Laura was my best friend in elementary school. Best friend in the world. I would go to her house for sleep overs and we would laugh, ride horses, run from her bull, laugh some more. Laura was authentic. There was no hidden agenda ever. She was real in all ways. She was the only real thing in my life during some of the worst years of my life. In a world surrounding me with secrets, abuse, and lies…I had the unconditional love of my friend Laura. There was always something about the way she looked directly into my eyes…
We lost touch for years after highschool but reconnected after she was diagnosed with cancer. No time had passed. We were in the third grade again and it was the next day but 30 years later. I had one year with Laura. She had “Laura’s warriors” which was a huge group of supporters. We talked about this. I had a muscle disease and had a few people. She had cancer and had over 300 people. Cancer affects everyone in some way. We all know someone who knew someone, or have a friend or loved one who has fought the battle. Some have gone into remission and some have gone to be with God. Laura had hundreds of people taking care of her. She chose to take care of me. She had a go fund me for all of the alternative treatments she was trying since the chemo did not work. She used some of that money to pay for ME to have alternative treatments for this disease I have. I’ve NEVER in all of my life known ANYONE as selfless as Laura. This is not to diminish those who have supported me throughout the disease I have, but Laura… She would have chemo and then come to my house and make juice for me or dinner. She would take time away from her own family to come and hold me in her arms and pray for me. No one, other than my husband, has ever held me like she did. She understood that having this muscle disease took away so much from me. She understood how lonely it was and isolating it was. We told each other all of our secrets. I told her of some of the abuse I endured in my lifetime that I have never told anyone else. I knew she would not judge me but would instead love me even more. She really hated what men had done to me. She wanted to fight for me. That girl was a fighter. I spoke to her the day before she passed away and she told me that she was fine and she loved me. She never gave up.
Cancer touches all of us. It took away my best friend. I watched her in pain. I watched her suffer. I loved her with all of my heart.
The last few weeks have been very difficult for me. I have been suffering. I have been haunted by all of the men who have harmed me. Haunted. Ptsd flashback. Nightmares. Billboard signs with their photos reminding me around every corner that I will never be allowed to forget. I have also had severe muscle pain.
Let me say that I moved forward from the abuse. The abuse is still with me but I have moved constantly forward. PTSD keeps the abuse there but I chose to move forward anyway.
I MOVED FORWARD. I go out every day with this disease and I fight it just like Laura fought cancer. I look for the beautiful things that God has placed before me and I appreciate every single moment. I didn’t choose to be abused. I did not choose to get a muscle disease. Laura didn’t choose to have cancer. It took her from me and her children and family. I am so glad as I look back that in her last year of life she had that team. Everyone should have a team! Today I saw a woman wearing a t-shirt about team so and so fighting for cancer. I don’t have a team.
I don’t have a team because the society we live in does not give abuse victims a team. Muscle disease sufferers used to at least get a DAY with the MDA and Jerry Lewis but that was taken away. Mental illness does not get a team. We sure do need one though. We are urged and encouraged to keep silent and let the stigma continue.
Nobody tells someone fighting cancer to just let it go, move on, etc. I know not everyone has a team fighting for them that has cancer. I know many people keep their fight with cancer a secret. It may seem like I am trying to make a comparison between cancer and other diseases but I am just expressing what I have witnessed. Their is a society shame put on victims of abuse and mental illness. There is shame in admitting vulnerability with muscle diseases and that it may trigger other PTSD emotions.
There is no shame in saying you have cancer. And why would there be. There shouldn’t be. I guess that is my point. You didn’t ask for cancer so why would anyone want you to be silent about it? They wouldn’t. Yet I am supposed to be silent along with thousands of others about our daily lives after abuse. Whether it be domestic violence, rape, any kind of sexual assault or childhood abuse, silence is the what people want.
Who decided to shame victims?
Who decided to enable abusers?
What is this culture that we live in?
This culture is shameful.
Laura and I talked about these issues. She knew that our stories were not a competition. She was fighting cancer. I was fighting a muscle disease. She happened to have a lot of support. I did not. Not for the disease, not for the PTSD, not for the abuse, not for the anxiety. I was for the most part alone. No calendars were set up with meal deliveries for me. No car rides to appointments were scheduled. Most of what I was going through no one was there to listen and she saw this and stepped up even as she herself was dying. She is and always will be my hero. She did what healthy able bodied people can’t but should.
What people don’t understand is that everyone you know has either been abused, knows someone who has been abused, or has loved someone who has been abused. Just as cancer has touched so many, abuse has as well.
NO ONE SHOULD FIGHT ALONE.
My story is not unique. Almost every woman I know has been abused or knows someone who has. In my years as a chaplain for hospice almost every person I met with had a story of abuse. In working in wild life rehab there was animal abuse. No one talks about it though. No one listens.
We have created an environment where it is not ok to talk about our emotions, our fears, our anger, or our memories. My memories include heinous abuse. You don’t erase a memory good or bad. It is part of my story. I cannot control when these memories surface nor can any other trauma victim but we are encouraged to keep it silent.
I told Laura everything. I sat with her every day of her chemo treatments and we talked. About everything good and bad. No secrets. In her last week of LIFE she sat on my couch with my head buried in her chest, me sobbing as she prayed and prayed and prayed that God would heal me from the pain inflicted by men and by the aftermath and by this muscle disease. Like I said…not many people exist like Laura.
I didn’t ask her to. I didn’t want to take time away from her family. But I was her family in her heart. My husband drove me to be with her during chemotherapy and sat in the waiting room for hours while I sat with her. She then sat with me. We loved each other wholeheartedly and unconditionally. Our relationship remained true and authentic to this day. Even as the years have passed since she has been gone I have loved her the same.
I love that she had 300 people and more that were Laura’s warriors. I love that she felt loved and cared for. It doesn’t take that many people though and in fact with me it just took one person and that was Laura. She was really all I needed to feel like I mattered, my life mattered, I was valued, and she was my team, my warrior.
My husband has always been that person for me and I know that. Women though often need other women who really “get” us.
I miss Laura every day. I miss what she stood for. The authentic, purity, non-agenda, fun-loving, tilt your head back and laugh with no apologies person, and put someone before yourself person.
She knew the culture I was going up against in my refusal of being kept silence in the abuse. She knew the fight against the stigma of PTSD and anxiety. She knew how alone I was in this fearful loss of self with this muscle disease.
Why doesn’t anyone else know?
Was there only one Laura?
Today I went to the park with my husband and fought back tears of pain from the disease and pain from the past that slapped me in the face by means of a billboard with a man’s face plastered on it that nearly destroyed me.
I saw the wild horses in the distance and do what I always do which is feel elated first. Then protective second. I want to get to them and make sure no one goes near them and no one tries to take selfies with them and keep them respected as the wild creatures that they are.
My husband steered my scooter for me and I sat back in my chair and just watched them. The wind blew and I smelled them. It is my favorite smell. They were across the water and I took many photographs as we got closer on the path. I have a zoom lens and never intentionally go near them. About 4 people walked past and I told them to please not go up to the horses if they get closer as they are wild…like I always do. After everyone passed us I put my camera down and watched. I watched them twitch their tails and snort and breathe. I saw each greet the other and nudge the other and nibble on the other’s back. I sat perfectly still and quiet as one of the pregnant mares walked from across the prairie and all the way up to about 2 feet from me. She ate grass and looked at me the entire time. She would step one step closer and look up and graze some more. My husband was behind me. That horse looked me in the eyes and I watched the baby in her belly moving all around. I smelled her and listened to her breathing. It was like Laura was looking at me again. Knowing everything that I felt and experienced. I think that horse was thanking me for always looking out for them and keeping the other people away. I feel in my heart, after these last few weeks, God sent that horse over to me to remind me that I am NOT alone. It may be a horse looking at me in the eyes but I was not alone. I have watched these horses for years. They do not walk up to people. They run from people. This horse walked right up to me and I cried. I cried because I was not thinking about anything but how blessed I felt in that moment. How that horse made me feel like I mattered. A HORSE! The billboard and the abusers and the diseases didn’t matter. It was all gone in that moment. It was just that horse and me. I slowly backed up my scooter because I did not want her to get used to humans like me because frankly I don’t think there are a lot of people that are like me. Not many that I have met. Some. Not many. I didn’t want to back away but out of respect for her being wild, I did.
That horse has a herd. She has her own team that supports her and fights for her and loves her. I have watched them and I know.
God sent me a little reminder through that horse looking at me just like Laura used to that even if we don’t have 300 warriors we are not alone. A horse made me not feel alone.
It took a horse because so many humans are living in this culture that they are enabling and accepting that keeps trauma victims silent.
I have intermingled being a trauma victim with having a muscle disease because being a victim of a crime is not the ONLY thing that we fight. I’ve got a list of things I am fighting…doctors, nightmares, lyme disease, ptsd, anxiety, depression, loneliness, etc. I can’t have a team because no one wants to stand up and fight for these issues. And that is so very sad. But for tonight at least I’m not going to focus on what’s sad. I’m going to look at this horse, think of Laura, and be thankful of the little blessings in my life.