I am happy to share the first of many post from a new member of the MWC family. Shelley Harris is a native of Chi-town and has some real knowledge and lessons to share that inspire me and I’m sure will inspire you. Enjoy her first post, premiering in our Testif-Y spot, “Gloom or Bloom?“. Learn more about her on the Team WYFE page.
As each day comes to a close, I reflect on my day and how far I’ve come as a woman. My favorite quote is “Life is an argument you cannot win”. That statement is so powerful! Life can be extremely blissful and downright cruel…However; it’s the lessons that come from the never-ending roller coaster ride. Yet, out of any negative there is always a positive. You just have to look beyond those gloomy clouds, the sun is always shining. My story is one of happiness and hurt, but it has shaped me into the woman I am today.
Opening up is never easy for me. Purging is hard to do when you’ve mastered the art of covering the pain, fear and insecurities with a polished smile and a rehearsed reply when I am asked how I am doing with a polite “I’m well and you?”
Where do I start? I suppose at the beginning…
My first experience of abuse was my step-father, a former proud Marine. He ran the household like it was his boot camp and we were his recruits. Physical, mental and verbal abuse became a way of life for me, my mother, and my sister. As a child, I rarely knew peace or complete happiness. I wondered why my mother would allow this to happen to us. My mother was in her carefully crafted trance; she was convinced that she needed him and that if we were all good and did what he demanded, he would stop all of the abuse. We tried that for a while…but that doesn’t work on a drug addict. Cocaine was monster that he unleashed on us. I remember a time waking up in the middle of the night to mother hiding in me and my sister’s room because my stepfather was on one of his many war paths. The look on my mother’s face haunts me to this day.
Incidents like this continued until one beautiful bright hot summer afternoon. We were living in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood (nice area at that time). My mother & stepfather were arguing because she bought a record without his permission; “Sexual Healing” by Marvin Gay to be exact. Before I knew it he had my mother by her throat against the wall with her feet dangling. My sister tried to help my mother but she was knocked to the floor by my stepfather’s free hand. My seven year old mind panicked, my mother was in trouble and I had to do something. As my sister frantically dialed 911, I ran to the kitchen to find something to make him stop. My mind went on auto pilot; I ran down the hallway with a kitchen knife. I was having an outer body experience…I saw myself stab him in his lower back; not knowing that the knife had reach the exact location of his kidneys. He died several years later to kidney failure. Did I feel guilty? Not one bit…
My mother finally got the courage to leave. I thought after we were free, we would all live happily ever after. Soon after, I started being molested by an older cousin, and a family friend. I convinced myself that I was the problem, there was something wrong with me and I was the cause of it all. I had to deserve it right?
I had my first nervous breakdown at 15. In the midst of my breakdown, I divulged to my mother what my cousin was doing to me. She immediately called my grandmother in a state of panic after I pleaded with her not to. My grandmother was my world; she was also very ill. She had Sickle Cell Anemia and at the time she was having a terrible bout with it. A few months later, my grandmother passed and I believe that it was the news that her grandson had defiled and hurt her granddaughter, her namesake. For years, I blamed myself believing that if I’d kept my mouth shut and she would still be here.
That was the beginning of “Operation Shutdown”. I learned to push everything to the farthest region of my mind. I became a two-time Illinois state champion sprinter, captain of the cheerleading team, co-captain of the volleyball team and was a member of the Spanish Club and the Drama Club. I finished high school and went on to college. I appeared to have it all together, but it was all coming to a boil.
I married at the age of 22 and had my first son shortly after and my second son at age 25. I thought that finally this would be my happily ever after. I had a husband who came from a good family with strong family values and I translated that to mean that he would uphold those strong family values. How naïve I was…he enjoyed the idea of a family but truly didn’t want the responsibility. Our marriage was filled with verbal, mental and physical abuse. During the course of my marriage, I had two more nervous breakdowns and was placed on antidepressants or as I affectionately call them, “happy pills”. I’m elated to say that I am free from the madness.
After exhausting all resources to save my marriage, I made the decision to leave. Which I must say is the best decision I had made in a long time.
Shortly after, my detailed prayer of a mate was answered. However, with every blessing we ask of Him, we are tested to prove ourselves.
Our relationship has been tested due to the aftermath of my marriage. My ex-husband left me with everything, past due bills and the struggle to keep my home. My ex-husband has maintained a peek-a-boo relationship with our sons. Yet, my man has stuck by me and supported me in every way possible through all of my craziness and financial woes due to job losses.
The biggest and most agonizing test happened when I fell pregnant and lost our son at 5 months gestation. The emotional pain was so unbearable that I would rather someone stab me repeatedly in my neck with a rusted knife. My heart was in a constant state of hurt. To see my baby without a heartbeat and no movement broke me. I had to be induced to give birth to my sweet angel gone too soon. My doctor confirmed that a fibroid measuring at 5 cm took the supply from my baby. I was told that I would need to see a specialist to have any remaining fibroids removed. Thankfully, the fibroid actually came out when I delivered the placenta. No surgery needed and my fertility has not been impacted. I am cleared to try again and have made the decision to try when I’m ready. I never want to live with the ‘what if’s and what could’ve been’. But that doesn’t mean that I’m apprehensive. So for now, I will continue take one day at a time and focus on life’s treasures.
In the beginning I was so mad at God for allowing this to happen to me after all I’ve been through. I refused to listen or talk to him. I thought that I was being punished because I got pregnant out of wedlock. In the midst of it all, God has held me, loved me, and consoled me. I remember sobbing and praying for Him to take away the pain. I begged for forgiveness because I didn’t follow the rules of being married first…but the ironic thing is that I didn’t want marriage at that time anyway. I was happy to be ‘single mom’…or so I thought.
I was so broken and felt like I couldn’t go on. I was so ashamed and blamed myself until one sunny morning during one of my sob sessions, I heard a sweet, loving voice caress my soul. It spoke “You didn’t lose your baby because I’m punishing you”. Was I imagining this? I thought I must be officially crazy because now I’m hearing voices. I decided in that instant that I need to get back on my ‘happy pills’. The voice continued, “You’re not crazy Shelley”; “You did not lose your baby because I’m punishing you.” My healing began in that moment. I’m not completely there, but a lot closer than I was yesterday. As I continue my drive through life, I make sure to focus on looking ahead through my life’s windshield at how beautiful the road is ahead and only glancing in my rear view mirror every once in a while to remind myself of how far I’ve come.
“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.” -Nido Qubien-
*Don’t be scared to Testif-Y and share your life lessons! Send me your testimony today! firstname.lastname@example.org