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We Were Never Normal: A Story of Dysfunctional & Abusive Families

Valerie Tendai Chatindo, 25, explores how sometimes honoring one’s mother and father has killed the mental health of many and obscured too many boundaries. Picture: by Ali Yahya/Unsplash

A day? Two? Years? How about twenty-five years. Yes, twenty-five long, hard, miserable and confusing years of silent torture, mental anguish and endless suffering. That’s how long it took me to realise that I came from not only a dysfunctional but an abusive family.

Now to most people, me outrightly talking about this kind of thing and not having anything but gratitude for the people that brought me into this world is the worst sin ever. It’s a taboo to speak against your family in a world where parents are perfect and can do no wrong. Only rebellious and spoilt kids can summon the guts to do such a despicable thing. Those who dare do such a thing are treated like a pathogen that has invaded the body; they are a threat which has to be eradicated at all costs.

The family structure is technically built up like an immune system. It is a fortress which allows nothing in… and nothing out. Millions of people have enjoyed the benefits of this unmovable pillar of strength which has served as a safe harbour in times of peril but millions others have suffered peril in that fortress with no-one to turn to or tell their stories. Those that have, have been met with disapproval and disbelief.

When Monique told the world that her brother molested her growing up, her parents convinced the world that it was a publicity stunt.

Elon Musk shared on the psychological games of torture his father played with him and was labelled an ungrateful drama queen and while Joyce Meyer was being raped by her father, her mother pretended it wasn’t happening in order to protect the family name.

Sure, I’m not saying that the whole experience of being part of a dysfunctional family is totally bad. There are good times and enough normalcy maintained to convince the world that everything is OK. In my case, there were private schools, holidays and occasional gifts. But those were accompanied by humiliations, blackmail, deprivations of affection and sometimes verbal and physical abuse. I’ve been beaten within an inch of my life, had my hair pulled out, been called names such as Lucifer and Satan and grown up with the belief that I am a mistake and an evil that should never have existed.

My costly education has been a point of reference for the justification of every act. It has enslaved me and not a day goes by that I resent it. I wish I had gone to any school but those. I wish.

I could delve deeper into the details of the life I once knew. Talk about never having anyone who bought me clothes, a father who made it a point to have no relationship with me and a mother who saw me as a puppet. It still confuses me and I’m yet to discover what all that really was.

All I can say is that “Honor thy mother and father” has killed the mental health of many and obscured too many boundaries.

I can only hope for the day where we can come out and tell our stories and not pass judgement on each other. Where we can accept and normalise that.

Because we were never normal.

Valerie Tendai Chatindo is a 25-year-old biochemist, entrepreneur and a digital storyteller. She has been published in Enthuse Mag, Bhizimusi, Hallelujah Mag and in the Kahalari Review. Follow her at tendy_vchatndo

Valerie Tendai Chatindo

Valerie Tendai Chatindo is a biochemist, entrepreneur and a digital storyteller. Follow her at tendy_vchatndo

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