Tanya Brown: My Story

My story begins in the summer of 1994. On the night of June 12th, my sister, Nicole Brown Simpson, was murdered. My pain was indescribable and insurmountable. Because of the notoriety, it became difficult for me to go through the normal grieving process. I stuffed my emotions and remained quiet. I became a master at concealing my feelings.

My life took a detour and was not working out the way I wanted it to. I wanted to go out and speak on Domestic Violence and inspire souls, but I guess God wanted me to heal myself first. I had not known this at the time. Later I came to realize that not only did I lose my sister, I lost myself.

Photo courtesy of www.beccaclason.com

That was confirmed in 2004. I was to be married and shortly before the big day, my ex-fiancé cancelled the wedding. I became so clinically depressed that I found it impossible to even get out of bed. My body went into survival mode that I was physically affected and found myself unable to move. Every joint locked up and prevented my body to move. I literally was paralyzed. It was as though every nerve in my body was exposed and the wind was constantly blowing on me. This was the most excruciating pain I have ever felt in my life.

Little did I know that this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. All of the emotions from Nicole’s death that I had stuffed deeply inside now came pouring out of me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was exactly the trigger I needed in order for me to grieve properly and to finally face my pain.

For one month I became self-destructive. I drank heavily and I was horribly angry. I had always been a happy girl who lifted people out of despair. Now, I was in that space. I did not know what to do. I had no coping skills to tap into.

Then on October 9, 2004 all of the “STUFF” that I had suppressed for 10 years exploded in one evening. I held nothing back. On that evening, I found myself alone in my bedroom holding pills in my hand. I just wanted the pain to end. I experienced too much loss in my life and I just wanted the pain to go away. But there was a part of me that prevented me from taking the next step. I knew I was here for a greater good. I knew I had love in my life. Thank God I paused.

The next day, my sister Dominique asked me, “Are you ready?” I said, yes. I knew exactly what she was talking about. I needed a safe place because I knew I could hurt myself and maybe others. Before I knew it, I was in the care of South Coast Medical Center’s Behavioral Health. The in-patient and out-patient programs saved my life.

I was more of a student of the program than I was a patient or victim of circumstance. I was attending The University of Life. There was not one class or assignment that I missed. I did all the Self Work.

I learned the necessary cognitive tools to regain life skills and coping strategies to live a productive life. After 10 days of being an inpatient student, I began immediate treatment in the outpatient program. I was so frightened to be discharged but I new I had to learn to survive in the outside world. The center was the only place where I felt safe and most productive. It was a place to cry and divulge the secret anger and pain that was festering inside of me.

The out-patient program was my classroom for the next two months. Everyday I sat as a student absorbing all the information I possibly could. My Occupational Therapist gave us homework assignments every day and every week. Week-by-week we would have to establish daily and weekly goals. One of my goals was to get out of bed. Then my goal was to make my bed. Another goal was to drive myself to the program. When I did drive for the first time, I was so anxious, scared and insecure to be behind the wheel of a car. Remember, I was paralyzed.

I had to re-learn everything. I literally had a clean slate. This all may sound so silly, but when you are so depressed it is impossible to do the simple things. I was given problem solving worksheets that allowed me to see what my successes were for that week and what roadblocks we encountered. In other words, the program gave me tools to create a healthier, safer and more balanced life.

I created a binder for all of my school work. To this day, I still refer to it for myself and for my coaching clients.

Having the necessary tools prevents relapse on many different levels. This experience gave me the tools, skills and strategies to help me get through the stressers of life. If an event happens, it is our response that determines our outcome. So, I have learned to pause, digest, respond and not react.

From this experience I resumed my education at Argosy University in Psychology specializing in Cognitive Behavioral and Existential Therapy. I am pursuing my Masters in Psychology as we speak.

Included with domestic violence prevention, I am excited to announce that this experience is another focus in my speaking and life coaching business. I want to prevent others from going through what I went through. Sadly, many people fall into depression and experience anxiety. There are tools for change that can help prevent this distress.

Tragically, many follow through on their suicidal ideations. I am a fortunate one. But, there are many who are not as fortunate.

I desire to educate, inspire, motivate and create a comfortable forum for others to share so they don’t have to experience despair of its largest magnitude.

This is preventable and is manageable.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story. I hope to help you &  save lives.

I invite you to reach out and visit my website for coaching, speaking and workshop services at www.tanyabrown.net.  You are not alone on this journey.
Huge Hugs

Tanya

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  • Lisa O’Connor

    Powerful story Tanya. So glad you are here with us today and open to sharing and giving of yourself to help others.

    • Thank you do much Lisa. Who would’ve thought I’d be serving others with you and Neil. Love it. Hugs

  • Patricia Kolstad

    My dear Tanya,

    Your story is so compelling. . . your journey to renewal and peace is incredibly inspiring. As a nation watched the aftermath and horror of your sisters murder, I couldn’t imagine how your family would ever survive. You, dear one, have revealed the raw emotion that encompassed your life and your soul. You are truly a survivor in the deepest sense of the word. Your road to recovery, however long and frightening, has brought you to a place of healing, health and happiness. Your discovery of the gifts that God has blessed you with is so very encouraging. God’s grace and goodness is revealed in you, and, I believe, has given you the strength and power to survive that deep, dark hole.

    Tanya, you are a light to others. A beacon of hope that shouts “You matter . . You are worthy . . . You can survive this!” Thank you so much for your inspiration, your soul bearing, and your gift to others. Thank you for what you are doing to save those who feel lost and hopeless. Your message rings loud and clear! May you continue to speak out and send that message to the masses! Continued blessings to you and your dear family.

    Lovingly,

    Pat Kolstad
    O’Connor Mortuary

    • Wow! Thank you so much Pat. It warms my heart just knowing I’m reaching people in need. I truly appreciate your very kind words. It’s been a rough road and still is at times, but I have tools that help me get through. I can’t wait to lift people up. Thank you for the opportunity to share.
      Huge hugs

  • Carrie Bayer

    Tanya, thank you for sharing your story- it is so powerful! Welcome to the O’Connor Mortuary blog team, it’s so nice to have you. Carrie

    • Thank you so much Carrie. Excited to be a part of the team.
      Huge hugs

  • Anne Collins

    Tanya,
    Thank you so much for guest blogging. I started working at the mortuary right after this terrible tragedy and everyone here at the time expressed so much love for your family and for your loss. It made it so much more real and personal than the tabloids and sensationalism that can be so damaging and hurtful.
    We all know people who could benefit from your journey and your ability to connect, nurture and guide others out of the dark place you have lived for too long.
    May you find great purpose and comfort in helping many others find their way up to productive, purposeful lives.
    I am so glad you are out there and was inspired by your words.
    Hugs,
    Anne Collins

    • The O’Connor Mortuary made a very sad and scary moment a bit more comfortable. It was Neil that encouraged me to say goodbye to my sisters body to have the closure a person in grief needs. It was the most difficult thing I had to do, especially hearing screams from my sisters in the wake room. The O’Connor family took good care of us and of Nicole and for that I’m forever grateful. Huge hugs

  • Karilyn Leslie

    Tanya,
    Thank you for your inspiring words. An entire nation if not world grieved with your family when Nicole was taken away from you. God bless you for bearing your soul and shinning a light into such darkness.
    Welcome again, to the O’Connor family!

    Kari

    • Thank you Karilyn.
      We received so much support from the world. We will forever be grateful.
      Thank you for welcoming me.
      Huge hugs
      T

  • Kori Kolstad

    Tanya,
    I am deeply touched on a very personal level to your story. Though I do not know the agony of losing a sibling to such tragic circumstances, I do understand how pain can trigger a spiral downward to a hopeless place. Treatment is such a hope-filled place. While reading your words I can’t help but feel a kindred connection to what you experienced through your spiral upward and the continuous journey you are on now. Thank you for sharing your story. I am thankful that you will continue to do so. There are so many out there who need the inspiration that you can give to pull them out of that dark and hopeless place. God bless you.
    Kori

    • Hi Kory,
      Sorry for delayed response. I appreciate your words. I am finally ready to share my story and offer comfort for those who are in need. Simply allowing others to know they are not alone speaks volumes.
      Thank you so much.
      Huge Hugs
      T

  • Jeff

    Hello Tanya,

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am always hopeful for the family members of tragedies of this magnitude, that they will have as smooth a transition as possible through what is obviously going to be a difficult journey at best. After reading this brief account of your story, I have come to realize that my “hope” has served to comfort me in an unrealistic way. The pathology of avoiding or missing out on real grief, as the circumstances of world wide attention had on you, can be immense.

    I am thankful for your transparency, honesty and fulfilling the purpose of “transformation” of the soul, which is ultimately for the benefit of others. It is in the sharing of the depth and scope of your experiences where the power is released for others to take heart.

    Blessings upon you as you continue this journey. I would guess that you would tell us that you are further along now in it and in a better place, but have yet to “arrive”. There is encouragement to my “hope”, in your story. The “someday happily ever after” scenario is what I would have wished and prayed for for you. But the ten years in the desert have brought you to where you are. I believe that is ultimately better for all of us as we listen to you now.

    I still wish for you a “happy ever after” life,

    Jeff

    • Hi Jeff,
      Oh, the journey is never over. Life constantly shows us obstacles and it is up to us to turn them into opportunities; difficult to see at times, but with an open heart one can experience joy again.
      Beautiful words.
      Hugs
      T

  • Shayna Mallik

    Tanya,

    Thank you for sharing your story. You and your family have been thru so much. You are an amazing women for sharing this tragic time in your life. I am so grateful you are here to let us into your struggles and how you over came them. Everyone is lucky to have you to help them thru hard times in their life. Once again thank you for sharing, this is so powerful.

    Shayna

    • Ahhh, you are sweet Shayna. I plan on sharing it with as many people as I possibly can. Just need To get out in my community and do so. Thank you for the encouragement.
      Huge Hugs
      T

  • Diane Kopylow

    Tanya,

    After reading this I am in awe of your bravery and willingness to share such a difficult experience and time in your life. Your honesty will speak for countless others who are in need of understanding and seeking answers when not knowing where to start that process. It is obvious your own being has been validated by your journey of recovery and success. God bless you for sharing.

    Diane

    • Hi Diane,
      I firmly believe we can change and heal lives by being as authentic as we possibly can. Not everyone can do that, but in some small way they can. For those who cannot express themselves, simply by opening a door or smiling to someone can warm their hearts.
      Huge Hugs
      T

  • Kathryn O’Connor Fitzgerald

    Tanya,

    You are a true inspiration!
    Your sister would be very proud of you:)
    Many Blessing,
    Kathryn

  • Hi Tanya –
    I am still at a loss for words over Nicole’s death. It has been painful to see your family go through this nightmare and tragedy. I am proud of you, you could have given up on life and choose another path to go down. You are truly an incredible women, spirit and dear friend. I admire how you have given you life to helping others.

    This quote reminds me of YOU!
    “In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us.”
    Flora Edwards –

    Namaste

    • HI Friend,
      You have been on this journey with me in many ways. Without you by my side encouraging me to say goodbye to my sister, who knows if I ever would have gotten the closure I needed.
      Thank you for helping me.
      With Gratitude and Huge Hugs
      T.

  • Hello Tanya,

    What a beautiful new chapter in your life! Thank you for the inspiring update. I truly believe the best counselors are those who have walked through personal pain and have emerged, because that is where true empathy is sculpted in us.

    May God bless you even more in the future chapters!

    Admiringly,

    Linda

    • Hi Linda,
      I agree that those who have walked the path can guide others with a deep understanding. I would rather have Nicole here than have a degree, but she is not. Therefore, I have moved on by accepting the fact and now dedicate my life to help others.
      But, we all have a story to share that can always help others.
      Huge Hugs
      T

  • Lori

    Tanya,

    Thank you for sharing your story. One thing we have in common is that path of self-destructiveness.
    I am so glad you are on this end of it and inspiring so many. Doesn’t it feel incredible to find your purpose?
    I met your sister Denise at an event years ago and enjoyed talking to her. You come from an amazing family.
    Thank you for working so hard to help others.

    All the best to you,
    Lori

    • Hi Lori,
      Yes, self destruction is a scary to be. Helping people to face their stuff will only bring them the confidence to tackle any challenge in life. That way, they won’t feel they have to take that dark path.
      We simply need to create a platform for them to do so.
      Huge Hugs
      T

  • Betty F

    In my ministry I see so many hurting families from such tragedies as you have been through. I know it takes people like you who know what effect this has on everyone to help them work through to a meaningful life and to find some happiness through all the pain. God has a specific place for you and you will be blessed to serve those who go through such tragedies.
    I wish you the best in your life plan to serve others.
    Betty F.

    • Hi Betty,
      It has been with God’s helping hand that I was able to persevere. Without faith in a higher power life can be such a challenge. Thank you for the work you do in bringing healing and hope to the hurting.
      Huge Hugs
      T

  • Tanya,
    Your courage just astounds me. You have a story that almost no one can relate to and your courage to tell it & share your heart break is so touching. All I can think to do is tell you how sorry I am that your life has been so full of pain. But the attitude you have taken on, your passion to help others, to learn as much as you can & speak wisdom & comfort to people is all the more incredible given where you’ve come from and how few people make it to where you are. I’m so encouraged & inspired by your message, your fortitude, and your determination to give tragedy another meaning.

    Thank you for all you do, I can’t wait to read more!

    • Hi Molly,
      Yes, it has been quite a journey and still is. Life is challenging and sad at times. We all go through our ups an downs and it is how we cope with those events that determines our tomorrow. But, if people don’t have the tools to cope, then they can lead a path of destructiveness. That is my job; to teach coping skills to those so they don’t have to suffer like so many of us had to.
      It is so cliche, but attitude really is everything. Approach everything in life with gratitude and try your hardest to do that on your most difficult days.
      Huge Hugs
      T.

  • amy

    Tanya,
    Thank you for sharing your story. What a difficult journey this has been for you. I can’t even begin to imagine what it is like or how it made you feel. I am very grateful that you are here today to help others. You are truly an inspiration to all. Your sister Nicole would be very proud of you and the work you are doing to honor her legacy. Glad you are a part of the O’Connor Family.
    Amy

    • HI Amy,
      I am so excited and grateful to be part of this team. It is amazing to me how many people can relate to my story. To me, it is just my story and I had no idea how many people it would touch. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to help your friends and families in need.
      Huge Hugs
      T

  • Tanya,

    It is always so powerful to bare ones soul. Powerful for us who get an insight to another’s struggles and triumphs and I propose powerful for you or the person doing the baring. Thank you so much for sharing your story, it is great to be able to get a glimpse of another on this journey. For you to be able to come full circle and now help and inspire others just shows what the human spirit is capable of. I know Nicole would be so proud and is with you along the way. Take care.

    Chuck Ricciardi (Loretta)

  • Hi Loretta,
    That is a name I have not seen in a while. Loretta O’Connor? If so, hello!
    My mom always said I was an open book. I guess it is a good thing because it is helping people now. I plan on continuing to do so.
    Huge Hugs
    T