I have chronicled my difficult early life in my book, Gaining a Sense of Self, published by Sid Harta in 2010. I worked as a librarian in Queensland and Tasmania until my breakdown in 1995. I was like a broken-down hack - just like Anna Sewell's 'Black Beauty' - unable to work. Metaphorically speaking; I was ready for the glue factory.The catalyst for my mental condition was being bullied while working in a school environment. The consequences were serious because I was becoming suicidal. The chance listening to an Australian Radio National Program in 1997 about diaries and the subsequent readings of my own diaries led me on a journey of understanding and eventual recovery with the help of health professionals. I was in urgent need of counselling and psychiatric support. In 1998 I was fortunate to recieve help from the eminent psychiatrist, the late Dr Ruth Redom who helped me deal with my early childhood abuse.
'Karen, you never give yourself any credit for what you have achievedi in life,' she said. This was so true. In that same year the newspapers reported abuse that had occurred in Australian institutions, one of those was Nazareth House. Iit was the 'poor boarding school' my mother had me placed in 1950. She never told me the truth that it was actually an orphanage where I had suffered emotional, and physical abuse. I was betrayed by my mother for not having the guts to tell me that I had been placed in an orphanage. She dismissed me and became angry whenever I mentioned what had happened to me at the so-called ' school'. If she had acknowledged my pain and embraced me for what I had experienced, my scarred childhood may have been forgotten.Initially there was no quick fix. However, after finding out the shocking news of my placement in an orphanage, I retraced the first twenty-five years of my life.
As far back as I could remember, my parents were continually fighting. When these battles occurred, I woud shiver in bed and feel guilty that somehow I might have unwittingly been the cause. My father showed me lots of affection; whereas my mother was forever scolding and punching me whenever she perceived I was in the wrong. I didn't know at the time that I had a narcissistic mother. My mother was the one, who, when her marriage collapsed, had me placed in the Catholic orphanage.I rarely saw my father. By 1952 the couple divorced and my mother was given sole custody. More than my brother I was scapegoated when growing up: I regularly suffered verbal, physical and psychological abuse. To his credit, my brother supported me when times were really bad.We were both bashed, humiliated all through our childhood, adolescent and early adult years.
Even our pet dogs did not escape punishment: my first dog, Beauty and her newly born pups were thrown into the Brisbane River. I was nine years old at the time. My next dog, Misbe (short for 'Misbegotten') was named by my mother because he was of mixed breed. I had him as a pet for six months because whenever he did something wrong she would demand her current lover to beat him with a steel pipe. Due to these beatings I returned him the The Dog's Home, hoping a kind family would adopt him.
While we were growing up we were allowed to continue our schooling. Hidden from us was the fact that our Uncle Norman regularly sent cheques to our mother for our educational expenses. The money stopped when our mother remarried in 1960. Our stepfather wouldn't provide financial support towards our education. Despite my mother's discouragement I continued my education, and when awarded a Comonwealth Scholarship I delayed accepting it for two years due to lack of finances. From 1961-1962, I worked as a library assistant at Stones Corner Library in Brisbane before I commenced university. My mother was furious when I resigned so I could embark on a full-time university course. At the same time I studied library subjects at TAFE. My scholarship awarded me a weekly living allowance of three pounds and paid my university fees. During my university years I suffered many deprivations; I was required to pay board and was compelled to take on part-time jobs to survive. After evening classes my penniless state necessitated my having to beg rides from students at the St Lucia campus who travelled to the Brisbane CBD. I did not have sufficient capital to purchase books and spent long hours at the university library studying the set texts.
In my final year I was raped. Unable to concentrate, my unwelcome pregnancy caused such distress during my exams that I failed by one subject.Once my exams were over I sought an illegal abortion that left me financially destitute. My mother continually threatened to throw me out. On Christmas Eve,1965 my mother derided me in front of a former boyfriend and successfully urged him to bash me for my misdeeds. (This incident only came to mind In 1997 when I re-read my diaries.) I was flabbergasted to read of her betrayal! Fortunately my brother lent me sufficient money to tide me over until I obtained a job as a barmaid.
In April 1966 I was offered full-time work as a library assistant.at the State Library of Queensland. My life subsequently turned around-all for the better! I re-enrolled at university and completed my degree in 1966 and in that year I found my true love. George Wilson and I were married shortly after my graduation in 1967. In 1969 I was awarded a Registered Librarian's Certificate. George and I have been happily married for forty-six years. We have two beautiful adult children and two loving grandchildren. Life couldn't be better.
The catalyst for writing this book was brought about in 2004. At my mother's 90th birthday party I asked her three questions about some childhood issues. Her response was to cut me out of her will. To discover which events had twisted my mother's personality and turned her into a narcissistic parent, I have researched her family history, determined to unlock some of the family secrets hidden all those years. I recorded them briefly in my book.
I wrote my memoirs to help people like me who have suffered child abuse and to help their families understand how the impact of the abuse can also impinge on their lives. In the writing of this book I suffered torturous experiences that brought up old hurts in their recall. I went through hell in my formative years, yet I survived. No longer am I a victim haunted by my past; the writing of this memoir has set me free.
Birth Place: Wellington, New Zealand
Accomplishments: Bachelor of Arts Degree awarded in 1967
Registered Librarian Certificate awarded in 1969
Registered Teacher-Librarian in 1988
Principal editor of "Tasmanian Resources Review" 1981-1985