Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sometimes, Validation Is Everything

Last weekend, Zachary and I took a trip down to NYC to visit long-time family friends. Paul has known me since I was probably 2.5 years old, and he knew both of my parents. He and his wife, Hilda, Zachary and I got together last Saturday to visit and have dinner. Paul is a bright spot in my childhood. When my mother could no longer take me shopping because the conflict was just too high between us, it was Paul she designated as the adult in charge for my clothes shopping. He never ridiculed me for being fat (which sometimes she did), and he never made me feel badly for not having the same taste as he had in clothing.

There were many times I know my mom vented to Paul about her feelings towards me...her anger, disappointment, hurt. So many things I did caused her great pain...never did I intentionally try to inflict pain on her though. Never. As I grew up and eventually started becoming healthier mentally, I was unable and unwilling to tolerate the poor treatment that was a result of some of her own issues. When she died, our relationship was very, very strained because of the constant conflict.

Over the years, I knew that Paul heard things about me from her that I suspected made him think less of me. I only hoped that he knew enough of my mom and her own troubles that he was able to have some perspective on things and not hate me. I lived with a great deal of shame around most of my mom's friends...fearing that they thought I was a wretched, ungrateful and selfish daughter.

I sent yesterday's blog entry to Paul and Hilda to read. They have been there for me since well before my hospitalization. Hilda sent me an absolutely lovely response, and below is the response that I received from Paul. Maybe I can finally cast aside some of the shame I felt, thinking that he thought less of me as a person. He wrote:


Dear Amy,

I read your blog twice and it saddened me that a child would have to endure a life cloistered within the disturbed patterns of two people. Fortunately, Amy, an inner strength probably surfaced and helped you through unseen exits. But the conflicts that always hung around the two people--separate or together--found you.

You lived with a mother who herself lived with demons inside. They rose with Catherine in the morning and accompanied her to bed. Only she would know if they wrote the scenario for each dream. Of course there were breaks when the demons had to rest from overwork--not too often. Catherine was very intelligent, and used it not for the benefit of creating a harmonious family atmosphere, but to work in executive positions. But the inner demons voted, and none (there were many) of the positions were, after awhile, considered acceptable.

When Harvey worked at Otis elevator on 3rd Avenue and 48th Street, I would meet him often for lunch. I ended my workday around 1:15. I never, ever, saw a piece of paper or anything else connected to work on his desk. Except for himself, his cubicle was always empty. Although our conversations ranged far and wide, he always expressed a very negative, almost misanthropic, attitude. Also he was always sarcastic. Our meetings began to, and then eventually drifted into, nothing. This was before MS took over.

Of course this is only a small peek into your world where you were forced as a child to live with Catherine and Harvey. And yet Amy, you have emerged and shaped yourself into a strong and attractive woman. On Saturday there was a glow to you with a strong personality. Not one to take small steps but to stride in the world.

Zachary is a beautiful child with, apparently, a sense of self. Now I am sure, Amy, there are times when he upsets you...but then he would smile that smile--he has to melt you. You have to be very proud, particularly as a single mother. On Saturday, Zachary was the fourth adult at the table.

I am personally very sorry that you had to endure what you endured--no child should. It was a walk through Hell.

Welcome to the world, Amy. You did it. An excellent example for Zachary, who is one terrific kid.

Love, Paul


This may sound weird, but it's really reassuring to get validation like this. I think that much of what went on as a kid, I minimized in order to survive...and so sometimes, I find myself wondering if it really happened, or if I'm just making mountains out of mole hills. The validation from others reminds me that there were good reasons why I struggled as I did and ended up needing a two-year hospitalization. All those people weren't misled or lied to by me.

I never expect people to believe me. I live with this constant fear that people will think I'm lying. That in itself is another issue from childhood. There was a therapist who told my mother that I was a liar when I was 12 years old. Why? Because I expressed fear of my mom. This therapist felt that since my mother wasn't physically abusive to me, my fears were unfounded. For the record, there are lots of things to be afraid of as a child beyond physical abuse--losing the love of a parent, having their disapproval, rejection by them, etc. With that edict handed down, so many of my feelings were discredited as not being based in reality. I started to believe really that I was the problem...not everyone else.

Anyway...I feel like the people who are in my life and give me any of that validation are dying off in a way. And I fear sometimes that I will discount all that I lived and worked through when they are no longer there to say "yes, this stuff was real, the things you experienced were horrible and hellish and I lived them/saw them too." So yeah, sometimes validation is everything.

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