According to society, I should have been a welfare statistic.
Single African American female at the age of 15 with 3 children was enough to count me out for beating the odds of being a welfare recipient and remaining as such for the majority of my life. At the age of 16, I dropped out of high school to care for my children and obtained a GED. At the age of 17, I married an older man as an escape from my own reality and gained security, only to discover he would become mentally and physically abusive. The abuse was disguised in many forms, such as physical aggression, name calling, yelling, manipulation, minimizing the abuse, limiting my access to the financial accounts, and physical aggression toward the children. In adulthood everything from abusive marriage, divorce, sexual assault, drugs, alcohol, affairs, you name it — I had encountered it all extensively. Maladaptive coping skills lead to a dysfunctional life that spiraled out of control over years. I did not know who I was as a woman, mother, or a spouse. I was a child raising a family and taking on a full role of an adult life.
My son was approximately 8 or 9 years old when the Child Protection Services was introduced into our lives.
My son was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. Unbeknownst to me, this was a real mental health disorder. My son would continuously be disciplined at school and home for his disruptive and defiant behavior. At home his discipline would consist of corporal punishment in its most severe state at times, leaving bruises on his body. In my childhood culture, corporal punishment was highly encouraged and the more severe the defiant behavior, the worse the punishment would be. Child Protection Services’ involvement was a huge blow to our family at the time yet a blessing in disguise. The Child Protection Services worker recommended that our family and my son be seen by a Licensed Clinical Social Worker for counseling and psychoeducational support. This is where I learned how dysfunctional I was as a parent, spouse and woman. I began to learn new skills regarding how to discipline my son properly, how to communicate in an assertive way with my spouse, symptoms of domestic violence and abuse, along with beginning a life journey of self discovery as a woman.
Life took many turns afterwards.
I eventually divorced my husband, landed a job at a domestic violence women’s shelter, completed Bachelors degree in Psychology, Masters degree in Social Work and Masters degree in Public Health Executive Administration. I am currently working on my Doctorate in Social Work with plans to graduate May 2020. My trauma has only pushed me to find purpose in my pain. I’m presently the Owner and Chief Therapist of my own private psychotherapy practice. I now empower others to find their purpose, rediscover life through their own journey of self discovery, change maladaptive coping skills to productive coping skills, and promote community awareness of the signs and effects domestic violence in all forms.
Domestic violence does not discriminate.
It can affect any socioeconomic group, racial group, sexuality, and can occur at any age. If you feel you are in danger, please contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 800.799.7233 or contact our office at 707.728.5131 for further assistance.
About the Author
Hello, I’m Shelia Rivers, a Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW). I am presently the Owner and Chief therapist of Rivers Psychotherapy Services, PLLC and founder of the Girl Get Your Life Together Wellness Seminar. I provide counseling services for individuals, children and adolescents, adults, couples, families and groups. I have obtained the following educational credentials with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Education, Masters in Social Work and Masters in Public Health Executive Administration. I am currently pursuing a Doctorate of Social Work. I’m licensed in the State of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. Being a Licensed Certified Social Worker gives me great pleasure. It allows me an opportunity to share my gift of therapy with many struggling with mental health illness and daily life trials. Watching individuals grow through implementing healthier coping skills, changing thought process, empowerment and encouraging is one of life’s most rewarding careers. It’s my duty to remain passionate about this Helping Profession defined as Social Work. I look forward to making an amazing impact on my community, in families and the lives of individuals I serve.