“And now there is no pet anymore”

“And now there is no pet anymore”
Sunday January 10, 2010

Dear Alice,

To find and read your books has been one of most important things that happened to me in my life and I will never be able to thank you enough for all your work.

I am thirty years old. The only thing I remember from my childhood is fear, worry, anxiety, guilt, humiliation and a total and overwhelming lack of security. The openly violent person was my father. My mother was nice and loving to me and my elder sister, but only verbally. I remember her saying many times that us, her children, were the most important people in her life. I consider this the first big lie I had to live with for many years. Often after my father’s insulting us vulgarly and, for example, breaking every single glass or plate we had at home, she made us go and ask him for forgiveness for our bad behavior. She herself often asked us after his violent attacks on us “how could you do this?” or “you knew how would he react, why didn’t you act in a right way?” I remember entering his room to “ask for his forgiveness”, feeling totally desperate for having “act badly” and with the guilt for having cause those explosions of angry almost killing me – and then he would always shout at me and call me a whore or any other vulgar word/s. Then he wouldn’t talk to us for some time and the day he would decide to start, I had to act normally with him and my mother would make me hug him. She never left my father. When I tried to talk to her she said that nothing serious happened to us as “no one killed you nor raped you”. I know by now what Stockholm syndrome is but I don’t consider it should be again me the person who is to “understand” and “forgive”. I consider that I understood and forgave enough.

My sister stays very close to my parents; she considers everything correct and is convinced she has “a loving family with its ups and downs”. She got married and has kids and she has usual family relationship with my parents. Since she got married my father is very nice to her; I guess he considers her now “property” of another man. She is part of the silence pact existing in my family. THEY ALL CONSIDER NOTHING EVER HAPPENED.

I was always ill when I was a child, mainly fever and throat infections, my scholar absenteeism was of 60%. Once I left my parents´ house when I was 20 years old and I left the country where my family lives, I was still in touch with everyone as I was not aware of anything special have ever happened. At the age of 22 I started to have terrible joint and muscular pains. I ended up in the hospital and my tonsils were taken out. No doctor could find any reason for the pain as all my medical exams results were normal. I then started my first depression. It was considered a consequence of having these joint pains. I have been taking antidepressants for two years. I had to go back for some months to my parents’ home and my father, mother and sister were looking after me during this time. It seemed all very logical to me as since I was very little I have been always told “you are an unhealthy child”, “you are very weak”, “you should be very careful when doing anything, like sport, because your body is weak and breakable”, etc. Three years after the joint pains calmed down I started to have ulcer problem. Another stay at my parents’ home and two years with antidepressants were enough to calm this pain too. I occasionally went to psychiatrists to get the pills but no one ever asked me about my family. They told me I was “sensitive” and had “depressive personality.” Something I have always been told by my family.

Two years ago I had a short relationship with a man who – now I know it – treated me exactly in the same way my family did. He was apparently nice and loving and he always said, while perversely destroying me, that he was “protecting me” because I was “an unbalanced person”. I have been always told so hence the only thing I thought was that it was great I found someone who could “save me” from my “unbalanced and depressive personality”. I remember saying this to my mother and my sister and them being very glad to hear so. He left me because “he didn’t like the way I acted” (I was protesting and getting sad when he constantly criticized me). My sister told me he was right and that I was so unbalanced and depressive that it had been my fault to have spoiled the relationship. It was all so painful that I started a therapy. And then the miracle happened. I came across an intelligent and experimented therapist specialized in gender violence and domestic abuse. All parts of puzzle fitted.

I stopped the contact with my sister a year ago, with my father six moths ago and with my mother only two months ago. I am now considered by both them and the rest of family an ungrateful and mentally ill person. They say: “not only you abandoned the family, something socially inacceptable; you also abandoned your family after all what we have done for you.” They say: “you are a spoilt and egocentric child, a little princess you have always been, and you should remember that you have a psychological disease we have been helping you with for the past years.” They say: “we spent time, money and efforts on trying our best to heal you and this is how you pay us back.” They say: “you have enormous problems in relations with other people, problems that are pathological and even psychopathic. We both know no medication can change this, maybe only a good psychotherapy could help you.”

I consider my life has gone under a Copernican revolution over the past two years as the gravity center has changed. It is being very hard right now. Things they say (by email messages I don’t reply but I still read, unfortunately) are still very painful. But although emotionally I feel devastated and insecure when receiving them and I still question myself and sometimes I think that I really am mentally ill and an unimaginably evil person, I already have a strong rational reaction. I try to have a chat with myself, without being mad at me for feeling bad, and to think: “well, it is normal you feel they are right after a 28 years long brainwash but now you know it is not real. Now you know the truth”. It doesn’t always work but I know a time will come when it will. From time to time I ask my therapist: “Do you think I am mentally ill?” Then we both laugh.

Dear Alice, am I correct assuming that all people in my family need to think I am mentally ill to protect themselves from invalidating their whole life? If I am the only one who spoke in the silence, is this their way to make me silent again? Is this why they just don’t leave me alone? I sometimes think it looks as if they had until now a nice obedient pet, a toy they could do anything with. And now there is no pet anymore.

I am single, living in a foreign country (although I consider myself lucky for not living in the same country or town as my family) and I lost a lot of “friends” when I started to open my eyes. Many people, as you well say, boycott the truth. 90% of people I talked to about told me I should me “more comprehensive” and “forgive my parents” as we “all commit errors”. “The family is the family” they told me. I got used to this reaction but it as an exam for me of the kind of people I can be close to in the future. I don’t share anything intimate anymore with them and I know that with the pass of time I will be further and further from them. My “best friend” abandoned me the same day I had my last conversation with my mother. I know she had similar problems at home so once the pain has decreased I understood this was inevitable (which doesn’t mean it wasn’t pathological). I consider these losses and deceptions, as well as the strong isolation I am living in, as part of my healing process, in particular, and of life, in general. I think I assumed this is how my life looks and will look like and I can handle it, although I sometimes feel lonely, sad and jealous when I see happily looking families or couples in the street. Then I cannot avoid thinking that their happiness is probably false as I don’t believe in family anymore. This is sad too. But these moments of sadness or loneliness are nothing compared to suffering and sorrow I experimented before.

I has been very important to me to have started to practice martial arts one year and a half ago. Me – the weak, the unhealthy, the “made of glass” as my family used to make me feel – running, hitting, kicking and rolling all over the place. It was at first a shocking experience. I first did self-defense classes for women my therapist recommended me. During some months I was unable to defend myself even verbally and I once got paralyzed and cried when the simulating attacker insulted me. Then one day I suddenly understood that it was normal to defend myself against an attack. I learnt what personal space is and what the real feeling is when someone crosses it without my permission. I learned to recognize fear, to shout and to feel rage when someone attacks me. Now I also take aikido classes. It benefits me with its harmony, serenity and the importance of one’s perception and gravity center, but the most important for me is its philosophical part: the attitude of not being a victim but to resolve the existing problem and move forward. I don’t want to consider myself a victim anymore.

Dear Alice, I mentioned Copernicus before and it is because I think your work has the same revolutionary character. My therapist says she considers the people coming out of the lie to be heroes. I think this is the semantic field we should all use with ourselves: truth, heroes, courage, reality, honesty and authenticity. I am deeply convinced the world would be different without your books.
Thank you, Alice. A
(of course you can publish my letter if you wish so)

AM: You are asking: “Am I correct assuming that all people in my family need to think I am mentally ill to protect themselves from invalidating their whole life? If I am the only one who spoke in the silence, is this their way to make me silent again? Is this why they just don’t leave me alone? I sometimes think it looks as if they had until now a nice obedient pet, a toy they could do anything with. And now there is no pet anymore. ” You are absolutely right. There are, however, millions of people who BELIEVE in this lie. Fortunately, you no longer do it.