“Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul.”
This a very short and heartbreaking book describing the events of Dave’s life between the age of 4 and 12. It is a very difficult read and at times – a page turner. What struck me in this book was the will of Dave and his motivation to keep on living, to keep finding ways to survive. His situation was difficult enough to literally destroy anyone else’s will and desire to live. Children are easily adaptable to everything because they do not know what is “normal” or “accepted” parental behavior [though at some point they do realize it is not, they still adapt, and don't try to change the situation or fight back].
But what Dave manages to do is not only to survive the physical abuse, but to think of ways to take care of himself. It is a war and the prize is life itself.
Article on Resilient Children: Children who are able to succeed in the face of adversity have been described as resilient.
The child’s own resources: Children may be genetically ‘wired’ to respond to stress in certain ways, some of which are more adaptive than others. The child’s own resources, however, consist of these initial dispositions as they are shaped by the environment. Characteristics such as persistence, goal-oriented, adaptability, optimism, willingness to approach novel events, high self-esteem, intelligence, good social skills contribute to positive adaptation. Although there are wide individual differences among children, families can nurture these resilient characteristics during daily interactions in the home. Children who, before the traumatic event, were fearful, anxious, or sad may experience serious reactions, take longer to ‘spring back’, or require extra attention from their families.
Some people argue that this books is not reflecting the events of Dave’s childhood truthfully. The integrity of the author are questioned and his young age at the time of the events is used in favor of the suggestion that he has distorted his past in his mind.
Two things I have to say about that:
Arguing we forget to asks ourselves one important question:
- Does such event’s happen?
The answer is ‘Yes’, and therefor any book that brings awareness should not be condemned.
My mind just can’t comprehend how someone will really believe that someone would lie about such events. And that is not because of the severity of those events, but for the fact that talking about abuse leads to reliving the event and the emotion that brings. That is why there are so few memoirs on abuse. It takes a person that has overcome such thing to write about it. A person that is still suffering I think will only achieve in causing themselves pain.
And a last word on this matter is this quote from another book [Sexual Anorexia by Patrick J. Carnes]
“In the 1980s, research on post traumatic stress disorder in Vietnam veterans was regarded as important, noble, and useful. When the same researchers looked at the same problem in children who had been sexually abused, a tremendous controversy ensued a controversy that persists to this day. There were those who disputed the extent and severity of the sexual abuse that had been uncovered.”
And finally I just want to share a lovely poem from the book ending:
“I Never Knew
I never knew how bad it was;
I heard it did exist.
I was appalled at this crime
That robbed youth
Of their “special” time.
I never knew how bad it hurt;
The bruises and scars aren’t seen.
And why somewhere along life’s
The brutality of abuse Has made
I never knew how you felt;
Your self-esteem so low.
I only knew you crept away,
And never let your feelings show.
I never knew what I could do;
That I could help somehow.
That all you needed was a friend;
Just someone to be your pal.
But now I know that I can help;
I can make a difference, too.
I’ll stand with you;
I’ll shout with you,
And the rest can’t say,
“I never knew.”
The following quote is from the epilogue of the book and it speaks about it in general terms.
"Tempting as it may be to draw one conclusion or another from my story and universalize it to apply to another's experience, it is not my intention for my book to be seen as some sort of cookie-cutter approach and explanation of mental illness, It is not ab advocacy of any particular form of therapy over another. Nor is it meant to take sides in the legitimate and necessary debate within the mental health profession if which treatments are most effective for this or any other mental illness.
What it is, I hope, is a way for readers to get a true feel for what it's like to be in the grips of mental illness and what it's like to strive for recovery."