If She Flinches…

There is a quote that says:

If she flinches when you go to put your arms around her…someone else’s hand once wasn’t too sweet.

If she questions you…someone else lied to her.

If she doesn’t tell you things…someone else once betrayed her secrets.

Behind every cranky, complicated girl or girl who is scared to love, is a girl who is tired of being broken.

Domestic abuse/violence will leave you broken. It will leave you shattered in so many pieces, you fully believe you will never be whole again. Take it from someone who knows — sometimes the damage is so horrific, you don’t want to be put back together again. Not because you don’t want to be healed, not because you don’t want to be whole again; it’s just safer to be behind that wall. It’s safer to be shielded.

Opening up again after a harsh relationship ends means putting yourself in a position of vulnerability. It means putting yourself out there again, knowing there’s the possibility of being gnashed again mentally, emotionally, or physically. Domestic abuse/violence occurs far more often than some people imagine. It happens in every single corner of this world. It happens in wealthy communities. It happens in poverty-ridden communities. The thing is, mental and emotional abuse can be hard to spot. You can’t see the bruises that these two forms of abuse leave, but the wounds run just as deeply as those that are left by physical abuse.

Before we talk about the wounds, though, let’s talk about some the ways mental and emotional abuse manifests itself. Here are some of the things I personally experienced:

  • Character assassination. This usually involves the word “always.” You’re always late, wrong, screwing up, disagreeable, and so on. Basically, they say you’re not a good person.
  • Dismissiveness. You tell them about something that’s important to you and they say it’s nothing. Body language like eye-rolling, smirking, headshaking, and sighing help convey the same message.
  • Put-downs of your interests. They might tell you that your hobby is a childish waste of time or you’re out of your league when you play sports. Really, it’s that they’d rather you not participate in activities without them.
  • Unpredictability. They’ll explode with rage out of nowhere, suddenly shower you with affection, or become dark and moody at the drop of a hat to keep you walking on eggshells.
  • Trivializing. When you want to talk about your hurt feelings, they accuse you of overreacting and making mountains out of molehills.
  • Disputing your feelings. Whatever you feel, they’ll say you’re wrong to feel that way or that’s not really what you feel at all.

There are a multitude of other ways mental and emotional abuse show up. Whatever way they come at you, know that it’s never your fault. Regardless of what your abuser says, it’s not your fault. You are not responsible for the foul actions of a person prone to abusing other. You’re not. The examples I gave above were found at https://www.healthline.com/health/signs-of-mental-abuse#what-to-do, but I lived them as well as many of the others. Check this page out for extremely valuable information on what to look for and how to get help.

For the man who chooses to love a woman who is brave enough to try love again, take heed to this:

Broken.

I’ve learnt that a woman with a broken past needs to be treated with patience. She needs time to breathe, to heal, to rediscover herself. A mistreated woman will reject love countless times before she gives in because she’s lost sense of what it’s like to be treated right, but the beautiful thing about broken women is the wisdom the past has given them and the capacity of love they have to offer. It’s endless.

For the woman who has been broken, know that you’re of Him. Trust that you are enough.

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The Expert

Who wants to be an expert when it comes to domestic violence? No one. Not a living soul in their right mind would want to experience domestic abuse in any manner – physical, mental, emotional, or financial. I did, though, and I’m here to tell you that there is life in the aftermath – there is a great life in the aftermath.

I have always been of the belief that no one on this planet can tell you about a thing better than someone who has actually experienced it. There is not a man in this universe who can tell you what childbirth feels like. They have a pretty good idea of what a woman’s body goes through from the time those first contractions hit till she pushes that baby though the birth canal, but they will never know the pain that comes with bringing a child into this world.

I have always likened childbirth to getting run over repeatedly by a semi rolling at 90 mph, but not dying. I tell people it’s like getting hit by that big truck, standing back up, then being knocked to the ground again when it barrels over your body again and again. It is true what they say though (in my case anyway): once you hold that baby, you forget all that pain because the end-result is the birth of your child. Unfortunately, the end-result is not the same for many victims of domestic violence.

I am blessed to have survived. On July 21, 2009, I had an aneurysm, and everyone knows that the chances of surviving one of those things is slim. I began to pray as soon as I realized what was happening to me and right away, I knew God was going to spare me. My prayer was that He spare me because I did not want to leave my child and I believed He kept me for that reason, but I came to realize that He had more in store for me. He kept me here to show others that there is life after that living hell. He kept me here to show that faith in Him supersedes anything else in this life. He kept me here to show that the refusal to get caught up in vengeful acts is unnecessary. There is just no need for that kind of thing.

On my very soul, there was never a day when I felt the need to get even with my ex-husband. To this very moment, I still don’t. I never will. Why would I? I got exactly what I needed and that was the freedom to forge ahead and rebuild my life. I am having a complete blast doing that. I completed graduate school with a degree in English and Creative Writing. My GPA was a 3.77, and that, in and of itself is something I am extremely proud of us since I had no residual damage from the aneurysm. I will be certified to teach English at the secondary level by December 31, 2019. I will also become a commissioned notary for the state of Louisiana by the end of the year. I am claiming that post even though the notary exam in the state of Louisiana is one of the hardest in the nation. It’s been called a mini bar exam. That thing is hard, you guys. I am going to put in the work to become who and what I want to become.

I said all of this to say that as an expert on the recovery from domestic violence, I can assure you that you can move forward. Your path will likely be different from mine. You route will take you on different highways and byways, but eventually, you will find your way to a brighter life. You are not your abuse, you are not a victim. You are a survivor, a mentor, a bridge.

If you need help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline via phone at 1.800.799.7233 or online at https://www.thehotline.org. They will help you.

You Don’t Cry

“You don’t cry.” Those words were directed at me from a co-worker whose last day at the firm was yesterday. My response was, “Yes, I do”, and as I hugged her, the tears began flowing. She was already crying and so were my other co-workers, but I had promised myself that I wouldn’t cry. I lied. I broke that promise as soon as I saw them standing at the front door as she prepared to make her final exit. She is younger than I am, but I learned so much from her. Her level of professionalism is outstanding yet we had some of the greatest laughs ever. She always said I was the perpetrator in the foolishness (and she’s probably right), but she was super funny. Even though I’m extremely happy that she finally found her way out of this place, I will miss her. I couldn’t stop the tears from falling, though, and that is not something that happens often.

I thought about what she said far into the night. Before March 2018, the number of people who had seen me cry could be counted on one hand. In my mind, when those tears started flowing, that meant that I had lost my self-control. After having had my feelings discounted so many times during my marriage, I had stopped crying. I had been told many, many times during those 19 years that I was blowing things out of proportion, that I was being overly-sensitive, and that the world didn’t revolve around me. Eventually, I started believing that whatever I thought was either wrong or stupid, therefore, I learned to shut up about my feelings because I knew in the end, they would be shot down. I dared not let one tear fall. Those tears meant nothing to the person who hurt me, and to me, they were the greatest sign of weakness. I stopped letting them flow. I didn’t even allow myself to cry in private.

To show you how deeply I had pressed down the allowance to “feel”, I remember sitting at one of my favorite aunt’s funeral just as stoic as a corpse. Everyone around me was crying, but I didn’t shed one tear. The same thing happened at the funeral services for four of my uncles. By the time my own mother died in 2015, I was not much better. While we sat with her in intensive care, I did not cry. When they informed us that she had passed at 3:17 AM, I only nodded. I cried at her funeral, but not enough to dampen the single tissue that I held. Several people told me that they were worried about me because I had not cried. They all knew how close I was to Mama so they couldn’t understand why I was emotionless. My heart was bleeding and I was screaming on the inside, but I never let those people see me cry.

What I have learned after making my way over that 12-ply, concrete wall that I built is that crying is okay. As a matter-of-fact, it is cleansing. It is good for you. It is essential. Tears must flow as they are a stream through which those tied up emotions are released. My own growth has quadrupled because I’ve stopped holding things in. I have made tremendous strides in every area of my life, but one of the most important areas is my emotional state. What I know now is that my feelings matter. I know that if a person cares for you, the only tears they will cause you to cry are ones of happiness. Your tears are a well. That well can be one filled with cleansing waters or it can be filled with murky, toxic water. Sure enough, at some point, you will cry some of those tears from a place of pain. Death and other losses are inevitable as we make our way through this thing called life. You’re going to lose people. You’re going to plan and attend funerals of loved ones. Those tears are coming and there’s nothing you can do to stop them. Any other kind of tears should come from a place of laughter or joy. Don’t let anyone cause your tears to spring from a place of unnecessary pain, especially in continuance. Life is too short. Live hard. Live in joy.

It’s Our Time

Every year during my childhood and far into my adulthood, on June 19th, I heard both of my parents say, “This is our day. This is the day we celebrate.”

My mom said it with a tone of defiance and unmitigated pride. To have known the “made of steel” black woman that Cleal Jacobs Shine was, is to understand the gravity of that statement. She thrived on the fact that it was our day. She was quick to say, “Juneteenth is our time! July the fourth is for the white folks.” She was friendly to everyone, but know that the history of her people was a big part of who and what she was. She could not have been any prouder to be a black woman.

Photo credit: Trease Shine Hinton

My dad, on the other hand, always expressed the sentiment with a quiet sense of triumph. His words were soaked in a sea of accomplishment. Daddy was older so the lynchings, the flat-out racism that defined the area we lived in, and the fact that a black person – any black person – best not go out alone was ingrained in his spirit. Don’t get it wrong – my daddy wasn’t afraid of anything or anyone (ask that truckload of white boys who thought it was a good idea to show up in our front yard that evening), but hey, it was no secret that local law enforcement carried the matches and gas cans to the klan meetings.

Photo credit: Trease Shine Hinton

My History, Our History

On June 19, 1865, word that slavery had ended finally reached the south (Galveston, Texas, to be more specific). President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation two and a half years earlier on January 1, 1863, but you see, everyone didn’t get the memo. It has been said that the person who was to deliver the message about the abolition of [what was] America’s identifying fuckery was murdered on his way to Texas. I can see that. It has also been said that the news was deliberately withheld by slave owners, because, well, who wanted to let go of all that power, control, and forced labor? Listen, it has even been said that the emancipation was kept hush-hush by federal troops so slave masters could get one more cotton harvest in. I can definitely see that.

Freedom Ain’t Free…

The fight for full freedom in the black community continues. Don’t believe for one minute that the shackles that held us “in place” for the slave masters are gone. It’s just that today, those shackles are manned not only by the white man who refuses to accept the knowledge, education and leadership that comes from the black community, they are also clamped on the minds of our people by those inside the community who refuse to venture outside what’s “easy”. Education is key, whether you go the formal route or not – education is key! Drugs and black-on-black crime are so commonplace, they have come to be expected. Those things have held us captive long enough. As a people, we have to let them go because I promise, they’ll never let us go.

…But It’s Yours for the Taking

My wish – my dream – is that my community will flourish. My prayer is that a full understanding of where our forefathers came from, what those folks endured, and the lengths they went to make sure that doors were open for us to walk through with blatant boldness is gotten and appreciated. You need to know where you came from in order to fully envelop the place you are today. As the black community, we are the leaders of our past, we are the leaders of our present, and we are the leaders of our future.

Fighting Alone

On October 21, 2018, a few hours after giving a speech on domestic violence in Dallas, Texas, I calmly sat down and wrote to my academic advisor at Southern New Hampshire University telling him that I would be withdrawing from school that term. I had had all I could take.

Up to that point, I had never gotten anything lower than a B+ in a class or on an assignment. My mind, however, was so scattered, I bombed the first assignment of that term. I just couldn’t concentrate. My instructor gave me the opportunity to re-do the assignment, but I know myself well enough to know that I was spiraling downward and I needed a break. I bowed out.

By that time, the reality of my nephew’s death had truly set in and I was experiencing a level of grief I hadn’t even imagined was possible. The best I could do was make it into work every day. I’m being totally honest when I say I don’t even know how I got there sometimes. I didn’t bother with makeup. My hair was always (always) in a ponytail. Don’t get me wrong — there’s nothing wrong with a person not wearing making and there’s certainly nothing wrong with wearing a ponytail, but neither of those things was me. True enough, I often find myself slapping all this hair in a ponytail, but at that time, it was a symbol of my deep, deep depression.

I was in such deep depression that I started counseling and was prescribed antidepressant drugs. I was still trying to plug along and handle my business, but depression manhandled me. Everyone handles things differently. I had no choice but to keep going, but I know in a lot of cases, it’s impossible for a person to keep pressing forward. I was functioning with my depression, but I know many people can’t. It’s hard to keep going with that cloud of gloom follows you everywhere. It’s hard to keep going when you feel there’s no hope. It’s hard to keep going when you don’t feel like anyone understands your pain.

I knew that I had lots of support and I knew there were people out there who understood my pain. I knew that there were people out there would do anything to help ease my pain. I think that’s the case for most people who experience depression. There is always someone who cares for you. There is always someone who cares about your pain. I will never downplay anyone’s pain by saying “it’s not that bad” because I know what it’s like to have your heart obliterated by abuse, death, and neglect.

I also know that there is someone out there to listen. If you’re experiencing depression, talk to a friend or family member. I bet they’ll listen. If you don’t want to share your feelings with anyone in your circle, there is national help. You may not have reached a point where you’re considering suicide and my hope is that you never will, but there is help available. Depression is a monster. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1.800.273.8255. Their website is located at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org. Call them. They’ll help you.

Letting Go of His Hand

By the time Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day rolled around last year, the reality of my nephew’s death had just set in. He died on December 9, 2017, of a heart attack. I hold on to the belief that he just never woke up. One of the things that haunt me to this moment is not knowing if he tried to call someone for help. It rattles my soul when I think about the fact that maybe he had awakened in excruciating pain, tried to call his mom or me, but couldn’t. All indications are that he went in his sleep, but I still wonder.

He was only 41 years old and we would learn that the thing that took him from us was the “silent killer”. He had high blood pressure and as it was left untreated, he had an enlarged heart and asthma. I will never believe that he knew he had it. I know that if he did, he would have worked to get and keep it under control.

This is a new year, but…

The year 2018 sucked in some of the most unimaginable ways possible. No one could have told me that I would celebrate a new year without Arthur. My sister had him when I was nine years old. I had held his hand every day, if not always physically, of his life. We were raised as brother and sister. I never imagined life without him. I am still in a fog most days, but one day, as I drove by his home on my way in from work, I had a revelation. It may not be a revelation in some people’s books, but for me it was.

You see, my mourning hasn’t been the typical mourning. Not long after Arthur’s death, a co-worker happened to be in my office and after a brief discussion about my nephew, the guy said, “Trease, I don’t mean any disrespect and I don’t want to make you mad, but I really don’t think you’ve accepted that Arthur is gone. I think you’re in denial.” I just stared at him. I mentioned it to my sister a few days later and she vigorously nodded her head. I just stared at her, too. I know he’s gone, but in my mind, he’s just on the porch of his home.

The calendar says it’s January 1, 2019. To be honest, I don’t know what day it is. I don’t really know what date it is. The calendar says it’s January 1, 2019. Yes, I’ve wished a gazillion people a happy new year. Part of the reason I don’t know is because, well, I’m confused because I’ve been off work for so many days…

Photo credit: Facebook/HurrahForGin

The biggest part of the reason I don’t know what day/date it is, is because even though I’m coming more to terms with his death, I haven’t let go of his hand. Y’all, there has never been a time when I didn’t know where he was. Even now, with the knowledge that his body lies in St. Peter Missionary Baptist Church’s tiny cemetery, I still don’t know where he is. I know some of you are probably scratching your heads wondering what I mean; I know there are more of you who get what I’m saying.

His favorite thing after a long day at (or night) work was sitting on his porch, with a Black & Mild, some [homemade] peach vodka (yeah, he made his own with peach soda and vodka), his chopped and screwed music, and that phone. In my mind, he’s still sitting on that porch. I can’t see him, but that’s where he is in my mind.

I guess in a way, I feel a twinge of guilt pressing on in this new year without him. I know God makes no mistakes; yes, I know we’re all here for a limited number of days, but I feel a little guilty pressing forward and moving on without him. I know I have to move on because there are still things I must do. His purpose here on earth was complete. He touched so many people in such great ways. My purpose still needs work. I still have a book or two to write. I have classes to teach. I have clients to take care in the world of disability. I have to graduate in May. I am to be a part of an epic love affair. I still have a happily ever after to participate in. I just wish he was here to witness it all. I wish he was here to witness it all.

Photo credit: Trease Shine Hinton

I just have to let go of his hand. I’m just not ready to.

The New Girl

Saturday afternoon, around 3:15 or so, I became a pet mom again.

Photo Credit: Trease Shine Hinton

My son and I had started out running errands in Springhill. I could have easily headed in the opposite way on Highway 371 because the other way was actually the way we had intended to go, but I wanted a specific brand of snack. I knew that I could get those things at the other end of 371, but I went to Springhill. 

My first stop was Brookshires. I really thought my snack was in there. I did. Turns out, it wasn’t. What was in the parking lot of Brookshires was a red pickup truck with a piece of posterboard stuck to its door that read “Free Puppies! Great Christmas gift!”. I had no intention of going that way, but my son insisted. He said, “Mom, let just go look”. I said, “I’m telling you now, we’re not getting a puppy. We can look, but we’re not getting one. I mean it!” 

Well…

Photo Credit: Trease Shine Hinton

She was the last one puppy the previous owners had to get rid of. She was dusty. She was scared and stinky. The owners begged us to take here. The minute I looked at her, I knew I couldn’t leave her. The man explained that she needs her first shots and needs a flea treatment. I also suspected she had worms and she does. This is not my first rodeo — I’ve been a pet parent a time or six before. 

I kept telling my son that I wasn’t for all the pooping and peeing that comes along with being a pet parent. I’m not, but those downsides pale in comparison the joys of a wagging tail greeting you at the door every evening after work. Those things mean nothing when you think of the unconditional love a pet provides. 

I haven’t had a pet of my own since 2015. I lost my beloved Pomeranian, Trinket, in 2013, shortly after the divorce. She died. Brutus, the black and white pit bull, was put down in December 2015 by my ex. I had to give Ace, the black Lab/Shepeard mix to a friend after I had to move, and Onyx, the messy cat, passed away in August 2017. 

The loss of a pet is just as devastating as any other loss. Sometimes, it’s more so. I had the other pets for many years before they passed on or I was forced to re-home, but the losses were nonetheless painful.

Here’s to many, many years of fun-filled memories for Athena and me.