Alan's Mental Health: My First Memory

In the beginning there was... sorrow... loneliness... violence...

If you're a new visitor to the blog, or to the Alan's Mental Health feature, take some time to read this introductory post. It explains a bit of the background behind the posts.

This post contains descriptions of violence which, whilst not overly graphic or descriptive, may trigger some readers.

A lot of people's memories of their early childhood are ones of laughter, fun and joy. Shared experiences with family, days out and making friends. Most importantly, memories of feeling loved, safe and protected. Not mine.

From the photo, you'd assume I had a very happy childhood. I mean, look at me - all smiling and rosey of cheek! The thing is, I don't actually remember anything positive at all about that time of my life. My abiding memories are all ones of pain, sorrow, fear, loneliness and both verbal and violent physical abuse.

My very first memory goes back to when I could have been no more than 4 or 5 years old. My parents owned a small off-licence (my international readers can click here for an explanation of that term), and we lived in a sort of duplex flat behind and above. It was a typically 80's British kind of place, with the counter at the back with rows upon rows of chocolate bars and sweets, a till and a place for people to put their purchases while they paid. I'm sure you get the idea! Inside the counter were some cupboards. Unusually, these faced out towards the rest of the shop rather than being hidden behind and out of sight. The cupboards had simple sliding doors, with no lock. Inside were boxes of chocolate. Not the kind you buy for an anniversary or such, but the wholesale boxes which shops purchase to then sell the individual bars to customers. There were lots of boxes...!

One morning, I'd woken up before my parents and found my way downstairs. Not only that, but I'd found my way into the shop. Now remember, this is a place filled with copious amounts of alcohol which was within easy reach of my small hands. I, however, opted to nosey in the chocolate cupboard... Well, I was a curious child and there was lots of chocolate lying around - what else was a boy to do?

As I was sitting in front of the cupboards, merrily enjoying this sugary repast, I heard shouting. Before I'd been able to turn to see who the shouting was coming from, I felt a sudden, violent impact to my right arm. And another. And another. The shouting and screaming, which I now understood was aimed at me, continued. I started to cry. I screamed in pain.

Why was this happening? What had I done to deserve this beating? Even as I was pondering the answers to my own questions, I was violently grabbed and lifted in the air. I remember thinking I was about to be thrown across the room. Fortunately this was not the case - but at that moment the fear became embedded in my young psyche. I was hit again, this time on my legs. The pain was so unbearable that I wet (as in urinated on) myself. I was still screaming in pain.

I was dragged into the living room at the back of the house. My body banged against the door frame and the door as we went along. The shouting and screaming continued. I was repeatedly struck. Again. And again.

Then my memory is gone. I have absolutely no idea what happened after this point. I don't know what caused the shouting, the screaming and the violence to stop. But it must have stopped. There is a gap of an unknown amount of time. Then, through stinging eyes, I remember seeing my mothers face, covered in tears. She was holding me as tight as anyone possibly could. She was shaking. She looked terrified. I remember saying "It'll be ok mum. He's gone now."

If you feel you need immediate help with your mental health, then contact one of the organisations below (click the logo for their website):
Samaritans (UK)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA)

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