I was 11-years-old when I saw my mother nearly get killed by her partner.
I remember him throwing her down a flight of stairs--there were about 27 of them. I also remember a police officer holding me while I was crying. I don't have a clue how the police found out about the incident, especially considering the fact that our neighbors would often close their doors and windows when me or my mom would get beaten by her partner. But what I remember vividly was my mother smoking a crack pipe after it happened. Instead of talking with me, sitting with me, holding me, or loving our pain away, she chose to deal with her own pain first, and self-medicate.
I watched my mother some crack for about 10 minutes straight from a hole in a door that led to her friend's bedroom. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do. I wasn't sure what she was supposed to do. But what I did know was what I saw in the expression on her face. She was finally free from the hurt of dealing with an abusive partner. Free from having to comfort a child who was experiencing the same hell. For once, it was all about her. The look on her face told me that she surrendered all of her worries to crack, and I was happy with that. I didn't want my mother to worry.
It wasn't until I became a mom that I realized that my mom was facing her emotions in a very unproductive manner, and that's putting it nicely. Covering her emotions with addictions did absolutely nothing for my mother but make her face them again when she could no longer run from them, and the chickens always come home to roost.
Looking back, I learned that one of the best things about being a young woman is learning early on how to deal with your emotions in a healthy manner.
It takes absolutely no effort to become a runaway and hide from the people who may have hurt you.
It takes zero effort to make people think your heart is dark, and your thoughts are deranged with your raccoon eyeliner.
It takes even less effort to put your ear buds in to drown out the sounds of your pain screaming to be taken from outside of the box that you've put them in.
But it takes courage to face what's hurting you. No one in the world wants to deal with pain. Not me, or my mom, or anyone reading this. But you'll never live your best life if you spend all of it running away from your pain, instead of learning from it.
I was reminded of this lesson while watching Amandla Stenberg's short film, Blue Girls Burn Fast, which debuted on Vimeo earlier this week. The actress said that she plans to submit the film along with her application to NYU's prestigious film school program. I was amazed that Amandla managed to write, direct, produce, shoot, and edit a film by herself on a subject that takes some people a lifetime to learn.
The 18-minute film follows a teenage girl named Andy, who struggles with being a foster child and a teen girl trying to find her place in the world. While watching the film, I felt excited for the main character, played by actress Leeza Lester, because she learned that not facing your pain is as hurtful as lugging it around with you. By the end of the film, she was almost a different person because she finally allowed herself to be happy.
Seeing Leeza's character finally smile reminded me of the day that I decided to use the abuse that my mother and I endured to become a better person.
[Tweet "I chose to no longer go to that dark place, because it served little purpose in my life."]
Facing my emotions head on made me a better mother, wife, and friend, and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made.
Watch Amandla's 18-minute short film, Blue Girls Burn Fast below.