It is pretty general information these days that I suffer from mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. I have tried over the last year to explain to people around me what these mean, how they affect me, and how no one should be afraid to talk about these mental illnesses and others. Despite my efforts, some refuse to understand, and they have walked out of my life. At this point in my life, if you’t be there during the tough times, you absolutely do not deserve to see me during the good times. If you choose to be what a friend termed “a fair weather friend,” where you are only around during the good times, then I bid you farewell right now. I deserve a friend who is there during all moments of life.
During a self-exploration I have began learning things about myself I never knew, or recognized and accepted parts of myself I was aware of, but was once embarrassed of. The things I have learned about myself I am still exploring, and I cannot wait to share. However, I have accepted a part of myself that I used to be really embarrassed about: my neediness.
Before I begin, let me just say that I loved my mother. She was an incredibly strong woman who fought tooth and nail to give my brother and me a good life. It was a tough childhood, but she did her best with what she had. However, growing up in the kind of situation I had had, obviously, affected me. I mean, what eight year old thinks about killing themselves on the school playground? I’m going to say not many.
My mother was never the kind of person to tell me how proud of me she was. I rarely remember being congratulated for bringing home straight A’s, being in NJHS and then NHS, or anything. I remember more vividly her being upset she has to pick me up from play/musical practice, or having to be on time for this ceremony or that. In other words, I never really got validation from my family. The one time I received it was through a Facebook message and a graduation card my mother wrote for me. I find now that I seek constant validation from everyone.
I am not close to many people. I am truly close to only three friends, who I consider my best friends, while other friends are either acquaintances or friends. At this point, I am fairly certain I can drop the best friends down to two. How does validation fit into this? I constantly need reminded that I am loved, cared for, and I am not a burden for people. I take it personally if you ignore my texts, or if what you say comes across the wrong way for me. I find myself always needing to hear that I am really cared for. That is part of the reason I created my happy book…I can print off those validations to remind myself. However, I find myself needing that refreshed. In truth, I am a very needy, high maintenance friend. I’m sure it is as exhausting dealing with me as it is being me.
Now, let’s add trust into the mix. I have an extremely hard time trusting people. I have had way too many bad experiences with people that has taught me to distrust what people tell me. You can tell me something, and I will always second guess whether you mean it or not. So, when my friends tell me I’m truly not a bother, or they really do consider me family I begin to wonder if they really mean it. I start to compare their actions with their words. Often enough, their actions do suggest they really do like having me around.
I have a friend who lives in Baltimore, which is roughly a three-ish hour drive from where I live. Twice she has drive that distance to spend a day with me, and neither time did she act like it was a burden for her to do so. Her actions always prove that she cares for me, but that little voice in my head…the mean, vindictive, evil little voice…is quick to tell me I am not worth anyone’s time. I’m working on beating up this little voice.
Then there are other instances where I am told I am like someone’s sister, like family. However, actions don’t always prove that. It is this kind of thing that really adds into my trusting issue, and fuels my need for validation from everyone. Some friends are patient, and they are more than willing to continuously remind me of their love and care for me. Others could care less, and would rather shut me up than help me. Or they simply walk out on me. There is nothing like a situation like that to mistrust everything everyone has ever told me.
But do you know what? A need for validation and a general mistrust of people is nothing to be embarrassed about. My need for validation propels me to constantly tell my friends, professors, etc. how much they mean to me. Even if they aren’t looking for my validation, I am more than willing to tell them every week, every month, every year. But I have accepted that I need that kind of validation right now to help support me. I hardly get it at home where my brother dislikes I’m bisexual, and my family don’t understand I want to find a good job and earn higher degrees to better myself. I love my family, but they don’t understand me. Validation is hard to find.
When I receive validation without asking for it, I literally fall over. I was in a car accident this past Spring, and multiple English professors of mine asked my adviser, who they knew kept in contact with me, about my well-being. I cried because I couldn’t believe someone, let alone two people, would care enough about me to be concerned…especially without me even asking for that validation.
For me, knowing and accepting part of myself, such as my need for validation, means I can own it. After owning it, I can either find a solution or be more comfortable with myself. I admit I know I don’t absolutely need validation from anyone, except maybe my therapist who consistently reminds me I am not crazy. The only person I need validation from is myself. That is easier said than done, but now that I own my need for validation, I can work on finding a solution. After reading Brene Brown’s book, my eyes were opened to needing to find out who I really am. Now, I have one piece of the puzzle. With some work in therapy, and some self-conditioning on how to talk to myself and think about myself, I know one day I will only need to validate myself. I won’t need to go to friends for validation, and I will rely less on my therapist to validate me.