There was a time when it was excruciatingly hard for me to look in the mirror. It’s not that there nothing pretty there. The problem was that I saw nothing there. Nothing pretty, nothing ugly. Just nothing. Whatever had been there was long gone. Whoever that woman once was had faded away. I didn’t see the woman who used to sing up a storm. I didn’t see the woman who graduated college in 3.5 years with a bachelor’s degree. I didn’t see the woman who had gained her paralegal certification. I didn’t see the woman who had given birth to one of the most amazing young men on the planet. I didn’t see anything. Everything I once was gone. Any semblance of the goal-driven woman I had once been was hiding behind dark-circled eyes, a graying ponytail, plain sweats that were worn partially in an attempt to hide the extra pounds that I had gained over the years and also because I hadn’t gone shopping for myself in many, many years. I didn’t want to. I didn’t care.
My morning routines ran on auto-pilot. I woke up, stared at the ceiling for 30 minutes then headed upstairs to wake my son for school. On the mornings that I couldn’t muster the strength to make it up that single flight of stairs to get him up, I would FaceTime him, iMessage him, or call him. Don’t let anyone tell you that a physical deficit is the only thing that can tie you to a bed. I was okay physically even after the aneurysm; I just couldn’t get it together mentally and emotionally. I’ve often told people that had it not been for the fact that I had to keep Will going, the mental and emotional pain I was in would have actually killed me. It would have. I didn’t want to get up. I knew that after Will left for school every day, I would either find myself in that awful pit of pity or I would be running around frantically trying to get things just right so that man wouldn’t have anything to criticize. Of course, there would always be something wrong in his eyes, but I was always trying to prevent the fallout. I knew that I needed counseling because of all the damage I had sustained during that marriage, but I knew my child needed it just as much as I did, if not more. He was just as much a mess as I was.
Thankfully, our very first session netted results for me. The counselor urged us to take the focus off that man and begin looking at ourselves. The night we got home from that first meeting, I finally looked in the mirror. I saw the dark circles; I saw the graying ponytail with all the split ends; I saw the uneven complexion; I saw the excess pounds that were not only weighing me down physically but that were also contributing to my mental and emotional pain. I saw the slouching of my shoulders that were the result of prolonged fighting and losing. I was finally willing to face what I had been too worn down to confront. It took that look in the mirror for me to begin fighting.
I know there are many women out there fighting their way through mental/emotional and/or physical abuse. You’re not alone. I once stood in your shoes. I ask that you look at me. While I’m not where I want to be, trust and believe that I am millions of miles away from where I used to be. I believe in myself again. I believe in my worth. I believe in my ability to accomplish any- and everything I set my mind to. I believe in my own drive and determination enough that I know I can’t be stopped. Things were bad for me at one time. They were really bad. They may well be so bad for you at this point, that you don’t see a way out, but I urge you to look at yourself after you look at me. Do whatever it takes to move beyond the abuse. There’s a full, meaningful life to be lived, but you can’t partake in any of it while you’re caught up in any type of abusive relationship. Move forward to your freedom.
T. Shine Hinton