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.

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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.

 

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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

 

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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.

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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

 

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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

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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

 

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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.

 

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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

 

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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

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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.

Which One?

She was probably sitting right next to you yesterday at church.

 

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She just might be the lady standing in front of you in the grocery store.

 

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Maybe it’s the guy in the next cubicle.

 

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Perhaps it’s the older man who greets you every day with a gentle nod.

 

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It could be a relative.

It could be the friend of a friend.

It could be you. It was me.

 

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Photo credit: Trease Shine Hinton

 

What Do Victims Look Like?

Abused people look like, well, people. They’re black, white, yellow, brown, and every color in between. They have blond hair, black hair, red hair, and every other color in between. They are short, tall, and some are in between. Look in the mirror — it could be you.

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What Do Abusers Look Like?

See above.

Who Are Domestic Violence/Abuse Victims?

They’re people. They’re male and female. They are not from any one particular ethnic group. They’re not from one specific part of the country. They are not confined to a particular career sector. A victim can come from any sector of life. They come from every geographical area of the world. They are your friends. It could be you.

Who Are Abusers?

See above.

Some Numbers. Some Facts.

  • 1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) aged 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States — more than 12 million women and men over the course of a year.
  • Nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime (48.4% and 48.8%, respectively).
  • Most female victims of intimate partner violence were previously victimized by the same offender, including 77% of females ages 18 to 24, 76% of females ages 25 to 34, and 81% of females ages 35 to 49.
  • n a nationwide survey, 9.4% of high school students report being hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend in the 12 months prior to the survey.
  • 43% of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, tech, verbal or controlling abuse.

Read more about the statistics here at The National Domestic Violence website.

Your Sister’s Keeper. Your Brother’s Keeper.

It is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If you’ve turned a blind eye to this atrocity until now, vow to get involved and help bring about change. Acknowledging that there is a  problem is such a huge step in bringing about that change.

Someone somewhere needs your help. Don’t turn away.

National Resources:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline — 1.800.799.7233 | 18007873224 (TTY)

Shelter  –  www.domesticshelters.org

Local Resources:

Project Celebration — Shreveport, LA

Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence

 

Death of a Thing

One of the most important lessons I learned after my divorce was the importance of dying to my old self. I had to kill her. I had to bury her 10-feet under — not six but TEN! There was no way I could have continued life and prospered in any manner had I continued to be the battered shell that had been left to rot.

After Abuse

By the time I made it back to Louisiana permanently in late August 2013, I was living life in a parallel universe. I was watching myself from a distance. Eventually, I was shaken back into reality and couldn’t believe what I was viewing. I was damaged in every imaginable way and I looked it. I mean I was a mess from my hair to my clothes. I just didn’t care.

That version of me didn’t just appear overnight. That woman had been dragged, half-way rebuilt, dragged again, and then just left to mold. She’d been left to die by someone who didn’t care about the destruction that had been left. The only time my appearance was mentioned was when my ex said, “You look pretty good when you comb your hair.” That came after he pleaded with me to have sex with his friend so he could watch. That night, my sense of self-worth tanked and it would take nearly five years for me to pull my head out of the sand.

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The inside of my head and mind had been damaged by a battering ram of mental and emotional abuse. It had been bludgeoned nearly to death.

Once I woke up, though, I knew I had to finish off the old Trease. She would have killed me if I hadn’t.

The Wake-Up

One day, I woke up and remembered that I’m smart. I’m not only speaking of my bachelor’s degree or my paralegal certificate. I’m talking about being wise to life. Some folks even refer to me as a smart-ass and that’s true, but I’m smart nonetheless.

 

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Photo credit: www.quickmeme.com

 

I realized that I have amazing worth. My friends and family love me. I love me!

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Photo credit: Everyday Self Love

I realized that I’m pretty. Nah, I’m beautiful. Don’t take that as conceit because if there’s one thing I despise, it’s deceit, but I know I’m easy on the eyes. Gray hair and all, I’m okay.

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Most importantly, I realized that I have so much to offer the world. The old Trease had to die in order for the new one to surface. The two of them couldn’t co-exist. One had to go and I chose to release the one who was no good to herself or anyone else.

I woke up and got a good whiff of the smell of life.

Today

I still have a way to go in some areas of my life, but for the most part, I’m good. I know I deserve unconditional love from a man. I know that I will give unconditional love to the next man. I won’t let the past dictate my future.

I keep myself up even though I could stand to lose a few pounds. I’m working on that, but my love of cheese and cake are undermining my best efforts.

Do what you have to do to be who you want to be. There is life after abuse. There is indeed life after abuse.