Secrets at The Big House:
Overcoming The Damage Of A Narcissistic Mother And An Emotionally Absent Father (Lessons in Resilience)
by Ana Maria Michelena, MD
There were ghosts and there were secrets at the BIG House.
The space between the walls of The BIG House were charged with the anguish of ever-present unhappiness. It was a different kind of haunting.
Time changes many things, but it does not change our memories.
This is a true story of descent from wealth and social standing. By necessity, it is also the story of my mother, a petite socialite of uncommon beauty, who subjected her children to unspeakable emotional and psychological terror.
From the outside, my mother looked perfect. She grew up in wealth, attended an all-girls boarding school in Switzerland and completed her education at Rosslyn House, a finishing school for girls in Surrey, England. She exhibited great intelligence and managed to be the recipient of numerous academic awards. She mastered the French language as if it were her own, developing an exquisite sensibility to delicate, soft and soothing poetry that contrasted with her mercurial temper.
My mother was so very charming and sophisticated in front of her friends and anyone who visited The Big House. Unforgettable. Thoughtful. Kind. Everyone admired her Audrey Hepburnesque physique and accompanying refinement.
But from inside The Big House, my mother’s hysterical, histrionic fits were covered up by her parents, her brother and the loyal servants. She was a master manipulator.
We were never sure where our mother’s terrible wrath and rage came from, at least not as children. We suffered her anger in the ignorance and innocence of childhood. We suffered her lack of patience, her irritability. Her inconsistency. We swallowed her detachment, choking on her never ending criticism, her cruelty and her judgments.
How easily words poison the mind. My mother was a master at poisoning minds. She made sure any budding sprigs of self-esteem and pride in myself were nipped short before they even had a chance to grow.
First, she delivered the initial blow that would open the wound, then she made sure the wound never healed by continuously pouring the stingy poison of more hurtful words on to it.
My self-image was poisoned and she suffocated my natural optimism and joy. It would take many years to undo the damage she inflicted upon my psyche.
Secrets at The Big House is written like a novel, with scenes and dialogue and a narrative arc, and every word is the truth—my truth. It is written in a way that will engage the emotions, the mind, and the love of readers.
Ultimately, it’s a story of hope, and I open the book with my favorite quote:
“Hope is the certainty that every question will be answered, every wrong will be made a right, and every act of faithfulness will be rewarded.”
Join the author on this journey and learn how she turned adversities into gifts…
Secrets at the Big House has a very captivating title. Throughout the book I found myself on several occasions saying out loud “oh my gosh!” at the detailed events that the author shares from early on in her childhood to present day. I applaud her on her transparency and mostly for currently being at a place in her own life to be able to share her story with others - bravo! It is riveting to learn how she navigated through life while dealing with a narcissistic mother and an emotionally absent father. After reading this book, I can firmly say that she not only navigated with grace but she then applied, or rather didn’t apply, what she learned through those trying times into the raising of her own. Although I can’t relate to the book on a personal level, I most certainly feel that the author is a strong, resilient woman who made the most out of her situation and furthermore, rose to the occasion versus victimizing herself. I highly recommend Secrets at the Big House for any and all readers if you are looking for a non-fiction book about family dynamics, determination, strength and victory! Well done!
Riveting, heart breaking, inspirational! The author, a physician and life coach, wears her heart and soul on her sleeve while walking us through her fascinating life, plethoric with worldwide experiences and accomplishments yet shadowed by her victimization by commission by her mother and by omission by her father. Dr. Michelena shares how she used the lessons learned through her family relationship Odyssey to 'make lemonade out of the lemons' of her childhood and earlier adulthood. As exemplified by her resilience at all stages of life, the author inspires us to spring back into shape and come back stronger from our lows. A resurrection of hope and faith in life. A must read particularly in this trying time of pandemic global crisis.
This book is full of twists and turns--and it's beautifully written. Ana's life growing up was anything but perfect, but the web of family disfunction and trauma didn't keep her from forging forward. She was determined to build a fulfilling life for both her and her son, and she did--no matter the obstacle. I loved this book and think it will be healing to all those that can see themselves in her story.