#27 Keep a lid on it


A saying often used to discourage people speaking about uncomfortable topics or keeping a secret.

Silence is a gift to perpetrators of abuse.
Their targets are likely to feel confused, shame & blame themselves for their abusive behaviour. Even more so if they were subjected to or witnessed this abuse during childhood, as the brain & sense of self is developing.
As you read Kelly’s story consider


What might have been happening before Kelly was born?

Why might Kelly have been taken to hospital?

Why might Kelly struggle to process her childhood experiences?

Kelly was born in northern England, to Sheila & Patrick. She was born with a disability caused by lack of oxygen pre-birth. Whilst it was considered ‘mild’ it affected Kelly’s speech & eyesight.
Kelly doesn’t remember her parents being together, they split up before her 1st birthday. It was the 1980’s & Sheila was left to raise Kelly alone & pay the mortgage when rates were at 10%. Sheila had 3 jobs & she juggled work, separation, worries about money & childcare on her own.
The shame of being known as a ‘single mother’ weighing heavily during that era.
Patrick saw Kelly but it was inconsistent. He soon remarried, they lived in a one bedroom flat, so there was no space for Kelly to sleepover. Kelly doesn’t remember much about her time with her dad, just that it felt worrying.
There was a lot of shouting & time spent in the pub. Patrick would tell Kelly women had ruined his life & as he drank his words would get harsher. Sometimes she would ask the bar staff to call her mum to collect her as her dad frightened her when he was drunk.
Patrick would say nasty things about Sheila & refused to communicate with her, accuse her of preventing him from seeing Kelly. He had no contact with Kelly’s school, never attended her multiple health appointments & was generally uninterested in Kelly, until he felt aggrieved.
It felt like a horrible rollercoaster, never knowing what emotion to expect.
The irony was Patrick was a mental health nurse. A responsible job caring for hundreds of people at their most vulnerable time. His career had thrived & he was managing the wards by his 30th birthday.
Kelly worked hard at school & did well, she doesn’t have much memory of her childhood. However, there was one significant time when she was about the age of 8 or 9, she was taken hospital by ambulance.
She was there for weeks.
Her dad wasn’t allowed to visit & a social worker asked her lots of questions. Her mum was there but she seemed distracted & didn’t tell her what was happening. Kelly had lots of tests & procedures. She still doesn’t really know what they were for or what happened.
Her mum would say she’d explain one day.
That day never came, always swept under the carpet, so Kelly learnt to avoid the topic. She could see the pain it caused her mum.
Sheila died when Kelly was 32. It was sudden & Kelly was shocked & numb.
No siblings to share her grief.
Patrick attended the funeral but didn’t speak to Kelly or offer any comfort or support. She sobbed throughout the service. She should have been grieving for her mum but it was knowing her dad was there that upset her more than anything.
Relatives briefly spoke with him & they’d learnt he’d left his 2nd wife & met someone else. He bragged about their large house & villa in Spain. Maybe Patrick just wanted to get away from her, his only child. Maybe being a dad was too much responsibility, Kelly thought.
Now in her 40’s Kelly has resigned herself to the loss of both her parents, despite one still being alive.
There are lots of unknowns & she suspects her dad caused more harm that she can admit to herself.
When people ask, each time she tells a different version of where her dad is, depending on how much she wants to reveal.
The truth is there’s a lot she doesn’t know.

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