By Ross Martin
Key Themes: adoption, a childhood view of cruelty, psychiatric incarceration, inspirational,
The author's inspirational memoir is a no holds barred, vivid account, depicting the victim's experience of abuse and cruelty at the hands of a mother possessed. Nicky Fowler, adopted at birth is the family scapegoat until one day he is forced to stand up to his abuser, but he pays a heavy price. Later in life with the memory of Dolly cast aside for ever, Nicky suddenly becomes seriously ill. Misdiagnosis by RAF Doctors, cast him into a psychiatric ward to be treated for his repressed anger toward his estranged mother. Mind-changing drugs and brainwashing therapy fail to erase his determination to survive. When close to death a brain tumor is found, but whilst in hospital and semi-conscious Dolly visits him out of the blue, and Nicky confronted by his past believes he is about to die again. This moving and compelling story shows that it is possible to survive the system, and eventually find a happy life.
About the Author
Ross Martin now lives with his wife in Oxford. Adopted as a child, he was subjected to years of cruelty and abuse. At age 28, whilst serving in the RAF abroad, he became ill, unable to walk, and this was originally diagnosed by Royal Navy doctors as a tumour on the brain, but on return to base in UK, Royal Air Force doctors reversed the diagnosis and admitted him into a psychiatric unit where he remained for four months subjected to mind altering drugs and group therapy administered in an attempt at cleansing him of his inner 'hatred''. When close to death, a tumour was located and removed, but Ross now suffers permanent physical disability including related bouts of depression. Invalided from the RAF in 1976 Ross then began a career as a qualified social worker in the probation service working with offenders with mental health issues. Though recently retired, Ross still works as a freelance anger management trainer. The author's son has been in hospital 15 years, diagnosed at 25 years of age as a paranoid schizophrenic. Ross is in regular contact with him and takes him on outings where he can feel safe and free. His role as father and carer gives Ross a wide insight into the sometimes bizarre world of Mental Health.
My first memory, at the age of two, was of being wheeled through a long corridor, along passageways, and gliding around corners. I was terrified: my first hospital experience involved an all-consuming pain. As I regained consciousness, I felt limp and drowsy, submitting to the world of agony and ecstasy. Home was beyond the hospital; I can recall the warmth of the glowing, open fire against my skin whilst sat in a copper bath half-full with warm, soapy water, and having my body parts prodded and inspected by an unfamiliar audience.
Drawn by the sight of blood seeping through the bandages, I swooned in and out of consciousness. I remember the painful ceremony of the bandage removal. Seated in that watery canister, time was allowed for the bandages to absorb the warm water in order to assist stripping. My legs were eased apart to allow the water to soak through and reach my sensitive parts in preparation for the next painful stage.
Then the unfurling began: I screamed in agony as each layer was peeled. As the bandage grew longer I could see blood dripping into the bathwater. I gripped the bath sides with soap-slippery hands to brace myself against the stabbing pains. I can’t remember any words being spoken as the final half-inch of blood-soaked bandage was unfurled, exposing red-raw skin; my skin, my body, but theirs to invade.
And there, beneath, lay the source of all the pain and interest: my ‘organ’. I never understood why it was done or why pain was inflicted on me with such determination. As I grew older I learned that at that time (wartime) it was a view held by Dolly that the foreskin harboured the possibilities of infection - especially for the female - and so it should be removed!
That was the first invasion of my body by my adoptive parents, but it was not to be the last. That first assault was traumatic, and set the scene. The violent beatings that followed strangled my self-belief and sense of identity and created the conviction that there was something wrong with me. Abandoned at birth with the shame of being a ‘bastard’, a leper, I craved to belong and be accepted as normal. I became consumed with a desire to prove myself.
I was born around 2 pm on the twenty-ninth of May, 1945, in a Catholic nursing home for unmarried mothers somewhere in North London. Outside, military personnel, men and women, thronged the pavements, laughing, singing, and shouting whilst others worked in groups erecting trestle-tables in preparation for the weekend’s continuation of the Victory celebrations. That day everyone was deliriously happy. The War had ended. They had survived.
The Sisters of Faith assisted my mother in bringing me into the free world. I was surrounded by sombre-faced nuns whose singular purpose was to provide a bridge of humanity between an unmarried, eighteen-year-old girl and her newborn child, and a largely uncaring world where she would be judged as a ‘fallen woman’. Society also decreed that my mother’s shame, and mine by association, should be hidden from public view, so arrangements were made for George and Dolly Fowler, from faraway Brighton, to adopt me – so that my mother’s infamy would be erased.
In those days, adoption was used as the solution to hide disgrace, but stigma spreads like poisoned ivy to the furthest reaches of both body and mind. It is a sinister aberration engendered and fuelled by absolute belief and is amenable to neither reason nor cure. You drink from the well and you are tainted forever. My name is Nicky Fowler and I am worthless.
Twenty-one, London Street, my new home in Brighton, backed onto St Bartholomew’s - a huge, 600 foot high Victorian, Anglo-Catholic church located at the North end of town, in sight of the main railway station. Our garden abutted the giant church wall – like a coal-bunker perched against the side of a tall building. This grand building, the pride of the Victorians, eclipsed our natural light to the extent that sunlight was only seen when the sun was at its apex and its rays penetrated the garden gloom. Despite this major drawback, the vegetables planted annually as a supply to take the family through the winter months continued to flourish and grow.
Our house, a grey, dank, Edwardian terrace, was four storeys high, three above ground, and the fourth level, our living area, below ground. This basement living room rarely saw sunlight except in summer, when the sun’s rays streamed through the metal grille in the pavement above.
In this room, where gas light was more important than the sun, my earliest memory was the sight and sound of people’s feet click-clacking above me as they walked across the steel grille. During bad weather I would while away the time peering up and out of the living room, watching the rain as it pounded against the grille and listening out for the sound of neighbours or passers-by as they scurried across our vent, keeping me in touch, as if by telegraph, with the friendlier world just beyond my reach.
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