Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Finding myself again
Tuesday March 06, 2007

Dear Alice and Barbara, I already wrote to you once, on the 9th of July last year. I asked you not to publish the letter because I then felt haunted by my mother and other family members. My feelings did not mislead me, my siblings were angry with me because of my conflict with my mother.

At the time I had just begun to read one of Alices books “The body never lies”, now I have read all of them. I also visit your website, which has become like a dear friend, several times a week.

This is more or less what I wrote in July:
The main reason for me seeing a therapist (who recommended me your books) is that I am married to an alcoholic with whom I have got two girls. A few months ago my eldest daughter made me realize the depths of the problem. She simply started talking. I was aware but thought that I had spared the children by hiding the problem from them. This was of course not the case.

The very same day my daughter started talking I started to act on the problem. I attended something called “Grown up children”. It lasted four days, almost around the clock. We were (due to dropouts) only three attending, of different ages, sexes and experiences and two therapists. On one occasion we were asked to describe our childhood in writing and read the story to one another. It was amazing. I did not think for one moment that my story had anything to it, but when I had read it through my small audience was clearly moved and mirrored my story with a lot of insight and compassion. Since that day nothing is the same, but I have problems dealing with this. See I have always been told that I was the problem so I believed that, and deep down, I still do. I can from time to time, especially when I look at pictures of me as a small child, see that it is a lie. I was in fact as a child, I remember that, very nice, friendly and sensitive (constant stomach aches). My parents tell me though that I was impossible to race, saying actually that it was something wrong with me.

I grew up with two elder brothers and one elder sister but, despite us being a big family, my childhood was lonely. When I think of my childhood it hurts, but I can not think of anything “that bad” and that is why, I guess, I still have so many doubts. I feel extremely guilty about it but the fact is I do not love my parents, who divorced a long time ago. My younger elder brother has got a disease that has made him totally lame. He is living with my mother, and being something that I would call my mothers life nerve. He is a very sensitive person and even though we do not communicate that much I feel quite close to him and I love him. The others are aliens to me; I do not quite understand them. My father is distant, oppressive and impersonal. My mother, whom my father left when I was eighteen, is a victim, a martyr and quite overwhelming; she has never gotten over the divorce. My father went, when he left us, to the other side of the country. The others stayed together in the same small town where I grew up. I left early, never to return.

My teenage period was very turbulent and I rebelled as much as I could; ran away from home, stayed out late, used soft drugs, alcohol, was promiscuous, skipped school, hung out with gangs, got involved in one dangerous thing after another. In my twenties I got anorexic and I felt really bad, I was afraid that I would get mentally ill, being sometimes quite psychotic. I used to run around in the middle of the night outdoor all by myself not knowing were I was, and I used to sit in my bathtub with a razorblade ready to cut, but I never cut deep enough. I was feeling only slightly better when I met my husband.

Since I have always been told that I was an impossible person I really believed that all these “bad behaviors” had to do with my defaults as a person. But when I let my self feel some of the pain from my childhood I sense something else and that gives me a lot of hope. I was not a bad person from the beginning but I became one – well, according to my parents anyway. I still do not know exactly why, but I will try to find out.

That was in July.

Today I am happy to be able to say the following and it is thanks to you Alice, and, proudly enough, thanks to me (and my grandmother and friends who helped me stay healthy):

I have decided to break up with my husband. I have lived with him for fifteen years and we have never been close. I have for at least ten years doubted this relationship. My husband, who has in fact just recently left us, is a like a clam when it comes to feelings and he so much reminds me of my father. Today I am, thanks to your books, convinced that I do not need to be with a person who has got no empathy, who is distant, aggressive and at the same time needy and susceptible (just like my father).

I think I am starting to see things quite clearly: There was nothing wrong with me when I was a child, but my mother was I child raising I child. She was and still is emotionally immature (but slowly changing for the better). My father was even worse and I know now why I had the feeling of being an adult at a very young age. My father and my mother have both hit me on occasions (though my paralyzed brother got spanked a lot more often and once, at least, with a fishing-tackle) but it always happened completely out of context and with a lot of frustration and had clearly nothing to do with me. I do not think, now that I have a better picture and a better understanding, that I need my parents or a parent substitute to confirm me any more. I am a person, and to be honest I quite like my personality too, so why would I need my parents or, for that matter, my siblings’ or other peoples' approval. Actually I think I was a strong and very healthy teenager who saw things the way they were, which very much explains why I rebelled so hard. I am getting in touch with this teenager again and this time I will confirm her, she is mine and I am proud of her.

I will try the hardest I can not to pass this crap on to my children who are wonderful people. They seem to be quite alright but you can never know (the little one has some skin disorders and I think she is very affected by the gloomy and aggressive atmosphere from when her father was around). At least one thing is clear: I will never lie to them and never deny anything what so ever. I love them.

Ps the thing I went to called “Grown up children” was maybe a door opener but I would not recommend it. It was brainwashing, and I think it could be dangerous if you are really unstable.

Feel free to publish this letter I am not afraid anymore. I send all my best wishes to all the wonderful people whose letters I have read on this website. It is very conforting to know that you are not alone, and that there is hope for each and everyone.

It is impossible to thank you enough Alice
Yours sincerely, a

AM: Thank you for your letter. It gives hope that you will never again abandon the strong and rebellious girl that you have been. You like her and understand her. Probably it is all she needs now to live HER own life, to learn for herself and to be able to fulfill also all the needs that will come along in future. Congratulations!

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