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.

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!

 

 

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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Photo credit: http://www.pexels.com

 

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

 

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Photo credit: http://www.pexels.com

 

Maybe it’s the guy in the next cubicle.

 

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Photo credit: http://www.pexels.com

 

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

 

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Photo credit: http://www.pexels.com

 

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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Photo credit: http://www.pexels.com

 

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

 

This Month

Today marks the first day of a month of celebration and remembrance. It’s also the perfect day to pop that collar and resolve to do more. It’s the perfect day to resolve to do better.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it is also National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Let us remember those we’ve lost to breast cancer. Let us remember those we’ve lost to domestic violence.

Let us celebrate with those who’ve won the battle against breast cancer. Let us celebrate with those who’ve escaped domestic violence.

Let us stand with those who are fighting breast cancer today. Let us stand with those who are caught in throes of domestic violence today.

Unfortunately, we all know someone or we are that someone who is fighting both these demons.

Stand firm and fight hard. We’re in this together.