Message from A.H.
Sunday September 18, 2005
Dear Alice Miller –
My 16 month old daughter took ‘Banished Knowledge’ off my bookshelf several weeks ago and dropped it in my lap with a giggle, I had been crying.
I’d read it as part of master’s thesis in interdisciplinary art, but now was the time that I was ready to hear your words for myself, now was the time that I needed your words.
I’d always known I was raped when I was four. I was raped anally by a stranger in an empty neighbor’s home, I was beaten by babysitters, I was molested by various neighbors and other kids. My mother being moderately violent, throwing things at me, hitting me, pusing me down stairs, pulling my hair, Threats, lies. She was a single parent and I was her support system. I have always known these things and I’ve always taken them in stride. I’ve always done well in school, avoided suicide, avoided losing my mind. I accepted the world as brutal and I as the official whipping post.
My mother has always insisted she loves me and that she never really did much wrong and her friends and the family supports this because, after all, I turned out obviously to be such a great kid, so it’s because of her.
Alongside all these things my mother told me everyday she loved me, everyday kissed and hugged me, fed, clothed and looked after me as best she could. I’d always told her I’d forgiven her, because it was hard to raise someone.
Now I know that’s not the case.
It’s a joy to raise someone.
It’s a glorious gift.
It’s the main thing keeping my will to live.
I have been slowly becoming disabled since my pregnancy. At this point, I can barely walk. I have every symptom of Multiple Sclerosis, along with excruciating pain throughout my body. After almost two years of this, a MS expert found that it was, in fact, a very old injury in the center of my back. As a teenager I experienced sporadic and unexplainable muscle spasms that wracked my body in pain for a week or so and would go away for a couple of years, only to return for no reason. The first time, aged 14, the school nurse called my mother and told her to bring me to the ER they said there was something in my back and I should see a specialist in Boston. They gave my mom the referral. We got in the car and I asked if we were going to Boston. She said we didn’t have the money. When the spasms happened a year or so later and we went back to the hospital. They asked about the specialist and I said that we didn’t have enough money. My mother raised her hand threateningly, I knew I said the wrong thing. The doctor turned around and said it was covered by state insurance. My mother made excuses about having to work.
It continued happening throughout my life every few years, I’d just live through it.
In trying to get my medical records for the MS doctors a few months ago, I called my mother to get the names of the hospitals she took me to for the spasms. She said ‘What spasms?’ She refused to remember any spasm episodes whatsoever, and went on to say I was making the whole thing up. She gave me the name of the hospitals anyways, and I got the records of the visits. i didn’t bother to prove them to her.
After the MRI came back showing the injury I called my mother happy to finally have some answers to why I was suffering such pain and disability:
“It’s from your pregnancy, right? I mean, uh, you did get very big, I mean, you got fat, A..”
“Actually, he, well, he thinks it’s an odd area for that. He thinks it’s more likely an old injury that got re-injured.”
“Well, Are you sure he knows what he’s talking about? How do you know him? You have MS, A.. We know this. You have all the symptoms. You need to just let it go and start taking more of the MS meds.”
“He doesn’t think I do. He thinks I just need a couple of operations and I’ll be Ok.”
“Well I don’t know how you can go from having a serious disease to just being OK. Or how you can have this injury. You had a perfectly good and healthy childhood. You never were ill or sick or injured and I just don’t like the way this sounds.”
“The way what sounds?”
“What kind of game are you playing, A.? Who do you think you are? What do you think this is?”
She hung up on me.
Two nights later I woke up with vivid recall of the panic, the re-play of the ritual she would put me through. The floorboards, the baseboards, the space between the hutch and the wall, the slippery corner around the dining room that if I ran too fast I’d slip and she’d grab me and drag me to that corner, but either way she’d eventually get me there.
So many nights when she’d get home from work, alcohol on her breath (my mother’s pride is that she is not much of a drinker) chase me into that corner, and I would crouch into a ball, and she would beat me between my shoulder blades until she was exhausted. She would either stumble to her room or start to sob and uncurl me and bury her head into my lap and make me forgive her. This happened many, many times, until I got to be about 12, and I remember being 12 or 13 and fighting back and the fear on her face is when she stopped attacking me and I got strong and fat and she got weaker.
I’m writing because your words have given me the strength to face the reality that has welled up in my body and my mind. But in Banished Knowledge you’ve made it safe for me face what I’ve known, I think, my whole life, but am only now safe enough to even allow into conscious thought. I do not have actual memories of it yet, but I believe my mother has violated me sexually.
I cannot sleep for fear of this memory rising.
After some other repressed memories recently began to rise, I have asked her not to contact me and she has been frantic in trying to get at me through family and my husband and my child. I believe she knows that I am discovering the truth, I believe she knows the truth of my back. I have been asking my doctor and my insurance company for a therapist or a counselor for four months now, and I feel like I’m in some great universal test!
Getting through each day, giving my family, friends and myself absolute love, praying to the stars and reading your book over and over again are all that are holding me together.
I feel like the injured animal of a girl I’ve kept inside a cave inside myself; kept her warm and gave her all the food and books and creature comforts but never gave her light or let her out, well now she’s out and she’s crippled.
I’d been having seizures since my pregnancy. Today we finally got a diagnosis that they are just my mind working through the trauma, they’ll stop when I can get this out. But I’m scared. How can I remove this woman from my life? From my daughter’s life? She has been wrapping lies around me for years in preparation for the unveiling of what she has done to me. What do I do in the face of the silence that her lies will produce within the family? How do I heal with the demon always breathing down my neck? Always wanting to be near my child?
It would not be so hard if she had any inkling of her own blindness. I could imagine forgiveness if she could see her sickness.
much admiration to you. a.h.
A.M.: Dear a.h., i am sending you the reaction to your letter written by barbara, a member of our team. your story is heartbreaking but not at all exceptional, i have been receiving letters like yours since i published the drama 26 years ago. In all these letters the mother was called “moderately violent” while the facts described an extreme horror. i hope that my recent book “the body never lies”, 2004 norton, can help you to take care of the terribly mistreated small girl you once were. read also the most recent articles and interviews on my website. if you decide to look for a therapist read my FAQ-list before you go to the first session. refuse to believe in lies because your body must pay the bill. if your mother loved you, she would not have been able to mistreat you so cruelly and to wish that you destroyed yourself now by taking drugs. with all my best wishes, alice miller