I have a range of mental health problems. Depression, its bosom buddy anxiety, and pretty serious attachment issues have been a part of who I am for as long as I can remember.
Why? Well, I went to boarding school. Yes, I’m posh – well, sort of. I’m an FCO kid. I was privately educated, at enormous expense. And it destroyed me for life.
Yes, I’m aware of my “privilege”. And it has opened doors. I’d be lying if I pretended otherwise. But consider this.
Imagine a rather shy and introverted little boy, aged 8 or 9, who has overnight and for reasons he doesn’t really understand lost his home, his family, his personal space and privacy, his freedom, his safety and his access to anyone who cares about him or any sort of affection or comfort or solace whatsoever, all in one fell swoop.
Imagine that he then finds himself trapped in a relentlessly hostile environment where nobody is on his side and nowhere is safe, and where there’s a good chance that at any moment someone will beat the shit out of him because they feel like it or because it’s funny.
Imagine that is then his life until adulthood.
Honestly, it’s like a bereavement. Not all kids survive it – anecdotally, most boarding schools see at least one suicide attempt every year. Certainly, my own did. Some succeed. The ones who don’t are quietly removed. Either way, the whole thing is brushed over.
If you do survive, then you emerge a changed person. Tough, self-reliant and self-sufficient, certainly. The hoary old cliché about the regime being “character forming” is certainly true, as far as it goes. But you are also completely closed, defensive and wholly incapable of empathy or normal human relationships. You don’t love anyone or anything. You can’t. To survive that decade, you had to kill the part of you that feels, or bury it so deep that nobody else can get to it.
This is how the (in)famous English “sang froid” / “stiff upper lip” is created. By systematically brutalising and traumatising small children.
I survived, but the long-term effects on me have been pretty profound. It’s controlled and stabilised with medication; a cocktail of Sertraline and Mirtazapine seems to keep me relatively uninterested in offing myself, but even with the meds, I struggle.
Now, recall that the people who are the product of this system, these broken, stunted souls … they run the country.
Explains a lot, doesn’t it?