Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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It is worthwhile to use the FAQ list
Friday February 01, 2008

Dear Alice,
I feel saddened when I read letters from those who are unable to find satisfactory therapists. I am writing this letter to encourage people to keep searching for a therapist who is right for them. I realise this search is fraught with difficulties and can seem impossible when we are so overwhelmed by our life experiences. However, I believe we all have the right to understand and to heal from our trauma, so I implore people to believe in themselves and to know that they are worth fighting for and to search until they have found their “enlightened witness”
Several years ago a therapist said three wonderful words to me –“You were abused” Wonderful words, because some-one had finally acknowledged what I could not.
Perhaps deep down inside, I had known, but I had never allowed myself to explore that possibility. I knew that I had had an extremely abnormal childhood. I knew the way we lived was bizarre. I was deeply ashamed and felt tremendous guilt about my life. I trivialised and minimised my childhood experiences. As a child I learned to survive and as an adult I tried to forget, but I could not forget.
My mother suffered severely from OCD, my father left the family home when I was a baby and my sister left when I was 7 years old, that left just me and my mother at home. My mother had an incredible fear of contamination, She could not cope with having contact with the outside world, so she stayed at home and cleaned obsessively. I was usually only allowed out of the house to go to school. Any social outing was meticulously planned and had the potential to cause great stress to my mother. I had inside clothes and outside clothes. Most weekends and school holidays were spent inside where I would stay clean. No-one ever came inside the house. I could not speak in certain areas of the house, I could not sit on the floor, I could not touch household items, I could not get myself anything to eat or drink., if I was outside I could not come inside to use the toilet until I had a bath and changed into inside clothes. I was a prisoner in my own home. I cannot remember ever being hugged or kissed by my mother. l lived by my mothers rules and went to great lengths not to upset her.
When I was 15 I would run away from home to escape the restrictions. The very first time I ran away I was raped by 2 older boys. I soon learned to use sex as currency. I was charged in the city juvenile court as being an uncontrollable child, remanded to a locked remand home before being sent to a children’s home for several months. Eventually I was sent back home to my mother – no-one acknowledged my mother’s illness, the intolerable conditions under which I lived and the abuse that I suffered. Because my mother was so ill, I always felt responsible for her, and guilty if I did not do what she wanted me to do.
I chose to keep my life a secret and still support my mother even when I left home at 17. I still complied with her obsessive, compulsive ritualistic behaviour when I was with her, right up until her death last year as I could see no alternative.
For many years, every time I tried to speak about my childhood to a “professional”, I was met with a complete lack of understanding and failure on their part to acknowledge my abuse.. This only served the purpose of allowing me to isolate myself further and to blame myself and to withdraw.
However now, as a result of continual searching I have found several therapists who are quite different in their approach, but who listen to me – they do not judge me and they believe me. My biggest fear was that after all these years (I am in my 50’s) I would not be believed.
Now I am beginning to feel my feelings, to validate that little girl’s pain, despair and loneliness. I have been told that I am a survivor and that I am brave, resilient and strong and I am finally ready to start to believe these wonderful things.
I still have bad days. I still feel overwhelmed, empty and alone. I still have thoughts of self harm. But I also have good days when I know I am worth fighting for and I will always be grateful to those who believe in me and support me as they are the people who have allowed me to feel real.
We all deserve this healing opportunity.
Thank you for reading this letter. I hope it encourages everyone to continue with their own healing journey.
Finally I would like to share a poem that I wrote after seeing a photo of myself at age 5

Silent tears and fears,
Hopelessly alone,
Helpless, afraid.
Despair – who will care?
Who will hold and hug
Who will love this child?

J.A.G.

AM: Thank you very much for your letter that will hopefully encourage people needing help to use the FAQ list. And I congratulate you for your courage to look for and to find what you needed.

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