Melanie: Surviving

Melanie survived “by being quiet and good” when family members were not available for her during her growing up years.

That was true during my dad’s illness and it was true during Paul’s illness. My mother wasn’t a warm, fuzzy person, so I guess I survived her lack of warmth. When I saw my dad go down, it was like, oh, he’s my one solid person I count on. . . I’m not going to get this person back.

She stepped into the background as she grew up enabling her parents to give attention to Paul.

This is kind of a sacrifice. I was proud that I was able to do that because that took a lot for a kid. They [parents] had too much on their plate already. This has really helped me thinking that even though I was this kind of withdrawn kid, there were lots of reasons for that.

After Melanie left home, she pursued her goal of becoming a teacher.

I tried to do my best in high school and college. I got average grades in college. I think I could have done much better. I think I had some mental health issues. I didn’t seek any help. It was anxiety. . . But I stuck to it and I became a teacher. I love substitute teaching right now. It let me see that I had to postpone gratification, basically. That’s what I learned. Stay the course.

She recognizes that she looked for approval from her mother, but never received it.

I’ve told Paul . . . if you’re looking for approval, don’t look to our parents because you may never get it. . . Don’t look for approval from mother. If you want this and if you keep thinking, well maybe this time, maybe this time, maybe this time, it is not going to happen.

On the positive side, Melanie has learned to consider the needs of others.

One of the things I learned from this experience growing up in my family was unselfishness; I realized I had to put my own needs on hold. It was hard to do at the time but I am proud of the fact that I was able to do this for the sake of my family. I'm glad I could help my parents in this way.

More of the Story: Moving Forward