"The situation was barely tolerable: I witnessed terrible things, which I knew were wrong, but there was nowhere to go for help."
We know him as Picard from Star Trek and a Knighted drama artist. He has played various characters in superhero movies and boasts a filmography spanning 6 decades. But there is another aspect of his life that has touched many lives and inspired people who are still haunted by the horrors of their past. Sir Patrick Stewart has been vocal about his stint with domestic abuse as a child and how it never completely leaves you.
While he has expressed his agony of having a troubled childhood, on many occasions, his memoir with The Guardian is particularly gut-wrenching. Born to a sergeant father, Sir Patrick's upbringing was very strict and he could rarely enjoy the treats of childhood that other children do. Besides, growing up, the veteran actor regularly saw his father being violent with his mother and that scarred him for life.
"He was an angry, unhappy and frustrated man who was not able to control his emotions or his hands. As a child I witnessed his repeated violence against my mother," he wrote for The Guardian. He added that his childish instinct was to protect her mom from a man he feared but also admired. "For those who struggle to comprehend these feelings in a child, imagine living in an environment of emotional unpredictability, danger and humiliation week after week, year after year, from the age of seven. My childish instinct was to protect my mother, but the man hurting her was my father, whom I respected, admired and feared."
He also narrated the sad state of affairs where the abuse continued for months and years but no one came forward to help them, instead, there were times when his mother was blamed for his father's abusive behavior. This not only made him feel completely helpless but also very angry.
"The situation was barely tolerable: I witnessed terrible things, which I knew were wrong, but there was nowhere to go for help," he confessed. "Worse, there were those who condoned the abuse. I heard police or ambulancemen, standing in our house, say, 'She must have provoked him,' or, 'Mrs. Stewart, it takes two to make a fight.' They had no idea."
He also went on to admit that the daily violence had affected him to a point where he started blaming himself for everything. He wanted help and solace. But nobody stepped forward to help them. It did not leave him then, it does not leave him now. "No one came to help. No adult stepped in and took charge. I needed someone else to take over and tell me everything was going to be all right and that it wasn't my fault," he wrote. "I wanted the anger to go away and, while it stayed, I felt responsible. The sense of guilt and loneliness provoked by domestic violence is tainting – and lasting."
Explaining the lasting effects of domestic violence on his childhood, he admitted that he had to struggle in his adult life to wash away his destructive personal life. "I knew the exact moment when I should move to put myself between my father's fist and my mother's body – a skill no child should have to acquire," he said to Hello!
He also pointed out that with a disturbed childhood and trauma, comes the lingering sense of loneliness which is never easy to overcome. "Such experiences are destructive. In my adult life, I have struggled to overcome the bad lessons of my father's behavior, this corrosive example of male irresponsibility. But the most oppressive aspect of these experiences was the loneliness."
It also affected his love life wherein any fall-out from his partner would mean complete emotional shut-down. But gradually, he found his escape in acting and that became his place of peace. However, his experiences with violence had rendered him so exposed that he remained wary of exploring various emotions for acting as he was not sure how he would react to those situations.
"I managed to find my own refuge in acting. The stage was a far safer place for me than anything I had to live through at home – it offered escape. I could be someone else, in another place, in another time," he explained. "However, whenever the role called for anger, fury, or the expression of murderous impulses, I was always afraid of what I might unleash if I surrendered myself to those feelings."
Gradually, as he moved ahead in his life and career he found his solace in director Ronald Eyre, who promised him that he will always be there for him but he cannot restrict himself as an actor and not give his hundred percent to the art. This changed Sir Patrick's life and the fear of facing his own emotions started fading slowly. Isn't it true? Isn't that we really need? Someone who would tell us that everything will be fine and that we do have a friend in the world.
"It was not until 1981, when the director Ronald Eyre asked me to play the psychotic Leontes in The Winter's Tale, that the breakthrough came," he continued the same train of thoughts.
"He quietly told me that the play would only work if I gave myself over, completely and totally, to the delusions, madness and murderousness of this man. 'If you do that,' Ron said, 'I will be at your side. I will be available to you 24 hours a day.' From that time forward I was never again afraid of my feelings on stage."