Writing about my life – mental health, abusive childhood, suicide thoughts, fear

Memories come uninvited. On the computer endlessly playing Solitaire, enjoying the patterns and the repetition, I can smell the bread in the last stages of the cycle. I had added seeds and grains to this loaf and that’s what I smell, the sweetness of the hot grain. The smell is so familiar, warm and familiar. I close my eyes and try to match the smell to a place or time. The cookery corridor at school? The Science corridor at break, eating iced buns or pastries that had been delivered earlier and still warm? At Nana’s on a baking day? Remembering my Mum or Aunt Betty or Nana in the back kitchen baking sponges or fairy cakes, Uncle Bill making caramel shortbread or coconut slices. Was that the smell of the hot grainy bread cooking? But where I ended up was Moortown Avenue. Today the sun is shining and it is warm and I have the backdoor open. I can hear sounds of distant traffic.
I sit very still with my eyes closed and breathe slowly trying to fit the smell of the bread baking, the sun shining and the outside sounds to something remembered. something deep. All I feel now is the fear, also a familiar feeling. The Saturday mornings and afternoons when he wasn’t there and we would feel free. Peter and Philip playing in garden, me standing in the kitchen talking to Mum while she baked. Warm and loving feelings at first and then the remembering of him coming home, and all that warmth and love and freedom gone. The house still smells of cooking as the cakes and biscuits Mum had baked lay cooling on wire trays. He comes in, checking everything. Are the coats hung up properly in the downstairs cloakroom? Is the needle turned up on the record player or left pointing downwards meaning that we had used it and not taken proper care? Was the lounge tidy? Were our bedrooms tidy? Did I have the right to live that afternoon? Would he speak to me or stare at me until I looked away humiliated and scared, wishing I could disappear? Was he pleased with Mum and all the baking?
He would eat one of the small cakes, pushing it into his mouth whole in a way we were never allowed to. Was he pleased? Mum and I stand, nervous. I can feel the trembling begin deep inside me. This is the Fear. In these moments I really believe I will die. He will kill Mum and then kill me. If any part of his checking routine presents him with something untidy, broken, messy or not as it should be, then this is evidence of defiance or extreme naughtiness, badness or wilful disobedience on someone’s part that has to be punished.
His anger had different ways of growing before it came out. Sometimes it was slow. His eyes would open very wide, blue and staring. Then he would start talking, telling us how we had displeased him. Voice louder, slowly building up till explosion. Or he would suddenly be angry, lashing out. I don’t know which was more frightening. I don’t suppose it really matters which was worse, the outcome was always the same. The violent man trying to control and punish us. And I would think I was really going to die this time. This time he wouldn’t stop or pull back, this time he would go on and I would be gone. I can feel myself then, molten fear. It is this fear that I cannot get rid of even though he is now dead and my whole life is different. I tell myself that those situations can never, never happen again. But I still feel the fear. It is this that will kill me. One day I believe that I will not be able to live with it and I will die.
I come back, floating back and I am sitting at the computer smelling the baking bread but I am crying. I look back at that young me and I feel so sad for her, so sad for me. I have no confidence, no sense of self, no feeling of worth or value. This is what happens now to me when I feel frightened. This is what he has done and however hard I try, I cannot make myself well. I want the anger to come back. I want to feel the rage again. I had energy and felt full of life when I raged. Surely I can feel that anger without the destruction that accompanied it. And I was destructive as I raged against something I didn’t understand. The something that didn’t then have a name.
But each time I match a present feeling up to its beginnings and the way it was perpetuated, I feel stronger. Another piece of me settles into place and I understand. All the feelings and emotions I have today began somewhere in my life whether they are good positive ones or the ones that cause me so much pain. I will find those dangerous ones, those that are still a threat to my life and recognise them and name them and remove their power, his power.

Barbara
2001

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