How are you doing?” She asks me, a friend I’ve barely scratched the surface of knowing. The first one to ask how I’m doing in months, and to give me the space to talk about how I’m feeling. “Honestly I’m scared, things are starting to come together, and I’m afraid I’m still on the edge of the cliff,” I respond, difficult for me, but I know I can trust her with this honesty.

I know I can trust she’ll care take my feelings and be honest with me. “Maybe we should follow the fog,” she replies. I am in love with this human.

This person is so special to me, and it’s because she’s genuine. Like me, she understands oppression, she understands fear, anxiety, depression, tears, and fears of failure.

She’s been there, the surroundings and the people, the set design were different, but the situation was the same. Two women, world’s apart, desperately fighting against the life that was planned for them.

I cry when I read her writing, so I don’t read it often, because I see myself beneath the wild red hair, I see myself in the Brown skin, the Dragon Slayer she calls herself. I, a baby dragon, unslayed by this beautiful warrior Priestess, remain safe and unscathed by our connection, and yet daily I am shocked by the fact that she lets me be her friend.

This is a sign of mental health issues, and these mental health issues all revolve around the idea that I don’t have friends because I can’t see them every single day, or call them on the phone whenever I want to.

Like me, this friend is an author, the kind of friend I always wish I had growing up, a powerful voice of change in the lives of women everywhere. She’s not famous yet but she will be one day, because her story is too good not to be told, not to be heard by the masses. A gift from the Universe, the sister I asked for, and one of many from around the globe.

I am blessed. I have such friends that would reach out to me by any means necessary to see if I am okay, words I never thought I would write.

I can hear you, wishing you had a friend, wishing you had someone to check in on you, I’m here, I’m checking in on you, I’m asking how you’re doing, I am wondering if you are safe, happy, and healthy, I am wondering if you feel loved enough. Because I don’t always feel yes is the answer to these things for myself, I can only assume others might answer no as well.

Each of us finds our footing in different ways. Some of us come out of the womb ready to conquer the world, and others come out to find the world has conquered us before we took our first breath. Many women know what this feels like. They are abused as babies, and people think that we’ll never remember, but we almost always do, and it’s the almost part that keeps abuse so powerful.

Those that forget are the ones that often fall or are thrown through the cracks, but once we remember the people in our lives often do everything they can to stomp us down and tell us that we’re crazy because believing someone is crazy or schizophrenic is more believable than trusting that their stories of survival are true.

That’s the part that I think confuses so many, when we’re told that people believe we believe it happened, it’s not the same as saying “I believe you,” and then we’re forced often to drag out statistics that prove that we are in fact one of many.

My friends today don’t do that, they just believe me. They believe me when I say it was bad, and I don’t have to quantify or qualify that, and it’s fucking amazing.

Growing up in the Catholic world, I was diagnosed with ADHD, and so everyone treated me like I had a disease. Teachers were constantly isolating me, and pointing out my learning difficulties to the entire class, public humiliation isn’t something I’m afraid of because I’ve lived it my entire life.

So when I was growing up, any opportunity for friends to discover who I might have been with their influence was infiltrated by teachers who didn’t know how to teach me, parents who were too busy to care, and kids who followed the lead of abusive teachers.

So when we talk about residential schools – believe me when I tell you I know EXACTLY what some of those kids went through, because I went through similar stuff, yes. I did. I know, I mean it. Yes, I mean rape, in school, on school grounds. It happened, and no one cared.

Today my friends care, we don’t talk about the bad stuff, but we share our fears, we lift each other up, we support each other when one needs to lean, and we take care of promoting each other because we genuinely love each other’s work. It feels fascinating, weird, and scary, to have friends at 39 when I lived for so long without them.

Some of you I can hear are asking “where do you find friends like that?” it took me a really long time to find them, and our friendships may not last forever, but the boundaries that we’ve set for each other, that we’ve deliberately worked to protect for each other, led to us opening doors no one has ever thought of before.

There are hundreds of thousands of groups on Facebook, or other social media apps you can get involved with, writing groups, art groups, mental health groups, all of these filled with amazingly beautiful people, who will want the best for you, so long as you want the best for them too.

Friendship is an ever-evolving experience, it’s the opportunity to learn how someone else sees the world, by appreciating that “this human,” is the one to reach out, or say hello, or ask how you’re doing, when really what you know they mean is “I need to talk so I’m opening the door.

I constantly ask people how I am doing, but very few have the space to let someone who they think is “as strong” as I am perceived to be, have space to be vulnerable. It takes a lot out of folks to let people be vulnerable, and they do that, my friends, my sisters, my writer groups, my friends let me be me. I’ve never been able to say that before.

I could just as easily sit around talking politics with these folks, as I could about the hard stuff, and we may not always agree, but we’ll always disagree in the kind of way that means that one of us won’t be called names or feel abused when the conversation is over. It’s not as majickal as it sounds, and yet it’s precisely that because too many times a disagreement on social media can end a friendship with the same speed as a snap of fingers.

I don’t have friends like that anymore, friends who feel the need to compete with me, because I’m building something out of my trauma, that doesn’t exist in my life like that anymore. I’m stronger, because I have friends who helped me and continue to help me pick up the pieces, and that feels pretty fucking beautiful.

While I wouldn’t say that I am a feminist, I will say that feminism brought these women into my life, they exist because they believe that they are here to fight the patriarchy and to give space to women who need support.

When someone writes about creating safe spaces for women – or for any marginalized group – and you read that you think “man I wish I knew you,” I don’t make that wish because I know these people who write about these things. I know women and men who write about women’s freedoms, who are freedom writers, that are asking for change. in the world, I get to call these people my friends.

It feels pretty fucking amazing and yes I’m bragging because I want every single person who called me a loser or told me that I didn’t deserve to be loved to see that I am loved, in spite of the hate that they tried to spread around over me, I’m here. I am alive because I have people who have deliberately chosen to pull me up from the cliff, just to ask how I’m doing, and to listen to the answer.

Thank you for that Nada, you are everything I’ve spent my entire life looking for. If you’d like to learn more about my friend Nada Chehade, you can pick up her book Gaslight Avenue, on Amazon.

Sending all my love,

Devon J Hall

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