I have thought about writing this article previously on many occasions but have been prevented by what I realize is an irrational sense of shame. This helps to illustrate, I think you will see, how pervasive and enduring the legacy of such irrational shame, stemming from a traumatic childhood and universally felt by those who experienced it, can be.
The story I am about to recount relates to the phenomenon of children experiencing psychosomatic symptoms (such as headaches and, in this particular case, stomach complaints) as a result of intense stress and anxiety.
I have mentioned before that when I was about ten years old (about two years after my parents’ divorce) my mother started a relationship with a schizophrenic who was frequently in and out of prison (for things like drink driving – whilst already banned from driving for the same offence – and car theft; he stole cars to visit his family in Scotland – a family we did not know existed at the time of the incident I am just about to relate.
When he came to live with us, he told us his name was Iain McDonald; after about a year, however, this was revealed to be an alias; his real name transpired to be John Lee.
One day (when I was still about ten years old), I was sitting in the back seat of our car with my mother driving and Iain McDonald (as he was at this time still styling himself) sitting in the front passenger seat.
My mother and ‘Iain’ were involved in one of their terrifying rows and, after a while, I started to feel sharp, excruciatingly painful stomach cramps.
Due to an very urgent need to use the bathroom, I pleaded with my mother to drive me home as quickly as possible, as you might well imagine.
However, ‘Iain’ insisted my mother first drivee him to a shop, involving a time consuming and, for me, agonizing detour, to buy cigarettes.
I protested, screaming my need to get back to our house and its urgently required bathroom post haste (although I did not use that particular expression at the time, of course).
To whom did my mother defer? You guessed it, her deranged, criminal, alcoholic live-in lover (if I may be permitted to employ an expression popular at the time).
The result? Predictable : let’s just say, euphemistically, that on the way to get the cigarettes I had a deeply humiliating ‘accident ‘
Actually, having written this, I feel a strong sense of relief. A relief I was prevented from feeling at the time, sadly.