Along with many other readers, I was enthralled by Marion Zimmer Bradley’s novel The Mists of Avalon soon after its 1983 release. Living in Berkeley, I knew people who knew Bradley, and when they spoke of attending parties and other events at her house, I envied them.
But now Bradley’s adult children are saying in interviews that their young lives were filled with torment and horrific abuse at the hands of their mother, who died in 1999. In the latest of these interviews, Bradley’s son Mark Greyland describes in terms whose vivid poetry makes them all the more tragic how the trauma of physical and mental abuse stole his self-esteem:
I was ashamed. When you are small you believe stuff, and I felt with my whole heart that I was responsible when she would go bad. … And that made every day a drama, a thick clogged tube of waiting for the dreadful, the un-nameable horror.
And nobody spoke. Everything was always fine and that was my clown suit. I thought everyone knew and that I was such a bad person no one would speak to me. My echo chamber filled me with such fear of exposure I would do anything to make the shadow go away. And I did. The shame paints my world yellow and pink and brown. I don’t want to say these things any more.
Asked how he is faring currently, Mark explained:
I am not doing well. I am filled with frightened images of what everyone is thinking while reminding myself that no one can really tell how I feel even if I shout it from the rooftops. I stop and shiver and remember and try to focus on anything (Look! Squirrel!) that will keep me on the task at hand. I stop and stare and look in the mirror. I make art and write verses. … I see a paper shield with a target on it. I am waiting for the blade to fall, all over again. I worry that my friends will walk away ashamed of me. …
I am discovering that the keeping of secrets to hide shame is poison, and I am trying to recover from the echoes every day. You can too. I have learned it was not my fault when it happened and it is not your fault either. Free yourselves.