Abuse on Ascension Day

I cannot remember the exact year but I was probably eleven years old at the time. What I do remember vividly is my parents having an argument at lunch and my mother getting up and going down to the cellar (a feature of most houses in Germany). Driven by a very strange feeling in my gut, a few seconds later I found myself running down the stairs after my mother. I found her in the garage holding a small bottle of E 605 (a potent insecticide i.e. parathion that was developed in Germany in 1940 and banned there in 2002). For me what I was witnessing was clear as daylight since a woman in the neighbourhood had taken her life like this quite recently. I tore the bottle out of her hand and took it upstairs to my father. He was extremely dismissive and said something to the effect of: “Who cares, she’s just acting weird and is on her own mission again!” Moments later I heard him slam the front door, leaving me home alone with my mother and four-year-old sister. With that, the matter was closed for him.

The consequences:

1. Children feel guilty and that would have been the case with me also.

2. The idea of losing one’s mother is unimaginable.

Obviously I did not want to lose my mother let alone be the one responsible for losing her. As from that Ascension Day, a bank holiday in Germany, the fear that this incident would repeat itself and that I would possibly be too late next time became my constant companion. On numerous occasions I was overcome by panicky fear. If I did not know where my mother happened to be right there and then I would run into the garage to assure myself that at least she had not taken her life.

However, these were not the only consequences of what had transpired in our house on that public holiday. As a child in this situation I inevitably came to the realisation that I had to be a really naughty and bad child for my mother to want to take her life. This is how children at that age would perceive situations like that and because of this they are left with a lasting imprint.

The one who had almost driven my mother to commit suicide and who really needed to change his behaviour fundamentally did not do so. It had now become my sole responsibility and much too serious a responsibility to ensure that my mother would not attempt to take her life again. Not only did I have to be a particularly well-behaved and good child, but I also had to try to compensate for the “negative" behavioural patterns of my father towards me and my mother. Ironically I had to do all these things at a time when a father ought to be a son’s “male” role model. It was impossible for me to accept this role model and I refused to do so. Ultimately, ever since puberty, this would manifest itself as a severe identity crisis.

These were actions that I experienced as child abuse, as confirmed by the therapist treating me today.

(wording according to the settlement deal dated 18 January 2012, Schorndorf District Court, Germany)

This was the diagnosis that was submitted against the background of aforementioned:

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Anxiety disorder (abandonment issues)

Feelings of guilt

In the interim it has been established that the poison would no longer have been potent. Whether old E 605 can become ineffectual is something I do not know. As a child I could certainly not have made that assumption.