The author exposes the wounds of his youth and how the therapy he sought out to heal them caused even graver harm.
“Remembering this brings me peace,” concludes Canadian writer Gajdics in his debut memoir, which lays bare the psychological fallout from personal trauma most everyone close to him urged him to forget. The youngest child raised in a strict Catholic household, at age 6 he was sexually abused by a stranger in a school bathroom. Though Gajdics was plagued by nightmares and panic attacks, his mother’s stoicism and father’s domineering demeanor prevented him from sharing his trauma. Prior to immigrating to Canada, both his Eastern European parents had survived the ravages of World War II at great cost: the author’s mother spent 34 months in labor and death camps, and his father lost his family early on; both looked to pass onto their children an unquestioning faith and silence as coping mechanisms. As he grew up, the author’s pain and guilt resulting from the abuse and its repression were only compounded as he realized he was gay. Turning to sex as a means of escape, Gajdics was soon ostracized by his family and left Vancouver to pursue writing. In 1989, seeking to quell his inner turmoil, Gajdics had the misfortune of being referred to Dr. Alfonzo, a crackpot clinician who believed he would “revolutionize the field of psychiatry by being the first psychiatrist to find a cure for homosexuality.” Much of the power of the author’s courageous account derives from his unsparing depiction of the years of horrifyingly degrading “primal therapy” that rendered him “an emotional bulimic,” his body “an earthquake” he felt “trapped inside,” as Alfonzo stripped him of his autonomy with an unorthodox, toxic mix of psychotropic drugs. Writing through his slow recovery not only led to Gajdics’ self-acceptance, but also helped his parents to open up about the atrocities of their childhoods as well.
Raw and unflinching: a powerful argument against conversion therapy as well as for the healing power of memoir.