It took the success of six books and eventually hitting a creative wall to coax Brenda L. Thomas into sharing her personal story of domestic violence and drug abuse. In Laying Down My Burdens (Phillywriter.com, 240 pages), the local author delivers a goosebump-inducing account of her out-of-control battles with her husband and drugs. The book has cost her a few relationships (and possibly a new job) along the way, but that’s nothing compared to what she’s endured physically and emotionally. Apparently, “resilient” is her middle name.
MLT: Why did you feel like now was the right time to tell your story?
BT: Not only had I run out of things to write about, but I couldn’t hide behind another one of my characters, which I’d been doing in all my novels—especially with the character Sasha in Threesome and Fourplay.
MLT: How hard was it to write?
BT: The editing was more difficult because I had to make people feel my fear, my pain, my happiness, all of my emotions. Included in that was my family. Every time I’d send it to my editor, she’d return it, making me peel away another layer of emotions. Some nights I hated myself for the person I’d been.
MLT: Were you worried about being judged unfairly?
BT: I was mostly concerned about my children and grandchildren. I didn’t have time to worry about others because I needed to get that story out of me. And I hoped that it would save my granddaughters from any possible abuse.
MLT: Did you ever fear for your children’s lives?
BT: I always thought my children were safe because my husband hadn’t physically hit them. But what I now realize is that they suffered emotionally from what they saw and from the type of life we lived.
MLT: Why did you stay with your husband for so long?
BT: That’s always the question—and in my case, what I discovered is that I was addicted not only to drugs but to the abuse and the lifestyle. I felt I deserved it, having deceived my best friend and cousin by messing around with their men. I tried to act like it was no big deal, that it didn’t bother me that I was the cause of another woman’s pain. And in doing that, I buried those feelings with drugs and allowed my abuser to further beat me down because of it.
MLT: Did you contemplate suicide?
BT: Several times. I tried taking pills and snorting lots of cocaine, but it never worked. I always kept thinking that I didn’t want my daughter to miss me. I didn’t realize that she already missed me because I hadn’t really been present as a mother.
MLT: What do you think this story tells readers about forgiveness, rebirth and second chances?
BT: I had to forgive my ex-husband because that anger would’ve eaten me alive, and Laying Down My Burdens further helped me to let it go. God has given me a second chance at life. There are so many women who are still in abusive relationships. I feel I can be a voice for them.