Connecting People and Ideas in the Hearing Voices Movement

Ron Coleman

Taken from the preface to “Recovery an Alien Concept”, available to purchase from Working To Recovery

I was brought up in a working class Roman Catholic family and like many boys my age I went through my religious phase in my eleventh year of life. I went to see our parish priest and told him that I wanted to become a priest. Our parish priest at this time was getting on in years and was one of the old school having said more masses in Latin than in English. He was also without doubt a man of God who saw himself as a shepherd and us as his flock. When one among his flock stated they wanted to become a priest, he took them seriously. He took my desire to become a priest seriously and once a week I met with him and two other boys who had also stated a desire to enter the priesthood. In these weekly meeting we would discuss further the teachings of the church, the role of the priest and whether we thought our calling to the priesthood was real. After one such discussion one of the boys stopped coming as he felt he was not being called but was trying to please his family. The two of us that remained were undeterred and continued on with our instruction, fully committed to the idea that some day we would become priests.

These were happy days for me, I was preparing to serve God and I had all the enthusiasm an eleven-year old could muster for my coming tasks. The day that changed my life started the same as any other I went to school and after school I headed for the chapel house for instruction. The housekeeper answered the door, she was near to tears as she told us our parish priest had taken seriously ill earlier in the day, although he survived he was never to return to the parish. (I often wonder what would have happened had he never became ill. Would I now be a priest?) Shortly after this happened a new parish priest arrived, (I will call him Adrian) at first everything was business as usual and I soon relaxed into my normal routine. The next three months went by without incident as far as I was concerned though I noticed that a lot of the altar boys were leaving service before they normally would age wise.

I was very quickly to find the reason why when after Mass one day Father Adrian asked me to come and see him in the vestry, I sauntered over without any thought as to why he wanted to see me after all he was a priest. When I arrived at the vestry Father Adrian asked me to sit down it was at this point that things started to change. He started by asking me if I had any sins that I needed to confess, when I said I did not he called me a liar and said that he needed to pray for me so that I would be forgiven. He knelt beside me and started praying aloud he was saying something about me leading him into sin and that I was evil. As he continued to pray he started moaning and groaning, I was aware that his hand was slowly moving up my leg this went on until he was touching my penis. As this continued I was aware of becoming a spectator in what was happening to me. I became aware of other things around me like the candles that were burning too brightly and his purple vestments were if anything even more purple than usual. I was there but not there those who have been abused will know what I mean, much later in my life I discovered that this is called dissociation and it is the most common form of self-preservation of those who are abused. At the time it did not feel much of a defence to me for inside I screamed at him to stop I also screamed at God for protection but either God was deaf or I never screamed loud enough because he never defended me. When it was over Adrian told me that no one would believe me if I told them what had happened. I left the vestry in a daze and never told anyone what happened that day or the many other days that it was to continue for.

I was trapped for a while within this cycle of abuse, after all who would believe me? Adrian was a priest he stood between people and God, he represented Christ on the earth, the forgiver of sins, the good shepherd. I was an eleven-year old boy, a dreamer and to say anything would brand me a liar. My relationship with this God that I thought I believed in was over. The abuse continued for a few months until I found from somewhere the strength to turn my back fully on the church and with it God. My spiritual and religious phase was over. Time has taught me that this is the pattern with abusers that they are often in positions of trust in the community and they use this position to ply their evil trade in misery and pain. Experience has taught me that the failure to deal with abuse means that the abuse will stay with you throughout your life and in many ways shape your life in terms of future relationships. This is especially true when it comes to trusting friends or life partners. This event more than any other was to shape my life or should I say illness.

If this was the only traumatic life event that I was to go through I believe that I would have survived it and got on and led a fairly normal life. As is often the case it was when I thought that I had turned a corner that life dealt me its foulest hand. As I grew up into adulthood I put the abuse behind me or so I thought and got on with the business of living, it was while I was getting on with life that I met Annabelle. I met her one Saturday night in the pub after I had been playing rugby, when I saw her I knew what love at first sight meant. Being psychotic has nothing on being in love, love is without question the true psychotic experience. Annabelle was an artist, sculpture was her main medium though also she painted and did sketching. In the short time that we were together she taught me many things, she taught me what love was, how to make love and most importantly how to love life. She also taught me to appreciate the arts such as classical music, opera and theatre. With her I began to discover a spiritual dimension to my life though I hasten to add that this was not a religious thing.

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