I found one of my abusers on Facebook a few months ago.
Finding him wasn’t as monumental as I thought it would be. I expected it to hit me like a car crash but instead it was more like a wave. I gasped, held my breath and let the wave wash over me. I came up for air. Then the wave was gone and it was just me floating in the calm water.
I owe it to recovery that I didn’t immediately do anything. I could’ve lashed out and sent him an angry message or I could’ve tried to figure out where he lived so that I could hold something over him. It was odd, even to me, that I didn’t burst into tears. I never even journalled about it.
Many people relate recovery to addiction but people are in recovery for all sorts of reasons. Recovery is like reprogramming. It requires a commitment to learning to feel and to reject the desire to numb. It’s antifreeze for the soul.
I like the Google definition: the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.
What my abusers stole from me was the freedom to live without fear, without bracing myself for the next impact. I creatively came up with ways to survive what was done to me, most of which only made things worse. Recovery gave me tools that work (when I remember I have them and use them).
I was 11 years old when he abused me. He was the babysitter’s friend. I knew his name because I wrote it in my Hello Kitty diary. Even though I have always remembered his face, his smell and the feel of his hands on my little girl body, a part of me wondered if any of it was real.
I thought that seeing his face would validate me. He is a real person. He exists.
Instead, I was left with the feeling that I was missing something really important.
My Dad jokes that if you want him to remember something trivial he will have to forget something important. That’s how I describe dissociation. For victims of abuse, it’s a survival mechanism that allows us to separate ourselves from what would otherwise be unbearable.
It has always bothered me that I have friends who can remember every teacher they ever had or who their best friend was in 1st grade. I have very few memories from my childhood. My brain power was dedicated to navigating abuse, addiction, poverty and depression. My kids remember the names of all the stuffed animals they’ve ever had. That fact brings me so much joy.
Instead of remembering, I collected. I kept notes, birthday cards, even Valentines. I put them in paper grocery bags and kept them in my closet. Those pieces of paper were pieces of me. They were proof that I existed. I may not have remembered anything about Shauna in second grade but I had the Valentine she gave me. If she was real, I was real.
When I was a teenager, my stepmom threatened that if I didn’t clean my (bordering on biohazard) room, she would. I didn’t and she did. She saw those grocery bags and thought they were trash. When I found out that she threw them away, I was devastated. She had no idea that she inadvertently threw out proof of my existence. I had no memories and now I had no proof. She couldn’t possibly understand why I was so upset because I had never told anyone what I had gone through, much less how I felt inside.
Amazingly, the Hello Kitty diary survived. And so have countless journals, new bags of notes, letters and cards. To this day, I still need to write it out or it’s not quite real.
Recently, I felt an urge to go back to his Facebook profile. I found a picture that he posted years ago but I somehow missed the first time I looked. It’s a picture of him about the age he was when he molested me. This time, I cried.
For a few moments, I indulged the urge to wonder what it would be like if I messaged him.
What were you thinking? Do you even remember me? Do you have any idea what you’ve done?
I played with it in my mind and realized that none of his answers would mean anything to me. I don’t want to hear them. He is no one. He never needed to be found.
From the moment I sparked into existence, I have been held by God, guided by angels on earth and cared for by family, friends and strangers in profound and humbling ways. I may never be able to fully remember the little girl I was but she shows herself in the woman I have become. She is fully embodied in the lives of my playful and joyful children. She shows herself in my quirky sense of humor. She is the tiny hand that holds yours when you’re sad and need comforting.
She once was lost but now is found.