Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Mrs. Bluth,

Many years ago, when I was four-years-old, my family moved to a new neighborhood with a wonderful Orthodox Jewish community.  My father took me to shul with him every Shabbos in the hope that I would make friends with the local children.  I was big for my age, and overweight to boot, so making friends in kindergarten or anywhere else was a challenge. However, in shul, I saw a little boy who also sat with his father and did not seem to have any friends. One Shabbos, I walked over to him and started talking and we became friends. After that, I looked forward to going to shul so I could play with “Yiddy.”

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I didn’t need anyone else and neither did he and, even at the age of four, we became best friends. When we were about six, Yiddy told me that we would get married when we grew up and even gave me a toy ring. I remember saying that is exactly what we were going to do and I was so happy as I slipped the little ring on my finger and couldn’t wait to grow up.  Somewhere along the timeline, I placed Yiddy’s “engagement ring” in my special box for safekeeping, until we were older, when I could wear it openly.

Things get a little blurry after that in terms of school and one or two girl friends with whom I spent time. I didn’t see Yiddy that much anymore, because my father said it was time for me to stay in the women’s section of the shul and not be seen standing with boys, that it was not tzniusdik.  But still Yiddy and I got to sneak a few minutes with each other every Shabbos, sharing our adventures and misadventures of the past week.  When I was twelve, our family moved. I begged my parents not to as I did not want to leave Yiddy, but our neighborhood was changing, and not for the better.

On the last Shabbos before we moved, Yiddy and I sat forlornly together and promised that we would never forget each other and would still get married when were older.

My days after were filled with high school and graduation, then seminary and social events, but in the quiet moments, my thoughts always returned to Yiddy and the beautiful life we would have together. His family had moved to Canada, but as his parents stayed close with mine, I was able to keep tabs on him. There was no question in my mind that he was the only one for me and I for him.  Even though my tiny little plastic engagement ring stayed safely tucked away in a satin little box, I waited patiently for the real one to arrive.

During the year I spent in seminary in Israel, my friends tried to get me to go out on shidduch dates but, of course, I refused. My heart belonged to another.  My parents told me that when I came home it would be time to start dating because the “best boys” go fast and waiting was not an option.  They had already consulted a shadchan who had someone that had especially asked about me, and thinking it was Yiddy, I excitedly accepted and couldn’t wait to get back and start my life with him.

When I arrived back home, my mother told me about the young man I would be seeing and to my shock and disappointment it was not Yiddy.  I begged them to call it off, make up any excuse just not to have to go, but it couldn’t be done as the young man was coming in especially from out of town to see me.  I broke into tears and told my parents I wouldn’t see any suitors at all.  When I had quieted down somewhat, my mother asked what was going on and I finally told her about Yiddy and me and brought out the little ring he had given me.  She stared at me in disbelief, that I had harbored this secret for so many years and it was her turn for tears as she told me that Yiddy had gotten married three months before to a girl from England and he had gone there to live.  That is when my life ended, all my hopes and dreams shattered, all the waiting and believing his feelings for me were as deep as mine for him, ended with that one sentence.

This happened over three years ago and I cannot come out of that dark place.  I cry a lot, I have little connection with anyone outside of my parents and siblings, who have really tried to help.  I refuse to go out on dates and have no desire to be seen socially.  I am seeing a therapist who has done little for me outside of saying “It’s time to  move on” or “Illusion and delusion can be overcome with thought modification” and, on some occasions “You’re not six anymore, grow up and move on!”  I know that for the most part she’s right but my heart is broken and I am in extraordinary pain and cannot see the light of day for the darkness.  What am I to do?

 

 

Dear Friend,

Over time, little children grow up and become adults, but the child still lives inside of us.  Most emotional and mental experiences that take root in young children, whether good or bad, grow with us and shape us into the grown-ups we become.  Like a seed that is planted and is dependant upon rich soil, sunlight, adequate water and good weather to grow straight and tall, yield lush vegetation or fruit and develop strong and lasting roots, the absence of these vital elements is destined to yield the extreme opposite results.  The same concept holds true for very young children who experience love, structure, support and stability during their formative years and those who experience the lack thereof.  But there are exceptions to the rule. You seem to have come from a loving a supportive home, yet because you kept your secret to yourself all these years, they could not help you deal with things in a grown-up way.

You have gone through a heart-breaking loss and feel betrayed by the one person you invested with your dreams and hopes. That is a heavy burden to carry through your formative years into your young adulthood and then have it shattered and lost.  What you are experiencing is akin to the death of a loved one, only the “deceased” is very much alive and has moved on in his life without you.  You are left behind to mourn the childhood promise of a life that was never meant to be, and a mourning that exceeds an extended and lengthy period of time can lead to depression which is where you find yourself.

Based on the information you provided, it appears that as a young child you were set apart from your peers because you were taller and heavier than most of the little girls and they did not want to include you in their circle of friends.  Feelings of inferiority may have been eased for you when you saw Yiddy, a little boy much like you, who sat apart from his peer. Your bond with Yiddy turned into an emotional lifeline for you, while for him it was simply a pleasant childhood experience.  He outgrew it while you nurtured it, shaped it and grew it into something it should not have become.  Simply put, Yiddy progressed toward adulthood in a healthy natural manner, leaving his childhood behind and shaping his future, while you dragged yours, like a ball and chain, along with you as you trudged toward that moment when you could combine it with your adulthood.

The problem is it just doesn’t work.  Childhood memories should bring comfort and nostalgic reverie, not tears, pain and gloom.  That is why you are where you are, stuck in that in-between place where childhood dreams and adult aspirations crashed into each other leaving nothing but a heaping pile of smoldering, charred debris in place of what you believe your life should have become.

What troubles me much is the fact that you have been in therapy for a large amount of time without any relief.  It sounds as if there is a great lack of empathy missing in your sessions and not enough constructive feedback to help you move forward. Perhaps you might consider another therapist if you feel that you have made little or no progress in the last three years. You definitely need therapy to help you understand why you are struggling and what you can do to move forward and be able to live a healthy, happy life.  You are young and your life is filled with the promise of wonderful, joyous and eventful experiences.  Yiddy was able to find his happiness, please make every effort to find yours.

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