My childhood was dysfunctional, abusive and traumatic. Significant snapshots include – at age 4, lying in bed at 3 am, terrified as my drunk mother and stepfather screamed abuse at each other.
At age 13, terrified, unsafe and desperately alone. I couldn’t keep the family secret any longer. I finally found the courage to speak out. Unaware that life as I knew it was about to explode.
At 14, I called an ambulance for my mother as she lay unconscious because of an alcohol-induced nervous breakdown. I remember thinking dispassionately, ‘I never want to be like you’.
My beautiful paternal nanna was my safe place. She loved, nurtured and encouraged me. Soon after I’d dropped the bomb that blew up my family life as I knew it, I declared to nanna;
‘I’m going to finish school, go to university, get a good job and be in charge of my own life’.
Her shock confused me. I felt my bold plan terribly pragmatic. In hindsight, I realised it was beyond her comprehension. None of my family had ever been to university, and nanna, a 1950s housewife, had to leave her job when she married. She responded, ‘but Nirelle, we’re more of a blue-collar family. Maybe you could be a secretary or a receptionist’.
I remained adamant. I knew what I wanted, and I was going to have it.
But her words planted a painful seed of doubt that grew to cause much destruction in later years.