Self Love & Sweat The Podcast

Abusive Relationships & Multiple Streams of Joy with Courtney Graf

May 10, 2024 Lunden Souza Season 1 Episode 176
Abusive Relationships & Multiple Streams of Joy with Courtney Graf
Self Love & Sweat The Podcast
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Self Love & Sweat The Podcast
Abusive Relationships & Multiple Streams of Joy with Courtney Graf
May 10, 2024 Season 1 Episode 176
Lunden Souza

Text us your feedback on this episode

Today, we're joined by the remarkable Courtney Graf, who shares her raw and poignant journey from a singing prodigy to becoming a beacon of self-love and empowerment. Her history of domestic violence woven with threads of personal growth, resilience in the face of adversity, and the pursuit of joy amidst life's darkest moments is truly remarkable for women everywhere to listen to.

Courtney's narrative is not just her own but echoes the silent battles many face, offering hope and a shared sense of triumph over life's trials.

Who is Courtney Graf:
Courtney Graf is a singer, songwriter, actress, fitness model, voice over artist and author.

Timestamps to help you navigate this episode:
0:00 Intro
2:46 FREE Self Love & Sweat MONTHLY Calendar
8:09 Navigating Expectations and Self-Worth
15:46 Finding Authenticity Amidst Chaos
30:04 Breaking Free From An Abusive Relationship
37:07 Sponsor: Snap Supplements 25% OFF using code LUNDEN25
39:06 Empowerment Through Self-Love and Boundaries
43:09 Healing From Abuse and Finding Self-Love

Connect with Courtney:

IG: @courtneygraf_
Acting Reel: https://youtu.be/-STr9l2BPmc
Acting Resume: https://www.courtneygraf.com/acting
Music on iTunes: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/courtney-graf/528489989

Voice of Impact 2024 Aug 23-26 in Salt Lake City

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2-DAY COMMUNICATION SEMINAR: Voice of Impact >> https://lifelikelunden.com/voice-of-impact

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FREE Self Love & Sweat Monthly Life Coaching Calendar: http://lifelikelunden.com/calendar

One-On-One Life Coaching & NLP with Lunden:
http://lifelikelunden.com/vip

Connect with Lunden:
IG: @lifelikelunden
YouTube: https://youtube.com/lundensouza
LinkedIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lundensouza/
Twitter: @lifelikelunden

Use code LUNDEN25 for 25% off Snap Supplements: https://bit.ly/snapsweat

Use code LUNDEN25 for$25 off at Evolve Telemed: https://evolvetelemed.com

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Text us your feedback on this episode

Today, we're joined by the remarkable Courtney Graf, who shares her raw and poignant journey from a singing prodigy to becoming a beacon of self-love and empowerment. Her history of domestic violence woven with threads of personal growth, resilience in the face of adversity, and the pursuit of joy amidst life's darkest moments is truly remarkable for women everywhere to listen to.

Courtney's narrative is not just her own but echoes the silent battles many face, offering hope and a shared sense of triumph over life's trials.

Who is Courtney Graf:
Courtney Graf is a singer, songwriter, actress, fitness model, voice over artist and author.

Timestamps to help you navigate this episode:
0:00 Intro
2:46 FREE Self Love & Sweat MONTHLY Calendar
8:09 Navigating Expectations and Self-Worth
15:46 Finding Authenticity Amidst Chaos
30:04 Breaking Free From An Abusive Relationship
37:07 Sponsor: Snap Supplements 25% OFF using code LUNDEN25
39:06 Empowerment Through Self-Love and Boundaries
43:09 Healing From Abuse and Finding Self-Love

Connect with Courtney:

IG: @courtneygraf_
Acting Reel: https://youtu.be/-STr9l2BPmc
Acting Resume: https://www.courtneygraf.com/acting
Music on iTunes: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/courtney-graf/528489989

Voice of Impact 2024 Aug 23-26 in Salt Lake City

Support the Show.

2-DAY COMMUNICATION SEMINAR: Voice of Impact >> https://lifelikelunden.com/voice-of-impact

2 FREE HIGH INTENSITY RESISTANCE TRAINING WORKOUTS: https://lifelikelunden.activehosted.com/f/169

FREE Self Love & Sweat Monthly Life Coaching Calendar: http://lifelikelunden.com/calendar

One-On-One Life Coaching & NLP with Lunden:
http://lifelikelunden.com/vip

Connect with Lunden:
IG: @lifelikelunden
YouTube: https://youtube.com/lundensouza
LinkedIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lundensouza/
Twitter: @lifelikelunden

Use code LUNDEN25 for 25% off Snap Supplements: https://bit.ly/snapsweat

Use code LUNDEN25 for$25 off at Evolve Telemed: https://evolvetelemed.com

Lunden Souza:

Welcome to Self Love and Sweat The Podcast, the place where you'll get inspired to live your life unapologetically, embrace your perfect imperfections, break down barriers and do what sets your soul on fire. I'm your host, Lunden Souza. Hey, have you grabbed your free Self Love and Sweat monthly calendar yet? This calendar is so amazing. It comes right in your inbox every single month to help you have a little nugget of wisdom, a sweaty workout, a mindset activity, just a little something, something to help keep you focused and motivated and keep that momentum towards your goals. So every day, when you get this calendar, you'll see a link that you can click that will lead to a podcast episode or a workout or something that will be very powerful and quick to read. And then you'll also see, on the top left corner of every single day, there's a little checkbox in the calendar and what that is is that's for your one thing. You can choose one thing every month, or it can be the same, something that you want to implement and make this something that you can easily implement, like daily meditation or getting a certain amount of steps or water, for example, and staying hydrated and even taking your supplements. This can be something if you want to get more regular doing a particular habit and routine. You can choose what that checkbox means. So if you want your Self Love and Sweat free monthly calendar delivered right to your inbox every month on the first of the month, go to lifelikelunden. com/ calendar. Fill out the form really quickly and you will have your calendar in your inbox within a few short minutes. That's lifelikelunden L-I-F-E, L-I-K-E L-U-N-D-E-N dot com forward slash calendar. Go, get yours for free and enjoy this episode.

Lunden Souza:

Welcome back to the podcast. Today we have Courtney Graf as our guest. I met Courtney through a friend of a friend at a full moon ceremony in like September or something of last year when I first moved to Utah and then we had a group over at my place to do a walking meditation and you came and then at the beginning of the year you had a vision board making party at your house that you invited me to and I got a chance to come over and hang out and we did that. And at the full moon ceremony I didn't learn a ton about you, but you sang for us and had probably one of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard. It was so beautiful. It is so beautiful.

Lunden Souza:

And then when we were at your house just chit-chatting. There was maybe you, your boyfriend and another friend over you shared more about you with me and we were talking about this before we pressed record, but your life could literally be a movie, and when you were sharing just so honestly and openly about all the stuff that's gone on in your life, I just remember being like man, like so much, and so I don't know. I don't remember if I asked you to be on the podcast or if you said something like you wanted to be on. I can't remember how that went. But here we are and I'm so excited for you to, yeah, share your story with us. So welcome to the podcast, Courtney Graf.

Courtney Graf:

Yes, yes, thank you so much for having me. I feel like it's really inspiring that you're sharing these stories with people and giving everyone an opportunity to make their journey impact others, because, ultimately, I feel like if things happen to us that are really derailing or something that we really need to fight to overcome, what is the purpose of that pain if we don't share it with others and try to help each other rise a little bit easier?

Lunden Souza:

Right Rise a little bit easier. Totally, I agree with everything that you said, and I can think of a version of me in the past that would have been so afraid for people to see the mess. And now I'm very much on the same page as you, where it's like we can't not share the mess. If we don't share the mess, how are we supposed to connect and help others? And so thank you for being willing to come on and share the mess a little.

Courtney Graf:

I got plenty of mess to share. Um I'm I'm proud of the things that I've come through, but I also um have learned a lot about being human through the process.

Lunden Souza:

So um a little bit about me, my uh courtneygraf. com.

Courtney Graf:

You can find um my music and and things of that nature. Um, so I've had many different lives. Um, I started out um singing at like three and a half months old in my sleep, and a swings video of it. Felt very much felt like I was called to three and a half months, yeah. There's a I'm asleep in this video. That's on my website.

Courtney Graf:

I can't wait to check it out. Yeah, um, it's. It's I'm just singing while the swing is going, but it's my mom's like there's, Courtney, I can't wait to check it out. Others. And it's interesting, I've recently we'll just dig right into it, right out the get-go.

Courtney Graf:

Recently I've been starting to learn that I had an inkling to my worth, stemmed out, of how I could serve others and that was my purpose, and I've learned how detrimental that can actually be.

Courtney Graf:

So when my gift of music felt like this is what I'm supposed to do, I would write and everything from a place of you know, wanting to use my, what I'm going through in order to affect others, but never quite just for me. I always like, I always felt like my. I love my parents, but they would say like what do you think we had you for? And that that mentality of like you jump when we call you like you'll see, throughout my story there's lots of times where I felt like I needed to jump when someone else needed that from me. So, um, it's interesting, when you discover a gift of yours as a child and you have this passion for it, how society can enable you to use that gift or how you can stay in touch with yourself, to the point where you use that gift in the way it's meant to be used. Such a journey.

Lunden Souza:

And so the detrimental part from what you said was thinking that you only needed to do it for others, that it was only for somebody else your gifts- Well, yes, I mean, ultimately my worth came out of like fixing other people's problems.

Courtney Graf:

We had a very like emotional family. My family is very like, very blunt, very Jersey, very direct and not we didn't talk about emotions, but like there's clearly a lot of things that needed to be like roots pulled from beneath the projections.

Courtney Graf:

Clearly needed some talking, yeah, but as I as I do that work now I see sort of how I I was really wanting to entertain everyone from a place of making them feel better, like with my music, with my acting, with modeling, like really always trying to emote a positive response or to move others in a way, and I have a really big, soulful voice. So when people would comment, as I was like coming through my journey of I was signed to Roc Nation Jay-Z's label and I lived in Manhattan for a long time and I did like Nike, Athleta, Reebok, fitness campaigns and I like fused all of these things in a couple campaigns and ultimately I just really wanted to empower people. But learning the ultimately. But learning the purpose of your gift and how it serves you, even if it's an outward thing, that's been an interesting journey.

Courtney Graf:

I bring this up because we'll get into how I ended up marrying pretty much the version of human I never wanted to. But as you live externally in this place, of how you can please others and how you can serve others and how you can entertain them or heal them or fix them, you lose focus of what your own boundaries are and what's not okay, and your no becomes really not visible. So what is your yes at that point? So trying to follow this journey of entertainment led me to kind of stay in this mode of jumping for others and um doing what I felt was going to be why I exist, my purpose, how I could serve others, and that's a wonderful place to be. Until you internalize it to the state of um not even having your own boundaries, state of not even having your own boundaries.

Lunden Souza:

I remember when I went to your house you just said it so subtly, you're like, I was signed to Roc Nation Jay-Z's label. When I was at your house, I remember asking you, Courtney, do you sing professionally, do you have a desire to sing professionally? Because I was just blown away by your voice and you shared with me that you were signed to Roc Nation Jay-Z's label. And then you suggested one of your songs that I love "Sets Your Soul on Fire. And then I was looking up that song on my phone and it was you and another guy that I guess you were dating and you kind of shared a story with me about how you guys were trying to create something that didn't feel authentic or right to you, or how did that go again, well, we created amazing music.

Courtney Graf:

Uh, I just made the fantastic mistake of dating my producer, um, because you just, you know, all the passion just gets bundled up into one and you don't really know what's up and what's down. Um, I so wish we had just stayed friends, because that did, unfortunately, become toxic and it's really difficult to disconnect your music and your passion from your relationship once you've merged them. And it was just the it's just the word, it was the worst. It really like still is impacting me from a place of wanting to come back to music, because we did, we sort of created a band, so Broken Hallelujah. Halleluyah spelled with a Y instead of a J was the duo, and so majority of it was I was writing these songs and we were collaborating, because he was a producer and we were sort of making it into a band because we didn't like necessarily have any contract between us and and we kind of wanted to tour together, but he wanted to be a part of it. Anyway, he has his own thing going on now, which is great for him, and I really just I wish I hadn't given my power away and I had just stayed.

Courtney Graf:

You know who I was attempting to be and um, but that's, uh, one of the fantastic lessons that you experience as you're ultimately trying to make the most of who you are. Um, but that was, in fact, the first, like the first time I recognized that I didn't have boundaries, because things became abusive for the first time, in that, I think I'd just been so lost with trying to share my gifts in a way that it so you know, what genre are you? What box do you fit in? What exactly is your business model for your music? I was really doing it more from a place of when a song comes through me, I'm creating it and I believe that it'll have wings in a way, but I was a little naive to like just how much you need to fit into a box in the music industry to really make it a business. You need to fit into a box in the music industry to really make it a business, and cheers to those who are able to do that.

Courtney Graf:

I really love music from a place of just the most authentic expression, and so I've been really focused on getting back to that. So all of my music now is like, as I write, I just I want it to be the truth more than anything else. Um. So I've thought about um, just doing super stripped down sort of album. Um, cause I even production. You can get really lost in, like all the different sounds and all the things that you're trying to stay in that box as well, cause now you've produced it a certain way. Anyway, there's many layers to a musician at this point, because you not only need to know what you're trying to say, you need to know who you're trying to serve, and then you somehow need to be yourself through the process of creating that for others.

Lunden Souza:

Somehow being yourself in the process. I think, whether somebody is a musician or not, I think anybody can be anyone and still maintaining that authenticity, that trueness to yourself in the process, is huge. How did you learn, I know that after that relationship was the next relationship your marriage?

Courtney Graf:

No, I had a quick stint for four months with a much older man who took me all over Europe and was probably the most narcissistic before my husband that I, my ex-husband, that I had, that I had experienced. So that was fun, Kind of like continued down a little bit of a rabbit hole. Once I'd recognized I didn't really know who I was anymore. I felt like I was like the okay, so the purpose of music for me? I always thought I needed to become famous or successful so that I could then support my family and then I could do my passion and I could also sustain this career at the same time.

Lunden Souza:

That was the. What did we have you for story?

Courtney Graf:

and I could also sustain this career at the same time. That was the what did we have you for story? Yes, yeah, yes. I always told my dad I would get him a Corvette when I became famous. So it was like I always was expecting to do this thing and this thing, this famous thing it doesn't actually mean a certain amount of dollars that you can, you know, attribute to supporting your family with so very naive understanding of the whole thing. Much better understanding of life these days.

Courtney Graf:

But I just I was supposed to be this person. I was supposed to. I never. I love my dad, but he would say you're the beauty and your sister is the brain. My sister is a brain, she is like a head scientist at doTERRA, she's brilliant. And so I never really thought you know, I have that gift too. So I got to use mine. I got to use my modeling and my music and my acting and be this talent and entertain everyone and show up and serve for others. And it was and that's all fun and great, until that's kind of how your personal life is too. So after music imploded, I sort of had a stand up for myself in the music industry that I can't actually talk about. But after that happened and then leaving my producer, ex which was not the best move in the first place who now had like, had all of my music and update like five years later he's actually lost all of my music. So an interesting like implosion of what I thought I was trying to do there implosion zero implosion is the word um.

Courtney Graf:

So at that point I was super lost and I dated this guy. I lived on this farm, he had horses. I was like I'll. I dated this guy, I lived on this farm, he had horses. I was like I'll just do this.

Courtney Graf:

This sounds good, but then I dreams of him being the devil and he was like so toxic, looking through my phone and I was. I was in a place where I was barely holding on to any self respect at that point. I was still trying to build myself up. Anyway, I eventually like somehow the horses got out the same day that I was trying to leave, so then I had to like corral the horses back, which was super.

Lunden Souza:

You were escaping, the horses were escaping. Everybody had to get out that day.

Courtney Graf:

Such an interesting connection. But I got the horses back and then he was coming and I like almost played chicken with him and I like zoomed out of the driveway that split just before Cause I was like if you stop me, like no, I can't be this person with you, um, and so obviously a very, um, not fully on stable ground human. Now my sister was like why don't you come to Utah? Like I was in Nashville for four years at that point, I was in Manhattan for nine years before that and my sister was just like come take a break from the entertainment business. You might love it. Um, and I did, and I love Utah, but yeah, when did you come back to Utah?

Courtney Graf:

I don't know if I know this. First time I've ever been to Utah. Uh, I visited once before, but I moved here in 2018.

Lunden Souza:

Okay.

Courtney Graf:

Thanksgiving, uh, and met my ex-husband about a month later, so obviously still healing. But I feel like you can move on. I just didn't really know I was kind of lying to myself about some things with how traumatic that whole vision of who I thought I was going to be imploding affected me, that I was kind of just putting on a new skin and with I mean, I was working towards myself. But I, I kind of I made this my new. This is what my purpose is. This is what, uh, why did we have you story Like um? This was my new. Like I'm going to build this house with this man. I like built my dream home, um, which I paid for.

Courtney Graf:

He ended up robbing me. This is a whole complex story in itself, um, but unfortunately he was abusive. He was filming me when I was crying, which I didn't really totally understand before we were married. Uh, that that was a red flag. Now that I look back on it, of course, he just would tell me I want to show you how crazy you're being and I didn't really like understand how gaslighting that was then. Um, and then his mom had told me he was abusive when we were looking at wedding dresses. That was a red flag, but I ignored that one too. And, um, the day before we got married in a COVID flag, but I ignored that one too. And the day before we got married in a COVID wedding, I found out that he had been married and went through a divorce while we lived together, and I ignored that red flag too, which is just sad at this point, but I was in love with this man.

Lunden Souza:

You were like swatting red flags out of your face.

Courtney Graf:

I was like this is who I'm going to be now. This is the house, this is the perch, this is the stuff, this is it. I'm going to be this person now. And so I like sort of lied to myself to the point of gaslighting myself and as it became physically abusive, I was committed to keeping what I'd built, because I'd already lost who I was in music and like leaving that whole thing behind. I was like I have to put, I have to be a new person now. And then I built this person from the ground up, literally excavation. I bought the land he made, he checked me in my prenup. We got married. Me, having bought the land, actually became marital. Um, which was just he actually like. Throughout the process I now know he was like sort of plotting against me in in ways that I'd never saw coming, cause I just don't think about doing that to someone ever Um, but he was. He was like prepared for this, this. It was almost like he knew exactly what to do and it just I just never saw it coming.

Lunden Souza:

But he had it all mapped out, the way that he was gonna make it happen, the way that it did you had your vision of how it was all mapped out and everything too, and it was like those maps did not overlap in the best way.

Courtney Graf:

Yeah, yeah, I. I well, I mean, what says it all is someone who can be married to someone else, and going through a divorce while they live in the same apartment with someone is like, how can? Who even are you? Like? How can you hide something like that? Just blows my mind. So he was like an entirely different person the whole time. We were even dating and so, by the time April this was 2021 rolled around we got married in a covid wedding, May 2020. We were, we started building this house 15 days later, so a lot of it was like you guys should be married cause you're doing all this financially to get it up, knock it down, do the things.

Courtney Graf:

Yeah, and, like two months into being married, he starts cursing me out all the time and I'm like I, you can't talk to me like this. And he's like, just wait till the home build is done. And I like accepted that, which was my first mistake, but well, not my first mistake, as we now know. Um, but by the time April 2021 rolled around, like the house was built, we had just gotten Rex, my puppy, which was the first time things got intense. But, um, in April 2021, he, we were in some fight about something. I'm in the bathtub. I have no idea what we were fighting about.

Courtney Graf:

I splashed water against the mirror and he came in like another human and picked me up by my hair, held my head underwater, pulled me by my hair out of the bathtub, dragged me, strangled me with his other arm as he was dragging me out of the bathtub naked, totally lifeless, and strangled me and threw me on the floor. And then my arm hit the tub and I had big bruise there. But it was so shocking that I was like I, I didn't know what to do. I started to take. That was the first day I took pictures, so I took pictures of the injuries and the scene and I started keeping these pictures in a Dropbox folder called Fear. And I told my best friend, if anything ever happens to me, there's a folder called Fear on my Dropbox. And she's like what are you talking about? And I'm like I can't tell you, but know this.

Lunden Souza:

FYI Dropbox called fear yeah.

Courtney Graf:

And from there, eight months of like strangling me. We actually had a redo wedding in which I fell off the motorcycle at 80 miles an hour in my flower halo and wedding dress because he was going 80 in a 25 up a hill, up an entrance and the motorcycle g-force like he lost, lost control and flew off the bike motorcycle and off a cliff. Now this is my redo wedding night and I live like a couple blocks from this. So I get up and this is me still lying to myself. So, like I've rebuilt myself. This is who I am now. I was like nope. I literally said nope, get over here, leave the motorcycle down there. You got to get home. You're going to get a DUI. We need to wash your mouth out, let's go. And he's like over here crying about his motorcycle. I'm bleeding from every area in my wedding dress and I've got road rash that took four hours to scrub out of my skin and we walk home and I've got a video of me like focus. We are so blessed right now Because, ultimately, yes, we survived.

Courtney Graf:

Clearly God loves me because I've made, now I've I've totally like committed to this man and I'm still lying to myself and, like you saved my life and I just am blown away by the fact I can survive that. And yeah, he. So he doesn't get a DUI that night, cause I don't even come and talk to the cops. I don't tell the medical people at the hospital that I was on a motorcycle. I tell them I was on an electric bike that I fell off of. I don't tell them it's my wedding night. They scrub me for four hours and he's not even at the hospital.

Courtney Graf:

My best friend is there holding my index finger on the nail because I was shredded everywhere and yeah, and then after that, so now I'm like covered in bandages, no-transcript, and then I get a black eye, like, and then like things continue to escalate with physical violence and it just I was such a mess at this point I was literally every time we were fighting. I'm going to puddle on the floor like begging him to stop fighting, like please, I just want to stop. But like, whatever you want, I was giving this man. Every time you fight with me, I would give him like ten thousand here, $10,000 there, like just relax, like it's fine, like here, and it just I'm disgusted with myself. I really am disgusted with myself that I gave into him because I thought I loved him so much.

Courtney Graf:

But it was totally like this trauma bond gaslighting, like manipulation that I was completely blind to. So I told no one about this as it was going on. Um, and it wasn't until like it just felt like at one point he put a pillow over my face. My dog was like eight months old. He would like jump over me and try and like protect me, and it was just yeah, it was just really bad. I couldn't talk to the therapist about it because he was like, if you talk about it, like they're going to arrest me.

Lunden Souza:

Because if you talk about it to the therapist, then the therapist has to say something and it's like all the dominoes knocked down in that direction.

Courtney Graf:

Yeah, so, by the time January 2022 rolled around so from April 2021 to January 2022, we'd had a wedding I'd been strangled at least 20 times at that point and the thought, the feeling of a man holding you by the neck, who you love, and looking in their eyes I can't even explain the dissociation my mind and body wanted to do.

Courtney Graf:

And, like as I, as I think back on those moments now, I have to keep like releasing the, the fear in my body and the just so crushing. It's so crushing. Um, but I did report him. So, um, somehow, amidst all of this, um, like even a moment where I felt like my unborn child, like tell me that he wasn't the father, and like my my body, like left in a way I don't even know how to explain it, but, um, I finally went and reported him, mostly because I was afraid that he was actually going to kill me and no one knew and he would get all of my money and everything and that house and all of it, because I had already. He was my husband. I put it in his name and no one knew what's going on.

Lunden Souza:

So, so, death was the scariest thing. It wasn't like that. He had choked you out all these handful of times. You got to that point where you're like, oh my gosh, I'm going to die. And that was the moment.

Courtney Graf:

I, yeah, and not even like fear, that he was not even just that he was going to kill me, but that he was going to kill me and that no one was going to know who he was or what he did, and he would just live on having robbed me of life and money and everything like already robbed me of all my like dignity. At that point, um, so, yeah, I was afraid that it was going to become like an untold story that what do you do to protect the next girl? Like you're already dead, like you literally can't do anything at that point. So, um, when I reported him, it really came from a place of, uh, I don't know what's going to happen to me. Um, I don't know how I'm going to get through this divorce. I've made it a lot harder on myself, honestly, uh, but I need to get away from this person.

Courtney Graf:

I actually, when I reported him, I I begged them not to arrest him because I was still in love with him and I didn't like actually want to get him in trouble, and they convinced me that it was abuse. The spent hours talking to me and explaining to me, like, how serious strangling is, like, especially that one. So, um, yes, so I reported him and then I found out that he had already been talking to other girls on Instagram from his sister, which was like a cool like side note here you go.

Courtney Graf:

He's talking about, like taking girls to Cabo. I'm like what? So after that which, sadly, that was my last straw that was like okay, you, okay, you're. You clearly have no boundaries, like you can do all these things to me, but you're not going to cheat on me too, like that was, that was the last straw for me. So I I said to him I'm done, it's fine, I'm coming to get my things, like we just, it's just done. And he serves me a protective order at that moment. So I had begged them not to arrest him. So the charges were in pending space for the next year. Um, I hadn't put a protective order on him because, again, I wasn't trying to get him in trouble. And he put one on me because he had watched me report him to the police in my neighbor's car, because he had followed me on the phone and I had no idea that he had even known that I'd reported him and he literally watched me. So he goes and like, makes all these plans.

Lunden Souza:

He's like me first.

Courtney Graf:

Totally Locks me out of the email. Now he has a protective order, gets me locked out of the house and he spends the rest of that year basically dangling things over my head, telling me I have to come clean it, telling me I have to, like, take Rex for a walk with him or he's going to make my life a living hell. Just total manipulation and control. And now I'm now my eyes are open to it at this point. So, um, my like self-respect came back in real hard and I was like, okay, this, now we know what this is.

Courtney Graf:

Uh, and at the same time of all this chaos, like him showing up because now we have protective orders on each other he shows up at the park with a boom box and like a love letter trying to get me back at like 8am. I think. I'm like hallucinating. I'm like is this actually happening? 8am, boom box, a letter, and you know it's in my mind. I'm like, oh, that's sweet. Like, as I think back on it, it's such a movie I I'm not laughing at you at all, by any means.

Lunden Souza:

I'm laughing because you can't make this shit up Totally and this is not like you said. How do I help? What about the next girl? I'm going to be dead. Like. This is a story that happens to women over and over and over again. And you think like, oh, there's this little breadcrumb again. He must love me, he must care.

Courtney Graf:

Maybe he's changed Totally and he, he must love me, he must care. Maybe he's changed totally. And he tried that bread crumb a few times, but he tried it that day and then, like five days later, I met my now boyfriend, Jess, and so I was real confused that day. But then I met my my boyfriend, and I, like God, was like here is a man who, like who actually does MMA and could kill someone with his hands if he wanted to he would never. But he is like strong and and powerful and so sweet, like he would never even think to harm me in any way. He's just cream of the earth.

Courtney Graf:

So, seeing this man while I was dealing with this child in a man's body, I can't even explain how much it was like God asking me who is the woman that you want to be? You, you can, you can have whatever man you want, but like what do you want them to bring out in you? And haven't you learned already, like that this isn't the person you want to be? Uh, so I feel deeply grateful, um, for Jess. I mean, he's been just the most amazing, so kind so sweet.

Lunden Souza:

I mean I've only met him twice, once at the full moon ceremony, super kind, super cool. And then at your house, and I remember specifically so to paint the picture we all have like our crafts out, we have our boards, all of our magazine stuff we're cutting. And I remember he looks over at you and goes, should we do a triathlon again this year? And you were like, yeah, like I'm in, I guess you guys had done one before and he's like, okay, cool, cause I'm going to add that to my vision board. And I just remember thinking that was so fucking adorable and amazing Cause he here, he was crafting, right, I think you guys had gotten like pedicures earlier that day too, right, so we're sorry not to like throw all of your guys's stuff. I just remember the story and we're crafting, and then he's making his vision board, taking it so seriously, looking like we all are looking over at you like telling you what he's including in his vision for his life. Um, how like amazing is that? Right, but but going from all the relationship history that you mentioned before, how do you accept that? I know you talked about, or we talked about, on the other side of this table before we pressed record that internal gaslighting. How were you able to realize, oh, this is love, this is a man, this is caring, this is compassion, when I know you didn't tell everything, but you told us a whole lot today like that was not apparent in any of your other relationships? How do you recognize that? Is it because it was so opposite? And also, how do you recognize and also receive that?

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Courtney Graf:

Yeah, well, I think that is really where, when people constantly talk about how you can't love someone unless you love yourself, I learned that if I didn't have the boundaries, if I didn't have the self-respect, if I didn't put myself first, then no one else would respect. If I didn't put myself first, then no one else would. And having had that shift from like the, it was really only two months I reported my ex in January and I met Jess in March. Um, but I'm a Taurus and when we leave we're just completely, we're done like. There's no getting our trust back once it's gone.

Courtney Graf:

But in that time I was so dedicated to I'm going to put my heart and myself in spaces where I'm loved and cared for and I'm never going to feel that again. I made a really firm boundary in my heart and, even though I wasn't like sure exactly what was going to happen, because I man, if I had not chosen to continue looking in that moment. One, I would have missed Jess. Two, my heart may have closed down like a vault that would never be opened, but I was like no, I refuse to believe that this life is meant to be like anything other than love. I just know it has to be love, and I'll be damned if I'm not going to love in this life. So I just was super dedicated to finding like that love in myself.

Courtney Graf:

Um, obviously, Bikram yoga, uh, meditation I'm not really great at meditation. For me, like working out as a form of meditation, but like really listening, naming the voices, understanding who's been like on a rampage of, like the self, the put downs that allow someone else to be able to put you down that way, um, and what I've allowed, no longer allowing anything but the best for myself, um, and from that space just came into my life. So I like to believe that once you reckon with yourself internally, like the things that are meant to align do and will open up to you. Um, but this life just has to be about love. Like it can't. I wasn't going to be one of those jaded forever people Like you never know when it's going to happen again, but you know it has to happen again.

Courtney Graf:

I mean I'd I'd spent. When I left Nashville I went and got my um digital audience marketing degree at Arizona state Um. I got a 4.29 GPA while I was introducing myself to marketing Um and I was being promoted to marketing director. Before I even graduated. I'm a financial planner with Northwestern Mutual. I've studied a ton to do those financial exams. I have an Airbnb. All of these things I'm referring to are like you can set up all of. You can plug all the holes in your boat financially, you can set yourself up in this business mindset and have these multiple streams of income. But if you don't have yourself in a similar mindset in your relationships, where you recognize I am an empire and I can have like these multiple streams of joy, um man, then you just you're doing yourself such a disservice.

Lunden Souza:

I love that and I've never heard it that way and I'm forever changed because of the way that you said that the multiple streams of joy in your life and the multiple streams of income and yeah, and it can be all of them. All of them.

Courtney Graf:

Man, when you just pigeon yourself to like, oh, I'm just supposed to be this musician, I'm just supposed to do this because this is what I'm good at, you forget, like all these other things. And obviously, like, obviously I have a brain. I grew up believing that I just had to be this beauty. But, like, as I've kicked that door open for myself and I've realized I can do literally everything I want, like, I can study this, I can understand this, I can pull in all of these things and I can create a foundation that can't be kicked out from underneath me If some dude decides to be a total, totally different human than I think they are. So, like setting up that internal foundation and, um, financially, spiritually, emotionally, knowing what your boundaries are and knowing like you are, like a freaking temple, and having that um, having that respect for your own skin and your own body before. Like allowing someone else to work with that energy man, I just you don't know what, you don't know, but my 20s were a shit show in comparison to how I feel.

Courtney Graf:

I wish I had this understanding then walking through some of these fields, because I felt like an observer, like I would watch these men who I knew probably wanted to sleep with me and didn't want to have anything to do with my talent in like any productive way for real. But you don't know that you think like all these opportunities, you have to invest in them and care about them and you're trying in all these ways. So I had this like internal thing going on where I was trying to understand. But eventually, if you don't keep this internal strong, you like go out into this, this world out here, and then it's all about what they think of you and you're like looking at yourself from the outside, looking in, and it's no longer about what's in there.

Courtney Graf:

I'm just so grateful that, although I'm like a totally different person than I thought I was going to be, uh, from this like entertainer, I could still do that. I just I'm not. I'm just not who I thought I like I. When I was 12, my uncle handed me Taylor Swift CD and he was like you look just like her. She's already doing it. So of course, I've spent my whole life comparing myself to Taylor Swift, which is no one should ever do that. No one should ever do that.

Lunden Souza:

Your whole life. No, no.

Courtney Graf:

But like, I really thought like I was supposed to be that kind of a person and it's. It just took away from how much I really enjoy like being a homebody and like just having a healthy family and like a simple meal and a glass of wine. Like with a homebody and like just having a healthy family and like a simple meal and um, a glass of wine, like with a sunset, like super, super basic things. Society makes you think you need to be all of these other things in order to be worth something. But finding that worth internally and then like playing with life, playing with the different like fields that you can create wealth in, and enjoying the creativity of that process from like a mindset of this is the temple, this is the business, this is the, the entrepreneurial ability to um really never settle for anything that will never fully define you. So if it, if your work is like one thing, like and you feel like you're not being fulfilled by it, that technically your work shouldn't be who you are. That connection was really difficult for me because you know music is so much about who you are, um, but separating myself from like what I do doesn't have to be who I am. This is like. This is the sandbox I'm playing in at this time.

Courtney Graf:

I did something really interesting in therapy because when I reported him, the state was very generous in giving me therapy, which has been really effective. We did this sandbox moment where she had me pick these characters and put them on the sandbox and explain who these characters are. And there was like the butterfly, who was like the creative. There was like the tiger, who was like the protector. There was this one guy who was like the protector, um. There was this one guy who was just angry, um, and there was this girl who had her like hands over her ears, um, and the guy who was angry was kind of like angry for that girl who had her hands over her ears. But I, I kind of explained to her. I just I kind of don't want this guy here.

Courtney Graf:

And she said to me well, what does that guy do for you? And ultimately, if you stop caring about the part of yourself that is straight up, not down, with what you've been doing, if you don't listen to that part of yourself, it's trying to tell you something too, even if you don't like that. It's asking you to change, it's asking you to grow, it's asking you to freaking leave and you are just so committed to the vision outside of what that guy has to say. Man, you need that part and that's an important. It's important to be able to give that part love and comfort and understanding, because each one of them, they don't speak up unless they feel like they need to. So, instead of exiling things that feel like they are begging for your attention or feel like they're not your favorite part of your personality, like learning how to work with them so that they, you know they're not as frustrated, it's still you. It's not like something that you need to hide the shadow self.

Lunden Souza:

Ultimately, and the characters that were in the sandbox. Those were the different parts of you. Is that what you were working through? Yeah, I love that. That's really cool to be able to have characters that, yeah, Embody those voices that we hear, whether they're telling us to go for something, whether they're telling us to get the fuck out and leave, whether they're telling us to play and create and enjoy that glass of wine by the sunset and it's all good. I love the way that you described that, because I think sometimes we try to shut those parts of us off. That's just like a lingering thought that just if I push it far away and put it away, it'll just like shut up at some point. But the truth is is it doesn't. It starts with a whisper and then it'll just start banging down the door until you choose to listen.

Courtney Graf:

Yeah, so anything now that starts to come up that like gets my anxiety moving. I'm like, okay, okay, what are we feeling? And being talking right and being back in your body? Um, because abuse, trauma, like my heart, goes out to anyone going through that. You, um, I've been learning through one of the books that we're reading in our book club Um, you're, when your first chakra is violated with abuse, all of your energy goes into your upper chakras and so you start to think and that was very much that girl who was watching everyone and analyzing whether or not I needed to do something particular in the music business, like that internal voice. It all became into my head because, ultimately, you're trying to protect yourself, but you've lost connection to the earth, you've lost connection to the grounding within yourself and you're trying to think ahead of the problem before it happens, instead of the presence of the moment that you can shift through in a way that probably will be a little bit better. It's a huge lesson, huge lesson.

Lunden Souza:

And the book is called Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Miss, just for those of you listening, I love that book. We listened to it in our book club. I listened to the audio book, I don't know, maybe like 10 times, just on repeat. And then I finally got the book and I've been reading through it again and just going through chakra by chakra by chakra, just internalizing. I feel like there's so much to digest in that book that I've loved. It's been so healing for me too.

Lunden Souza:

Let's talk to the woman who's listening that's in your situation or in the situation you were in, and let's also talk to the friend of the person that might be in that situation. Because I know that when it's that time to leave, when you're in an abusive relationship, when you're in that situation, that time when you leave is like the most dangerous. That's when you're most vulnerable when the abuser. That's like when things can not end the way they've ended for you. And I know that it can be so easy for people to dish out advice. That's like just leave, just get out. But if someone's listening now, who's like? That's me or that's my friend? What are some good nuggets or first steps of, let's say, hope and momentum a little bit that we can provide for them listening.

Courtney Graf:

Yeah Well, firstly, I don't know if I would have left if I hadn't reported him, because there was no turning back from that. Um, when I look back on that choice, uh, I'm really grateful because I like him showing up the love bombing. It's so intense. So anyone who is going through something like that really needs to find a way to completely disconnect from that person so that they can hear themselves again and like they can maybe review the moments that are scary to them with someone else, so that they can really understand what is actually happening is abuse, because I didn't believe it, like it took a long time for me to get it through my head, um, but there I mean, I I talked to the domestic violence hotline they're really helpful. The suicide hotline really helpful.

Courtney Graf:

Um, both of those, however they'll, they'll give you inklings of you know, hey, this isn't normal, this isn't okay. But when you hear it from a friend or someone who really actually cares about you although you most likely aren't talking to them right now because you're trying to preserve your relationship it changes things. Because, ultimately, the people who have made me remember who I am in those moments and choose to leave have been the ones who have said, I can't sit by you and love you through this, because I know that this isn't okay for you and it's too hard for me, like the people who have actually left because I wouldn't leave showed me, hey, if I can't be a good friend to my friends because I'm treating my own self this way, what kind of a friend am I being to myself? And that I just encourage you to talk to your friends because you will be isolated, they will make you believe that you can't talk to them. My ex used to tell me all the time, like, if you tell anyone about this, they're going to like, report me, it's going to be a problem, they'll never trust us again. You're ruining our relationship. You're going to make your family hate me. All these things. They'll say all those things because they're isolating you, because they want to be able to do whatever they want and control your mind. And it will work. It just straight up, will.

Courtney Graf:

But if you can find a way to communicate it with a friend, to talk to those hotlines, um, there are shelters, there are places that I didn't think that I should go to, cause you know there are people who need more help than me. I would always think like, oh, like I am privileged, like I should just go take care of myself or I should just stay here because I have a bed here, or whatever. But you have to understand your mind is not operating properly. The gaslighting learn about gaslighting. Learn about what narcissism is. Learn about what codependency is, because that, ultimately, was my problem. I wanted to help everyone else, I wanted to help him so badly. I so badly wanted to get down to the understanding of, like why he would choose to strangle me, like what happened in your childhood.

Lunden Souza:

But you can't fix anyone else.

Courtney Graf:

You can only fix yourself. So stop trying to save the world and really just get connected to yourself and remember like you are worth saving too, like you don't need to save someone else first. Um, and financially that's a huge deal. Lots of women feel like they can't leave because of money. Um, it doesn't matter what you do for a job, it doesn't matter, like, if you need to find childcare or if you need to go back to school or whatever you think your mountain is.

Courtney Graf:

Standing on your own two feet and being able to take care of yourself will always make you feel more empowered. And regardless of if you're leaving right now or if you're leaving in a few years, like, take those steps to get your own control over your own life, because that will keep you connected to hey, I can make a choice here, rather than I have to stay. And the friend, the friend, yeah, try not to leave their life. I would say that was pretty traumatic. Try not to leave their life. I would say that was pretty traumatic. Um, try to recognize that they are not healed right now and that may be really hard for you to be their friend in that process. Um, but even, just, even just you know, hey, I can't, I can't hold your hand through this, but I'm going to keep reminding you that you need to help yourself. Just keep reminding them that they like, that they're worth it.

Courtney Graf:

Cause, ultimately, if everyone left my life, if the cops didn't care, whatever I would have stayed, I would have acted like I had to. I would have thought like this is the best it is for me. The problem is that your, your confidence and your self-respect are so low that you could stay. You could accept it. This could be good enough, because you already feel like you're sunken in this hole. Oh, my gosh, made, that show is amazing, made.

Lunden Souza:

M-A-I-D or M-A-D, m-a-i-d Okay.

Courtney Graf:

I think there's one season.

Lunden Souza:

Is this like Netflix? Or what is this?

Courtney Graf:

Yeah, netflix, okay, made she left after he like threw a glass bowl at her head and I was like whoa, that was like it didn't even hit her and I was like that was super light in comparison to anything I went through. But look at her, I'm so proud. But no amount of violence, no amount of someone putting you down or telling you that you're stupid or telling you that you don't understand finances so they can rob you, like telling you these things, that limit you need from within yourself and once you get to the place where you have that foundation for yourself, you can choose to have that person kick rocks because, ultimately, your life is so much more valuable than putting up with any of that. It can be so beautiful and it can be full of love and joy and peace. You deserve that peace.

Lunden Souza:

Courtney, I adore you. Thank you so much for opening up your heart, for coming over to my house today and being open just to sit down and share. And I just am really grateful for the woman listening whose life has changed today, because, whether she's impacted and moved to just tell a friend what's been going on, or maybe today's the day that she leaves, I don't know my whole body is just like I've had goosebumps. I just like I love the conversations I have on the podcast. Don't get me wrong, but this one's probably one of the best ones, I think the most life-changing ones we'll ever have on the show. So thank you so much, thank you.

Courtney Graf:

Thank you Quickly before we go, I just want to speak to the woman who doesn't believe in the abuse yes, the woman who hasn't been through it and judges the others.

Lunden Souza:

Ooh yes, because. Or how could she just not leave? How can she just take that she must be Like what's wrong with her, like that's bad shit, crazy. Oh my God, I can hear it. I can hear it.

Courtney Graf:

I never, I a hundred percent never thought I would be that person never. I a hundred percent never thought I would be that person. I thought I was so strong. Um, think about the things that you would do for the people you love, like, regardless of who they are or how they act. Think about what you would do for those people Like I have some people in my life who haven't always been the best towards me, but like I still forgive and I still love them anyway. So, thinking of that from a scale of this person who dedicates themselves and then loses themselves in that dedication it can totally happen.

Courtney Graf:

And the women who don't believe in it, and the women who the women who attacked me personally on this Facebook group, um in Salt Lake city, when I was posting anonymously um, it is extremely easy for a narcissist or a person who is manipulative and abusive to this nature to convince everyone around them that they are the best. Like, that is just true. If you can imagine that someone is not telling about the abuse and um not getting out, you can just imagine exactly how manipulative that can be. Uh, I had. There were women who were as I'm. At the end of it all, I ultimately just want something on his record. So another woman knows to look out for themselves. And I did receive feedback that like he is doing this again to other women already. So they asked me to post anonymously and I did and I got a slew of women attacking me saying that I was trying to ruin his reputation.

Courtney Graf:

And it blows my mind because I feel like women say that they're there to protect each other and they're there to look out for each other. And sure, some women do use abuse and like they really like they put the people who've really been through it to shame in a way, and it's unfortunate that that tool gets used too. But if a woman is trying to protect another woman and ultimately save her own life, don't pretend you know, don't pretend you know better than her and like put her down because you have no idea what she is going through. And it just makes me furious to think that women can actually come against other women who they think they're trying to protect. So I just hope that you can have compassion.

Courtney Graf:

If you haven't been through it, you can understand like we're all just trying to do our best out here and sometimes we lose our way and we share these stories because we want to help others. Just it happens like and it's, it's not, it's okay, it's okay to have gone through it and forgiving yourself, forgiving myself. It will probably continue for the rest of my life. It will probably continue for the rest of my life, but the lessons I've learned in that will always come up in how I am compassionate to someone else and how I relate to someone else and the level of being humbled will always serve you. Because it's when you're in this place of we're all like just earth dwellings and we're connected in some way, passing that on, passing on that love and passing on that smile and that care and that understanding. You just have no idea who needs it.

Lunden Souza:

Passing on the care and understanding. I appreciate you so much, and thank you for also speaking to that third woman too, because I didn't think of that until you said it and then I was like, oh shit, yes, because they're all listening right now, all three of them the one in the relationship, the friend and the one who thinks that how could you ever be in that situation? How is that even possible? I know they're all listening right now. Oh, I appreciate you. Let us know, the listeners know how they can connect with you, your website and other ways. Yes, CourtneyGraphscom.

Courtney Graf:

It's G-R-A-F as in Frank. courtneygraf. com connects to everything. Instagram is @courtneygraf_. I would love to hear from y'all and connect with y'all and be a light. If you're needing some guidance in any way, um so down to me. On financial planning, I feel like it's really important to create a really firm foundation for yourself, so you know that you have a choice in your life. Uh, and keep creating, whether whether you're going to be famous or you're going to be just making it for yourself, like, make something that you're proud of every day. Try to do something that lights you up, because that is so much where that love and that overflowing cup comes from.

Lunden Souza:

I love y'all.

Courtney Graf:

Thank you so much for having me. Lunden, you are such a gift and a light. I'm so grateful to be in your life.

Lunden Souza:

Thank you Same. Thank you, guys, so much for listening. I'll link everything that Courtney mentioned in the description, connect with her and we'll see you at the next episode. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Self Love and Sweat the podcast. Hey, do me a favor Wherever you're listening to this podcast, give us a review this really helps a lot and share this with a friend. I'm only one person and with your help, we can really spread the message of self-love and sweat and change more lives all around the world. I'm Lunden Souza, reminding you that you deserve a life full of passion, presence and purpose, fueled by self-love and sweat. This podcast is a Hitspot. Austria production.

Intro
Navigating Expectations and Self-Worth
Finding Authenticity Amidst Chaos
Breaking Free From An Abusive Relationship
Empowerment Through Self-Love and Boundaries
Healing From Abuse and Finding Self-Love