Event has special meaning for former abuse victim, by Kristine McNease

There was a day I wouldn’t have dreamed of going outside in winter to exercise and meet women. Summer wouldn’t have made a difference. It wasn’t the cold that would have kept me away. I was a battered woman. I stayed away from people and from situations that made me uncomfortable. I tried to stay away from life.
I did not like the person I saw in my mirror. At twenty-five years old, my self-esteem was mangled and I found myself in the middle of an abusive relationship. I didn’t understand how I got there, or how I would leave. What I did understand was how I felt—ashamed, secluded, ugly and unlovable.
My front tooth was knocked out and I could no longer keep my secret. I called my mom for help. I worked with counselors in Lansing at a place similar to Harbor House. I was embarrassed, but I reached out for help.
Slowly, I began to trust again. I began to feel alive inside and realize that it was not my fault.
In recovery, I learned to cover my emotions. I was conditioned to believe that everything always went wrong. When I heard myself thinking something negative, I learned to ignore it. I eventually learned to be positive. Not many people knew of this life-and-death struggle inside my head. Slowly, I began to believe everything in life wasn’t that bad.
We can trick our bodies into a better mood. When mimicking a smile or pretending to laugh, our bodies don’t accept that we aren’t truly happy. Our bodies think we’re happy, so they act as if we are happy. When we smile or laugh, it is similar to exercising in that we release endorphins, the feel-good hormones. We also lower our stress levels.
I moved to the U.P. in July 2004, and I didn’t have one friend here. Six months later, I had many acquaintances, but just one friend. That person helped me feel comfortable in sharing my abusive past. She encouraged me to participate in the Women’s Winter Tour to make friends and have fun.
On the morning of the Women’s Winter Tour, I hesitated. I could have pulled the covers over my head. I could have turned around when I slipped and fell on ice in the driveway. I wasn’t very good at cross-country skiing. Even so, I went outside to play last January.
Boy, was she right! Even though the weather didn’t cooperate, I exercised my social muscles. I exercised the right to be myself. I exercised my willingness to take a risk. I appreciated the camaraderie of women. I learned that I can be a friendly, outgoing person. And, when I look at my reflection now, at thirty-eight, I not only like the person, I love the person smiling back in the mirror. Now, I wouldn’t dream of not playing in the snow, and I seek to make new friends.
Thankfully, I didn’t let negative self-talk and excuses keep me away from a fun-filled day.
—Kristine McNease

Editor’s Note: Kristine McNease is now happily married, a step-mom, a Certified Laughter Leader, charter member of Marquette’s Business Network International, and an independent consultant for Arbonne International. Experience “Laughing Away Stress” at the WWT Health & Fitness Expo on at 2:30 p.m. February 12 on the sixth floor of the Landmark Inn.

WWT events culminate in February
• “Boas ’n Boots” takes place on February 10. Ladies are invited to show off with fancy attire, an old formal, tiara or boa to show off for the cameras—and all with long johns underneath. Get your photo taken at Wattsson & Wattsson between 4:00 and 8:00 p.m., and be entered to win jewelry. Enjoy a wine-tasting dinner at Sweet Water—reservations required—or music and contests at HOTplate. Many businesses along Third and Washington streets will be open late with sales and prizes.
• The WWT health fair will be held from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on February 11 at the Landmark Inn, this popular event has expanded to include Peter White Public Library, First United Methodist Church and the Citadel. Sponsored by the Medical Alliance in Marquette, this is a not-to-miss event for a $1 entry fee.
• The moonlight snowshoe event is hosted by the Nordic Bay Inn at 5:00 p.m. on February 11. Cost is $20 with 100 percent of ticket sales benefiting Marquette Area Harbor House and NTN.
• The National Subaru Women’s Winter Tour begins at 10:00 a.m. on February 12. Starting at NMU’s Jacobetti Skill Center, skiers and snowshoers can choose from a moderate beginner’s course, and a challenging and hilly course is for the more experienced.
For more information or to register, visit www.womenswintertour.com

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