Linda’s Pelletier’s life was never a bed of roses. There is the trauma she suffered as a child, the excessive drug use in her adolescence and the strong medication that she has to take to leave behind her scattered memories. Parts of her life remain a blur that she has not yet been able to see clearly.
Pelletier, 64, only has one word to describe her childhood: Terrifying. She was 4 or 5 years old when her father hit her for the first time. Hits, insults and embarrassment were her daily fate.
At the age of 10, Pelletier watched her mother leave the family home, telling her to hug her father every night and tell him that she loved him. As a result of being unable to love the man who beat her every day, Pelletier developed a feeling of guilt and a serious self-esteem problem. She lived in isolation. “I can see from the photos that I was a beautiful girl,” she says. “But I thought I was really ugly. I hated everything about myself.”
A psychiatrist explained to her that her mental health problems were caused by the abuse she had suffered: She had survived thanks to her ability to dissociate. “I came out of my body and saw what that man did to the little girl,” she said. She went on to tell her story in front of incest therapy groups. “I felt like I was speaking about someone else when I talked about myself,” she admits. “I was surprised when people applauded me.”
During her adolescence, Pelletier used what she calls a “mountain of drugs.” One morning, she returned home to her mother, completely high. “I needed her to tell me that she was worried about me, but she didn’t,” she recalls. “She made jokes.”
At 25 years old, while traveling in Egypt, Pelletier experienced her first psychotic episode. It led her to prison and then a psychiatric hospital. What followed were years of deep depression and several suicide attempts.
Pelletier is no longer suicidal. She sometimes thinks about it, but she says that “the idea of suicide is like a way out. I know that I will not do it.”
Pelletier is one of what she calls the “beautiful feathers” of L’Itinéraire. “Writing allowed me to vent about my suffering with good humor,” she says. “It’s not all dark.” Two of her pieces were included in Sentinelles [an anthology of L’Itinéraire writing], which was published in 2017.
The older she gets, the happier Pelletier becomes. “This is difficult for me to say, but today I believe that I am a beautiful woman. It’s a shame that I have realized this at 64 years old,” Pelletier says, smiling a crooked smile. “I’m growing old in wisdom and grace.”
Translated from French by Kara Innes. Courtesy of L’Itinéraire / INSP.
Working on myself
By Linda Pelletier
I feel fortunate to write for L’Itinéraire: it’s such a wonderful magazine. It gives us a platform to tell people what it’s like to have lived on the street for years. Some people open up about the suffering of being a prostitute or the pain of being addicted to drugs. Others, like me, write about how they were victims of abuse, violence, or humiliation as children. We pick ourselves up eventually, but it takes a lot of inner work. Take me, for example: I’m 64 years old and still see a psychosocial worker every week. Just the thought of no longer having that support someday sends me into a gut-wrenching panic—it’s as if I’m falling through the air without a parachute. I have a terrible lack of self-confidence. When I see my psychosocial worker, I often ask her whether certain things I said or did were okay. It’s exhausting being me. I’m constantly worrying about whether I did the right thing. My psychosocial worker even made me a list of things like “You don’t have to be perfect” and “You’re allowed to make mistakes.” Going over the list really helps. In any case, what I’m trying to say is that we vendors are so lucky to have the opportunity to share our stories in such a wonderful magazine.
Translated by Michelle Daniel. Courtesy of L’Itinéraire / INSP.
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