May I just say, at this point, that this is a wonderful idea for people who may find it easier to write, like I do, than talk about issues that have had, or still have in my case, a detrimental effect on a person’s life? I will not go into fine detail as to beatings or any abuse I suffered from an early age but the whole idea of me writing is to hopefully encourage others to do likewise.
How many times I have heard people say “you should write a book”, well, I took that some of that advice and began writing some 10 years ago, not a book but just about my life and the issues that I face daily and those of my past. You may not find it interesting as a whole, but there are funny stories in there, and sad ones too like there are in everybody’s life. The thing is I have a found a new outlook on life since I began writing. I was a suicidal alcoholic wreck at one time quite recently, now I am a wreck but alcohol free and not as suicidal, as in, I have not attempted in several years but the ideation can be strong some days. Doesn’t everyone feel suicidal at some time in their lives? Maybe not everyone but quite a few will understand this ideation.
I am a 60’s child, an era of great change in relation to social issues across the world, but I don’t remember a great deal of it, not that I have a bad memory but because I was born with a manic depressive gene, which I feel has caused me to forget a lot of my history because of the highs and lows associated with it. If I was on the extreme of either, I would not recall some of my actions; I blamed alcohol in my later life for this. A mixture of anxiety and depression has always played a major role in my life although I did not realise this for a long time. The blackouts did not come into my mind’s eye until later in life, and as I drank from an early age, alcohol was always my problem and never mental health issues or so I thought. It had to be the drink because nobody talked about mental health; back then I heard people being described as “bad with their nerves”.
I was” bad with my nerves” from an early age and my father played a major role in that. I was frightened of him, simple as that, he could be an aggressive man with little tolerance for anything. He was not a drinker as such, he might drink 4/5 times a year, and I cannot say I ever saw him drunk until I was in my late teens after the sudden death of my mother. The kids in the street where I grew up always thought he was great, full of fun and comments when he passed, maybe the odd playful jibe at the man up the road who would keep the ball if it went into his garden. He would always have a cheery hello to neighbours but I used to dread when he came in the front door.
It did not matter if he came in whistling, I knew that he could change the tune in an instant and the cause could be anything. Looking back I now know that he was depressed a lot of the time and he had very poor coping skills and parenting skills. Those times you had babies and you fed them, there was no such thing as the child’s voice. T shirts in the street proclaimed that “Children should be seen and not heard”, beatings in my house were a regular occurrence, and cold dinners were on the menu if you did not like them, as they would at times be put in front of you the following day.
The back garden was your world outside of school, it was rare that you left it or if you did you would have to be within the parameters of his voice. It was a similar story for my siblings as I can recall except one, of course there was always one. Tensions in the house were always there so arguments were inevitable and you learned to argue quietly, seething through your teeth, as raised voices raised my father from his chair. You knew what was coming when he got up to you! I still use this gritted teeth method of argument now, rarely raising my voice in public .Little of the abuse he showed us was public, the neighbours were important even though many were aware of it. It is fair to say that our house was no different from many at that time and even now, all I am doing is just relating the effect that it had on me over time.
As working class people ends were tough to meet, but we always had food on the table, some nights without meat, and our mother always made sure that our clothes were of a reasonable state. Some of the older boys in the neighbourhood would hunt and fish and we always got whatever was caught, if they had surplus. You could come home to rabbit or pigeon dishes at times, nowadays a delicacy in some finer restaurants, back then you would not tell people that you had it. My mother had a tough job, cooking, cleaning and always supplemented my father’s wage with a part time job. She always tried to be a go between, and knew when to tell us to leave the house as danger lurked, although we always thought she wanted us out in the back garden., this was one of her ways of protecting us. She was always looking out for us but we never knew at the time. My attitude to my mother was totally different to my father; she was soft but still could give you a slap around the head.
The village I grew up in was one of few cars and telephones, the local pub had a telephone so emergencies/ personal calls were always carried out in full earshot of those in the bar at the time. I will refer back to the inconvenience of that later in this piece.
School was in a local town about 6 miles from my house, ran by the Church and the nuns played a big part in this. I knew later in life after watching the film Sister Act that I was in the wrong school. They could be heavy handed to say the least, although I will not go into any fine detail about the severity of an abuse I went through, at home or in school, there is no need only to say what happened, happened, but it was physical, emotional and several forms of neglect. This was my life as it was; I am no different to thousands of others in countries all over the world.
I attended school regularly and was quite a bright child, full of wild ideas, and this showed at an early stage in my homework, more so my essays of course. I loved to read too and it is fair to say that math was always problematic. My English teacher at that time felt that I would write a book someday, that I had the wherewithal to do it anyway. Maybe I should have listened to her and taken that route, although my mood swings may have made my writings somewhat unusual.
My daily school routine involved going to school, and coming home on the bus straight after, you dare not miss the bus for fear of a beating. You came in, changed and done your homework. Then you had your dinner and went up to bed for 8pm, summer holidays included. TV was watched with permission and invariably it was my father’s choice of programmes. Some nights he may not turn it on at all, so you sat playing with your siblings in whispered tones, crossword puzzles demanded attention and my father done these on a regular basis. You went to bed when he said, no ifs nor buts. Lights went out straight away and if a noise was heard he would come up roaring, threatening and slapping. The bedwetting began at an early age.
The first life changing event in my life happened at a very young age, I was 8 years old and plodding away in life as any normal child would be. I heard the arguments and whispers whenever something was amiss; we lived in an end of terrace house which had 3 bedrooms, a living room, bathroom and a small extension scullery kitchen. Noise travelled in that house. We always knew when something was up. We were sent to bed or out to the garden. This time it was bed, I remember that Tuesday night vividly and the reason will become clearly in a few lines. I can pinpoint the following 24 hours as one of the pivotal points in my life.
I came home from school the next day and found my brother asleep in bed, the radio was on and I crept in, my eldest brother could have a temper at times so I was loathe to wake him with a start, so I called his name, nothing happened. I shook him and still nothing so I went downstairs to where my mother was and said that I cannot do my homework as my brother was asleep and I could not wake him, the next few hours were a blur and my house was invaded by neighbours, who normally only came as far as the door, but I do remember the sound of my mother screaming, a sound I only ever heard once in my years.
My sister was first to arrive after getting a call at work and I remember that there was 2 locals in my front yard who reeked of drink, they had been in the bar when the ambulance was called, and had come running to see what the commotion was about. They gave me money to go to the bar to buy chocolate and I was gone like a bat out of hell, I rarely had money so the most important thing was to get a bar of chocolate, a very rare treat, and even more so as I had not even had my dinner yet.
The ambulance passed me as I sat on the wall eating and talking to a neighbour , I had very little idea as to what was happening in my house.
My brother as it transpired had taken an overdose and was successful in ending his own life, he was 17. (To be continued)