# 12 Storm in a teacup

A phrase commonly used to describe a small event that is exaggerated.

Historically, people who experienced a traumatic life event were discouraged from expressing emotion & displaying the ‘stiff upper lip’ was considered a strength. 

Those who did respond & express themselves, were regularly pathologised as disordered or mentally ill. 

Consider the impact of trauma in Ruth’s life? 

How many losses did Ruth experience?

Why do you think Ruth responded the way she did?

Women like Ruth, who have similar experiences are alive today. What do you think life might be like for them in their later years? 


Ruth, was  born in 1953, the oldest of 5 children. 

Her mother died giving birth, with Ruth aged 11 by her side, to her youngest sibling Rita. 

Rita was her only sister. 

Shortly after their mother’s death, Ruth & baby Rita went to live with their auntie & her husband. Sue & Michael, 120 miles away from their family home.  

Their brothers stayed with their father.

Sue was loving towards Rita, she had longed for a baby daughter but Michael struggled with an ‘instant’ family. He was harsh on Ruth & expected her to help with chores & childcare, without recognising the loss & agonising grief she felt.

Whilst Sue was affectionate she never acknowledged the rejection by their father or the mother they had lost so tragically.

The subject was silenced. 

Ruth was angry & would often get into trouble at her new school, fighting & raging at the world. She missed her friends, her home, her family. 

She would secretly harm herself with a fountain pen or razor blade, just so she could feel something. 

Sue bonded with baby Rita, but Ruth increasingly felt that she didn’t belong.

It was easier to be angry than dare to trust anyone, after all she might lose them too. 

Teachers, doctors, Sue & Michael couldn’t work out what was wrong with Ruth, she had a home, a family, was fed & clothed.

Many children had far less.

She was labelled ‘problematic’. 

By 18, Ruth was diagnosed with depression & psychosis.

Heavily medicated & her emotions numbed.

Her ‘behaviour’ under controlled. 

The self harm continued, but this time Ruth harmed herself by controlling every mouthful of food she ate.

She faded away, quietly coped in her way & hid this from everyone around her, which wasn’t difficult.  

By now most people barely noticed she existed. 

At the age of 22, she was admitted into a psychiatric hospital weighing only 5 stone, with a new diagnosis to add to her collection ‘anorexia nervosa’. 

The hospital was barbaric, large wards of 12 beds, men & women segregated, no privacy, high ceilings, cold draughty windows, corridors that echoed. 

Every morning Ruth & her fellow ‘patients’ would be injected with insulin to give them an appetite. 

They would be stripped, weighed, injected, fed & medicated.

Visitors allowed once a day from 2-4pm.

Rarely did anyone come to see Ruth.

Activities consisted of gardening & crafts, but tools & sharp objects were out of bounds. 

The staff all uniformed, with large bunches of keys jangling, mocked the patients & gossiped amongst themselves. 

If she had survived, Ruth would be aged 70 now. 

A tragic life, unseen & unheard. 

Leave a Reply

Discover more from Know Your Place

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading