Some scars never heal, facing domestic abuse can greatly traumatize anyone, especially a child. Sir Patrick Stewart, is especially recognized for his strong authoritative roles such as Professor Xavier in the X-Men series and Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek. Little does the world know that such a leading and bold actor has been battling with his mental health problems for almost all his life.
As per the Telegraph, he has been seeking therapy in Los Angeles for the last two decades, the actor opened up by saying, “I am 80 years old, and I am still in therapy. I see someone every week here in Los Angeles, who I have seen on and off for nearly 20 years. I’m still searching myself, still asking questions of myself, and that is certainly the case when I try to recall what it felt like to be in the middle of violence, and there being nothing I can do.”
As a child, Stewart’s life was surrounded by poverty. The family lived together in a very small two-floor building, which meant whatever happened in the house, happened in front of everyone.
His father had extreme anger issues, he would beat Stewart’s mother Stewart when in rage. He and his brother could not do anything to stop it, except for physically standing between their parents. His father was a celebrated Dunkirk veteran but was damaged from the inside. On this issue, Stewart commented, “We became experts at knowing when the moment had arrived in the shouting when we had to physically put our bodies between our mother and our father. Children should not [have to] become experts at this kind of thing, but we knew when violence was about to happen because we’d seen it so many times,”
Sir Patrick Stewart’s father, Alfred Stewart, Sir Patrick Stewart, Sir Patrick Stewart’s mother Gladys Stewart.
With immense grief he also mentioned, “I knew that all of our neighbours knew what happened in our house, and it humiliated me, shamed me. My brother and I felt ourselves responsible for what happened, but of course, we were not. To know that you were surrounded by people who were aware of the horror stayed with me, and that’s why I never talked about it.”
It wasn’t until Stewart grew up and started boxing at school that he had the courage and the power to tell his father to never again lay a hand on his mother. Seeing the young and strong Stewart, his father took the message seriously and stopped.
Stewart states, “I warned him that if he did anything to her, he would come off worse. He took that message on board. For him to have a son stand up to him in that way created complex feelings. He just became too old to be a warrior.”
The actor also states that he has always feared that he may end up like his father, as an abusive and toxic person. He feels scared about a part of his personality that he could not face. He was afraid to experience the urge of extreme anger, which can be disastrous as he saw early in his life.
Recounting an early childhood incident, Stewart told, “I was beaten with a cane by my headmaster when I was 14, [when] I was innocent of what he was accusing me of. It was one of the hardest moments ever because I wanted to attack him. I would have killed him. If I’d actually got my hands on him, I don’t think he’d have made it out.”
It was acting that allowed him to realise just how profoundly he was affected. As one of his generation’s most talented thespians, the strength of feeling came to him naturally, but “extreme anger, fury – I had to fake them, I was frightened of what might happen to me if I allowed those real feelings [out], because I inherited them.”
Even when he got married, he was always worried to not be like his father, his first marriage was with Sheila Falconer and lasted fairly long. He had two children which furthermore kept him on the edge and worried to not mess things up. Upon this topic, he stated, “They had to be controlled. I had two children [Daniel and Sophia] and there was no violence in our house. I remember my son, who ended up being much taller than me, going nose to nose with me, arguing about something. I had to suppress all of that [anger]. So yes, it was there, it’s still there.”
Stewart had kept all this inside him decades, before deciding, in the 2000s, to open up and share his story in an interview. “I didn’t really know what to say, because I was still ashamed of what I had experienced.” The comments gained attention from Sandra Horley, who recently stepped down from the position of chief executive of Refuge, the domestic abuse charity. She contacted him and asked if he would support their work.
“I already knew about Refuge, because my first wife and I lived in Chiswick, where the first Refuge safehouse was established. We would walk to the safe house with donations, and I remember the sound of chains being removed, locks being unlocked, bolts being withdrawn. Nothing could have made a bigger impact on me, that this was, indeed, a safe house.”
Closing the conversation Patrick said, “No one should experience domestic violence. It is a crime, and it is present all across the UK and every corner of the world. Refuge can help, [but] I can only hope readers lend their support,” crescendo.