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15 Childhood Experiences You Might Not Realize Affect You as an Adult

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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.

Over the last few years, my view of my childhood has shifted completely. For a long time, I assumed my childhood was perfect, and anything that felt “wrong” or upsetting was simply due to some failing on my part. I was too sensitive, I was making things up, I was looking for a problem where none existed.

Then, I got a therapist with experience in childhood trauma, and I started to realize that even though I am sensitive and imaginative and tend to ruminate on the negative, that didn’t mean everything bad in my life was my fault. There really were experiences in my childhood that were traumatic. For me, it was constant invalidation and belittlement. My emotions and I were always treated as a problem, and I internalized that information and learned to accept that I am a problem. I am inherently bad.

Slowly, I am unlearning this. I am realizing that I’m not bad, and I don’t have to live with these negative beliefs forever. Throughout this whole process of acknowledging my trauma, I kept thinking that other people had probably experienced something similar. So we reached out to the amazing Mighty community and asked people to share experiences that seemed like “no big deal” when they were a kid, but ended up having a significant impact on them as an adult.

Here’s what our community had to say:

  1. “Being an ‘army brat’ moving every few years. Thought nothing of it at the time, but now, as an adult, and learning more about childhood attachment … it lends a little bit toward some of my adult introverted struggles and my ‘Eeyore complex’ of ‘No point letting anyone close if they are just gonna leave anyway.'” — Julz T.
  2. “My parents always told me I cried at the drop of a hat and should stop with the crocodile tears, but never actually taught me how to manage my emotions. Just that they were too much.”– Zoey D.
  3. “Clutter, bathing at other people’s houses, holes in the floor, cold winters, little food. My parents were nice people, they were never abusive in the normal ways. There was just a lot they turned a blind eye from, I guess it was easier to pretend that it was OK because ‘one day it’ll be better.'” — Denni A.
  4. “My dad would get upset with me, and start throwing things around me. He never hurt me or laid a finger on me, but watching him explode and break things because of something I said or did was difficult for me to process.” — Maria L.
  5. “Shortly after embarrassing (usually drunken) incidents my parents would tell us ‘you didn’t see that, or that didn’t happen.’ If you brought it up the next day you would be ‘shushed’ or looked at blankly. I didn’t understand blackouts, so this left me doubting my own eyes and memories for much of my early years. Decades later, I am still often not confident in my observations.”– Pamela G.
  6. “My brother and I both have basically the same disorders but we only saw my depression side when I was growing up. And because he was aggressive and properly diagnosed his mental health was prioritized over mine and our two older siblings’. It made sense at the time but not anymore now that I’m older. To this day I have a difficult time taking care of myself because I don’t think it’s ‘that bad’ when it’s actually really bad.” — Liz S.
  7. “Being told not to be sad, angry or any other ‘bad feeling’ because it would upset my mother. Now I’m terrible at feeling my feelings because I don’t know how.”– Monika S.
  8. “We were homeless for 2.5 years when I was less than 5. I have some memories of it but it was always told to me like a funny story. There was no real implication that it was serious, how long it went on and the reasons for it. When I was older and had a nervous breakdown I told the story to my CBT [therapist] and she said that I should go to trauma therapy.”– Big S.
  9. “Bullying. It happened all the time, from so many different places, that I had no idea how much impact it would have on me.” — Ashley T.
  10. “The physical abuse. Where I grew up I thought every kid got beat up almost daily, mostly for not much reason, so I didn’t think much of it and just took it, got used to it. When I realized it wasn’t OK around the time I was a teenager, and my mom stopped shortly before, I had a breakdown over several things that lasted for years and impacted my mental health heavily.” — Lulu V.
  11. “I remember being called generally endearing things such as ‘precious,’ ‘princess’ and ‘lovey’ but didn’t realize until an adult how it was said in a sarcastic, resentful and mocking tone many times.” — Kirsty M.
  12. “Being told to go to my room when I’m very upset. It turns out I never learned how to tolerate or manage big emotions.” — Rachael L.
  13. “Always being picked on by family. Weight, height, voice, etc. These daily ‘harmless’ jokes created most of my insecurities, and caused horrible self-esteem issues.” — Kai I.
  14. “It just occurred to me literally the other day that just because my sister was older than me, didn’t give her the right to discipline or abuse me. … As an adult this meant not knowing how to say no or how to stand up for myself.” — Sarah D.
  15. “My dad getting remarried after my mom passed. I was only 6. But the toxicity and secrets from their relationship has impacted how I am in relationships and what my inner child now lacks.” — Abby C.

Do any of these resonate with you? What experience would you add? Share in the comments below!

Header image via Annie Spratt/Unsplash

Originally published: August 19, 2020
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