Childhood trauma is a very serious thing, and it can have a lasting impact on the individual well into their adult life. The following AskReddit thread asked users to open up about their earliest years and any dysfunctional situations that took place during them. From coping with death to abusive parents and condescending teachers, there's no shortage of trauma happening. Hopefully, we can learn as a community to deal with it better and provide those who need it with the right support.
(Content has been edited for clarity.)
Witnessing Domestic Violence
“My dad with his drinking problem pulled my mother out of the car after we had just come home from a Christmas party. He proceeded to kick her for a few minutes, while I just sat in my car seat and watched the whole thing.
My mom, frantically, tried to get away by attempting to drive off. But before she could, my dad grabbed me out of the vehicle so that she wouldn’t leave. My mom had to pretend like everything was fine the next morning, just in case he decided to snap again.
I was barely 3 years old at the time. This was one of my first memories, and I now have an anxiety disorder.”
“I stutter and have for all of my life. My dad and grandfather both did, too, but they overcame it when they were both still young.
By the time I was in the second grade, it was evident that I was going to have speech problems. My teacher was a terrible person. She was old and would tolerate absolutely nothing. One day, during our phonics and spelling time, she called on some of the kids to come to the front of the class, stand there, and spell.
My word was ‘Because.’ I had to say and then spell it. I couldn’t stop stuttering and stood there going, ‘B-b-b-b-b-b-b’ until my teacher (in what was a harsh tone) said, ‘STOP! You stop that right now. Are you stupid or something? You say that word correctly right now and stop wasting our time. Class, it appears (insert my name) wants to waste my time, so no recess this week because I’m sick of you kids acting up.’
The whole class turned on me. I was now the stupid kid who had a stutter and made everyone lose out on recess. I was hated from that point on, made into the butt of every cruel joke, ostracized, and relentless bullying. I can still hear that teacher’s voice when I begin to stutter. I know I can’t help it, and she was completely out of line, but it left a lasting impression on me.”
Won’t Let His Family Create Another Monster
“There are so many awful memories, it’s hard to pinpoint which one affects me the most. To start, my biological mom and her second husband were both raging addicts. Many, many times we had just a loaf of bread and some peanut butter to eat, while the fridge had two cases of some nasty, cheap, off-brand Miller.
But for actual moments, it’s hard to say which one was the ‘worse.’ I remember my ‘stepdad getting trashed and slamming my older brother’s head against a doorknob then laughing about it. This prick also picked up my 12-week-old little sister and threw her across a room because she wouldn’t stop crying. He would come home from the bars, swerving and parking his motorcycle in the front yard and chase my pregnant mom though the house, trying to cut my younger sister out of her. The man was evil, and my mom was no saint either.
One time she got wasted and started to take her anger out on me; my older brother stepped in and she slammed his face into the bathroom sink, knocking out his front three teeth. The worst I remember her getting physical with me was one day after school. I had walked home and she was already stupid sloshed. She started screaming wanting to know where I was at all day. When I told her that I was at school she accused me of lying and started beating me with a baseball bat. That day I might have died if it wasn’t for her starting to puke all over the living room.
I think what stands out the most of me (well a couple of things) is that she was supposed to provide for us. Instead what she did was make my older brother give up his childhood to care for us three younger ones. No child should ever have to go steal food from the store because your ‘parents’ spent all the money last night at the bar.
In the end, while I like to put on the image that I am alright; I know I am very broken inside. I have a son, who I am fiercely loyal to, and I just hope I can raise him right. I just promise him every night that he will never ever, ever have to see one shred of that kind of childhood. I don’t care if I have to run myself ragged and wearing a loin cloth; he will never see an empty fridge, he will always have a book read to him before bedtime. So am I traumatized, yes, very much so; but the cycle ends with me. I will not allow my family to create another monster.”
“I was in the second grade and had this pet cat named ‘Nala’ that I loved. She was a beautiful Bengal. I didn’t want her going outside, but my parents would always let her out anyway.
I will never forget the day I got off the school bus and found her dead in front of our house. Her blood and intestines were spread all around her on the street. She had been hit by a car.
I couldn’t sleep properly for months.”
“Being bullied in elementary school, I became the kid that not even the not-so-popular kids wanted to hang out with because I probably would’ve made even their social standings take a hit. It was contrived, and all of the teachers did nothing about it (if not indirectly encourage it).
‘Okay, we have to split into groups. Kim, because you were late, you have to be partners with (me).’
Yeah, okay, we get it. No one else was going to, but hey, maybe don’t point it out. I spent my lunch hours in the library, and by the end of the seventh grade, I spent most of the day in the library. No one ever even noticed.
It took me a long time to start to feel any sense of self-worth, and it still has shadows in who I am today.”
A Horrible Prank
“When I was about 6, my cousin and her friend decided to scare the living daylights out of me and faked a break-in and faked her getting stabbed and hid me under a bed. I literally felt like I was going to die. Got pulled out under the bed by my feet and thought I’d be faced with a murderer, instead, it was my cousin laughing. I had some serious issues with sleeping alone for years and would continuously check for doors being locked and couldn’t be left alone. it didn’t end till I was 12.”
It Started In Kindergarten
“My parents were young when I was born. I was the ‘oh no, now we need to get married’ kid. My mom dropped out of school, and my dad worked all day to support us. I love my parents, and they did their best, but they were woefully unprepared to have kids. Because of this, growing up involved my dad being gone most of the time, and my mom being so overwhelmed, she would just watch TV and zone out.
Anyway, when I was in kindergarten, I was inappropriately touched. It was confusing because I liked having someone older paying all of this attention to me. It was so different from at home where I was always watching my little sister and brother. The abuser would always talk to me and tell me how ‘pretty’ I was. During this time, I started to hate being called ‘pretty’ and became suspicious of anyone who was nice to me. However, all of this stopped at the end of the first grade.
Fast forward to a couple of years later. By this time, I was a tomboy. I dressed like a little boy and would constantly get into fights at school. I didn’t play with most of the kids, but one of the girls from class invited all of the girls to her birthday party, which was going to be a slumber party. I was excited to go. It was the first party a girl in school thought to invite me to. Unfortunately, part of the party involved playing dress up. They had a couple dozen old prom dresses for us to wear and makeup to use. I freaked out so badly I ended up hiding in a corner while sobbing.
In the fourth grade, a boy in my class developed a crush on me. When we were on the bus, he kissed me. My response was to punch him so hard he fell out of his seat. I still feel bad for that one.”
It Wasn’t The Beatings That Was The Worse Thing
“I had a babysitter beat the living daylights out of me for crying when I was 4.
I got beat a lot by my family for religious reasons.
I got my bottom paddled 3 times daily in middle school.
All of this was fine and dandy, but what messed me up was thinking I deserved it, and that what they were doing was okay, up until I had a mental breakdown at 12.”
“1) Getting beat up by a group of kids in front of the school, to the point where my nose started bleeding and then looking up at a huge crowd of probably 100+ students, and not a single one of them offered to help.
2) Being dragged into a car by my mother, who was wasted, after she got into a fight with my grandma, and then having her drive like a maniac through the backyard and down the streets. I’m actually surprised we didn’t get in an accident or get pulled over, she was clearly speeding and swerving all over the road.
3) Being beat up in the corner of the classroom (the teacher was out) by one kid while just about everyone else in class laughed.
4) I was on the Jaws ride at Universal Studios and the flames from the ride effects came much closer than normal and nearly burned me. I’m still terrified of heat and fire to this day.”
A Long List Of Abuse
“When I was little, I grew up in the Caribbean while my dad was going to medical school. We were very, very poor. I remember having to sleep in the hospitals where my dad was doing his residency so that we weren’t outside. We had no food. I was dumpster diving by the time I was 5 years old to make sure my sister and I had food to eat. Eventually, things evened out and my parents enrolled the both of us in Catholic school. I was beaten up every day for being left-handed until I learned to use my right hand with rulers. I was teased and bullied by all of the nuns and other students. It got to the point where as a 7-year-old, I was skipping school for fear of being smacked around or ambushed in the bathroom or hallways. When I was 7, my older sister ran away from home and didn’t come back until she was pregnant and in-and-out of jail with her boyfriend.
When I was 9, my parents divorced. By ‘divorced,’ I mean my dad was beaten in town assaulting a local boy intimately. My mom found out and planned on leaving him, so he kidnapped my younger sister and me. He destroyed my mom’s credit, car, spent all of her money, and then served her with the divorce papers. We moved in with his mother. She used to deny us food to keep us ‘pretty’ and forced us to strip when my father wasn’t around in order to ‘inspect us.’ Then, my dad started doing inappropriate things to me mentally, physically, and emotionally. When I was 11, he made me swear that if I didn’t cry, tell, or complain about it, then he wouldn’t do it to my younger sister. So, I took the deal. I mean I had to protect her.
My mom started coming around again. She got a lawyer, and we started seeing her once a month (I should mention that when my dad kidnapped us, he had told us that our mother was dead – I didn’t know she was alive until she showed up at the house one day). I became suicidal about everything around 13 and stopped eating properly. Since he was a doctor (with doctor friends), my sister and I were forced into taking antipsychotic medications to try and control us. I got caught spitting them out and lost a tooth. The medications were meant to make us sleep, lethargic, and caused spotty memory. I caught him in my sister’s room one night, and as he left, I ambushed him in the bathroom and tried to strangle him with a belt. He broke my arm in two places and had my medications increased.
When I was 14, he died. He had a heart attack right in front of me. I remember calling the cops and just laughing with relief. The abuse from him was over. After a disgusting fight with my dad’s side of the family and being removed from their ‘Last Will and Testaments,’ my sister and I moved in with my mother. That summer, I stayed with my older sister in California as my mom thought it would do me some good. She knew I was messed up, she just didn’t know why, and I wouldn’t talk about it. I guess I was still afraid of his ghost. My older sister told me she ran away because of what my father (he was actually her stepdad) did to her and that she was sorry that she had never said anything until then. I couldn’t look at her the same, but I guess, I don’t blame her.
After that, I started doing illegal substances and had a long string of abusive boyfriends who would all abuse, beat, and force me into doing things. I just picked the winners I suppose. I’m so messed up. I can’t sleep without having any nightmares, and I’m super skittish. I think it’s PTSD. I have no confidence, nothing. I just exist. But whatever, that’s life, right? It sucks, but oh well, you just keep trucking. One day, I’ll be okay.”
“I was 15 and home sick from school one day with my dad. He had just returned from a two-week work-related trip. I was chilling on the computer when he stumbled out from the shower and told me to call an ambulance.
Half an hour later, he was dead from heart failure at the age of 55.
I blamed myself for a LONG time and refused to talk to anyone about it. I used computer games as an escape until I realized there was nothing I could’ve done to change the outcome that day.”
Love Confession Gone Wrong
“In the fourth grade, I wrote a letter to this girl that I liked.
For whatever reason, she turned it into the teacher, and the next thing I knew, I was in the principal’s office being accused of harassment. When my dad found out, he beat me within an inch of my life.
Fifteen years later, I’m still single and trying to get over the anxiety that it’s socially acceptable to ask out a girl without having it blow up in my face.”
Messed Up Is An Understatement
“Being forced to ‘go down’ on my older cousin at the age of 5, then being forced to make out with my other cousin at the age of 7… My family is very messed up, and I haven’t told anyone about this. No one. Although it did mess up my preteen years, I feel like I’m fine now. I just don’t know if I could ever tell my SO or friends, I would feel very embarrassed and I’m not sure if I even want to. I don’t feel traumatized, I’m a very happy outgoing person, but sometimes I do feel bad that it had to happen to me, I’m just glad that somehow it didn’t affect me as much as it would have someone else.”
“My sister would throw tantrums, use illegal substances, get involved with the police, car crashes, used to torture me for fun until I was a teenager (which was also when she finally moved out), and for all that she’s done to our parents.
It slowed down as she got closer to 30, but she’s still the same person, and I’ll never be able to trust her.
There’s nothing she can do now to gain my trust. I honestly have trouble finding any redeeming qualities in her, and my parents want me to forgive her, but I can’t.”
Abused And Abandoned
“Was on holiday in Germany and my parents threw me out of the car and leaft me out on the street in the middle of nowhere. Took them 30 minutes to come back, felt like hours, they never said sorry for that one. Was horrifying for a 10-year-old kid without any means of contacting anyone and not speaking the language. Didn’t even see any cars going by the entire time I was there.”
An Unreasonable Teacher
“I was a shy, quiet kid growing up especially when it came to school. I never talked during class, and I had a few close friends.
One day, I brought a yearbook into class with me that my mom was in, as well as one of my current middle school teachers (they were in the same class in high school). I showed some people in my class, and maybe only told two or three of the other kids that our teacher went to high school with my mom. She looked different (I mean it had been like 15 years ago), and she had gained a bit of weight. I thought it was cool that they had gone to school together.
Apparently, my teacher found out, and during that class period with her, she spent 20 minutes talking (or more like yelling) about how disrespectful a ‘certain student’ in her class had been, and how rude it was to pass around something so private. Everybody already knew she was referring to me.
So, after class with tears filled in my little eyes, I apologized to her and went home and cried. I still believe this is one of the reasons today why I strongly dislike people. That teacher was being unreasonable.”
Attacked By A Dog
“Back when I was still learning to walk, I decided to go for a walk all by myself on the sidewalk. I was attacked by our neighbor’s dog and had permanent scars from it.
Until high school, I couldn’t be anywhere near dogs. Whenever I went over to friends’ houses, and if they had a dog, they would hide or put them in a cage for me because if I saw one, I would sprint in the opposite direction with the worst fear imaginable.
Weirdly enough, the first dog I wasn’t afraid of was a giant German Shepherd, which was originally bred to be an attack dog.”
My Grandfather’s Death
“I was close to my grandfather. He died when I was 10 and was my first encounter with death. No one I knew back then had ever passed away before that, like no pets, nothing. So, my introduction to death came at an early age when I was just starting to understand what it was but still didn’t have a firm grasp on it.
It legitimately messed me up. I had a lot of issues after that. I went to see many different therapists and a psychiatrist and tried different treatments before finally settling on one that worked.
I’m 24 and in pretty good shape mentally for the most part, however, I can’t deny the impact his death had on my life. There isn’t a single facet of my personality that doesn’t trace back to that moment. If it had never happened, I probably would’ve been a completely different person right now.”