Being a military spouse saved my life. That sounds dramatic, but I know my husband was God sent. I started on a path of forgiving myself, valuing myself, working out, and in the right timing this handsome pilot walked into my life and was exactly what I prayed for. I think we knew by the second date (which I refused to call it a date at the time) that we would get married. I loved the challenges his service brought us because it made us grow closer together and allowed me to not only be his biggest cheerleader, but for both of us to be a team wanting one another to win and succeed.
Can you identify a turning point when you recognized you needed help? What led you to that moment?
In that two bedroom apartment in Texas I remember lying there looking up at the popcorn ceiling as tears rolled back to my ears as I was being strangled. Gasping for air and trying to fight back, I just knew that I wasn’t supposed to be there. I managed to say aloud, “I don’t see the God in you.” Really, that was the point that changed everything and my path to healing began. I had to start including God in my plan, accepting that I had greater value and that I was purposed for more. The journey started with a spiritual retreat called the Encounter where I forgave myself, events removed my abuser from my situation, I started eating better, working out, reading more. Looking back that was such a powerful time in rebuilding myself and I don’t think I truly knew it at the time.
What was the most difficult aspect of coping with this situation and how did you overcome it?
The most difficult aspect of coping with the situation was hiding the truth of what I was going through. I was working as an engineer and still wanted to be respected. Remember, I’m still the only African American woman so showing signs of weakness or not having it all together was a no no. I remember taking a stress survey at work that measured how stressed you are based on about twenty questions. It asked everything from “Have you experienced loss or death in the past 3 months” to debt questions and I remembered hiding the fact that I answered all but two affirmatively, which meant my stress level was maxing out.
What have you learned that has made a difference for you on this journey?
I’ve learned the value of community, relationships, and investing in yourself.
Who were your biggest supporters during this time? How were they supportive?
My church family was my biggest supporters. I’ve always been a spiritual person, but it’s not about religion, it’s about relationship.
How can our community best support you right now?
I love the work InDependent is doing. I think the focus on mind, body, spirit, and community are the same pillars that pulled me out of my lowest point. Continue to be a resource to our milspouse community because regardless of where we are in life we always have room to build upon those areas.
What are your sources of strength?
My strength comes from my purpose. I am passionate about serving “me” from nine to eleven years ago. In realizing the power in loving and valuing yourself you will start to attract things and people that you couldn’t before. In establishing healthy marriage relationships you can reach high levels of success.
What do you see the future holding for you as you move forward?
I see a future where I am changing lives. I’m launching my coaching program to serve more women and my program to set couples up for sustainable relationships based on their core values. If I can keep one person from going down the path I did or guide a couple to experiencing the level of joy and success I’ve had in my marriage, then it will all be worth it!
If a military spouse is going through this right now, where resources should he or she turn to for help?
I’d encourage them to listen to Hearts & Stripes podcast, where we focus on strengthening military marriages. Together we do the individual and collective work to create the life and marriage they desire based on their core values, while equipping them with resources to help them follow through.
Looking back, what is something positive that has come out of your experience?
My platform. It’s amazing how all my experiences have propelled me to this point, which I know has nothing to do with me at all. I’ve been positioned to help others and in sharing my story I hope to do just that.
Bree Carroll is a wedding and event specialist, speaker and coach who transforms spaces and hearts through authentic design and purposeful planning. With a background in civil engineering, Bree brings her brilliance of problem solving and eye for design to couples so they design a marriage even more beautiful than their wedding day. Uing her method, “Marriage Bridge Blueprint,” she guides couples through designing a marriage that celebrates their core values. As a voice in the milspouse community, she celebrates strong military marriages. On her nationally broadcasted podcast, Hearts & Stripes, she speaks on the power of relationships.
CONNECT WITH BREE