Memoir

My father was a psychiatrist. I needed to explore my memories of a childhood spent in the sprawling grounds of a psychiatric hospital.

I wrote “Blue Remembered Sky” to emotionally integrate what I saw and heard. I wrote so that psychiatric power might be more closely examined with a specific focus on how this played out in my father’s personal and professional relationships. I wrote to acknowledge the debt of gratitude I owe to the African servants who cared for me and my younger brother, who gave us one of the most valuable gifts in the world – the experience of being loved and comforted with unfailing tenderness. This was at a time when the Africans around me were denied their humanity and were treated with utmost contempt by the majority of white people.

Psychiatric hospitals were exported around the world during the British Empire. I am concerned that human rights abuses were perpetrated against anyone who did not meet the colonial authorities’ view of what ‘normal’ might mean. I grew up at a time and in a place where ideas about ‘the other’ were dismissive and could often be disturbingly brutal. As a girl, I had no emotional language and was ridiculed for being ‘over emotional’. I put all my energy into playing sport. In my teens, I became a national tennis player.

My father believed he was an expert on human relationships. He served on the Marriage Guidance Council and the Mental Hospitals Board. He was on first name terms with the Minister of Health, the chief medical officer and highly ranked members of the judiciary.

Nathan Filer in The Guardian (11 May 2019) says: “There’s a fragility to the mental health of everyone. It serves us all to be part of the conversation.” I agree with him.

I hope you will read my memoir.

Published by charlieblue2020

I am the author of Blue Remembered Sky a memoir about my childhood growing up under colonial rule in Zimbabwe. The country was known as Rhodesia when I was born in 1955. My father was a psychiatrist and my family lived within the grounds of Ingutsheni Mental Hospital from 1956-1971. We left when my father retired from government service. I was raised as a white supremacist with zero understanding of the Africans who looked after me and who were also inmates inside Ingutsheni. A squad of African men toiled in our garden and in the hospital laundry. When I researched the history of Ingutsheni, I discovered that the inmates were subjected to treatments that made my blood run cold, the Africans were segregated from white patients where conditions in the black wards were horrendous. My book tells a story that broke my heart but, in writing it, I found a way out of the insanity that once ruled my life. The book is an indictment of psychiatry, its methods and its unchallenged place in mental health care. The aim of the book is a radical one. I believe that psychiatry is one of the gravest tragedies to afflict the human race because of its medical framework and the erroneous beliefs held by its practitioners that the symptoms of extreme emotional suffering are indicators of mental illness and madness.

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