(Disclaimer: I’m still really sick – I’m writing this from my bed, in my pajamas, trying desperately not to swallow. If I don’t write, though, my head will explode: there’s only so long I can go without doing something with my brain. If I don’t make any sense here, you’ll understand why…)
I teach fitness classes at a local health club and one of my participants in the Sunday morning step class is a woman I’ll call Stacey. She’s a quietly friendly person, about my age, with a bright smile and a gentle manner and a determined, tenacious streak which I love – she was hell-bent on figuring out a particularly challenging step pattern last year and insisted that I teach it every week until she got it. We chitchat a little bit before each class starts and, though I don’t really know her very well, I know enough to like her.
About four or so months ago, I noticed that Stacey had started to change. It was subtle at first – she was a little more quiet than usual, she’d lost some of her bounce and enthusiasm. When I asked after her, she’d reply that she hadn’t been feeling well but that she was really okay and I shouldn’t worry. I accepted her explanation, but kept an eye on her just the same.
It didn’t take long before the subtle changes started getting overt; she seemed sad and despondent, and she’d started dropping weight at an alarming pace. A couple of other regulars in the class noticed, too, and asked her if she was all right – she told them she was, but I wasn’t buying it anymore.
A couple of weeks ago, I cornered her in the lobby after class. I basically said “look, Stacey, I know something’s up with you. You don’t have to tell me what it is, but I know there’s something. You’re not the same person you were six months ago, you’re melting away to nothing, you look tired and scared and I’m genuinely worried about you.” I pressed a scrap of paper with all my contact information on it and told her that I’m here and available if she needed me for anything.
About a week later, I got an email from her telling me that she’d found herself in an abusive marriage and was considering getting out. The email was what I imagine is typical of abused women – she blamed herself for the behavior, she told me that he really does love her, she said that she doesn’t want to leave because that will only make things worse. My responses were always the same – she had to assure her own safety – sooner rather than later – and that I was available to help in any way that I could, up to and including picking her up and bringing her to the shelter.
She hadn’t shown up to class in a couple of weeks and I was beginning to worry. I heard from her on Sunday, though, when she told me that her parents were coming to physically remove her from the situation. She was distraught and shaking, but resolved. I assured her that this was the best thing that could possibly happen to her, that she needed someone to come to take her from this situation which she clearly wasn’t strong enough to overcome on her own, and that I was relieved to finally know that she’d be safe.
I haven’t heard much from her since Sunday. She emailed to say that she was at her parents’ home in a nearby state and that she was physically safe but emotionally wrecked.
I say that’s better than the other way around.