What can you tell our readers about your book Breath in the Dark?
The book is about a six year old child with sole care of a mother suffering with clinical depression, diabetes and eating disorders. It tells of the day to day stresses and strains of life under difficult circumstances of a child who is neglected, socially isolated, physically emotionally and sexually abused, who is ostrasized by the Jewish community and the community at large in 1960's Manchester. After the death of my mother when I was 13 I was seperated from my brothers not knowing what became of them, sent to live with a cruel and sadistic aunt. Prevented from attending her funeral and not told where she was buried. I never came to terms with her death.
How difficult was it to relive these experiences through writing them down?
It was extremely painful to relive these experiences. I never learned to construct a story through education and have never been able to read a book because of the trauma and anxiety that opening a book triggers. The only way I am able to describe this is to liken it to dyslexia. In order to convey my story I had to rely on delving into traumatic memories, deep emotional feelings and experiences.
How much faster did you have to grow up given the circumstances you were under as a child and exposed to such issues?
I did not grow up faster because I was isolated for a long period with my mother and did not learn any life skills, I over trusted people after her death and transfered my feelings for her onto my aunt. It was only in my early thirties with the help of psychotherapy that I was able to develop more constructively
What did you want to achieve by writing the book?
I wrote the book initially after coming out of a psychotherapeutic community in 1983. I realised how the traumatic experiences I had lived through had impacted on myself and consequently on my husband and son. In an attempt to explain and convey my experiences to them the only route I had was to write down what had happened to me through reliving the experiences, feelings and emotions. Also the aim of my writing is to attempt to create awareness of some of the issues that many people have to endure in life and may never have the opportunity of having their voices heard.
What was the hardest thing about writing Breath in the Dark?
I had to relive the deprivation and isolation that I had experienced also, the realisation that my mother never had any quality of life.
When did you decide you wanted to tell your story?
I have always wanted to tell it but it was too difficult and painful in the past.
What feedback have you had after publishing this book?
It's been reviewed as a key text for clinicians on the Madness and Literature Network (under submitted literature) at the University of Nottingham. It has also been put on the reading list by the reviewing lecturer (Charlotte Baker) for student mental health nurses. Journalists who have interviewed me have been very positive about the book and have all said that they have found it powerful and moving.
How much do you feel you have helped others who suffer similar issues?
For example, Charlotte Baker (above) said "This is simply a stunning book. It is moving, emotive and raises crucial issues regarding children and young people who act in a caring role in the UK...the profound physical, psychological and social impacts that this role can have on young people is starkly presented in this autobiography. Jane also experiences physical and sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect, making this book important reading for anyone working in safeguarding, or indeed with service users who also have dependents.
You have said that the only way to resolve your issues was to write them down, did you attempt anything else to resolve them before you picked up your pen?
Yes going into a psychotherapeutic community
I would like to add
I hope to raise awareness in my writing. I hope that the reader will gain some insight into experiences that most people have little knowledge of, such as the long term effects of deep and prolonged poverty and deprivation. There remains much misunderstanding especially on poverty, mental health and literacy issues. What is important in the story is the mindset and entrenched behaviours which develop over time in a child, behaviours which are perfectly normal reactions to abnormal situations.
Female First Lucy Walton