Connecting the dots TW

If I told you of all the men, you would not believe me.
“Til it happens to you, you don’t know how it feels…you won’t know, it won’t be real…won’t know how it feels.” Lady Gaga

I think if I purge it all then I will be free of it. I talk of it as if it will release each memory and go into this space of the internet where all will be cleansed and free of the pain. I just don’t know if that’s true. But keeping it inside of me will destroy me. So I speak it. It makes me feel worse at first. I feel vulnerable. I think others will judge me or think I’m making it up or I’m crazy or give them reasons to shift blame to me. Then when I stop thinking of them and I have stopped thinking about the event I wrote about, a little tiny place inside of me feels…vindicated. I’ve kept their secrets and after I reveal them then I feel some sense of justice even if real justice will never happen for me. And it won’t. All of these men can’t be found, prosecuted, held accountable for what they did. And they are not thinking of me. They are not suffering. They are sociopaths, psychopaths, pedophiles who did not think of me for a second after I was gone. There will never be justice for me. I can just let out what I can into this internet space of men who will read this and get pleasure from my pain. That’s a chance I’m taking. It wasn’t everything that was done to me as much as how it all made me feel. That ONE moment. There was always a moment of realization. Where I knew I had been used up and tossed aside. Right before that moment, I could have been feeling joy or maybe even loved. Then came the moment of loss. The realization that if I allow myself to feel joy or love that it will be taken in the cruelest of fashions. I was so groomed and brainwashed that every form of affection was interpreted as love until it caused pain and only then did I see it for what it was. I was so manipulated and tricked and forced that I knew nothing of purity and goodness from men.

I met someone who lived in Indiana a few days ago. I told this person I had a waterskiing job there. I went on with my day and later that night I grabbed a handful of chocolate chips. Then the flash came. I remember being picked up from the airport for that job in Indiana and taken to the home of the director of the job. He was so handsome and I was so flattered that he thought I was beautiful and he gave me so much attention. It was days of sex and just being in his bed and showering and more sex. I’d never been treated so affectionately or adoringly. He never offered me any food or meals so I would go into his refrigerator and get bread and in the pantry was peanut butter and chocolate chips. So I made myself a sandwich. Peanutbutter and chocolate chips. I created this fairytale that I’d go to my first day on the job queen of the world. This man must have loved me! It was this automatic love! We drove to work through the corn fields and they were beautiful. We were in his jeep and I was waving my arm up and down like the blowing corn. Surrounded by corn. I saw myself smiling in the mirror. I felt joy. I had just escaped my home life where I was abused by the ski team for my entire childhood and finally I got this job in Indiana and I was free!
We got to work and he dropped me and my suitcase off and acted like he had just picked me up from the airport. He told me I’d be staying in the skihouse with all the other skiers. He did not touch me again. I was 16 years old. He was 25 years old. That would be considered rape in the laws now. In this county and city at least. But…Too many had already had sex with me. I knew no different.
I looked at the chocolate chips in my hand just two days ago and remembered that part of the story that I’d forgotten. I remembered him and what he did. He humiliated me multiple times later in my career just because he could. He neded up at the job I took at Seaworld years later. Everytime I thought I was free I wasn’t. I have put together over the years that the entire waterskiing community was connected. I was abused every place I went that was waterskiing. And that was everywhere. That’s what I did. I skied. That was my job. My career. My passion. And it took me to different places from Indiana to Costa Rica to Canada all to be abused by different men.
Everyone was connected. I made a chart one day to see the connection.
Each line connected one, two, five, 10. Each one was an added secret. Each one was a new loss. But all connected.

I ran into an old friend from the lake who introduced me to his friend when I was late teens. I knew I would be safe with this guy because he said he was saving himself for marriage. But he liked to videotape making out with girls. I’d never been videotaped before. Half way into the videotape he told me that he didn’t believe that anal sex counted as sex and he would still consider himself a virgin. His plan was to trick girls into making out with them under the premise that he would stay a virgin so they’d be safe only to find out with the videotape rolling that what he considered virgin was not what they considered. That was one of the only times in every scenario where I stopped everything. I don’t know why he was different but I told him to stop and I told him to give me all of his videotapes of all of the girls. Maybe it was me realizing that he’d tricked all of these girls into having his kind of sex with them. I could never stand up for myself but the idea that he’d done this to others made me stand up for them in the best way I could. He’s out there. Married. All of them are I’ve kept tabs on them. I like to know where the abusers and manipulators and rapists are. They are all married with kids and grandkids.

When you watch movies and documentaries of sex trafficking you see women and girls tied to beds drugged with men having sex with them 24/7. This does happen. I know many women through abuse programs that this has happened to. Violent rapes with beatings. Not all sexual trafficking is that.
In my case, one man, when I was 11, told another man. Then I went to ski school at age 13 and that man told another man in Indiana and then that man told the guys at Seaworld, That waterskiing world was connected to my church and the theater group I was in. Everything was connected and every person told another person so that there was no place on earth I was safe.

Our town had a group of men who had sex with each other behind their wives backs. They had affairs and who knows what else. Love? I don’t know. It’s been said some were in love with their lovers. I don’t know how they felt, I just know it happened. Secrets in the church. Secrets on the ski team. Secrets on the lake. Secrets in the theater. Secret affairs. Secret molestations.
Nothing could bring attention to the men and what they were doing. Having sex with each other. Some men who were molesting the little girls were FRIENDS with the other men having sex with other men. THESE MEN! THOSE MEN! How could one man stand up for me when he was cheating on his wife with another man and his secret could come out? Some of these men came out as gay many years later. Some of those men did not hurt me but didn’t they? They were all part of the inner circle secret. Each had a secret of their own. None of it was good. None of this scenario was good.

The inner circle secret. One man connected to another by either sharing me or by using me to keep their secret. They knew about the secret of me but their secret was more important than saving me. You may think oh they were just gay men who could not come out. Let me tell you that any man or woman who allows a little girl to be abused just so their own innocent sexual identity won’t be shared, is not innocent. These were men. Married men. Allowing a little girl to be abused and caring more about themselves. Am I to feel sorry for them? Poor man who cannot just be with his male lover? While cheating on his wife? While knowing what happened to me but pushed it under the rug? I don’t accept that.

I am not talking about homosexual orientation and whether it is right or wrong. I am talking about a specific set of men who surrounded my life and allowed me to be tossed around like garbage because they were more important. And this is not just about the men either. You don’t think some of the women knew? Oh they did! And I held them MORE accountable than the men! That was then. I’d say it’s a level playing field now of the men and women involved that kept secrets.

I wrote out a chart of every man who had ever hurt me. How all of the men were connected. I kept going back to that moment my father shook the hand of the man who destroyed my entire childhood after my father KNEW this man had abused me. The big man on campus, on the lake, head of the ski team. They shook hands. My father shook hands with the man who abused me and ruined my childhood. They were the inner circle. Those two men. I could draw lines to and from everyone from each of them.

Chocolate chip memories and secret men groups. How will writing about all of this help me? I am not sure yet. But I know keeping it inside will destroy me and I really do want to live beyond this.

My family washed their hands of me long ago. As did every man who ever touched me. God how I wish I could wash the stench of all of them off of me!
Somehow their inner circle of secrets has gotten so large that it enveloped me.
Connecting the dots has brought the evils of the world into the light. It stayed in the recesses of my mind in the dark until it could stay there no longer.
Remember as a child you’d connect the dots and draw the lines and in the end you’d see a picture of a pony or cat. I connected the dots of an inner circle of darkness and found that what I’d hoped for all along never could have happened. I could have never been saved. There was no one to save me.

Eating disorders.

I like this me now. Healthier brain and body.

This me is hard to look at from years in the past.

I was less than 100 lbs when I met my husband. Drinking slimfast for breakfast and lunch and who knows what for dinner. Biking, working out, running stadiums…and not eating.

It took me far into my marriage to understand that I had an eating disorder. It took even more years to grasp why I had it.

It did not start out as a conscious choice. I had to be under 110lbs to be on the top of the pyramid at my job at Seaworld. The more acts you were in the more you got paid. Top of the pyramid paid more money.

That morphed into control. My entire life, control had been taken from me and now I could control how I looked. What I saw in the mirror is not who I see in this photo. I thought I looked healthy. I look emaciated. I’ve found other photos where I look worse.

After the muscle disease diagnosis, and the inability to work out anymore, that need for control got even stronger. But, you cannot starve an already dying muscle. So I started to eat.

I see anorexic women. All the time. And men. I saw one at the park today. I saw one in my neighborhood a few days ago. And I KNOW. And it PAINS me. I want to scream YOU ARE KILLING YOURSELF STOP STARVING YOURSELF. But it would not matter. I want to yell I KNOW HOW MUCH PAIN YOU ARE IN AND WHY YOU ARE DOING THIS. But they would not believe me. Sometimes you just have to come to it on your own. When people would comment how thin I was I thought GOOD I will keep getting thinner then! They want me to gain weight, I will lose it because I can and they cannot control me! The thinking is very distorted.

Someone said to me once that they could not believe anorexic people choose not to eat when others around the world are starving. I promise you it is not that simple. It is deeply complex. My anorexia was rooted in the sole focus of my body. Men wanted my body. They wanted to use it and abuse it. Everything was about my body and how I had no control over it. So, I thought I gained control with food. That is how I would get my body back.

That is not how I got my body back. I had to separate what was done to me from who I was as a person. I had to take back what was stolen from my body by loving it and nourishing it. It was very very difficult.

I’ve had people say..oh that’s why you got the muscle disease. Sorry hon…faulty genes gave me the muscle disease. Never blame a person for something they cannot control. It just snowballs and makes everything worse.

Therapy diagnosed me but I decided to tackle the eating disorder on my own. I’ve known many women who did the opposite of what I did, and gained weight purposely for the same control reasons. You just don’t know us until you’ve walked in our shoes. Why we are too thin or considered overweight. You just don’t know why and should not assume. It is a battle! For me overcoming abuse has been the battle of my life! You’d think it would be this muscle disease. Overcoming THAT! No. It’s the abuse that has haunted me.

I’d say I overcame the eating disorder but that would not be fully true. I will be in bed at night knowing that I’ve eating many meals and thinking I’m hungry. I will then try to talk myself out of going and getting food. “You don’t need it! You’ve had enough! Just sleep.” But now I listen to my body that says, “but I’m hungry” and I get up and go get something to eat. There is an ongoing dialogue that I wish were not there but may always be. I look in the mirror and think I’m fat. Then I look at a photo and think UGH I’m so fat and I can’t work out and there is nothing I can do because of the muscle disease. Then I have to tell myself…you are doing the best you can at being your authentic self so lets not put a weight number on that. And then I step away from the mirror and don’t think about it anymore. At some point I got a scale and realized I weighed 135 lbs and I ALMOST slipped. Then I got rid of the scale. I was honest with my family and said take it away! I cannot focus on my body in THAT way. I can focus on it doing yoga, breathing, making sure I get enough protein for my muscles. I cannot look at a scale.

Acceptance has been a huge turning point in all of my biggest moments in life. Accepting the extent of the abuse. Accepting that I have PTSD. Accepting some of the choices I made because of the abuse. Accepting that some of those choices were not as much in my control as I thought. They were abuse choices.

My first meal after I decided to eat was after my decision to be mindful. Mindful of textures and aware of the sunlight on the leaves. I did not eat mindlessly. I ate mindfully and enjoyed and savored every single bite of food. I had never really enjoyed food. Now I LOVE food! And I love that I’m able to love food. Mindfulness has been an opening to healing for me in many ways. It brought me to photography which has truly saved my life!

Just like a smell will trigger PTSD, a comment about how I look will make me immediately make me want to control how I look. People think they are paying me a compliment when really they are bringing back my focus on my physical me. Innocent on their part but what a conflict in my head. “What makes me more abusable? Being thin? Gaining weight? What makes me safer?” Dialogue. Unhealthy dialogue. At least I am aware of it now.

Abuse has LONG lasting affects. I don’t use them as an excuse when I write this but more as an educational tool for someone going through it or someone who knows someone going through it. After abuse the wires get crossed in what survival mode really means. Our mind thinks to survive we must do…Fill in the blank, ,because at one time that served us and maybe saved us. Like freezing saved me during abuse but it does not save me when a smell triggers me and yet my brain doesn’t quite get that. In this country women are so sexualized from such an early age and bombarded with commercials and social pressure that it is a miracle not every female struggles with eating disorders even if they were not abused like I was. I’m thinking more women struggle with it than anyone knows because most of what I speak about has such a stigma attached that it is kept a secret.

That’s why I wrote about it in my original blog Not My Secret because only in speaking the truth can we free ourselves from the chains others and society and abuse have put on us. Stigmas and judgment about eating disorders, ptsd, anxiety, mental illnesses, sexual assault. I will keep talking about it because it needs to be talked about. My old blog was focused on releasing secrets. My new blog is more focused on how I am healing while keeping an honest transparent voice all along the way. In silence, we are trapped. Use your voice and you will find the chains will slip off easier than you think and you will nolonger be tied to the trauma as firmly as you were TAUGHT. You were taught to be silent. SPEAK and start the journey to freedom.

My own narrative

Trigger warning

A few days ago a friend of my husband mentioned an author that talked about vulnerability and courage and shame. She has a show on netflix now called The Call to Courage. It stirred up so many thoughts in me that have not stopped for days.

When my husband’s friend mentioned the word shame I was very quick to say that I had never felt it. Upon great reflection I think during Yom Kippur I have realized that I felt shame on many levels. Mostly I felt shame as a young girl which is why the truth could not escape from my lips for a very long time. Equally important was the shame that I felt others felt about me. Since no one wanted me to speak the truth, or speak the truth themselves I believe it left me in a constant cycle of shame. Maybe I was not good enough for them to accept or validate. Maybe a LOT of things but shame was a big one.

I cannot write the narrative that they tell others about me or that they even believe themselves. I have to some how pull myself out of even the concern of what their narrative of my life even is. I can tell you it is not my truth. It is only the truth they perceived and/or wanted to believe OR maybe it is just all steeped in denial and their own shame. I cannot speak for them I can only speak for how it has all made me feel. I KNOW how much I need to escape from the grips of their stories now more than ever.

I have never felt pretty enough, good enough, worthy enough. I like the person that I am more than I like most people because I know my own heart and it’s ability to care. I like me yet I don’t feel worthy. Worthy of what? I don’t know. Just worthy.

Even when I was doing admirable things like helping animals in wildlife rehab or helping the elderly in hospice, I still did not feel…good enough. Good enough for what? I don’t know.

For one I am not worthy of my own parents. They didn’t feel so as they so easily left.

It’s interesting because I have taken part in a genetic study where a brilliant geneticist has made it his mission to find the mutation causing my muscle disease. To do that I had to revisit the idea of my father’s mere existence on this planet. It’s easier to pretend they don’t exist than to accept that they do but don’t choose me. He was asked to donate a DNA sample for me, the daughter that does not exist. He agreed. He wants to help me he said. He hates to see me deteriorating he said. But he has not seen me in three years. I am worthy of spitting in a cup for DNA but I am worthy of nothing else. It hurts me. (This came to me second hand as I have not spoken to him)

In this week of reflecting on shame in its many forms, I keep flashing back to this photograph that was given to me when I was 15 years old by my boyfriend. It was right before my 16th birthday and he had written on the back of it but I never read it. My mother looked at the photo and turned it over. It was a photo of him standing next to his BMW. On the back he had written, “ From the two things that love to ride you most,” meaning he and his BMW. My mother was unaware I had been having sex at 15 years old and was mortified and I was sent almost immediately to a GYN to get on birthcontrol. I was so ashamed. I was ashamed she knew. I was ashamed that he had had sex with me at all. How ironic that I had not felt shame before. His is my fist recollection of feeling shame. Not when I had been molested by men for the 5 years prior.

I had met my boyfriend on a blind date when I was 15 to go to his homecoming dance an hour and a half away. I always wondered why my mom let me go on this blind date so young. But I also wondered why she let me go to the mans house who molested me all those years before. These things I will never understand because I don’t believe on my mother’s part they were intentional but in my own heart I just wanted to feel safe again. I had hoped it would come from her or my father. It came from fleeting moments of abusers who were mascaraing as people who loved me. Well back to my story…The night my boyfriend had sex with me I think was the first time I truly felt the dissociation that is PTSD. This was no romantic story. This was not a gentle loving experience. But he was my first love. I had no idea what he was doing was not only without my consent but that it would lead me down a path of shame that I would feel for years. It was in some back room. Ramming and ramming and ramming and blood everywhere and him leaving and me trying to hide EVERYTHING. From 11 until many years after I knew love as pain and sex and dominance over me. I find it sad now that I was so in love with…well…a rapist. I was in love with many men who turned out to be rapists. Once a child has been through sexual trauma at an early age their is a veil over what love even is. I did not know love until my husband when I was 24 years old.

So when my mother read the back of that photo she felt ashamed of me but had no idea the shame I felt for myself. She had no idea how horribly the GYN would treat me after finding out I had sexually transmitted disease because NO ONE at the time knew I had been being sexually abused for years and years prior. For some reason I felt that since my hymen was never fully broken that what the men had done to me was not really rape. It was. I guess I just had a super strong hymen! Well that hymen misled me greatly. They were actually more gentle with me than the boy I had fallen in love with at 15 years. Gentle rapists and child molesters. That’s what I thought. But there was nothing really gentle about them. They had just groomed me for so long and I was so confused that I did not know what was good, bad, right, or wrong. I knew that it all felt terrifying. I knew that it all made me feel sick. But I had no safety net or safe space to speak my truth and I had no way of knowing how to get away from ALL of these men who were around every corner of the waterskiing world and after. Everywhere! Men just waiting! Like they somehow knew ” oh yep, she’s been raped before, yep, lets take her!” That is what it felt like. Hmm. I guess that is why sleeping in my car at my Sea world job felt so safe. There were NO MEN.

I was thought of as an introvert, shy, soft spoken. That made me “sweet.” I stayed traumatized and quiet most of my life and those child molesters and rapists upped their game as I got older knowing there were no limits on what they could do. I got passed around from person to person and my value and self worth lowered and lowered and lowered.

By the time I decided to speak my truth I spoke it loudly. And I became not “sweet” anymore. I became angry. Apparently having a voice gave me a new label and changed my personality completely. That is not true. I just…became. Since I started telling my story I left all of the shame behind. In my growth and age I learned that these things done to me were not my shame. I had a blog called: Not my shame…no my secret. I stopped writing that blog a year ago after 3 years of bearing (no clue how to properly spell this word so be easy on me!) my soul to the world. I needed more time to reflect. I needed quiet time to grow more about myself. It is hard to know one’s true self when that self has been layered with lies by others and at the hands of others.

During Yom Kippur I realized that I had every right to be angry but that stooping to the level of those who have hurt me IN that anger was wrong. I have said some unnecessary things that came from emotions and even though they were factual they were also hurtful and mean. That is not me. I allowed that to come from me out of pure fury towards my family who has denied me and shamed me. So as I continue to tell my story, my truth, and facts about my life, I will be aware to not be malicious in intent. I cannot make myself the person they believe me to be.

While watching Brene Brown on Netflix she spoke about who will step into the arena with you. Who will be courageous and vulnerable and speak the truth. Those who cannot will throw criticism at you and I have felt that criticism. I am brave. I am truthful. I have allowed myself to be vulnerable as I have spoken about the abuse I endured in great detail. That detail, those details, made my family ashamed of me. I was even told that no one wanted to hear the details. That would not be true for the 40,000 women and men who contacted me over the 3 year period of writing my original blog. YET a few family members seem to have more power over my own self worth than those 40,000 people. How astounding!

I was molested and raped more times than I can say between the ages of 11 and 24. That was just my life. I had succumbed to it. So many men. So many times. There has not been justice for me. There has been rejection, abandonment and loss. There have been nightmares, triggers, PTSD moments, suicidal moments and ongoing therapy. I cannot change certain things. I cannot change what happened. I cannot change how anyone reacted to it. I cannot change my family. I’ve spent too much time hoping I could and not enough time accepting I cannot.

My father spoke with the geneticist of me fondly. Fondly. That’s his narrative of me. He remembers me fondly as a girl who was sick as a child and as an adult who is suffering with a debilitating muscle disease that he can now help with by spitting in a cup.

I rarely share how much pain I am in with my own husband and I have never shared the pain I am in with my father. My father has no idea how much I suffer. He does not know me. He has created little parts of his nostalgic feelings of me into a relationship that does not exist and where his love is actually real. What he has been in my life is not love. He lives in a narrative : Where he never shook the hand of the man who molested me. Where he never made me second to everything else in his life. Where he spent no time with me and never knew anything about me or what I was going through. His narrative is not true but it is one he created. I am sure my mother and the rest of the people that have left have created there’s too. They think they know how I feel, what I’ve been through and what I am going through. If nothing else I know they view me as weak and someone to be ashamed of. That is not what I THINK their story is of me that is what I know to be true. Because if they were proud of the mother, wife, daughter, woman that I am…they would be here. They are not. I roared. They ran. I am still as equally as sweet as I ever was. I am just no longer silent. But see how much I have gone on about them. Well it is hard not to when someone or a group of people affects you so profoundly in a negative way.

Their narrative should not matter. For some reason it does. So when I told my husband’s friend that I felt no shame, that was not true. I FEEL the shame others are putting on me. My body REMEMBERS the shame of learning I had sexually transmitted diseases because of molestation and rape. My body remembers my mother’s face looking at that photo and her shock at her daughter having sex yet having no idea the same daughter had been molested for countless years prior. My mind remembers the smells, the hands, the pain, the suffering, the desperation, the loneliness. PTSD will not allow me to forget. It seems to have tightened its grip on me firmly. I do not feel shame about what was done TO me by the abusers. The shame is not about them.

So while I capture beautiful moments in nature as a coping skill, it is to practice my mindfulness and to balance out the trauma with something wonderful. It does not mean the trauma is not there. But there are only so many things I can control. Behind the lens of a camera I feel no shame in anything. There is no past or future and just that one beautiful moment.

Learning how to not care about the narratives others have created about me is another story. I have to overcome this. I have to eventually not care because I know none of it is true. I can’t make others proud of me or make me feel worthy. I can’t make my family anything other than what they are and what they were. As I focus on me and my own healing I would say the hardest part is facing, accepting, moving forward, from my family and how they have made me feel.

I am living the truth. It’s all I can do. I wish I had the luxury of living in a lie or denial. I don’t. If nothing else at LEAST I can say I am authentically me. May other authentic people step into the arena with me. It has become quite lonely in here…

The horse that God sent

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.

The owl family

-The first photo is mama owl and the first two babies she brought into our yard. Little did I know papa owl was bringing over baby number three later in the day.

-Photos 2 and 3 are two of the babies

-photos 4,5,6 are of papa owl preening and loving on his baby. He fed her and then cleaned each of her wings and her face.

-photo 7 are 2 of the babies loving on each other. They play and snuggle and even fall asleep on each other

-photo 8 is one of the babies

– The last few photos are of the mama and papa owl

Four years ago a mother owl brought her 2 babies to our yard. One of the babies had an injured leg. After speaking with wildlife rehab I was told to keep watching and sending updated and videos because it seemed the injured owl was healing on her own and being taken care of. Her mother stayed with her for many more months than usual, as did her sibling. The three owls stayed in our yard until they were grown and healed and flew away. The following year at the same time the previously injured owl returned with her babies! She has come back every year since but I have never seen her mate until now!

I only call her “Owl” and she often comes out to greet me and land on a tree above my head. I have long conversations with her and she with me. Just last night my daughter videotaped her over my head as I arrived from a walk in my wheelchair and she just landed right there above my head. It is quite a sight to see. Her babies have been named: Willow (she is the biggest) Johnson (is the smallest but is the best hunter) and Chrysanthemum (she has a huge personality).

For over a month each parent has taken turns sleeping and hunting round the clock. Last night we heard them from 2am until 5am. Today they were out hunting from noon until 3pm. Just like humans, the babies are fed every few hours. The babies are also learning how to hunt which only means they are hopping around on the ground like bunnies, coming up empty handed, then crying for food. Mama and papa take turns napping. Mama and papa are in constant communication. The babies pretty much just cry round the clock to be fed as they are learning how to fly and hunt.

Out of everything I have seen, it is the love that has blown me away. I cried when I watched the father fly to his crying daughter, feed her, preen her, sit next to her. He made sure she felt safe, fed, and protected. I never knew what that felt like and an OWL provided that for his daughter.

I watched the two sibling play and fall asleep on each other. They watch each other hunt and try to mimic one another. They do not fight. They do not bully. They do not steal. They love. The support. They stand side by side. It is incredible. This is something I have never experienced and yet I watched OWLS do it!

The mama loves all of her babies. She rarely sleeps but I’d say papa sleeps even less. Papa owl will feed the mama owl after she has been awake long hours and then she will sleep. He takes care of her AND his babies. She sleeps in the same spot as she always has. For four years she stays in the same places around the yard. The babies will get frustrated with her needing to clean their faces or clean each of their wings and they hop away but she just hops right next to them and keeps on caring. One day I saw the baby crying and she actually opened up her wing and put it around that baby as she fed him. Love. All of these owls love.

I don’t sleep often. I am awake now at almost 2am and looking out the window at 3 of the babies in the live oak with 2 big owls swooping around the. It is so incredible to watch the shadows. Shadows that make me feel safe. Hearing them out there allows me to sleep better somehow. I never felt the safety they feel. I never felt that kind of protection and fierce unconditional love that every one of them has shown. I feel blessed to watch it and to be a part of something so magical. Watching birds have a family that I never experienced growing up is heartbreaking and at the same time healing. It restores my faith in the ability to love and protect. This owl even comes to me as if I were an old friend. She has shown more devotion than my own family has year after year.

Each little hole and loss and absence that my family left me with is being filled by watching these birds. I have a husband and a daughter who fill my life daily with love but that’s not what I’m referring to. I’m referring to old trauma, old wounds, scars, and pain, that left a void. Watching and photographing these birds fills me with joy and hope.

It is my great hope that looking at their bond and love will bring some joy into your day too.