This is a true story, as told to us by Alice (not her real name):
When I was born my mother was dismayed — she didn’t want a child so soon after marriage and resented the attention I received. She told me several times that I was a mistake and unwanted. She told me that I was unattractive, repulsive even, and she avoided physical contact with me as much as possible, though she lavished it on my sister. She would go to shows and other fun events with my aunt, and my cousin, and occasionally my sister.
When later on as an adult I asked her why she disliked me so she didn’t hesitate to say that from the moment I was born I had looked at her with “infant rage in your eyes.”
My father was permanently angry and even vicious. He physically punished us and we were terrified of him. He too didn’t want to spend any time with my sister or me and the time he did spend was insufferable—he was constantly attacking us either verbally or physically. I used to pray when he was at work that he wouldn’t come home. Ever.
My sister had learning disabilities and other problems and our main interactions were when she was hitting or torturing me physically.
My father’s father died when I was very young, and my other three grandparents saw at least some of the abuse but remained silent.
After a little more than a decade of marriage, my mother’s father died and she inherited several million dollars and walked out the door, leaving my sister and me behind. My father hired a detective, found out where she was living, and promptly dropped my sister and me on her doorstep with a suitcase apiece. My mother called the police who then drove us back to my father’s house.
I stopped eating. Within a short time I became very ill and fainted at school one day. The school nurse rushed me to the hospital where my father was called to my bedside. He arrived, crying. Despite my intense fear and dislike of him, I had a glimpse of hope. I thought if he was crying he must care about me.
“If you die they’ll throw me in jail,” he said. “Tell me what you want to eat and I will get it for you so you get better.”
I was depressed at the time, but I didn’t know it and I never got treatment for it until a couple years later. My father began charging me rent and food money as soon as I was old enough to work. Did I mention he was extremely successful and didn’t need the money?
After a couple years my father sent me to a therapist and told her I was crying all the time and depressed. She asked me many questions about my life and I told her the truth. She said I had depression. After six weeks of finding out more and more about my present and past life she asked to see my father. She told him that he was causing my depression by his treatment of me and that anyone would be depressed in the same situation. She told him that he needed to stop sending me off to work and allow me to be a high school student and a girl. He became furious with her (and me, too), and that was the end of therapy.
My father now wanted to marry again. His future new wife refused to marry him as long my sister lived there since she was afraid of her (she was no more aggressive than my father, but my father hid his own aggression from her), so my father waited until she was s16 and then kicked her out and married his new wife.
After they came home from their month-long European honeymoon they took her two daughters, one of whom now inhabited my sister’s old room, out to dinner. The youngest one told me why I wasn’t invited. It was because at the dinner my father and his new wife announced that new wills had been made and all their money would go to them. They also were told by my father that his own kids meant nothing to him and that they were his children now.
A few weeks later my father told me to move out, so I did. I have had virtually no contact with him since. My mother has been in touch once or twice over the years, but her overwhelming hatred of me is apparent to everyone who has witnessed the contact. Neither parent has helped me financially, either, so things have been extremely difficult.
It took me many years to come to terms with my situation. I can’t say I always feel happy now and still have moments of heartache when I think of my past. But one of the main things that helped me has been to reflect on the hidden patterns in my life, seeing meaning in my pain. I see that God has guided me through my life and that I have strengths that people who haven’t had my experiences may not have. I also see that my parents hurt themselves more than they hurt me. They denied themselves the chance to see their kids grow up and be in their lives.
Interestingly enough, I blame society more than I blame them. I think they just jumped on the bandwagon of the “me” generation, which seems to really have been around as long as mankind has. They lived for themselves and their own pleasure. Their life was about material success and they both devoted enormous amounts of energy to ensuring that their own comfort levels weren’t diminished in the least. They took their cues from the pages of the New York Times, which for them represented a kind of guide to life rather than just a newspaper.
They took expensive cruises. They flew the Concorde (when it was still around). They had the best furnishings, the most expensive antiques and art and the finest crystal. They ate the best food and the best chocolate and drank the purest water. They wore the finest, most fashionable and status-oriented clothing also. They felt entitled to everything going their way and if it didn’t… Watch out!
What I learned from all this was to avoid investing in expectations because the true path to growth, at least for me, was having no expectations. Am I perfect? Am I never disappointed? No. And, no. But I reflect daily on the good things in my life, scant as they might seem compared to others’ lives, and for the most part, I am very grateful.
C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2010). A Lifetime of Joy after Clinical Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 9, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/a-lifetime-of-joy-after-clinical-depression/0003643
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.