I’ve disappeared again.
When I lost my ability to cope, in November of 2019, A was the only one I could talk to. She knew what I was experiencing — had gone through it herself — plus had the skills and practical experience necessary to take over my course.
She allowed me to hide.
K was amazing – the closest thing I had to a friend in HR at that time, I reached out to her and began to tell her that I had to get away (and why) and that I had arranged for a replacement teacher, and I’d made my class notes available and I’d granted A access to my student grade book and — K was gentle but insistent when she cut me off and said I needed to take care of myself first. So, I did: I disappeared.
I learned to disappear early in life. My father’s job took him all over the world and he brought us all with him: my mom, my brother and me. Six months in Sweden, a year in Kitimat, three in Quesnel (although we moved while there), only a few months in Montreal. Really, it wasn’t until I was 13, in grade eight, that I finally had a full year in one school: boarding school in Switzerland.
Although my father stayed at that particular job for more than four years, I still ended up changing schools every year — one year with my grandmother in Point Grey, one in boarding school in Vancouver, one back in North Van — mom had moved home to stay with us — correspondence school for Grade 12. That was fun but messed up my undergrad, so I completed first year science at Langara along with my English 12. Oops. Finally, though, then, four years at UBC.
What all this moving taught me was that friendships don’t last. I mean, I’d be saying ‘see ya’ one day without knowing we were moving again. So, unless I met someone I really wanted to stay connected with, nothing I did while I was there mattered. I took this at first to mean I could do whatever I wanted and pushed some limits…
Lucky for me, I was a good kid. I didn’t get into any serious trouble and I made some amazing friends, although we fell out of touch when I disappeared. My brother and I were close; he always watched out for me when he could, so I was safe even when I took risks.
And some of those amazing friends I will always remember, like S who played french horn: she and I were like kindred spirits that year and played duets whenever we could. And D, my teacher from Le Chaperon Rouge in Switzerland, my mentor and friend, who was always there for me when I got terribly homesick. K, my dorm-mate in Switzerland, and Z who I met in Vancouver — she kinda lured me into so much trouble… um, ya… anyway, it was dangerous fun and it was good that we we got caught, ’cause it kept me from going too far.
Besides, I knew I would soon disappear.
I never wanted to disappear back then, it just happened. And it continued to happen even past school, like when I went on maternity leave from my workplace in Toronto. My husband graduated from his Master’s and found work in Victoria, so we moved to the west coast. Once we were settled, I resigned from that Toronto position but it felt so odd: I hadn’t said goodbye.
I had simply disappeared.
I didn’t like it but this time I was able to do something about it, so I made myself visible again. A year later, I took my young son back to Toronto and visited my colleagues to reforge ties. I have managed to keep some of those friendships still.
Disappearing was a trick I desperately needed in 2019. It is a very helpful resource… and I had to get myself away to protect myself and begin to heal.
I still don’t like it and I will make myself visible again.
Just not yet.