Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Causes of depression
Sunday April 15, 2007

Dear Alice Miller,

I am a 30 year old male and have been battling depression for several years now. When I am depressed I usually think of taking my own life (even though I would never have the courage to do so), or of escaping this crazy world to some distant island, a place free of the pressures of "modern" life. I have never taken antidepressants to treat my depression, nor will I ever do so.

I first started experience depression around five years ago, and like so many people, I saw the causes of my misery only in my present life circumstances. It took around 3 years of therapy, and reading some of your work (in particular "The drama of the gifted child" and "The body never lies"), as well as your article on depression on your web site, that I began to understand the true source of my feeling depressed. I had suffered a great deal of emotional abuse from both of my parents. Just to give you some examples: I was "trained" by my parents to always put their needs ahead of mine. I was never listened to by my parents because they were constantly caught up with their marital arguments. I was told by my parents that I am the reason that they can't get divorced, and, like any child would, I took all the blame on me. I constantly had to comfort and console my mother because I saw how much she suffered in her marriage. My father threatened me to kill himself if I was going to tell my mother that I had caught him in one of his many extra-marital affairs. And the list goes on. The warning lights were on pretty early in my life, but they went unnoticed. I suffered from panic attacks whenever I had to read out loud in school. For a long period of time I lived in denial of these events, and the impact they had on my development, and I am sure that this is and was one of the main reasons for my depression.

In my early 20s I seized the opportunity to leave my home country, and today an ocean lies between me and my family. I am glad it does, and I haven't spoken to my parents for 2 years. Ever since I stopped communicating with my parents my well being has improved. However, during those 2 years, I have experienced an emotional roller coaster ride. There are periods when I feel like I can conquer the world and achieve anything I set my mind to, and then, with no apparent reason, I feel like shit, unfit for this world, no self-confidence, insecure, wanting to kill myself -- in other words -- depressed. For instance my most recent depression (the one that I am experiencing as I write this) was triggered by not being invited to job interviews. I put a lot of time and effort into preparing my application materials, but, it didn't pay off for the jobs I had applied for. Some employers didn't respond at all. I am in graduate school working on my thesis, and whenever I feel this way, I am paralyzed. I can't work, I sit in front of the TV or computer all day long, and that usually starts a vicious circle.

So what is my point and/or question? I know that life is not a constant state of happiness and joyfulness, but is it unrealistic for me to expect some degree of a "balanced" emotional life without these extreme ups and downs? These periods of depression often last for weeks, and they scare the hell out of me. Once I get out of them, I can hardly believe the things I had thought and felt during these episodes. The even more important question is: Do you think that there is part of my childhood and adolescent story that I still live in denial of? I truly believe that my body is trying to tell me something when I fall back into depression? If not, do you think that these episodes of depression are caused by other things, such as the loneliness I often feel as a result of not being in touch with my parents (and other family members who side with my parents)?

Any comments you can share are greatly appreciated!

Sincerely yours, M.

AM: You seem to know the causes of your depressions very well, but maybe you can't still find access to the FEELINGS of the little boy who had to care for his parents and was never cared for by them. I would suggest that you read my answer of yesterday, April 14th, concerning the importance of feeling the RAGE, and the theories of primal therapy.

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