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.

Advertisements

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.

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.

Depression and All Its Might

Everybody feels depression at some time or another. We all get a little down in our spirit now and then. A little depression is normal, right? No one is 100% happy, 100% of the time. Some people call it the blues. Some folks just refer to it as being down. True enough, we all feel down in the dumps from time to time; the problem is some people fall into the pit of depression and can’t find a way out. Sometimes, we cannot find our way to the surface of that deep blue. Some people are pulled under by a current that won’t let go.

 

A photo by Clem Onojeghuo. unsplash.com/photos/-YMhg0KYgVc
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo from Pexels

 

That Sinking Feeling

I’m not going by things I’ve heard. I’ve been severely depressed before. I’ve never been suicidal, but let me tell you, there have been days when it really didn’t matter if I woke up or not. I just didn’t care. Did I want to die? Nah. I would never want to leave my friends and family. My son and my granddaughter need me. If there’s one thing I know, I know my folks love me. That man loves me. He needs me.

During the time I was married, though, when the days of hell melded together, I just didn’t care. I knew that on any given day, I would likely be blamed for something. I knew that it was likely I would be belittled or made to feel inadequate in some way or another. I knew that regardless of how clean the house was, he’d find a speck of lint (because he made a point of looking for things like that). I knew that he’d head upstairs to check if the underside of the toilet lid was clean. I knew if there was a single cup in the sink, he’d stand there with his coat on and wash it because he “couldn’t stand mess”. Overall, I knew nothing I ever did would be good enough.

When It Finally Sets In

For me, deep, deep depression set in on three different occasions in my 50 years. As I said before, the first time was while I was married. The depression I experienced back then was the result of being battered mentally and emotionally. Eventually, I got professional help. I had to. To be honest, initially, I sought help for my son because I could see him spiraling out of control. I was kinda blind to what was going on in my own mind, but I knew my child needed help.

Almost from the beginning, the sessions that I had meant for my son turned into joint ones because the counselor recognized the mental and emotional beating I was taking. He actually told me that in the beginning, he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to help me because I was so damaged. He thought he would have to refer me to a more experienced counselor. I was a complete mess. Like I’ve said a million times before, I didn’t realize that I was in shambles because I thought the hell I was in was normal.

Anyway, the next time I found myself down under was after the divorce. Sure enough, I had been freed from that hell, but the dissolution of my marriage also meant that for the first time in nearly 20 years, I was on my own. I found myself floating in the middle of the ocean with nothing but a life raft. Yes, my family and friends were all around me and refused to let me fall or fail, but depression can put a stranglehold on you that can’t be readily pried loose. It had me and it was suffocating me. All I wanted to do was sleep. Honestly, that’s all I did. I slept. I ate. I gained weight. I cried uncontrollably. I repeated those things day after day. The difference with that bout of depression, though, was that I was able to pull myself out. I know I would have benefited from the help of my counselor, but he was 250 miles away in Dallas, but thankfully, I was able to pull myself out.

My latest battle with depression is going on right now. It still pains me to say my nephew died. My entire world shifted on December 9, 2017. Many people who knew us have said that on that day, Margarett’s son died, but that he was my baby. He was. I was nowhere near being okay when one of my closest cousins died on January 14, 2018.

This time around, though, the depression is different. I know I won’t need professional help (although I wouldn’t hesitate to get it if I felt I needed it) this time around because I’m shrouded more in grief than anything. I’m still so stunned, I haven’t reached the point that I’ve entered the grieving stages. I’m not even at the first stage of the process which is denial because the truth is, it’s still not real to me. In my mind, neither of them are dead in the sense that I will never see them again. They’re just gone. I know that makes no sense, but neither of them is dead to me.

I know the reality will set in at some point, but as of this writing, it hasn’t. Nope, there’s nothing wrong with me — folks grieve differently and this is just my reality. I’m okay. I just need to process this stuff in my own way.

Help

 

pexels-photo-211681.jpeg
Photo credit: Photo by John-Mark Smith from Pexels

If you’re depressed, get help. If that means reaching out to your folks, CALL THEM! I know what it is to be too embarrassed to tell your story, but trust me when I tell you, your folks are there for you.

 

IF YOU ARE IN NEED OF CRISIS COUNSELING, CALL THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE AT 1.800.273.8255. Call those folks TODAY!

 

 

The Color of My Pain

Bereavement. Grief. Pain. Loss.

pexels-photo-568027
Photo by Kat Smith from Pexels

At 50, I’ve felt all of these things more than once. I have felt them all in varying degrees. I have experienced them all on a variety of levels. I’ve felt them all in a variety of situations.

For the most part, bereavement, grief, and pain are the things you feel after the loss of a loved one. I’ll talk about that level of loss in a few. Let me tell you how those things come into play in the mental and emotional sense.

Blood Red

 

pexels-photo-673862
Photo by it’s me neosiam from Pexels

Nineteen years of mental and emotional domestic abuse taught me to shut down, take cover, and to fight fiercely to survive. My very soul was shrouded in the bloodiest red color. Red is an extremely emotionally intense color. While it signifies passionate love, it also points to danger, anger, and violence. Those last three adjectives sum up the19 years I was married.

While the physical abuse was limited to two incidents of spousal rape, the mental and emotional trauma is what put my life in danger. I almost died of an aneurysm that was brought on by stress.

The level of perpetual anger I felt nearly drove me insane. I was mad all the time and I was mad at everybody. I was extremely angry with myself, too. I waived between being angry with my ex for abusing me and being angry with myself for allowing it to happen and for staying.

What I felt internally took the term “seeing red” to a whole new level. Red covered everything in my life.

I’m happy to say that wherever red shows up in my life today, it’s all about its representation of determination, power, strength, and energy.

Black

pexels-photo-683404
Photo by Mustafa ezz from Pexels

On December 9, 2017, my entire world went black. With the death of my nephew, Arthur, such deep darkness fell over my world that the light is just now starting to seep through. It comes through in spurts. Sometimes it stays around for days; sometimes it’s only a momentary flicker. For now, light is fleeting. Bereavement, grief, pain, and loss have enveloped me.

Most days I just go through the motions. I have to. I have a son who means the world to me. I mean the world to him. He needs me. I have a granddaughter who depends on me for all things in her tiny world. My siblings need me. So do my other nephews, nieces, friends, and family. I know they all need and love me, but things are still covered in black for me.

The murkiness left after Arthur’s death can’t be penetrated with well-wishes. It gnashes my soul. I hurt. I cry. I scream. Then there are the days I laugh, giggle, and chuckle when I think of something he did or said. The emotional roller coaster that I’m riding through the blackness is far from thrilling. I’m not in an amusement park. I feel like I’m in the valley of the shadow of death sometimes because I know that’s where he was. I always knew where he was. He always knew where I was. Now, I feel like he’s wandering around in that blackness that I can’t see through.

Is That Light I See?

I don’t know if what I see occasionally is real light or just a figment of my imagination. I want so badly for things to be normal, but in order for things to be normal, my nephew would have to be here. He can’t come back. He’ll never come back.

It was 68 days ago that he passed away. It’s only been 68 days. Some days, it feels like it’s been 20 years; some days, it feels like it just happened this morning. Some days, I see the light; some days, that darkness refuses to let any light shine through.

I will continue to grieve. I will struggle for some time to come. I will keep pushing forward because I have no choice. It’s what I have to do, but for now, I move in darkness.

After You’re Destroyed

By the grace of God, some of us survive domestic violence. That fact, in and of itself, is wonderful and something to be eternally grateful for. In some cases, though, the residual damage sustained is just as devastating as the abuse was itself. I’ve been there. I know what I’m talking about. I’ve either experienced the following things or I’ve watched (or am currently watching) friends experience them:

Out of the Skillet Into the Frying Pan

 

pexels-photo-75494.jpeg
Photo credit: www.pexels.com

 

Divorce oftentimes leaves a person reeling, unsure of his or her self-worth, wondering if true love will ever find its way to them again, or even if it ever really existed in the first place. Some of the strongest people are left mentally and emotionally displaced and ultimately begin the search for someone to fill the void that’s been left in their lives and in their heart. Sometimes they start that search a little too soon.

I know a woman, who at 42, has been married six times. She has recently started divorce proceedings for this latest marriage. I don’t of a time when she’s overlapped relationships, but it’s never long after one is over that she heads full-on into the next one. I’ve never known a time when she didn’t buy her own engagement/wedding rings in these relationships.

Once, during our weekly lunch meet-up, she said, “Trease, it seems like I keep running into narcissistic guys who just use me. I don’t know why I keep picking these guys that need to be fixed. I don’t know what a good man looks like. I try so hard to love them, but they never love me back.” I’m no relationship expert, but I readily advised her that she needs to love herself first and love herself hard. I reminded her that self-love is imperative in order to live and that it is not an act of selfishness.

I fully believe that once you truly begin to love yourself, you will refuse to allow anyone in your circle who won’t do the same. I believe that once you cherish your own heart, you won’t allow another person who refuses to do the same any access to it. You won’t be willing to jump from one empty relationship to the next in an effort to find true love.

There’s just no sense in jumping from one guy or girl to the next on a wing and a prayer, hoping that he or she will be the one. In my opinion, that’s one of the easiest ways for things to go from bad to worse. You’re in essence, jumping out of the skillet into the frying pan.

Don’t be the Pawn

One thing I’ve seen far too often is an unsuspecting person becoming paired up with a person who has just gotten out a long-term relationship. Every situation is different, but you can almost always win the bet that a person coming off a 20-year or so marriage is just not ready to start a new relationship immediately, let along get married.

I know three men, personally, who jumped into marriage or a Facebook relationship after their long-term marriages ended in divorce and I can vouch for the fact that in all three cases, the women that ended up with them found out they were being used. They were either rebounds, sex toys, or being used to show the ex-partner that the guy had moved on.

 

pexels-photo-277124.jpeg
Photo credit: www.pexels.com

 

Two of the guys I know ended up marrying younger women. One of them would later find out that the woman he chose was only there for his money; the other found out that he was the one who had been tricked. The woman he chose had a laundry-list of issues and problems that she chose not to share with him until well after they were married. The other guy ended up in a “Facebook” relationship and in the end, the younger woman got far too caught up her feelings and found herself left alone with memories of a too-good-to-be-true fling that was never real to begin with.

It’s All About the Sex

Listen, we’re all grown, but one of the easiest ways to get caught up in your feelings is to start out having rebound sex with a person and end up falling in love. You’re going to get hurt.

Just don’t do it.

Guard that Thing

 

JPEG image-CA33EA860CD8-1
Photo credit: Trease Shine Hinton

 

Love is never, ever, ever supposed to hurt. Sometimes it does, but it’s not supposed to.

Be careful that you don’t become someone’s “look, I’m over you and I’ve moved on”, when the truth is, you were only being used.

Broken people will break you.

Hurt people will hurt you.

Keep your guard up. Love and live, but keep your eyes and ears open.

 

 

 

Today

showimage
Photo Credit: Town of Gilbert, AZ

Later today, I will speak on a panel regarding the 19 years I was a victim of domestic abuse. Thanks to Project Celebration, I will sit speak to health care providers and students at LSU Health in an effort to help.

Today’s focus is on helping healthcare workers better recognize domestic abuse victims. It can be hard to see the abuse under all those layers of shame, fear, and sometimes, guilt. I hid all that carnage well. The people who saw me nearly every day had not the slightest clue that I was being abused.

I was blessed to land at Presbyterian Dallas on July 21, 2009, after that aneurysm. I was blessed to be treated by the best neurosurgeon in the world, Dr. Jeremy Denning, and a magnificent staff who knew I hadn’t landed there by some weird chance. I had been relatively healthy and while an aneurysm can strike anyone at any time, they somehow knew that I had landed there because of the things that were pushing against me.

They kept asking me if I had been under a lot of stress. I kept telling them that I hadn’t because after fighting a man who was so self-absorbed for nearly 16 years at that time, it had become “normal” for me to be in some sort of stupid battle with him every day. It was never-ending.

I’m honored to have been chosen to share my story today because just the thought of knowing that there are other women out there who are being gnashed mentally and emotionally destroys my soul.

Words hurt

True enough, we can see the scars of those who are battered physically. It’s the scars to those who are ravaged mentally and emotionally, though, that we must look for. I hope to shed some light.