Dear 14-Year-Old Me,
Right now, you are a in a lot of pain; you are confused and your life appears to have been dismantled as you helplessly looked on.
You are about to deal with your fear and confusion by becoming angry. You will rationalise this in later years as 'taking control of your life' but I am telling you now, that this anger is driven by fear.
You will not accept or understand this for 35 years, unless you listen to me now.
If I was standing in front of you now, I would like to take you in my arms and talk to you about how you feel and explain a few things. Why have you always felt that you are a loner? Why has your family looked different from others, with you never seeing any affection between Mum and Dad, the constant rows, the underlying tension?
You should know that it is not okay to be hit and humiliated. It is not okay to see the same thing happen to your brother. It is not okay to see it happen to your mother. You should accept that your father is a very scary man. But to do this means that you will have to accept that your family is abnormal and you can't stand the stigma.
It has been drilled into you that things are "okay."
I should tell you that your mother will show you all the love that she can but that she is not capable of proper parental nurture. You will feel loved by her one minute and humiliated by her the next. She only sees you as a reflection of herself and will control everything that you do in order to feed her own needs. This will not stop, even in your adult life but you can't accept this because you are terrified of losing her because you already sense that she has abandoned you.
Your fear means that you will reject anything that confirms your subconscious terror.
I might be able to get through to you if I could explain that Mum and Dad had real, genuine problems. However, the terms Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder had not been coined then. Any suggestion that your parents or you were suffering for a reason will be rejected as pathetic and weak. And you must not be weak. However, you have inherited and learned elements of the same problem.
By now, you have defences. From an early age you have cycled alone for miles, for no apparent reason. You have cut yourself, developed OCD type rituals for every aspect of your daily living and have had a tic. In the past two years, you have started to run obsessively and coupled this with anorexia.
But, Little Me, you have never asked yourself, why the fuck has nobody noticed that you have a problem? It is because they are all too immersed in their own drama and handicapped by their own sickness?
You are there as a part of that and there is no help coming.
You have just been told that your mother has left home with another man. You have just seen your father break down and you have now been sent back to boarding school. In addition, you are just about to learn in a very violent way that your brother is actually your half-brother and that your mother has been persistently unfaithful. To add icing to the cake, within 4 years both your parents re-marry partners with NPD.
The only recognition at school from your house master is when you say that your fortnightly grades were down because you had had a hard week, he replied "I will accept that this time but I never want to hear that excuse again." He never did. From that day on you never cry, you never complain. You cope.
As a new (and probably) ultimate defence mechanism, you are on the cusp of throwing yourself into study. You decide to study medicine despite everyone telling you that you won't make it. Well, you say, "fuck them." I wish that I could make you see that you are doing this to ease the pain, to hit back at your Dad (a doctor) and to go for the hardest thing you can, to gain some self -esteem.
Guess what? You succeed. Everyone looks on in amazement as you transform from a lost academic second rater to a top-stream player.
You have never worked so hard and you don't stop for years.
I am sorry to tell you that this anger and fear will blight your relationships, especially with women and especially with your sons. You should know that it has taken the failure of your second marriage to force you to confront these issues and begin a process of recovery.
You will look on me with scorn, because you think that to acknowledge the suffering that has occurred is weak but I am only trying to spare you pain.
Together, you and I must stop this cycle of behaviour, because you will enact much of your parents behaviour. You must see that if you don't deal with your pain, you will pass it on. I am dealing with it now and it's very hard.
In truth, I'm a little pissed off with you!
By the way, you will have your heart badly broken by your first love and make no connection to our mother.
So, Little Me, I find it hard to see what I can do to help you. I can see what is going to happen but I know that your determination and defences will stop me getting through to you. Nevertheless, here are some gems of advice and if you can, please heed them.
- Please try to understand that all of this is not your fault. Also, it is not your job to make it all right.
- 99.9% of your suffering belongs to others, mainly the adults. You have been and still are a child. Hand this pain back to them and make them be responsible for it, if you can. Let them know how you feel, try to make yourself heard.
- People do care about you. Please, please let them in. Open up to them. Your running coach will approach you in a few weeks and ask you what is wrong, tell him, he is a good man.
A girl who you are chasing after at university will turn to you and tell you that you are great but she can't get close to you, listen to her and open up. Andy and Ian are the best friends you will ever have, they love you and care about you, don't leave it 35 years to let them see you for who you are.
- Know that you are a good person, you are quite clever, you are not bad looking, you are not, never have been and never will be fat.
- Cutting is not the only way that you self-harm. Over-exercising, over-working and eating "control" are just different faces of the same thing.
- When your defences are overwhelmed, you will rage and scare people. This is unacceptable. The earlier you can accept why this happens, the less damage you will cause to yourself and others you love.
I am not sure how this will get delivered to you.
Perhaps in a dream, from which you will wake up from in the morning. If that is the case, that residual "I have had a dream" echo should leave you with the feeling that there are some hard times ahead but that we will have the courage to accept the past and to walk the hard, challenging but wonderful and enlightening path of recovery.
I hope that you will start your day in the confidence that someday you will make sense of the madness and show that the hideous cycle of dysfunctional behaviour does not have to happen. This will be a gift to your children and theirs and you will be proud.
I wish that I could walk with you now, as you walk with me always.
Your 49-Year Old Self8 Comments