"Only let them see you shine" - February 3, 2022

My daughter watched it first. Maid, on Netflix. When I told her I was going to start it she adamantly told me not to. She said it was way too similar to what we lived for years, she said it even triggered her. I watched it anyhow. Last night, alone. Crying through so much of it. Little cries, aware that it was triggering me into a CPTSD episode and watching it anyways. Eventually had to turn it off. Went to sleep. Had PTSD dreams...if you suffer from it you know what I'm talking about. Woke up feeling the darkness of an episode surrounding me, knowing there was no way out other than to just get through it. It's been so long. It doesn't leave.

So I am writing. And sharing. Because I think it may help. Me..and maybe someone else? A good friend gave me wonderful advice years ago: "Only let them see you shine." I loved his advice and have followed it. I've really only let you see me shine. And at this point I think I appear pretty shiny. But the truth is, most people don't really know me. You all see me shine and don't know about the darkness. But it's Domestic Violence Awareness month, and I've decided to share. I've come so far. But I spent seven years with an abusive man and 5 years trapped in a marriage with him, a battered woman being physically and emotionally abused. No money to my name, no job other than stay at home mom. When I share this from time to time, people often react the same, "Rachel you're a smart woman why would you stay?" I'll answer this publicly now, because it's a common question asked to abused women. Abuse doesn't come on all at once. You are conditioned into accepting it, chipped away at slowly and manipulated into believing that you are nothing without them. It starts small and you give them the benefit of the doubt. Especially if you have children with them, you don't want to do it alone..don't want to fragment the family. They abuse and then apologize, promising to never do it again. They make reparations. You WANT to believe them, so you stay. It becomes a cycle. I had no money of my own, no job, and two babies. The abuses become worse. What starts out as emotional abuse becomes physical abuse. The emotional aspect doesn't stop. I was told daily that I was worthless. That I would never be anything without him. I became conditioned and believed it. It kept me there. Physically trapping me into corners and berating me inches from my face became actually putting hands on me. It took that turn when I was pregnant with my son...with his hands around my neck. My daughter would run and hide. She developed her own coping mechanisms. I am not brave enough to share the explicits of the abuse any further, but I did know that if I stayed I would end up dead and my children would end up dysfunctional and abused by him themselves. The day of the last and worst assault I did something terrifying, and at the time the bravest thing I had ever done...I left. I called the police for the first time, he was arrested, he emptied all our bank accounts leaving the babies and I with nothing, and from that moment on I have been raising my children alone. We were poor. I got 4 jobs that I worked for 3 years. We were on welfare. Food stamps. Daycare subsidy. Lived in apartments in unhealthy conditions. Went weekly to the food pantry. Toys for Tots for Christmas. The gratitude and humility these years left me with is ingrained in me and will drive me for the rest of my life to give back whenever I can. We remained trapped in broken government systems designed to keep poor people poor and living in a society that shames them for utilizing the systems that trap them. I would cry every time I would read a statistic about children raised without fathers. I was determined that my children would not become those statistics. But I was blessed...with a college education, with a supportive family, with intelligence and ambition. I worked hard and got us out. But not everyone is so lucky, not everybody has those blessings. Abuse is isolating. Isolating AF. Dark and lonely and desperate. You become someone you don't recognize. Small. An empty shell. A lot of the time the rest of the world has no idea what is happening behind the closed doors. You don't want to air your dirty laundry. You are too ashamed to seek help. You are trapped. Conditioned.

I'm not as shiny as I appear. At this point I'd rather be REAL. Maybe being real will make someone else feel less alone with what they have gone through or are going through. I am writing this for that reason, but also for myself. Because silently hanging onto darkness is hard. Talking about it and sharing helps.

This was a huge share. It's scary. This is scary. But liberating. I have a small platform that I try to be responsible with. Shiny is great but so is real 💜

About the Author - Rachel WS is a nationally renowned Tattoo Artist, a determined mom with a fierce love for her children, and a philanthropic soul.