The Link Between Child Abuse, Depression, & Mental Health


depression, mental health, mental illness
Photo by Ben Maguire on Unsplash

Another wealthy and famous person is dead from suicide. How much depression or Kate Spade’s mental health played a part is speculative until those closest to her decide whether and how much they want to discuss it. And how much they knew. Someone with depression can be an expert at appearing fine.

She was Emeritus Chair on the Board of Directors for the New York Center for Children, which is devoted to the treatment and prevention of child abuse. I don’t know what her connection was to that issue, whether it was an invitation from a friend, because she was a mother, or out of her experience or that of someone close to her.

The connection between child abuse and mental health is something I’ve spent the past few years thinking about and exploring. Those of us who were abused as children experience depression and C-PTSD. I still startle easily, struggle with sleep and hypervigilance, and have flashbacks. It’s why I’ve written about it and will continue to do so. I’m putting together an outline for my own recovery that I hope will help others. It’s part of why nearly all of my writing, including my novels, are roadmaps to emotional recovery.

“Having it all” doesn’t inoculate you from depression. The most maddening tweets I’ve read in the past couple of hours since the news of Kate Spade’s suicide broke are the ones who declare that she was “selfish.” She was not selfish; she was in pain. If you want to remember her, consider donating to a charity with a mission to treat and prevent child abuse or suicide.

If you’re dealing with the fallout from child abuse, there’s help available. Pete Walker’s book Complex PTSD and its workbook, and Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score are a good start. There are groups such as Survivors of Incest Anonymous and RAINN. There are trauma therapists who can use various modalities. Check out the medical side with a compassionate psychiatrist. Do your due diligence about therapists, doctors, and groups. Just as pedophiles seek work around children, emotional predators find ways to access abuse survivors.

If I can heal, so can you.

Please send this on if you know of anyone suffering from the fallout of child abuse. Thank you.

The task at hand

I’m devoting more time to my blog for patrons at Patreonhemingway as a matter of survival. If you enjoy this blog or my other writing, please consider supporting my efforts – $1/month or more – and tell a few others who’d be interested. I’m not exaggerating regarding survival. I have been job hunting for a while without results. This is an alternative to support my writing, but it only works with your help.

After much prompting from those who know my story, I am writing a memoir and it’s hell to write. Hardest thing I’ve ever done is revisiting stuff I have minimized for decades.

This is more than writing for me. If we as a society decided that we wanted, really wanted, to stop child abuse, we could. Dr. Gene Abel and Nora Harlow wrote The Stop Child Molestation Handbook. If we at least try his suggestions, the improvement not only in individual lives, but society as a whole, could be dramatic. Lowering incidence of PTSD, depression, and physical problems would help all of us. That is my purpose, too. For whatever reason, I’m the transition person in my family. I stopped the abuse. I did not abuse my children and they will not abuse theirs, nor were they abused. It can be done. It’s become a cliche for a reason: if telling my story helps show one person the way to stopping the cycle, it’s worth it.

As for this blog, I will continue as time permits, but you’ve no doubt noticed a drop off in posting and now you know why. The memoir needs the bulk of my attention and there’s not much left over as I continue working on it. Thank you for your understanding and support.


Love the Art, Hate the Artist?

polanski and allen
Roman Polanski with Woody Allen

How much does or should the private life of an artist play into our appreciation or disparagement of their art? There was the recent dustup over Woody Allen and the Golden Globe award via Twitter from his former family. There have been many writers, musicians, painters, actors, etc. with abhorrent views and/or actions over the centuries. Wagner’s view of Jews was in concert with Hitler’s; there’s long been speculation about Lewis Carroll‘s pedophilia; R Kelly allegedly exploits underage girls; Chris Brown battered; Vanity Fair reports indications that Woody Allen molested his then 7 year old daughter and he certainly married his step-daughter; Roman Polanski pled guilty to raping a 13 year old girl. Or as this article on Jezebel asks, which is worse, Polanski doing it or Hollywood’s embrace of him despite it? Messy, stomach-churning stuff, yet many still go to their movies, attend the concerts, and so on. Wagner are Carroll are both long dead – but do you buy the CD or pay the movie admission for the work from someone current who’s done (or alleged to have done) something abhorrent? Are you then contributing to the fortune that in turn may influence the investigations or case?

These things are uncomfortable. They are not simple. They require thinking from a society that seems hell-bent on not thinking, on only being entertained. But we must think and not rely on the sound bite.  Easier said than done.

Art is a mystery. Artists are often a mess. Sometimes the work itself makes you want to take a shower. Sometimes it’s the news reports about the creator of that work. Sometimes people do evil things.  One of the very best books for beginning to understand some of this is M. Scott Peck’s People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil. Hint: narcissism. We need to come to terms with the fact that pedophiles or assaulters or bigots can write great things, perform amazing music, build something of beauty. We don’t like to think so. It is more comfortable to think of the predator as twisted and ugly, but traditionally Lucifer was a beautiful angel of light.

If there is no prosecution, no confession, no clear answer, it is up to the audience to decide individually. In his excellent book on child abuse, The Stop Child Molestation Book: What Ordinary People Can Do In Their Everyday Lives to Save 3 Million Children, Dr. Gene G. Abel asserts we can stop child molestation if we decide to and he lays out the guidelines. But can we stop child abuse (or other forms) while celebrating abusers? What do you think? Do you separate the art from the artist and is there ever a point when that is no longer possible?