Mother became less and less able to go out as her health deteriorated. She had suffered from bad legs since I was five years old. It was very common to see women in bandaged legs in those days. She had chronic ulcers supposedly resulting from varicose veins. This particular complaint is not prevalent today. I wonder why? Every generation seems to have a popular disease. Now it is all heart attacks, stress and so-called mental illness.
One of the common sights of our later childhood in Rayleigh was Mother washing bandages, drying them in front of the fire and winding them first round her hands and then on her legs. I found the sight of her ulcers sickening. I decided there and then that whatever I chose to do with my life I did not want to be a medical doctor.
I often wished my body could be made of stainless steel, like a machine kept nourished by oil rather than by blood: cleaner and more efficient. From a very early age I had two outstandingly powerful and frightening dreams. The first began when I was about five and ended when I was twenty-five.
I am watching a screen. On it is a matrix of shining, silver machinery, working perfectly. Suddenly something starts to go wrong. There is a slight slip in the right-hand corner. I know that little by little every part of the machine will be destroyed. Before the end I always woke up in a panic. So great was my fear that it took at least a half-hour to recover.
The strangest thing is that my first son had the same repetitive dream when he was a child. He didn’t tell me about it until he was grown up. I could understand it in his case because machinery has always fascinated him. The strangest thing of all was that my dream ended soon after my son was born and it never returned.
During my ‘teens another recurring dream began. I am walking through a dark wood and suddenly become aware that I am being followed. I turn around and see a glinting-eyed witch chasing me. In her hands are big loops of cloth: bandages. I know I have to run very hard to get away from her. Sometimes she captures me, sometimes not. I usually awake just as she reaches me and begins to wrap the bandages around me from the feet up. There is the same feeling of panic that I felt in the first nightmare.
I felt that I should end up bound like an Egyption mummy, unable to move or cry out: a living death. I didn’t have to be a genius to interpret this dream.
It is a wonderful example of an important message from my unconscious mind: It contains a perfect example of a Freudian pun and a warning to me that I must psychologically free myself from my mother for good. Years later I understood why I had a great fear of becoming a “mummy” myself and why I had an aversion to dolls and babies.
Having loved my mother so much in my early years it was very difficult for me to accept, as I grew older and wiser, that I did not like her in many ways, especially when she complained to us about our father.
I couldn’t wait to get away from home and after I married we went to Venezuela and I ended up with three children. I, who thought mistakenly that I did not want a family, changed my mind. I still managed to have a career as well. I was determined that I would never cause the pain to my children that I felt in my own first family. Step by step, with a continuous search to understand myself better, I discovered what was good for me and what was not. That is what the rest of this book is about. How it is possible for us, if we are dedicated enough to learn to think for ourselves to find the right paths for ourselves and lead a satisfactory life.