Chandley Brelsford thought she was going to have the wedding of her dreams on June 8, four years after her first date with her husband-to-be.
"I am very driven for success and so was my ex and we just saw this future together that was going to be amazing," she told TODAY Style.
The 22-year-old physical therapy aide from Rocklin, California, said "things really started to crumble" by May.
With the wedding only a few weeks away, Brelsford and her fiancee got into an argument after her bachelorette party that she says "wrecked" her.
"I was really hurting and looking to him to resolve things," she explained. "And it never happened. He only came after me harder and had more negative things to say. That's when I realized this is not a man who will able to love me and support me during difficult times."
Brelsford, who describes the relationship as "financially abusive," moved back in her with parents and got a second job as a waitress to pay the bills.
"I am so grateful to them. I know a lot of people in my situation don't have family or friends who can help them get out," she said. "But nobody shamed me for calling it off. That really helped me. I was becoming severely depressed and to be surrounded by so much love and positivity helped with the emotional recovery."
With a wedding dress already paid for and a photographer on hold for the date, Brelsford decided to still go through with a photo shoot in her dress.
"I loved my dress and even though this is a dress meant to be for him, it's not," she explained. "It's going to be for me."
Nervous about her idea, she confided in her sister, who was also tapped to be her maid of honor. She explained, "I asked her, 'Am I crazy? Is this weird?' And she said, ' Some may think so. Do what feels right for you.'
So Brelsford went through with the idea, teaming up with photographer Chelsey Daniel for the runaway bride photo shoot.
After getting the images, Brelsford actually shared them with her ex-fiancee before posting them on social media, saying, "Here's what you could have had."
His response? "You're weird."
Later, Brelsford decided to share the photos on social media after so many friends and acquaintances were checking in about her big day that never happened.
"I had been silenced for so long, I wanted to share my side of the story," she said. "For years I didn't know myself. I didn't know my side of the story. I felt that confident that I wanted to explain what happened."
Paired with photos from the shoot, Brelsford wrote a long post, detailing her relationship and explaining why she decided to call off her wedding.
"To all the women out there, no one is worth sacrificing what you hold dear," she wrote in the Facebook post. "It doesn’t matter if he is good-looking or willing to spend money on you or promises you the whole world; if he does not show you respect now, then he never will."
As of publication, her post has been shared more than 75,000 times and liked 179,000 times.
"Thank you so much for sharing this story. You’re beautiful," commented one person.
Another added, "I needed this. Right now. Today. Tomorrow. Thank you for sharing your story and your heart."
On her post going viral, Brelsford said, "I think it's something that a lot of people can see themselves in and if not them, maybe a friend or family member. They see a message of hope that there is an end of the tunnel. If anything, it makes me feel humbled. I don't see myself as brave or courageous. I am just a normal person. But if someone sees my story and they feel better or inspired by it, more power to them."