On February 1, 1992, Judy Sharp’s husband took a photo of his wife on the couch with their two young sons.
What could easily be mistaken for a candid moment of a loving mother resting with her two small children was actually a photo of something much darker. Sharp’s husband had just told his wife it was the last night she would be alive.
As Kidspot reports, Sharp revealed in a post on Facebook the photo was taken the night before fleeing an abusive marriage with sons, just shy of ages 2 and 4, in tow. “I do not know how I survived that night,” Sharp wrote, then continued:
He took the photo he said because it was supposed to be the last night I was to be alive and so the boys would have a memory of being with their mother.
Sharp, now a successful author, according to Kidspot, said she hardly had the energy to leave her marriage. Sharp admitted she couldn’t do it for herself but she knew she had to for the sake of her children:
To be honest I didn’t run for myself, I was too worn out and worn down to do anything for myself. I did it for my sons. I really didn’t believe there was any hope or future for us and I didn’t believe I could do it. But I had to try for the boys I had to do everything I could for them to be safe and away from such evil.
Making the situation even more challenging for the mother of two was her son, Tim’s, severe autism diagnosis at age 3. According to The Guardian, a specialist told Sharp her son would never be able to talk, attend school, or have feelings towards his mother. It was recommended he be placed in an institution.
But Sharp refused the doctor’s suggestion.
In an interview with Kidspot, Sharp said her son’s condition made it difficult to receive help after leaving her marriage:
“I couldn’t go to a shelter because Tim’s autism was so bad, no one could deal with it.”
Nevertheless, Sharp dedicated herself to caring for Tim who, now 29 years old, has become an internationally-renowned artist. “Looking back Tim was always leading the way but it wasn’t always clear then,” Sharp told Kidspot.
Sharp explained that although looking at the photo of herself and two boys the night before escaping “a very abusive marriage” is painful, she has shared her story in an effort to help anyone trapped in a similar situation.
“If you are in the same situation I was in all those years ago, take a step, tell someone, ask for help,” Sharp wrote.
Included in the author’s appeal were a set of rules and beliefs she adopted at the time, claiming to follow many to this day, especially those regarding financial independence. As Sharp recalled to Kidspot:
“He kept all the money from me, I never even had $5 in my purse.”
Judy Sharp’s Rules
Sharp’s rules included:
1. Always pay your bills first. People will feed you rather than pay the bills for you. And they did.
2. Only go to the shops one day a week and then hopefully there will be some money left for a drive to the country or fish and chips at the beach.
3. No matter how hard it is to ask for what you need, when you do most people will try to do what they can to help. They can not read your mind, talk to them. But only ever ask for really important things.
4. Always be humble and grateful for every single act of kindness. THANK YOU.
5. One is the loneliest number but at least you get all the blankets. As one you are the captain.
6. A friends husband told me that every day in every way things would get better. I didn’t believe him. I didn’t think it was possible. But I did what he said and everyday I wrote down one good thing. He told me not to think of what had gone wrong, what I hadn’t done, or what I thought I failed at, just find one better thing. Some days it seemed impossible to think of any better change but he was right there was always something. You have to look to find.
7. No matter what the expense, this family needs a dog. There is no one else who is always that happy to see you and makes you smile like that and forget everything else.
8. Single mothers have been raising incredible humans since time began. I am strong, I am invincible, I can do anything. I am woman! I am a mother.
9. It’s rare that only one thing goes wrong at a time. Sometimes it’s threes, or many more. Deal with them one by one and do your best. It may not seem fair but it is what it is.
10. All that matters is the family you make. That is the only thing worth fighting for. And when you have a child with autism the fight is longer and harder but you are the world expert on your child and your family. Believe in yourself and after a while you are no longer fighting, just leading the way.
11. No matter what happens life goes on. You can watch it go by or walk with it. No matter how slowly or even wearing ten ton mud covered boots from the depths of quick sand, but you can always take a step. Like every wise prophet has said life is one step after another.
12. Everything is better when you float in water.
13. It took me a long time to start to believe this one…… It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t deserve it. No one deserves it. I deserve so much better and it’s up to me to make that better happen.
Sharp wrote on Facebook that she never imagined the way her life turned out all those years ago, with “two healthy, happy, gentlemen sons,” pleading for anyone in an abusive relationship to take a step—any step—towards getting help.
“If you can’t do it for yourself do it for your children. Domestic violence/abuse is never acceptable, don’t wait for it to stop, it won’t,” Sharp warned.
As an acclaimed author, autism advocate, and TED X Talk speaker, Sharp acknowledged her incredible journey began with just a few small steps: “In the early days it was down to basics, food, and for Tim living with autism trying to find a bit of happiness in every day, just trying to survive.”
Sharp concluded her story with a message of support: “The scars don’t go away but I don’t have to look at them every day. I wish you the same happiness, believe me[,] everyone does. Take a step.”
Sara Vallone has been a writer and editor for the last four and a half years. A graduate of Ohio University, she enjoys celebrity news, sports, and articles that enhance people’s lives.