Since coming home from the Strength to Strength retreat I have done some of my own exposure therapy. I read Stronger, the incredible book by Jeff Bauman. You might remember him from the graphic images from the bombing. He lost both of his legs that day and is credited with identifying one of the bombers. My Jeff and I are waiting for the movie based on Jeff’s story to come out on ITunes because truthfully watching the trailer makes me cry so I want to be home when I see it.
We also watched the HBO Documentary Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing and if you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it. Forget about the Mark Wahlberg movie. If you want to really experience what I saw and felt that day then you have to see this film. It pays tribute to several survivors and those lost in the realest and most honest way I have seen. It too brought many tears for me but more than anything it validated my story.
I want to talk about validation today because it came up at the retreat with my survivor friends and in the aforementioned book and it has been something that I have struggled with over the last few years.
I am not one who gives much time to conspiracy theories. Are some of them true? Maybe. But I don’t have the energy to refute them and I don’t care. When it comes to the Boston Marathon bombing, I know what I saw and smelled and witnessed and it really happened.
Not long after the bombing a very dear friend at the time told me she didn’t think the bombing had happened. That if I spent some time on Youtube (since Youtube is the keeper of all truths) I would see how the media planted crisis witnesses, that the Boston PD had tweeted about bomb drills in the area that day, that there is evidence that a green screen was used to simulate the explosions, and worse, that those who were killed or injured were really actors. Can you imagine this coming from a friend’s mouth when you yourself are grappling with the shit you saw that day? I remember being so shocked by what she was saying to me. It hurt then and it still hurts today.
How could someone I loved so much say something like that to me? Even if that is what she believed, why would she voice it to me?
I have no answers for these questions as this relationship has seemed to fade during my recovery and I am okay with that. Even after my hospitalization she never took the time to say she was sorry for those comments and that magnified the importance of our relationship to me. Through my new life lens I can see now how I never should have kept trying to make this relationship work but it’s hard to explain that to your heart, especially when your heart loves that person.
My survivor family relationships have more than filled up that hole she left behind in my heart and they have given me the validation she never did. It wasn't shocking to hear that other survivors had dealt with these same stories and their support has given me the energy to write this and actually share it.
So if I can offer advice to you now as a survivor and fierce advocate it would be to know your audience and think before you speak. Words can’t be taken back but apologies help everyone move forward. Each person’s truth is unique and you are never right to question what is true to someone else. And one more thing – if, God forbid, you should ever have a friend or loved one live through a terrorist attack - love them. Show them support every day. Invite them out even if they seem depressed. Comfort them on the days when their anxiety takes over. Stay by their side and show them that the world is full of wonderful and caring people. Give them a safe space to bear their soul. I can promise you that when they get through their gloomy cloud that you will have the most devoted and grateful friend to share your life with. A friend who will never look at you with judgement. A friend who will never have a bad thing to say about you. A friend who will back you up and validate you no matter what.