Identification with another breaks down emotional barriers and promotes sharing and acceptance. In this section, I take the time to outline my past. I believe the transparency of my story will help explain how and why I am able to help others with the processes required to navigate a path back to emotional health.
There are some strange ironies in life and most would say that I had a pretty good start. From a materialistic perspective, I would not disagree: I enjoyed a secure home, private education, and more toys than I knew what to do with. It was reality as I knew it and I lived in this happy ‘bubble’, oblivious to the world at large and the more painful realities that would challenge me as I grew.
Happiness can be an illusion with emotional safety and stability just a thin veneer. My parents, being of Victorian heritage, passed on whatever emotional intelligence and deficiencies they had in turn been taught by their parents. They were busy people and as was the norm at that time, I spent most of my childhood under the care of two sequential nannies. Gratefully, the second was a gentle and fun-loving woman whose non-judgmental guidance, care and patience remain in my heart as a great comfort. She was a treasured gift. What no one knew at the time and what I only discovered over 4 decades later was that I was being beaten and abused by the first nanny who took charge of me through the first 4 years of my life. The long-term consequences were devastating and left me subconsciously fearing and hating women in equal measure for decades to come.
Away from home, it was my ‘Prep’ School that would have the most negative influence on my life and shape it for the worse. I was sent away to a boarding school at the age of 8. Unfortunately, I caught the end of days when aggressive bullying and abuse went unchallenged. Perhaps only for being unusually tall and skinny, I quickly found myself the target of ruthless behaviours. A combination of ritualistic torment and sexual abuse from older boys plus irrational violence from certain masters left me fearing for my life at that very young age. I would run and hide any place I could be free of the torment. Darkness became my nightly friend.
For four years, I was regularly abused. I told no one, fearing reprisal even more than the torment. The pain would then transfer home in the form of great disappointment from my father when my results yielded only failure throughout most of my schooling. The underlying issues impacting my appalling results went undetected and uninvestigated. No one ever stopped to ask ‘Why?’
Today, having developed a deep grounding of unconditional love for my parents and accepting the fact they ‘did the best they could with what they thought right for those times,’ I have treasured my father’s closing years and still enjoy time with my ailing mum as often as life allows. As I look back at whatever challenges shaped my life, it is with both awareness and acceptance that my parents gave me the best of themselves, of what they had to give. I do not share these memories now to gain sympathy or any sort of fleeting justice. I am simply highlighting the absence of emotional stability, ‘attachment’ and nurturing in my early developmental life plus the lack of protection I needed through my formative years. The lack of these fundamental and critical building blocks, I now understand, would lay the foundation for addiction as I inevitably went seeking ‘medicine’ to ease the unprocessed, unspoken pain and hurt that lay dormant within, medicine that would eventually lead me to even darker, lonelier places.
It is important to recognise that whilst I have suffered, as countless of us have, I have now come to terms with the pain of those many experiences and in so doing, I have finally found self-acceptance and forgiveness. Just because I felt a victim in my childhood does not mean that I have to feel a victim in adulthood. And neither do you, regardless of the narrative, context or detail you may have to tell.
It is within our own triumph at turning around the narrative of our childhoods that allows us the ability to help and guide not only ourselves, but also others to achieve the same.