Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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How Do I Find My Voice??
Friday January 13, 2006

Hi Alice
I'm not sure if this is the correct email address - I would be happy to have my letter published, but anonymously please.
I have just 'found' your website and read if for 5 hours in and out of painful emotion. I grew up with a mother who had a masters degree in manipulation via guilt. One of her teachings was the importance of family, especially your parents who you owe so much, and the obligation of being there to meet their needs. After my nana had died and I did not want to keep her household possessions (her memory was in my heart), my mother told me she had always wondered about me and thought maybe I was missing a part of my brain that makes you care about family.
Anyway, in my pre-pubescant years I dutifully visited nana and pa with my mother and sometimes mum would insist I stay the night as they 'loved having me so much'. I didn't love staying there - and my protests were met with emotional guilt at my selfishness and so I stayed. The mornings were the worst. I would be busting for the toilet but this meant passing my grandparents' room down the hallway where nana would always sleep late and pa would be lying watching and waiting ready to beckon me into their bed. I used to creep terrified down the hallway just praying he wouldn't hear me and when the bloody floor creaked my heart would sink. Once I ignored his beckon, then lay in my bed wrangled with the guilt I had displeased him and was being selfish. When I followed his beckon I would lie wide-eyed and cold as his hand wandered up my shirt in a way that felt like a violation. Even though my breasts had not started developing my fear and discomfort were blazing. I hated him for how he made me feel and prayed nana would wake up as then he always stopped. I wonder why I felt violated and uncomfortable when he didn't actually physically invade me?
When my breasts did begin to develop he came into my room one day while the rest of the family were down on the beach. He silently lifted me to standing position, rubbed his hands tenderly over my breasts and gave me my first 'real' kiss. I was repulsed and confused, completely unable to make sense of this situation. I was well aware I was his favourite and was suddenly terrified of this man I had loved and admired so much. With all of my affection withdrawn from that day on I took a wide berth and spent my time making sure I was never left alone with this person. He even said to a room full of family one day that I didn't love him anymore as I never hugged him and forced a display of tenderness on me right there. I remember the shock of the nerve he had and how I could just uncover what I had been hiding for him right there. My behaviour around him had changed to such a degree I was stunned no-one questioned what was going on, yet still I kept quiet. I remember only one vivid nightmare from my childhood - a nightlong exhausting saga where a strange man lived in our house and I was the only one who could see him - my parents were oblivious and couldn't even hear the shower running when he was in there grinning out at me. I woke up terrified. To this day I wonder why I did not tell - until I was able to tell friends some years later and finally understand that he had in fact violated me.
When I was 18 my grandfather fell sick and I held his head as my mother asked while he died - I was his favourite after all. Relieved he had died, I still felt I couldn't tell the family who would be in denial and would think I had misread the situation, especially as he didn't actually 'physically' do much - where was my proof? It would be their fond memories of this old man over my hurtful words.
I now (31 yrs) suffer sporadic debilitating neck and upper back pain which starts up for no apparent reason - this signalled I had issues to deal with. Through visualisation therapy I can understand this deep pain, like a blockage in my neck stifling my voice. How do I break it? I have suffered with my inner child over the violation and understand I had the misfortune of a sick grandfather but how do I deal with the fact I couldn't 'tell' about it. I also deal with a controlling and critical mother who expects me to live on her street and not have a mind of my own, to look after her in her old age, to produce grandchildren for her....I find myself living in another country lonely and struggling to find myself but knowing to be near her is dangerous and unhealthy for me - yet I desire a mother more than anything. I stopped 'pleasing her' years ago but she continuously tries to change me and not respect me or my choices. When I am around her I can't stand myself - feeling empty, lethargic and bitter. But I always go back for more.
This letter will take a lot of your time to read - let alone a response. I would love some direction but if not, this has helped me just to write it down. It's so hard to make sense of oneself - I'm tired of living lonely behind a wall feeling I have so much to give but not knowing how to release it. I read all the letters people send in with such sadness - my story seems comparatively mild - but feel comfort they can have somewhere to take their confusion and pain. Thankyou.

AM: I can imagine that reading my book "The Body Never Lies" could bring you some ideas of how you can liberate yourself fom the guilt and become the loving, protecting parent of the girl you were, so the child will feel taken seriously. The tragedy is that the more the child was mistreated the more the adult she becomes tends to deny this painful fact and to blame herself for the torture. Read also the FAQ . list on my site if you are looking for a therapist with whom you can learn to FEEL what happened to you and how it hurts.

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