I stood in front of the mirror staring at my reflection through the haze of my tears. I looked at the woman reflecting back at me, but I didn’t recognize her. I wondered what happened to the girl I used to be? Did she even exist anymore? Maybe fragments of her were swimming around lost inside this shell that was barely surviving, but not living. I can’t remember how long I stared at myself, thinking about who I used to be and seeing no hope for my future, but eventually I was pulled away from my inner thoughts to tend to my family.
For over a decade I stayed in an abusive marriage that was infected with gas lighting, manipulation, name calling, stalking, alcoholism, false accusations, and extreme emotional torture. I could go into the details, but I’d rather this be a story about hope, and to inspire you to know that even if things seem to be impossible there is always a solution.
One morning when I was 5 months pregnant with our 5th child I quickly packed one suitcase and all the kids into the van and drove 7 hours to my parents house on no sleep. The previous night I was screamed at for things I didn’t do, stories he made up in his head. I was over being spat on, having holes punched in the walls inches from my head, and having doors broken down to get to me. My ex-husband suffers from paranoid delusions. I couldn’t deal with the security cameras watching me sleep, make dinner, or fold laundry for another second, because no matter what I did he always found something he deemed highly suspicious while reviewing the camera footage.
After I left I had no idea what I was going to do. I was lucky, because my family let me live with them for one year until I could get back on my feet. I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy that year, continued to home school one of my children, and saved up enough money to get started on my own business. After my business started bringing in enough income I was able to get my own house. I filled it up with things I found locally for sale, or family hand-me-downs. I love my little happy house.
My children are so happy now. I love seeing them smile everyday, and I love how we aren’t always walking on eggshells. My daughter and I are close. I’m proud of the relationship we have. My boys smile more, talk more, and are making friends at school. Instead of hiding in their rooms, we can hang out together in the living room. Instead of waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of frightening noises, they sleep peacefully. Life is good, and reflected beautifully in these photos.
Now, when I look in the mirror I don’t have the burden of not recognizing the woman reflecting back at me. Now, when I look in the mirror I see the girl I used to be, but an upgraded version with courage, strength, and instead of tears there is a smile.
See more pictures of Nicole's family from last fall HERE!