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What It's Like to Carry the Heavy Burden of Childhood Trauma

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Editor's Note

If you have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

There is this weight on my back. The straps of the backpack dig into my shoulders; the contents are so heavy, it almost tears the skin. But where did this backpack come from? Who put her on my back?

It seems I’ve been carrying her since years ago, and only recently noticed. Thinking about her now, it seems like before she was part of my back and shoulders, like a turtle’s shell. Something that wasn’t separate from me, part of me and my flesh on my back.

But now she doesn’t look like mine anymore. I don’t remember putting her on one day, I was just used to her. I didn’t take anything from her, just put on more heavy material.

You only think about yourself, and don’t care about me. I made you.

You are a selfish girl, look at yourself.

You just give me extra work — laundry, food, expenses. 

You do not help at home. You do nothing right.

Other children are better than you.

This backpack seemed to be part of the skin on my back, and these months wanting to take it off it hurt, like her fabric was stuck with super glue.

The one who put it on was mean, selfish, and carefree. The one who put it on me didn’t care if I could stand the weight, if my spine, shoulders and neck would bend under the pressure.

I couldn’t complain. My feelings weren’t relevant; I couldn’t express them anymore. And inside, with the backpack, they weighed even more.

What I felt was not important or necessary to pay attention to. I was invisible, and my visibility was only about putting more stuff in the bag.

Because “nobody” cleaned the house (maybe because “someone” didn’t teach me).

Because “no one” made decent food (maybe because “someone” didn’t want to teach me).

Because “nobody” can take the glass off the table (maybe because I took the last sip of juice and just put it in there, so I didn’t even have time to lower the glass before thinking about putting it in the sink).

Why are you so sentimental and whiny? (maybe because “someone” didn’t validate my feelings as important and relevant, and I don’t know how to manage them correctly).

I have the memory of the backpack and its contents, but not its starting point. A few months ago I took it off; it made a mark on the skin of the back, because she was part of me, and this injury is still open. Opening the backpack slowly, its contents hurt. I did not know there was so much there, so much deception and lies.

Removing more of the content, I discovered the manufacturer’s label. It did not say “Made in China.” It hurt to read who made it, the same person who put it on. The label revealed the following:

Composition: 80% hate who you are, 10% insecurity of what you can become outside of me, 5% when you look at me and I don’t like it, 5% you don’t deserve to be alive.
Manufacturer: “Your Mother.”

Yeah, she made the backpack, built it with a sturdy fabric called lies. She put it on my back without my permission, like a mother who puts the backpack on her daughter’s back and sends her to school alone. The school of life, without water, without food, without preparation, without structure and still gives a pat on your butt and says: don’t let me down, if someone beats you out of the house and doesn’t fight back, when you get back you’ll be slapped again, OK?

Discovering this heavy load is not easy. I did not ask to use it, it was imposed upon me, and the bad habits I now carry are in my mind, not in my back. And the detachment from it is painful, truths and lies mixed in the same package.

Who should have protected me is the one who hurt me the most — my mother. I was forced to carry something I did not ask for, to be in a place where I did not choose, and to have the results I have now that I cannot give back to those who made me.

I threw the bag away, but the contents haunt me in other people, in everyday life. I find that I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time suffering for something I didn’t choose.

Getty image by surasaki

Originally published: December 4, 2019
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