Dystopian Family Portrait

by Charlotte Farhan

Once upon a time there was a little girl who didn’t know if she was good enough to be loved, she tried with all her might to be noticed – making adults laugh, being as well behaved as possible and by pretending to be whatever was needed, just for that feeling of acceptance. This little girl had been told that she was fat and ugly, so she began to compare herself to other little girls, she noticed the “pretty and thin” girls got more attention, so this must be the trick, she thought to herself. With Mummy always dieting and telling her that boys only want one thing and that one thing – they only want, from thin and pretty girls, the little girl knew she had to make the boys love her, just like Daddy.

Daddy had left you see, but when he was here he only wanted certain things from the little girl, which she knew were not what little girls should do – but Daddy liked it and this felt like love. Daddy was scary and big, he got angry often and one day he went mad from drinking too much, eating raw chickens and moving amongst the shadows, the horror movies Daddy had shown the little girl became real, Daddy became hostile and in his induced psychosis began to plan to kill the little girl and Mummy, which meant Mummy had to rescue the little girl late at night, whispering in her ear “don’t make a sound – Daddy has gone to sleep and we must not wake him”, the little girl grabbed her sleepy-time Troll and in the death of night, they sneaked out of the house to safety. Daddy had turned into a monster, not even able to remember his real face, he had been replaced by your worst nightmare, whilst driving away the little girl imagined him waking to see them gone and how he would be rabid with anger, the feeling of being chased never left the little girl after that night.

Daddy - By Charlotte Farhan
Daddy – By Charlotte Farhan

Even though Daddy had left the little girl, Mummy was still there – although Mummy seems to want to be away from the little girl as much as possible, Mummy seems to like handbags, shoes and status more than the little girl, maybe they are prettier and bring her more joy? Very often, Mummy would drop the little girl off to other families, to stay with – whose Mummy’s did not leave them, and whose Daddy’s had not turned into monsters, so the little girl had to be on her best behaviour with the hope of finding some love going spare.

Mummy was always sad and she didn’t get out of bed for what seemed like a year, she would ask the little girl to sit with her, whilst she cried and told her sad stories of how life is not worth living and that people will always hurt you in the end. However Mummy stayed with the little girl so she can’t be all that bad, can she? She clothed, fed and made sure the little girl had a roof over her head, so she must be a hero?

Then one night when Mummy had been put into a special place for people like her, and the little girl was left on her own to fend for herself at 12 years old, she sneaked into the lodgers room (who was an 18 year old girl) found her sleeping pills and decided she wanted to sleep for a very long time, maybe never wake up at all. There was no one who cared or had to care, so she took two big handfuls of pills, just like she had seen in the movies and calmly lay on her bed waiting for her eyes to close and the pain to stop. After a day and a half the little girl woke up, she was still alive and none of it was a nightmare.

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“Mummy” created by Charlotte Farhan

When the little girl became a teenage girl, Mummy was working so much to be able to buy the nice bags and shoes – that she did not realise how ill the teenage girl had become. She started to hurt herself everyday so she could feel something, rather than the emptiness which engulfed her. When Mummy found out, she said “you are just trying to be like me”, the teenage girl became angry as she did not even know Mummy was cutting? With no sadness over the pain the teenage girl had caused to herself – Mummy started crying about how bad she felt, how this affected her and how people would think she was a bad Mother but worst of all – how she was devastated the teenage girl could do this to her.

The teenage girl was not eating and had not been since she was 11 years old, this was a secret she had kept well from Mummy, which was not hard when she was never there. By her 15th birthday Mummy knew what was happening but did nothing to prevent it, this made the teenage girl think that she must lose more weight as Mummy obviously did not think she had lost enough. When the teenage girl was put into a hospital for girls and boys like her, just like Mummy had been in before, the teenage girl needed Mummy more than ever this time. However Mummy decided this was the best time to take a break too, so she booked herself into her 5 star hotel/hospital (Mummy still had health insurance you see) and left the teenage girl to fend for herself in an old Victorian state hospital. One day Mummy came to visit the teenage girl and she had to bring her own nurse (as she was a risk). They sat under an enormous oak tree, the teenage girl was very thin by now and underweight and on a strict diet to put on weight, but Mummy couldn’t help herself and said “wow you look amazing, how do you keep your figure?” the teenage girl knew then in that moment that Mummy didn’t care if she lived or died, not in the “normal” sense. The teenage girl was an extension of her, something to own and to show off when it makes her look better and something to hide when it makes her look bad.

You see when the girl talked about herself the conversation would be diverted to talk about Mummy, and if the girl felt unwell or hurt, Mummy felt it worse than could be imagined – like a morbid game of top trumps. Mummy would become jealous if the girl got attention, she would also not offer empathy to the girl in times of crisis. Even though when Mummy was in pain the girl would tell her how much she was loved and needed, when Mummy cut herself the girl would bandage up her arms and tell her it was not her fault, when Mummy tried time and time again to end her life and told the girl that life was too hard to bare – the girl took it on the chin and told Mummy she had everything to live for. When Mummy told the girl that she was the worst Mother, the girl would reassure her and tell her that she was in fact the best Mother in the world.

So Daddy taught the girl that boys and eventually men only want one thing, and in order to achieve this you must be the pretty girl, the girl who knows when to keep quiet and take whatever is given to them, love is offered with conditions and most of them are painful and confusing, and Daddy left the girl and didn’t love her at all in the end, so she can’t of given enough of herself to him, which made the girl try and give this to all the boys until one day a boy took it from her without asking, just like Daddy. Mummy taught the girl to be “the good girl” the kind of girl which does the right thing to get love, by pleasing people she will achieve this, learning her needs are less than others and wanting to be considered the best in the hope she is one day good enough.

The moral of this story is simple, not all humans should have children, not all love is good or safe and that Mummy’s and Daddy’s are not special and infallible, they can be monsters disguised as care givers, they can be loud in their abuse or they can be silent in it. Mummy’s and Daddy’s are not to be forgiven just because “they tried” or because they were ill, and children are always good enough regardless of their parents. In the end the emancipation from abusive, narcissistic and psychotic parental control is your right as a child, an adult – as a human being. You are good enough.

This creative life writing piece is a small snippet into my upbringing as a child, written in the style of a children’s story as the language I have with regards to this is very child-like and still so raw. The two pieces of art which accompany this piece are from a larger collection which is still in progress, they are created in a naïve style – to keep the childlike narrative flowing. I suffered sexual abuse and abandonment from my Father – who is an alcoholic and had alcohol induced psychosis. And a Mother who has co-morbid Bipolar-disorder and borderline personality disorder and who has every trait going with regards to narcissistic personality disorder. My Father abandoned me and does not care for me or love me, which now as an adult I welcome as would not want a relationship with a predator and my Mother whose maternal narcissism has suffocated me – is no longer in my life through my own choice. I am in recovery.

Charlotte Farhan is a mental health activist who advocates through art. She runs the nonprofit Art Saves Lives International and is most likely being snuggled by her future service animal, Amadeus. She is the Open Thought Vortex Artist-in-Residence.

Images provided by the artist.

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8 thoughts on “Dystopian Family Portrait

  1. Art breaks down the prison walls built of perfect bricks. The style (child-like narrative) works effectively and mirrors the style of your accompanying art. I continue to believe your work is astoundingly powerful. I hope it is healing, as well. You’ve come full circle. You are good enough. ❤

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  2. This is perfect. Thank you. I just finished Augusten Burrough’s book, “This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike,” (whew! what a long title!) – he talks about good parents being a luxury, that we can be our best despite what we were born into. I like to think he’s correct.

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  3. Thanks for sharing and that the sleeping pills didn’ do you in. Hope you are eating well. Congratulations on your emancipation from abuse by damaged parents, and thanks for following! Oh, I guess I’m writing Charlotte Farhan, not Shareen Mansfield? Not sure, but thanks anyway.

    Nan

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