Strong Woman Spotlight: Angela Gardner
Every month, the Women’s Law Center aims to highlight a woman in the community who has overcome challenges, both legally and personally, to become a stronger woman. For the month of December, the Women’s Law Center is honored to feature Angela Gardner, a proud mom of two and successful careerwoman. Angela’s story is one of resilience and perseverance.
As a previous president of her family business, Angela was familiar with the legal system, but she really became acquainted with it when she decided to leave her husband of 18 years. Not only did she have two children with him, but they were also considered a power couple at the time with several profitable businesses together. Angela was facing emotional abuse, specifically gaslighting – a term used in psychology that means to manipulate someone into questioning their own sanity, and numerous other intermarital hardships. The divorce was not an easy one, but Angela knew it was the right decision for her and her children’s health. She was fortunate enough to have family who could help and support her through the two-year legal battle over everything from separation of debt, child support, alimony and custody.
While the legal battle was challenging in many ways, Angela began to heal through self-care efforts and education. A friend introduced her to FAVOR Greenville (Faces and Voices of Recovery) where she attended family support groups and even took it a step further and began to help others going through similar issues. She was able to give back and continue her own healing journey through this. Today, she’s involved in many other groups in the community like the Golden Strip Trial Board and the Women Construction Forum in Greenville, of which she is a co-founder. Being involved in many areas within the community helped Angela regain her confidence, build a new circle of lifetime friends, and allowed her to plug back in after her hiatus.
Angela’s journey taught her many different things about herself and the legal system and now aims to support other women going through similar battles. She compiled a list of items that helped her that which she wants to pass onto other women:
“A) My therapist taught me about how to get in touch with my body (a form of meditation) while in family court or at mediation.
B) I helped put together much of what my attorney used in my case which helped me to feel I was contributing.
C) I do not recommend isolating; instead, seek out friends (trust), get involved with organizations that can use your talents, make sure you are fulfilled in your career (it’s a big part of your life and support-system), and be okay with your journey no matter the path.
D) I lost everything, so I had to figure out quickly how to live without any nest egg. I got plugged into Compass of Carolina (www.compassofcarolina.org) for my children to receive counseling. FAVOR Greenville offered support for myself as a family member (www.favorgreenville.org). I signed up for food stamps and Medicaid. I had never had to use these benefits before, so it was a very humbling experience and opportunity for growth.
E) Ask for help! Throughout my lifetime, I had always made it a point to be there for others and never for myself and so I never learned how to ask for help. I saw it as a sign of weakness and that I would lose the respect I had worked so hard to build. I found out I was so off-base with this perspective. The folks that can help, will help.
F) Learn about Boundaries. The two books I read were: Boundaries and Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, respectively.
G) I read books about loving myself. A few Books I read helped with this: The Mindful Woman by Sue Patton Thoele, A Love Worth Giving by Max Lucado, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra, Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, Facing Love Addiction by Pia Mellody, and Codependent No More by Melody Beattie.
H) Never regret your past! Understand it and learn from it. The best thing I ever learned throughout this process is to “Live in the Moment” – not in the future, and certainly not in the past.
I) Find activities you like to do outside of work and family. For me it was yoga, hiking, being outdoors, doing a Mud Run (a first-ever for me) baking and cooking, and learning new skills. They say the best thing for depression (which I have had since childhood), is to take a walk in nature and to pay attention to all the trees (colors), wind rustling the leaves, birds chirping, and your breath (slow in-heals and exhales). I love hiking, it’s my time to replenish my good-vibes. My first hike was through and organized hike through FAVOR Greenville in January 2014 to Rainbow Falls, Jones Gap State Park. I highly recommend finding something like it.”
Angela hopes her advice will inspire women to seek the legal and mental counsel they need and show them that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. To truly love someone else, you must love yourself first. If you or someone you know is looking to take that first step in a legal battle, contact the Women’s Law Center at (864)-707-1111 to learn how we can help.