Today’s vulnerability story brings us back to when I learned a painful lesson about friendships.
I met Sarah through my work and found her very interesting, so I started to get to know her personally. Over time she invited me to a mom’s group at a local church that met once a week, where she led a table group. It took courage to get in the door of this church building, as my assault had taken place in a church, which I had disclosed to her with broad strokes.
Over the next year or so, I developed relationships with the mom’s group and especially enjoyed getting to know Sarah better. She had invited me over to her home a couple times, and we had several conversations with mutual support during hard times. I helped her with some business coaching on my off time and really loved being there for her when I could. For me, it was a friendship that was building organically and one that I was hoping would continue to grow.
Until I got hit by a drunk driver.
On January 16, 2015, around 8:15 at night, I was driving home from therapy and was hit from behind by a car. Initially, he stopped, and told me “It doesn’t look that bad, so you don’t need my ID or anything do you?” After I told him I did, he went rummaging around in his car. It was a sketchy situation, so I pulled out my phone and started taking pictures, first of his car. He came out again and told me that he didn’t have his ID and started to tell me his name. I told him to go back to his car and look again. At this point, I was feeling a bit unnerved, so I started to dial the police. By the time I got to the last number, he peeled off.
Unluckily for him, the first picture I took was of his license plate. Unluckily for me, I was hurt. They found him later that night after he damaged his car some more on other objects (several other 9-1-1 calls were made on his tag after me.) I limped home and began six months of awful physical recovery, and more than a year of emotional recovery.
I couldn’t pick up my (then) 3-year-old son for 6 months. My husband was left to care for our son alone, our marriage was struggling, we had to rehome our family dog, and deal with piles of insurance claims and an impending trial. I fell into a deep depression because I was so isolated.
The trial was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I recall sitting in the filled courtroom, trembling. Not because I doubted my case, but because I flashed back to the trial I didn’t have with the assault and rape in 2000. The time got later and later, as case after case was heard and eventually someone had to go pick up our son, I told my husband to go, I would be fine on my own.
Sitting in front of me was a line of women, and in the middle of them sat a young girl. She was perhaps 14. A man walked up and pled not guilty to a sex crime against a minor and the women huddled up against the girl. I knew exactly what was happening and I inhaled sharply. My hands started to shake as I flashed back to that day over and over, sitting a few rows from the drunk driver who had so recklessly hit my car and abandoned me on the side of the road. It wasn’t the same, but in a way, it was the same.
It was the assault all over again.
I stood in front of the judge explaining why this person had chosen to walk away from the responsibility that night, and though my hands shook, my voice didn’t. However, he was given a very light sentence.
I walked out of that courtroom in August broken. I fell apart that day and stopped going to moms group, and quickly stopped participating in life. I was quickly approaching the anniversary of my own rape and did not feel as though I could continue on. It was a very dark time. I curled into a shell.
I feel deep down, we all want to be noticed by someone, especially by friends. By that I mean, if we are missing, someone will go, “Hey, where’s so-and-so? I haven’t seen them in a while!” (With the additional hopes that they will reach out and see how you are.)
The phone didn’t ring. My Facebook messages were silent. It was like I didn’t exist. It hurt. I felt alone. Specifically, where was Sarah? I had attended moms weekly event for more than a year and suddenly wasn’t there anymore, surely she would notice.
Months went by. November-February until I finally was able to breathe again. It was the first week that I could get my head above water and I decided to head to moms group.
It was hard, but I wanted to ask the questions, “Why? Where were you? Did you not notice I was missing for months on end? Why didn’t you see how I was?”
Sarah’s answer surprised me. “I don’t do high-maintenance friendships.” Verbatim.
This was the moment where everything changed for me. I was thankful for this moment. I had a split second of “gosh, am I high maintenance for asking to be seen?” followed by a resounding “NO.”
I am NOT SMALL. I deserve to be seen.
I deserve to be noticed.
YOU deserve to be noticed.