My husband left in 2006. We’d been married thirteen years. He moved to another state and started a new family. I had $120, two kids, two months of outstanding mortgage payments, and an empty refrigerator. Back then I didn't have family or friends nearby.
My doctor said, "You're beyond clinical depression." I was tormented with the idea of suicide. I thought, "My children would be so much better off if I wasn't here, because how can I be a good parent?"
But actually, my children helped me the most.
I wanted to stay in bed and hide. Because of my kids, I couldn’t do that. I’m a lawyer by profession, and I had to find a job with consistent benefits.
My good friend helped me. Her husband had died very suddenly a few years before. She said, "There were days that I just did not want to get up. But I had to. No matter how hard it is, you've got to get up and just keep going, baby."
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I had to let people know that I needed help. I had a hard time accepting that. One day my friend called and said, "I've got four hundred dollars for you to buy school clothing for your children." I had to humble myself. If I didn't humble myself and go to a food pantry or allow people to give me money, then we just simply weren't going to make it.
Every time I would hit a low point, I’d think, "There should be a manual that tells you how to deal with this." That’s why in 2013 I decided to start telling my story to encourage other people. I’ve written about it in The Huffington Post, I’ve given a Tedx talk. That was a watershed year for me.
Writing about my story is the work that gives me the most fulfillment.
As a lawyer, I’ve seen real differences in how African American children are treated versus white children. I've seen inequality lead kids to join gangs, get pregnant at a young age. That could have happened to my children. But we defied all statistics. My son won a full college scholarship. He's about to graduate, and he already has a job in Atlanta. My daughter is a high school senior. We hope she’ll get a scholarship too.
When my husband left, my world had become incredibly narrow and small. Him leaving saved me. At the beginning I didn't see it this way, but it freed me. Because of my journey over the last ten years, my world has become so big.
Stephanie Mitchell Hughes is an attorney, writer, speaker, and respectful disrupter. She is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, Thrive on Medium, and mariashriver.com. Watch Stephanie's Tedx talk and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
Image Credit: Jeff Swensen/The Verbatim Agency for OptionB.Org