Her marriage was over, and she was paralyzed by self-doubt, depression, anger. Then a mirror reminded her what she was made of.
I remember how I learned to spell respect by listening to Aretha Franklin wail out "R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me!" over and over again. About two years ago, I rewrote the lyric, sadly singing, "D-I-V-O-R-C-E." My marriage was at an end and I was about to find out just what it meant to me.
After my divorce became final, I began sinking into a depression that caused me to doubt everything I knew about myself. I felt like someone was cutting and peeling the skin right off my body. I understood how easily a person could end up with a drug or drinking problem, because there were times when the pain was so deep, I just wanted to feel better somehow, anyhow.
Months passed and I barely made it through taping the last season of Moesha . The joy I used to feel going to the studio was gone. And one day as I was checking out at the supermarket, I was shocked to see a gossip rag with a very uncomplimentary "Behind-the-Scenes at Moesha " story that included my divorce. I couldn't understand why they'd write such an article full of untruths—and with pictures! I was afraid. Afraid of the anger I felt; of being a public spectacle; of being a statistic—a divorced mother of two. Afraid that I wasn't going to make it.
There were nights when I couldn't sleep. I'd remind myself that life's an up and down thing and how you handle those ups and downs is the true test of who you are. I had heard myself say that to others many times. I understood what it meant, and it sure did sound good, but taking my own advice and putting it to real use wasn't easy to do.
My blood pressure bounced up and down like a beach ball. I didn't eat and I felt withdrawn. The real blow came when my hair started falling out. There's something about stress that puts us all on the same level. Everything on the outside seemed perfect, but my insides were a wreck, and I didn't know how to fix it.
Then one morning as I was brushing my teeth, I noticed the bags under my eyes and saw what was left of my hair, and I realized that it had been a long time since I had taken a good look at myself. All of a sudden the sorrow began to pour out of me and tears burned my face. I had been raised to take responsibility for myself. I had been hurt, so I had to begin to heal myself. I had two beautiful children who needed me at my best, and I was at my worst.
I took another long look, and what I saw surprised me. I saw a twinkle in my eye. That was the signal that I was down but not out, because I could see what my smile used to look like. I'd spent so much time crying that I had forgotten what it looked like, and if I could smile, then I was getting my groove back. In that moment, at my very worst, I was becoming stronger. I was letting go, and as hard as it would be, I was ready to leave the pain of the past and take the first step forward. I laughed, spraying toothpaste everywhere. I couldn't let my divorce be the death of me. The road to healing would be long and it wouldn't be easy, but I had to start that journey right away, on my own.
D-I-V-O-R-C-E was hard, but I found out what it meant to me.
Lance Armstrong's Ex-Wife on Marriage and Divorce
Printed from Oprah.com on Wednesday, March 12, 2014
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