In her debut memoir, a 55-year-old Canadian woman relates her experiences with childhood sexual abuse, a narcissistic mother, and mental illness.
Keefe was born in 1958, the youngest of six in a French Roman Catholic family based in Winnipeg. Her father was a genial baker, then a dietician, who never dealt with his wife’s harsh ways: “He had given his life to God and would not retaliate even if my mother would hit him and be very abusive to him. He was married for life.” To escape this toxic environment, Keefe often stayed with older sister Monique, a bad move because Monique’s husband, Pierre, was a pedophile. From the age of 4 and for 11 “extremely long years,” Keefe was sexually abused by Pierre, which she silently endured due to her family’s stance on preserving marriages. Keefe then married as well, to a hardworking, supportive man. She had children of her own, but her early trauma led to a challenging existence ruled by various OCD rituals (regarding eating, cleanliness, list making, etc.) as well as frequent suicide attempts. She eventually sought therapy and was hospitalized several times, but she felt that many in the medical profession were ineffective and indeed biased toward those with mental illness. Eventually, Keefe found better balance to her life by becoming a mental health support worker and volunteer herself, in writing down her story, and in having a final confrontation, if not complete closure, with her abuser. Keefe’s narrative is an unpolished yet compelling cri de coeur depicting the consequences of childhood abuse. The fallout from her trauma is rather dizzying: she details also suffering from pica, depression, and a host of other syndromes. Her carping on the medical profession is also a bit relentless, although, when commenting about her chief doctor, she acknowledges, “I really had nothing bad to say about him. I was creating my own troubles and I was my worst enemy.” One hopes Keefe has now found some measure of peace and should be commended for seeking to help others by sharing this story.
Convincing, if overwhelming, account of abuse.