Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Finding Me

Last night, I was playing around on Facebook and decided to check in on one of the groups I'd joined several months back- for Tates Creek High School alum. Now, I didn't graduate from there or even attend there. But if I'd gone to high school in Lexington, that is where I would have gone.

The reason I joined the group was in the hopes of maybe finding some people that I knew in elementary school.

Why does that matter?

My childhood is full of holes. It is unendingly frustrating to me that I cannot have a full set of memories of my childhood. I know why my mind is swiss cheese but the recovery part has never happened.

Warning- this is a really serious post. Just a heads up...

I am a survivor of sexual abuse. It started when I was 4 or 5 and went on until I was 10. I often don't trust my memories of all of it. In the course of a lot of hard therapy- including inpatient and outpatient hospital treatment- I underwent hypnosis to try and unblock what my brain was protecting me from. We got a lot of information from the hypnosis. Unfortunately, a well intentioned but adle brained nurse thought she was protecting me by taking the tape home and recording over it. That's a whole different story.

Anyway. I had this handful of memories that gave us enough information to know how bad it was, enough details to know what to work on, enough to heal from.

My hope has always been that the ongoing and constant process of healing would eventually include a flood, or even a trickle, of my regular everyday memories of my childhood.

It's all very sketchy. I don't remember Kindergarten. I don't remember my teachers, my friends. We lived with my grandparents and I vaguely remember my mom walking me to school one morning and I wanted to walk by myself and made her walk a distance behind me. But I don't remember school or family events or any details. I don't remember 1st grade. At all. I don't remember being 6 years old. I remember my 2nd grade teacher's name- Mrs. Kanatzer. But I don't know if that is a "real" memory because I think I still have that class picture somewhere and could have stored that as my memory file.

3rd grade... a blur. 4th grade... a blur.

5th grade gets better. My mom married my dad. He adopted me. I started the school year with Mr. Reid as my teacher. However, he left after a couple of weeks. Our new teacher... don't remember her name and feel it is a real disservice to her (Mrs. Kessler, maybe)... was a bright spot in my life. I remember her giving me a gift on the day my dad adopted me. It was a special and private and loving moment between us. I remember our 5th grade year being different because the school was undergoing renovations and the entire 5th grade (all 3 classes) was situated in the gymnasium.

And I remember moving away from Lexington, KY to Cincinnati, OH.

My mom was finishing dental school that year. My dad was already living in our condo in Cincinnati- doing his residency, I think. Our routine was that my mom would pick me up from school on Friday and we would drive the 90 minutes to Cincinnati and drive back Sunday evening. We were going to move to Cincy that summer.

On a Friday just a few weeks before school was done for the year, my mom picked me up as usual. It had been a hard week because she had injured her back while lifting dental equipment.

The back injury was worse than my 10 year old brain could realize. As we made the drive to Cincinnati, I learned that we wouldn't be going back.

There were no goodbyes with my teacher, my school principal, my friends. No collecting of addresses, pictures, phone numbers. No goodbye parties. No farewells with our neighbors. No last stop at our apartment. Gone. In fact, my parents arranged to have friends go in and pack up our apartment for us. We never went back.

In my mom's mind, it was necessity. She did the best she could at the time, even if it really was not a good choice. Even though it was not a decision that put me first.

Starting around high school, I started to really regret that I had no contact with kids who had known me in my childhood.

As an adult, I long to have connections with people who might be able to fill in some of the gaps in my brain, provide me with some memories, trigger something.

At the time, I don't recall the announcement of our new life being hard to take. It had a lot of positive meaning for me. I was going to finally have a "normal" family. We would live with my dad. There were a lot of growing pains still to come with that situation- but 10 year old me was so desperate for a daddy that I couldn't possibly anticipate the issues that would come.

Biggest of all... the absolute and complete stop to my abuse. I would never again be in a place associated with the things that had been done to me. I would never again be in a position where I could be abused by this person. It was over.

The relief and anticipation of those 2 major life changing events was huge for me. I knew that I was getting a rare chance to really start over. To find people who didn't know me... didn't know about the poor kid... from whom I wouldn't have this associated shame of the things happening to me on the weekends. It was a fresh start with this "ideal family" that I'd dreamed of.

At the time, I felt like I was being saved.

Last night, I did a search on Facebook and found a group for my old elementary school. Glendover. And I read through the list of names of the people who are members of this group. And remembered a few. Heath Hershey. Amy Cooper. George Latham. Vickie Herkamp. I've sent out a few messages and hope to hear back. Actually had a quick message back from George this morning- he lived next door to the family we knew from church that took care of me before and after school. The daughter's name was Libby. She had a younger sister, maybe? The mom was Joan. They had a wire haired terrier of some sort named Heidi. That family was so very important to me and I'm really hoping that George- who says his parents and Libby's parents still live in those homes- can get me in touch with them.

I am feeling contemplative, a little sad, maybe excited today. Nostalgia usually leads to frustration for me due to that swiss cheese brain of mine.

Meri Embry... Meri Mueller. I've had so many names. That's who I used to be. Meri. My first name. Elizabeth is the middle name I chose to take when my dad adopted me. 5th grade was a year of important reinvention for me. But now I want... need... to get in touch with the Meri part of my life... with the positive things that went on. I know my life isn't built only on sadness and hardship. And maybe finding some of these kids will help me connect to my old self, help me find those happy and normal childhood memories that have to be in there... somewhere.


Lynette3boys said...

I commend your honesty and bravery to be able to openly talk about your past. I hope you are able to reconnect with important people from your childhood and fill the missing memories. Sounds like you already have a great start.

Garret said...

I hope you find what you're searching for. We're so fortunate to have this technology at our fingertips.


Isabella said...

Wow. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope you are able to find out more about your childhood...and that you are ready for whatever memories may reappear after any new information you are presented with.

So many similarities to our childhood stories, it's creepy. Though the "holes" in my memory are very few...I remember a lot...which is good and bad.

Good luck with your information search!

Alison said...

You sound very strong, being able to lay it all out like that. I'm glad that hypnosis therapy was available to you (sometimes I wish I could get it to remember where I put my wallet...)

I had a happy, well-adjusted childhood, and I have pretty much lost touch with everyone I knew before college. In my case, it was my own choice. I changed a lot, traveled, lived abroad, and felt no connection with the people I grew up with. Sometimes I feel like I might be missing something, but for the most part, I'm fine with it.

Hell, I miss my childhood house more than my friends. My college friends were much more interesting & fun.

All of which is to say, as far as I'm concerned, you're not all that far from "normal," even with some missing memories. Other than the holes in your head, we can't hardly tell. :)

Still, good luck with your connections; I can almost feel your nervous excitement from here!

C. Beth said...

Wow, Liz. Definitely a blessing of the Internet, letting us connect with the good things in our past. I pray you'll be able to find those positive memories that will make your life feel more like a continuum!

Eternal Lizdom said...

Lynette- Thank you. I don't feel particularly brave... but I know it can certainly seem that way to others. It's just part of who I am.

Garret- I agree. Between Facebook, blogging, and message baords... the world is at our command!!

Isabella- Maybe someday we'll share with each other... sucks to be members of the same club but good to know we aren't alone, right?

Flartus- I hear you. There are people from my memorable past that I would prefer to forget as well. "Nervous excitement." Those are good words.

Beth- Continuum is a great word for what I'm looking for. Eureka!

Nancy said...

Hugs and love to you!

Lindsey said...

Surprised, to read this. But very proud of you.

Mary Ellen said...

It takes a lot of courage to talk about your difficult history, and I admire your attempt to reach out and find people who can help you fill in the gaps. I hope you find answers.

Joanie said...

I could have sworn I sent a comment. Good luck with your search. I hope your childhood friends find you and fill in many blanks! I'm also glad your life is so terrific now!

Anonymous said...

you are such an inspiration to me-- being honest, working through your past, and now you have this fabulous life, and a great future.

but i understand your desire to want to know more. sometimes we have to know where we came from, in order to finish where we're going. i firmly believe that.

big hugs to you.

Amy said...

Peace to you -- in whatever way you need it.