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.

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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.

But You Couldn’t Stop Me, Could You?

Fifty-one years ago today, shortly after 2:00 A.M., Mama gave birth to me. There was no pomp and circumstance, she simply gave birth to a 5-pound baby girl and was released to go home by 7:30 A.M. that same morning.

I was welcomed home by my older siblings, the youngest of whom was 11. My oldest brother was away in San Francisco with his own family. I have two nieces who are older than I am. My sister, Margaret, had already told Mama to name me Trease. I have no middle name. I was never babied. I was spoiled, but I was never babied. Most people who know me say that I’ve always been grown. I have an old spirit.

The past 51 years have carried one lesson after another for me in a constant fashion. I know when some of you heard that, you said, “Yeah, we’ve all learned lessons over our lifetimes.” For the most part that’s true. I say for the most part because in some cases, people don’t learn anything from their experiences. They continue to make the same mistakes. They grind their gears and they spin their wheels.

Here is some knowledge I picked up along the way:

  • In almost all cases, you get one chance to make an entrance. You get one chance to make a first impression. If you storm through any door in a destructive manner, reeking chaos, disrupting the good, folks won’t forget. Even though we’re supposed to, most folks won’t forgive either. Be mindful of what you do when you enter another’s space.
  • Your exit is probably more important than your entrance. I really can’t think of a reason to leave a situation in shambles. Why? Because to do so means that another person has gotten under your skin so deeply and has disrupted your psyche so much that you became someone you’re probably not. Don’t get it twisted — I’ve left material damages in some places that were so bad I should have been charged with the highest level of vandalism. It was bad and it was stupid. I let someone who had mistreated me take me to another level. I’m not coming at you in a “holier than thou” manner. Just don’t allow another person to take you out of character. What I think makes a  more profound statement is to simply take your ball and go home. You don’t even have to provide an explanation or say goodbye. Just go and be at peace.
  • Be extra-possessive of your time. Time is a precious commodity. We don’t have as much of it as we think. Don’t waste it on people who don’t love you fiercely, on a job that you hate, or in a situation that you don’t want to be in. Do life big!
  • Let no man or woman take you for granted. This is a lesson I learned the hard way. My presence — my whole being — was taken for granted by someone I thought valued me. Turns out, he is the most selfish individual on the face of this or any other planet. Lesson learned. The wrong people will take your love for granted. Take it back and give it to someone who deserves it. You’re so amazing. You’re such a blessing. If a man or woman can’t see that – GO! Plain and simple, just go!
  • Love your folks without condition. I’m grateful to see this day, I really am, but I would be lying if I said my heart is not filled with grief this morning. It has been nearly 11 months since my nephew passed away suddenly. The void his death has left in our lives is massive. Cherish your people. Loss is inevitable. Cherish your people.

I’m going to end this by saying that all those things that were designed to stop me from living my best life have failed. An abusive marriage, an aneurysm, unemployment, a devastating breakup — all those things wore on me, but here I am. None of those things stopped me. Nothing will. Trust that. The decision to live is yours. The kind of life you live is up to you. Let nothing stop you from having it all and from being it all. It’s up to you.

In This Time

It’s been just over 28 weeks since my nephew passed away.

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Photo credit: Trease Shine Hinton

 

So many things have happened since that time. My son has been home since school let out in early May. My granddaughter has been here since that time, too. We needed this time together. We needed this time together so desperately.

We needed to love on each other. We needed to lean on each other. We needed to bump heads. We needed to make up. We needed the tears. We needed to laugh.

With my nephew’s death came many lessons, not the least of which is that we have no time to waste on things that don’t matter or on people we don’t matter to. My best advice to you: get out of the way of toxic people. It’s true that hurt people, hurt people, but that is purely by choice. Hurt people don’t have to hurt people, they choose to. You, my friend, must choose to get out of their way.

One of the best things I’ve done recently is starting my own business. I’m not talking about reviving my Mary Kay business; I’m talking about a business of my very own. I’ll be writing and editing full time. I am also working on attaining my notary commission and am very excited about that. Every single thing about my life will be different by December 31, 2018.

My quest to become a speaker on the atrocity of domestic violence is neverending. I have some engagements coming up and will be sharing those things with you guys.

Know that your time and energy is precious. Don’t waste it.

 

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

 

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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!

 

 

New Year, Old Me

Every year in January, folks set out to enact resolutions for the new year and that’s cool. I used to do that. I stopped, though, many years ago. Here’s why.

In my mind, starting anew can happen any old day of the week. It doesn’t have to be the first of the year, the first of the month, or the first of the week. Wednesday is just as good a day as any. Thursday or Friday can be your new start date, too. It’s all about starting the thing — the day you start is irrelevant.

I have so many things in the works. My entrepreneurial ventures are going to explode this year. There’s a portion of Proverbs 31 that screams at me to get off my duff and use my skills, talents, and desires to flourish in order to prosper. I have all I need to succeed, so put simply, that’s what I’m going to do.

Don’t wait. Get hustlin’! I promise the day of week is not relevant — it’s all about the hustle.

All the Freshness

Here we are at the start of a brand new year. We’re on the first page of the first chapter of a brand new book. For the most part, this day represents a new beginning. The slate is clean. It’s January 1st. We’re far into the 2000s, but we’re on the first day of 2018. Not that we needed to wait until today to start anew, but it just feels more empowering starting out with a host of ones: day one, chapter one, page one, month one, etc. This is for the ones of you who have forgotten that you are the one.

It’s Time

I spent a ridiculous number of years sucked under by self-doubt, no self-esteem, no self-confidence, the fear of stepping out on my own terms, and a deep belief that I was just worthless. That’s what can happen after years of mental and emotional abuse. That’s what happened to me.

All the things that make me the woman I am today — my ability to write, my ability to lead, my ability to empower, my sense of self — were all there, they are just buried. Every time one of those traits would try to surface, my ex was there to smack it right back down to where he wanted it to be. Mental and emotional abuse is real, folks. I didn’t start out as some little shrinking violet. It took a long time for me to fall flat on my back, but once I was there, I laid there for years. I was able to look up, but I wasn’t able to get up.

 

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Photo credit: www.pexels.com

 

One day, though, I decided that I would no longer be defined by the words in his dictionary. I decided I would use the ones in my dictionary and if they weren’t there, I’d create them. I decided that I would use all the things inside me to pull up and out. I decided that I would not only survive, I would thrive. I decided to sail through this life on my own steam. Have I accomplished everything I set out to do? Nope, but you better believe a large part of my goals will be satisfied before the clock strikes midnight on December 31, 2018. It’s my time. It’s your’s, too. Let’s get on it! Strike the match that’ll ignite the inferno of your greatness.

What Not to Do

 

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Photo credit: www.pexels.com

 

Stop letting folks decide who you are. Stop letting folks shape your opinion of you. Stop letting those who can’t tell you that you can’t! Stop holding on to people who couldn’t possibly care less if you’re in their lives or not. Ladies, stop holding on to men who are holding on to someone else. Men, stop stopping in your tracks for women who are only out to use you. Stop trusting folks with your heart when they’ve proven over and over again that they have no intention of ever doing right by you, your feelings, or anything else about you. You’re better than that. You deserve better. Get after it.