My memories of my childhood are patchy these days for I now suffer with memory loss as part of a degenerative disease that is slowly progressing. I remember though my mother being electrocuted when I was about three years old. Fortunately my father came home and saved her life. I remember the first day I bit my fingernails. I would have been four. Perhaps there was arguing between my parents going on, I don’t remember, but I was anxious. I used to twist my hair in my fingers – something I still do from time to time. But this day I began biting my rather long fingernails and didn’t stop until I was in my forties. I have just started to bite them again now.
My father got me drunk when I was two and my mother was in hospital giving birth to my sister. He also took me to see the film Tarantula. I have always had a morbid phobia for spiders since then and check the walls and ceiling of every room I walk into, even here in my own home innumerable times a day. I was never allowed to cry when I was a child even if I split my head open and required sutures, I had to be stoic. It became a habit hard to break. These days though I cry freely without feeling guilty.
I was terrified of my father, a post world-war two veteran who most likely suffered with PTSD or Bipolar disorder – he self-medicated with excessive amounts of alcohol. My mother was a very anxious lady who definitely suffered with depression. She was handicapped which made it difficult for her to defend her children when her husband was attacking them physically or verbally. Living in constant fear of pending attack is a horrific way to exist.
As each successive baby came along, five more in total, I was pushed further into more responsibility. I was never allowed to feel small, protected or loved. I longed to be held but I was always pushed away. I remember this very vividly and how much it hurt.
Little wonder then that a family relative – a paedophile - who showed much affection, made me an easy prey. But with this love came pain and guilt further confusing the feelings of a small child who only every wanted to be wanted. This sexual abuse occurred over many years but I don’t remember for how long. It may have stopped at puberty. There is much lost in the dark recesses of my mind.
My father was cruel to animals, cruel to me. I remember one day wanting to take a knife and stabbing him when he was beating our little dog. But I was paralysed with fear and cowered like a frightened but angry animal waiting for the beating to stop. How I hated him . I had thoughts of suicide when I was quite young but not the means or conviction to carry through. I was about eight or nine when I made my first plans.
Shortly afterwards I began having visions of saints and sometimes Satan. These visions spoke to me – the saints helped me to cope, Satan made me feel guilty and afraid. I began sleeping poorly at night. I was afraid of everyone and everything. I spent any moment I could alone because it felt more comfortable and safe.
I had far too much responsibility for a young child. When I was seven, my father would wake me very early so that I could walk three kilometers to the butchers shop to get the first pick of a side of hoggart or mutton – that is the biggest one for the cheapest price. I then had to carry it home when cut in two baskets, the handles of which cut into my arms. I didn’t dare complain. I was responsible for taking siblings to and from school, starting as young as seven. My father worked from home and would watch the clock in the afternoon and I received a beating if we were late. Trains do not always run on time, younger siblings could not always be located after school. My fear was enormous.
By the time I was a teenager I was an emotional mess. Never allowed to have friends, I began not to want any. The prodromal stages of schizophrenia developed when I was about 13 or 14. Was suicidal when I was 15 and made my first attempt when I was 16. I was hospitalised, given ECT against my will which plunged me further into a catatonic state. As punishment I was scheduled to a large psychiatric institution. As the bars closed behind me, I wondered if I would ever get out.
The bars remained though and even though I was discharged after many months, I wasn’t free and I doubt that I ever will be. As I approach my sixth decade in life, I still yearn for warm arms to make me feel safe and loved in a special way. I don’t know how to describe the ache that I have, the emptiness of the soul, the fear and pain that erodes my psyche.
Sometimes I am running away from this when the madness of mania catches me. At other times I am a hell of psychosis where persecution from hallucinations and delusions paralyses me – and there is nowhere to hide, no safe place – there never has been a safe place. I exist behind glass, once removed from everyone else but still the pain pierces through the barrier so that I must suffer. I do cry now, but it took a long, long time to be able to so this.
I am tired now, old and worthless and useless in my eyes. There is much more to this story but this is all I can remember for now. Such a poor account of 58 years. Some day soon I hope to be free, to know peace, to float in the cosmos and never be me again.