Let's just say I'm a professional bruise-cover-upper.
I looked in the mirror and pondered where to even start with this mess of a face. I'm what you call a professional "bruise cover-upper." I can mix foundations and concealers with the best in the business and no one would even suspect my husband had smacked the shit out of me the day before. But in my year of healing, I threw all my make-up away, promising myself I would never allow there to be a reason I'd need it again. I stand by that decision but it wasn't helping me this morning while I was recovering from surgery to fix my broken face and I needed to go to the grocery store.
I covered my bruises the best I could but eventually realized I didn't look any better and decided to just hold my head high and not let it bother me. As I drove to the store, I looked in the rear iew mirror and chuckled, thinking of the phrase "it's like putting lipstick on a pig." Nobody was going to look at me today and think, "Wow, that's a cute girl; great eye shadow." Their thoughts would probably fall more along the lines of, "OMG, that chick's face is BROKEN." Sigh.
I got to the grocery store and was unprepared for the feelings that came over me. I wasn't even out of the parking lot before the first stranger noticed my battered face. I saw the look of shock in her eyes before she quickly averted her gaze. I literally felt my posture fall as my own gaze dropped to the ground, overcome with feelings of shame and embarrassment. As I did, another woman with two little kids walked by and I turned the other direction as to not scare them.
I made it into the store and quickly went about grabbing whatever I could as fast as I could. I stood in line and I swear my neck started burning from stranger's gazes beating down on me. Whether it because of my bruises or because I looked like I might fall through the floor, I don't know. All I know was that all the memories I had of covering my bruises and masking my shame began to flood back from the darkest places in my soul and stood right in front of me. When I got to the front of the line the pharmacist, whom I have known for quite some time, gasped. She actually gasped.
"What on Earth happened to you?" she asked me.
The words came tumbling out of my mouth. "My ex-husband happened. That's what happened."
Ohmygosh who said that!?
I said that. I can't believe I said that.
She didn't know what to say. I didn't know what to say. I made a little joke so she knew I wasn't snapping at her but really, what can you do in that situation?
I can personally attest that abuse happens. Women get punched in the face. They get stapled with staplers. They get fingers slammed in doors. They get burned with cigarettes. They get hit with broom handles. You know why most victoms aren't saved? Because they walk around so burdened by shame, staring at the floor in the grocery store, that nobody notices them.
When I was in the process of getting divorced, my attorney nudged me to work out a visitation schedule with my ex. I kept telling him no, there was no way I was going to allow my ex-husband to spend any time with my kids. But my attorney informed me that the judge wouldn't look kindly on me if I marched into a court room and proclaimed I wasn't going to let my ex see my kids because I'd look like a scorned wife.
This probably would have been a good time to tell my attorney, "Listen, that guy beats the shit out of me. He raped me, he hit my infant son, and you're more likely to be defending me in court after I'm detained in customs for trying to flee the country with my kids than you are to get my approval to let my ex spend alone time with them." But did I say anything? No. Because I was so, so ashamed that I had let someone do those things to me.
So in my moment of insanity with my pharmacist, I'm glad I blurted out what I did. It probably wasn't in the best interest of social etiquette but I don't care. Social etiquette has made too many things "hush-hush" these days. Too many things are so traumatic, unbelievable, and uncomfortable that society sweeps them under the rug so that we don't have to face the painful truth that they exist.
But by doing that, we've created a society filled with women who can't look up.
The word "disaster" comes from the Greek words "dis" meaning "in the absence of," and "aster" meaning "stars." In the absence of stars. I refuse to hide my face in the shadows of a disastrous life. I'm not going to walk around with my head hung low anymore; I'm going to look up and see the stars.
This is not my shame to bear, and I, along with every other woman out there, deserve to see the stars because the stars were made for all of us.
Yes, my face looks like this because of my ex. Because of my ex, my parents and my past, I was broken woman, and now thankfully, I'm healing.
Eden Strong is a freelance writer who can be found speaking (what's left of her mind) about single motherhood, recovering from abuse, and everyday humor on her blog "It Is Not My Shame To Bear." You can also catch up with Eden on her Facebook.
This article was originally published at It's Not My Shame To Bear. Reprinted with permission from the author.