Although it has been a much longer while since I had any contact with my long ago lost friend, Michael. I should back up a bit. Thursday night, my wife and I were discussing the fact that I’ve had many Michaels in my life. And suddenly the last name of my dear friend in college surfaced in my memory. I had been trying to recall his last name for many years.
I did something that I’m sure many of us have done, I searched for his name within Facebook. Given his unique last name and general idea of the region where he likely lived, I found him in less than 3 minutes. When I find a memory that has any teeth I latch on to it for dear life, and immediately get into investigator mode because memories can be fleeting for me. As fast as they may appear, they are also quick to evaporate. As soon a memory lands on me I immediately try to get it down somewhere, whether it’s on a piece of paper, a napkin, a text or email to myself–I jump into action. And I was not going to lose this one as it had eluded me for years.
I messaged him, and said something half-awkward like, “This is X, and I think you’re the Michael that worked at X with me in the 1990s while we attended x university at the same time …” It was something to that effect. To my surprise, he replied almost immediately with surprising joy at hearing from me. He said he had looked for me for years. My Facebook name is slightly different from my first name, it’s a nickname of my first name. And I made my Facebook profile private in that it does not come up in searches. I clearly recall making these choices in circa 2008 when I set up my profile because at that time I was still hearing from an ex with whom I had severed ties in late fall 2005/winter 2006. Yes, years later I was still hearing from this person. Ironically, my love addicted relationship with this ex is what led to me unconsciously leaving my friendship with Michael in the late 1990’s. And years later, my efforts to keep myself safe from her still continued to provide an obstacle to us finding each other sooner.
My dissociative identity disorder (DID) has mechanisms that I am still discovering, like the ability to leave a friendship, many friendships if I think about it, and not have the conscious awareness that I was doing that. Once I connected with Michael, I sat on the couch and thought about our friendship, the little I could recall. And that was sad to me as well because I know there is so much more that is not known to me at the moment.
We FaceTimed on Friday for an hour, and it was like no time had passed with the ease in which we spoke with each other. I didn’t yet tell him I have DID. Felt like too big a share for the first conversation. I did tell him I got sober in 2008, and he revealed to me he got sober in 1999. It was equal parts joy and sadness speaking with him. Having him right before me on the screen made it very real that this was a friend I walked away from over 25 years ago. He had many questions about why our friendship evaporated. I did my best to explain that I was not aware of how mired I was in my love addicted relationship at the time. I was so deep in that relationship that I left other friendships because my ex made it a negative experience any time I interacted with anyone but her. Without even being aware of these choices, I eventually dropped all of my friendships during that time. If it had been pointed out to me back then I am sure I would have given an angry retort that this was not happening, that people’s lives were just going in different directions. I can recall how stubborn I was to hear anything that contradicted my ideas/views on how things were in my life.
Michael talked about events that I did not recall, happy, mundane things like going for coffee and spending time at each other’s apartments. I treasure the friendship we had because I know it was safe, that he was safe. And back then I was not good at choosing safe people. We were each other’s fans, and such goofy friends. We would make up words, usually about gross things, just because we could.
To my surprise, I have found myself crying in small spurts since i’ve spoken to him. It’s like a delayed decades long response to the loss of the friendship back then. Even writing this I can feel myself get teary again.
I used to believe that my DID was only keeping me from bad memories. I have learned this week there is good I’ve lost as well.