From Broken to Badass: A Personal Story


It’s not easy to do this, but I’m about to expose myself to people who, in many ways, admire me. Some of you reading this have known me for years and never known about my past, others have heard these stories and may have even lived through them with me. However, most of you are just now getting to know me and it’s hard to break down the walls and give you a glimpse of the damages that put me on this path toward confidence and self awareness. Yet as hard as this all is to admit, it’s something I owe to my readers and most importantly, I owe it to myself. Vulnerability, damage, and pain can lead to strength, survival and reinvention—I’m living proof of it. So I’d like you to hold your breath while I give you a glimpse into my past. Maybe a lot of what you’ve learned about me will finally make sense; maybe you’ll even begin to trust me more. Who knows.

The Breakdown

Boy A

When I was 15, I was with someone I shouldn’t have. On the outside, he was older, attractive, and rebellious; on the inside, he was borderline schizophrenic, depressed, and mildly violent. I don’t know how it happened—I’d assume I just kind of fell into it—but somehow, I acquired his caretaker role. His emotional and mental instability became my responsibility in the form of late night phone calls and deep, middle of the night conversations. It was my duty to be there for him and assure him I was his—that my devotion was genuine and that I would never leave.

I don’t know if you remember being 15, but if you do, you know it’s far too much of a responsibility for a girl that age who was just starting to define herself.

I began to detach emotionally and sexually, and resented him for taking me away from the life all my other friends were enjoying. I wasn’t allowed to see anyone if he wasn’t with me and he demanded my full attention, at all times. One night, I refused to sleep with him and when he guilted me into it, he forced himself on me. I talk about the events of that night in detail in my book, so I won’t rehash them here.

Boy B

I met Boy B while I was still with Boy A. It was easy to transition into my next relationship because I just pretended the rape  never happened. It was puppy love and it was euphoric. It numbed everything with the promise of a healthy, emotional relationship. Here I was, dating a really cute, popular guy—and he wanted me and flaunted me. For the first few months, I was on cloud 9; a pink, sugarcoated cloud of protection. I was in love, he was in love, and I was worth something again. 

He did it all. He showed up with flowers, surprised me with gifts, and wrote emo blog posts for the world to see. Within months, I was completely his and everything seemed perfect.

Until he’d get mad at me.

When he got mad at me or wanted to punish me in some way, he’d walk up to the first attractive girl and put his arm around her, right in front of me. He’d cancel plans with me to hang out with his girlfriends. He would purposely ignore my messages and leave me to go crazy in my worst assumptions. Suddenly the emotions of worthlessness started to resurface and I was left slave to a boy who emotionally abused me. Because, you see, it wasn’t that he’d just hurt me. After he tore my heart apart, he’d pull me close immediately after and tell me how much he loved me. I cried a lot; I even tried to hurt myself, but I was too much of a coward to use anything sharper than a butter knife.

I was completely lost in his high and he was my only drug dealer.

This went on for about a year or so and he ended up cheating on me with a bunch of my friends. When things finally ended, I was left broken.

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Chiara Mazzucco

Chiara Mazzucco

Chiara is the Founder and CEO of Indie Chicks, Inc. She's a published author of The 9 Mirages of Love, and is working on her second book, But First, Me. You can find out more about her by visiting her website, or can email her to get in touch.

  1. We are so alike on so many different levels. My background is very similar, only difference being my two relationships started when I was a few years older.

    Long story (short version for now)-I married the emotionally abusive guy, had kids, hit rock bottom, found the courage to leave him and soon after, met The Big Guy.

    Your courage, badass attitude and awesomeness gained from your experiences is amazing and inspiring. I promise to open up and share my story. You’ve inspired me. <3

    1. Suburbia, I can’t even begin to understand the strength to walk away from that and marriage, especially with children involved. Everyone has their story, and though mine happened when I was just beginning to define myself, every period in life comes with its own significance and added complexity; the strength is always the same.

      I am really looking forward to your story and the fact this inspired you means more than you’ll ever know. Thank you so much for reading.

  2. Your story is so redemptive! I started out feeling sorry for you, and loved how you left Boy B in the dust. As someone who also had to find their inner badass, one thing really stands out to me, and that is how Boy A took advantage of your nurturing, mothering side that was starting to emerge and it’s sooo easy to exploit. I think young girls should be warned about this! As for the heaps of abuse, geez I still cringe and have guilty feelings for accidentally knocking over a guys soft drink bottle at a football game 2 years ago. How people could abuse another so heartlessly is beyond me!!!!

    1. That’s such a good point, Sandy. A woman has caretaker and nurturer built into her genetics. When I realized what had happened, it was already too late.I felt he needed me so badly and that without me, he’d emotionally sicken and whittle into nothing. I was incapable of taking on that role in any future relationships – almost as if I had created a mental block to defend me from experiencing that pain again.

      I plan on raising my son to handle a woman’s heart with care; and if I ever have a daughter, she’ll be taught to handle her own heart with just as much care, if not more.

      Thank you for reading, Sandy :)

  3. As someone who has been there, done that, I have to applaud your courage for putting this story out there. I have also been in abusive relationships in my past, physical and emotional, and my self esteem was in the toilet for years. I buried myself in alcohol and drugs and really bad men. But, like you, I woke up one morning with two choices, end it all or start over. And like you, I chose to start over. The days I look back, and these days those are only glimpses, if at all, I wouldn’t change them. Hard as they were, they put me on the road to the place I am today and it’s the best place I’ve ever been! Thank you for being so candid and brave. It is more appreciated than you know. And more than likely, you just saved someone else.

    1. And….. I’m almost in tears.

      That morning comes for everyone. The moment when you sit up and something deep inside you almost DEMANDS action; like it screams for purpose or change or for you to just get up and stop being taken control of by the rest of the world.

      And my heart melts when I talk to women who have been there because that connection is so real. I know the pain you felt, I felt it too; I know the bad decisions you made, I made them too.

      I too look back, Sandy, and wonder.. If I could go back and undo the rape and those relationships, would I? I don’t think I would. Like you, I realize that though they were painful and felt like the end of the world, I know I wouldn’t be who I am today and I wouldn’t have created this platform, The Indie Chicks, for women to share these stories.

      Thank you for reading, Sandy.

  4. Thank you, for sharing your story! Reading this today has truly encouraged me to own the story of my life and share my journey as well. As a fellow women’s empowerment activist, I understand the need to be authentic when you have a calling to empower others. Our stories are our power! As we share our journey from pain to self awareness we give light and love to those who find a mirror in our stories and see themselves. When we share our strength and resilience through what seem to be insurmountable obstacles, it empowers other women to believe that they can do it too. Thank you for recharging me. I needed to read your words. I needed to see how much one women’s story can mean to another. This is awesome!

    1. Oh Ivy, thank you so much for this comment. Our entire website is devoted to empowering the self, and it’s hard to do without exposing vulnerability. In order to demand bravery from our readers, I knew I had to show them courage of my own. Lead by example, right?

      And the fact that it had such a profound effect on you, yet another amazing women’s empowerment activist, means the world to me. I am so glad this post recharged you and I can’t wait to see the magic you unleash thereafter! Thank you for reading, Ivy.

  5. This is a great post! Thank you for opening yourself up and telling us about that part of your life. Every day can be a huge ordeal when dealing with the emotions of abusive relationships. Even when you get away from the person hurting you, the aftermath can be just as hard. You give me courage to fight off my own past.

    1. Rene, you have no idea how much those words mean to me, to hear that these words can give you courage. Once I reached that person I wanted to become, I put the pain in the back of my mind and for a long time pretended it no longer existed. It wasn’t until recently that everything kind of reblossomed.

      The reality is, all of our experiences in life will always be with us. Healing and growth come from the ability to become self aware and to embrace those experiences for what they are: a part of us.

      Thank you for reading.

  6. You are amazing, Chiara, just for who you are and how you’re battling your demons and sharing this with all of us. You’re a true badass inspiration and I’m so glad that you found me and that I know you. :) I’ve been sharing bits and pieces of my past and writing about it is therapeutic and much needed for my own closure. I will have a big post soon. I wanted to post it much sooner, but the writing part was and still is difficult. It took some time to have piece I was comfortable with.

    Thank you for sharing these words with us. You show that you can rely on your inner power to make a difference for yourself and in other people’s lives.

    1. Therapy is almost a subjective term for us writers, TJ. I’ve wanted to write this for so long and in many ways, I could have written it many times. The fact I felt the need to expose myself to people who I was preaching to was the final push into vulnerability. That inner power doesn’t exist without the external world. I have you and the rest of our Indie Chicks to thank for being that world for me to step into. Thank you for reading.

  7. Chiaraaaaaaaa!

    Reading parts of this made me feel like I was reading my own words and I’m sure many girls will feel that way too. I’ve had people ask me why I’m not hooked on drugs, a prostitute, etc. since my past is so broken and I tell them– because I refuse. Because I promised myself a long time ago that I would only let my past shape me, not define me and that I was going to achieve everything I’d ever dreamed of as well as the things I haven’t dreamed of yet.

    You are exactly the right person to tell other women that may be in various stages of badassery why they should keep going, why the journey and the pain is worth it and how sweet the rewards are on the other side.

    If we were all goodie two-shoes that never had issues growing up or through our lives, we’d be the completely wrong people for anyone to admire. Thank you for sharing and thank you for being you. <3

    1. I think so many of us went through something that tested our strength and self definition. We grow from the challenges we face, the pain we endure, and the wounds that cover our past. So much of that is in this magazine, from all of us, that its the only way we could rightfully guide other women toward the same strength.

      I love that your past is what it is, and I knew it the second we shared across the table at brunch. When you live through things like that, women have the ability to connect for ever and admire one another through thick and thin.

      Which means, you were the perfect addition to our team.

      Thank you so much for your comment and for bringing your own inspiration onto our website. I am so looking forward to our trip, it’s not even funny.

  8. I’m so proud of you for sharing this Chiara, I’ve seen you make these incredible changes in your life it’s inspiring. Having known you for over ten years I can’t wait to see what’s next! Xx

    1. Your comment means the most. You were there through everything, Renee. EVERYTHING. I’m seriously so close to tears right now just being so lucky to still have you in my life. After all the darkness we’ve shared, through everything, I don’t know how but we always found each others hands. UGH… WATERWORKS.

  9. Thank you for this, Chiara. I can relate to this post in many ways, and unfortunately, I know that many other women feel the same way. However, we find strength in each other’s pain, in each other’s commitment to move forward. We bond through our experiences, sharing that we’ve been through some tough shit, and that yes, we will get through this – someway, somehow. I went through a dark phase in my life where there didn’t seem to be a future. It’s easy to get bogged down by all these painful, broken moments and memories. It takes guts, courage, and badassery to lift yourself up – and I love that you shared this side of you with us. My past will always be with me, and it certainly has had its hand in shaping who I am today. But the past doesn’t have to hold us back, and instead, we can choose to grow from it. Dealing with the pain and its aftermath (and oh, the aftermath can be costly), recognizing its role in who you are, and then moving on from it is the definition of self-awareness and strength. This was one hell of a post, and I’m so glad you wrote it. You never know who you may be helping, for we often feel isolated in our experiences. Simply knowing there is another person out there that has been through what I’ve been through and has come out on the other side – alive and stronger – gives a tiny sliver of hope that we can survive, too. And sometimes, hope keeps us going.

    1. It takes a lot to take the past and mold it toward growth… It’s ALWAYS a journey just to get to that point. When I wrote the details of the night in my book, the day it went on sale I had someone email me, crying, thanking me for sharing because almost the same exact thing had happened to her. Because she initially agreed to the sex, she never labeled rape. When she saw me put the word down on paper, it just pushed through these brick walls she had built of denial. It was a pretty crazy email and I still keep in touch with her. It’s just wild… and I guess building a platform like The Indie Chicks forces me to use it as much as I can. Like, I don’t have an excuse for not sharing anymore.

      You already know how much I admire you for everything you’ve experienced and shared and for all the tweets we just had this morning. Ugh. You’re amazing.

  10. Chiara. I just want to hug this little girl and tell her what a strong and inspiring woman she will become. Thank you for opening up your heart and telling this story. I have goosebumps. You are a brave, strong and awesome woman!

  11. What an excellent story. I was a badass back in the 70’s and can so relate to a lot of what you said here. I get so upset when I see and hear women who stay with a man who is so debilitating to them. They have the power within them and yet don’t utilize what they were born with. Inner badass ability!!

    1. It so hard though, Barb. When you fall in love, you become vulnerable to everything.. And the problem with abusive relationships isn’t the push factor, it’s the pull. It’s every time they hurt you, they’re the ones who seemingly mend you. I’ve guided a lot of people out of abusive relationships and it is the hardest thing in the world, which is why I even wrote a book about it : the delusions and the wishful thinking.But that’s what the indie chicks is here for! Proof! Help! Guidance! Support! Flashlights to shed light on that inner badass ability! Thanks for reading :)

  12. As I’m reading this, it occurred to me just how close hits. I’m currently in the exact same situation with two individuals. I feel I need them every minute of the day, never leaving my thought to be happy n ok. at the end of the day, its the exact opposite, left wondering and lonely. Thank you for sharing . Now I know I’m not alone. The wake up call I need to bring the badass chick out of me of me and know my worth. Your the greatest!

    1. Ah, Christine! I totally know what you mean, that feeling of needing to be defined worthy by other people is a feeling much too familiar. It hurts.

      But whenever you rely on others to define you, there will always be a void because no one is guaranteed to stick around forever – even the people we love most. That’s why definition needs to come from the self. From deep down within. That way you can lock it up and take it with you where ever you need it.

      I love the fact that my strength – i.e. my little badass – is inside me. No matter where I am, I tap into her when I need her.. and she’s ALWAYS there for me!

      Thank you so much for reading, relating and for commenting.

  13. Holy sheeshos! Heavy stuff. My favourite part was when you decided to drop-kick your misery in the balls and not just move on, but move UP! Just like you did, I’ve realized that the things in my life that I thought I couldn’t control, I can TOTALLY control. I just need to make up my mind, get the plan together and have the resolve to do it. It’s all you, all day. Well said and inspirational!

    1. Definitely heavy stuff, Wanderings. I think everyone has their version of it in their past and I also think you’re spot on: You will wake up one morning and have to make a decision. It’s only when you realize it’s your decision to make that you start rebuilding and gaining that control again. It’s easy to let things take over your life, it’s hard to fight to regain that strength to rebuild. Thanks for reading!

  14. I thank my lucky stars daily that I was never in a relationship that was like this, romantically. I’ve been in verbally and physically abusive friendships but those don’t break you down quite the same way that loving somebody romantically and having them turn on you does. I read your story, and the comments of so many women who experienced something similar, and my heart just breaks.

    You are the women today not because of those men but in spite of them. They didn’t make you who you are today, YOU did. You determined how those situations would shape you and you chose to rise above and kick some ass. I’m more proud of you today than I’ve ever been and that’s saying a lot because I wasn’t sure that was possible.

    I’m so thankful there are women like you who are brave enough to open up and share these stories and provide inspiration and safety for women who have been suffering in silence and not moved on the way you have. I am so proud of our magazine today for housing a piece like this that allows that kind of discussion. I’m blessed to know you and call you my friend.

    1. :) Don’t you dare make me cry, Julie-cakes.

      I think back and really, as hard as it is to say, I wouldn’t undo any of it. You’re right in saying I played a role in HOW those relationships would shape me, but no matter how hard I fight – and you know this well – I am still dealing with the repercussions. Having to fight to stand back up took me and threw me so far out of my comfort zone that I reached places I would have never reached without that trauma.. And it’s hard not to have a bit of a love/hate with the violent manner in which it was done.

      Thank you for your continued support, not only here on staff but as a friend. You have become such a trusted source for me to curl up and run to in times of need that I really don’t know what I would do without you.

      Well, without you on the IC I know the entire magazine would come crumbling down… but you know know what I mean. <3

  15. So glad that you started believing in yourself, Chiara, and earlier than later.

    For some of us, like myself, we don’t realize that we can be independent badasses who deserve to be treated the same way we treat others–with respect, kindness, and thoughtfullness–until we are well into our adult years.

    I’m afraid to say that I spent many years modeling a lack of strength for my daughter, but as they say, it’s never too late to teach an old dog/woman/man new tricks… 😉
    Thanks to you and the IC for having the courage to break down those barriers…

    Yours in healing…

  16. [email protected] says:

    Thank you for sharing your story! You were very brave . I went through a bad breakup before. It was horrible. It was the first time, my heart was broken.
    I thought I would die. I pushed through. I joined a gym, I am happier without him.
    This makes me feel that I am not alone.

  17. Holy cow, this story is awesome! Lately (as in “Ever since I got fired last year”), I’ve been bemoaning the loss of my past badass. She was weird and awkward, but she didn’t let anything stand in the way of what she wanted!

    Somehow over the past decade, she disappeared. (Very long story; not going into it now.) I’ve been trying to get back to her…without success. Reading about how you created the “perfect” you and actually PRACTICED her every day is inspiring! It also makes me realize I need to let go of my old badass (who was kind of an idiot anyways), and create a new one to emulate!

    (Oh the inspirations that come at 4 in the morning! lol)

    1. Ha! My inner badass changed throughout the years; she grew just like any other personality would; she made mistakes, she fell in love and she lived and she learned. I love that you’ve been missing her though! Because it’s really not like you have to bring HER back… you get to bring her back and dress her to complete the person you are today, not who you were then.

      The practicing part was seriously the toughest. But it made me ask myself, how bad do I really want it? What matters more, to be uncomfortable now or go back to being that, back tracking on all the hard work i’ve done?!

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting, LA. And get that little badass back up and into your arms!

  18. Thank you so much for this article! I recently just broke up with a boyfriend I lived with who had serious mental issues, and would take his anger and frustration out verbally on me. He hated my friends, didn’t want me involved with things that were my passion, etc. But there was always that loving side and all the sweet things he would do. I finally had to call it quits because I didn’t feel like myself anymore. I am now happily living alone, following my passions, and enjoying the small things in life and reconnecting with old friends.

    I’m glad you got out of those relationships, and got outside your comfort zone, and become who you are now. Gotta be happy with yourself!! :) I’m absolutely obsessed with this site by the way…it’s helped me a lot lately!

    1. !! First of all, that means the fucking world to me, Delcers. I’m so glad the IC has managed to be that for you. It makes all the work we put into this worth it.

      Secondly, it’s really crazy reading your story because it literally sounds like boy A to a tee. It happens so slowly and with a constant state of push and pull.. it feels like it hits you right between the eyes when you realize the weird feelings you’d been having about your relationship were all adding up to be real. And the fact you called it quits, girl, damn.. I respect you for it because it is HARD. But I am so happy to have you b apart of this community for the mere fact that these are marks of a genuine badass.

      Thank you for reading, Delcers.

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