April 30, 2020 | Maria Cruz

People Share Childhood Memories That Are Actually Traumatic As Adults

Some of the best memories we have are from childhood. Our parents let us have sleepovers with our best friends and we can do practically whatever we want without care. But, there are some childhood memories that are so traumatic, we repressed them into adulthood. It’s not until we’re older that we realize how bad the experiences were.


#1 Nothing to Do

Every time my dad would pick me up from school, he’d leave me in the car for three-plus or so while he went into the local pub and partied. I had nothing to do, I was just sitting there in the car. He’d come back after the few hours had passed and throw me a bag of chips as he started the car. I always thought I was the luckiest boy in the world to be getting those chips.


#2 Sense of Reality

As a kid, I used to brag about being able to sleep for over 24 hours straight to friends or teachers or really whoever would listen. I was mid-sentence mentioning it as a freshman in college when I realized my divorced father was giving preschool me cold medicine so I'd sleep through his weekends of custody with me. It really messed up my sense of reality for a while.


#3 Learning to Read

My older sister used to play our Disney read-along tapes to my younger brother and I, while guiding us through the words in the books; she taught us to read this way. I didn't realize until years later that she was using the tapes to cover the sound of our parents fighting downstairs. It saddens me that she never got to have a childhood.


#4 Picking Up Family

I remember one time when we picked up my uncle at a super scuzzy house. I was about 11 years old at the time. People sprawled out everywhere and there was actually some lady who was on the couch sleeping without any clothing on. At the time, me and my cousins were just snickering cause we got to see a woman’s chest.

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#5 One Halloween

One year on Halloween, I was probably about eight or nine years old. My mom didn't let my sister and me go outside to do some "trick or treat" in the neighborhood. But she bought us a new Barbie movie and lots of sweets instead. We were also allowed to stay up as late as we wanted to. It was because she was afraid our father would try kidnapping us, he had tried before. Still, it’s one of my most treasured childhood memories because we had a great evening, just my mom, my sister and me.


#6 Childhood Games

My father and I had a game when I was a child called "help daddy remember what hospital he went to last.” My father was mentally ill and would hurt himself purposely to get more anxiety, antipsychotic and pain medication. There were five hospitals within a two-hour drive of us and in those days (early 90s late 80s) there were no computer systems to track him like there are now.

He would literally do anything to get what he needed. It was my job to help him remember so that he wouldn't get caught. After he took his life when I was 12 years old, I had a lot of feelings and scary memories to deal with. It's been a long hard road, but I hope that wherever he is, he's not in pain anymore.


#7 Magical Place

My mom left me at different places with different people for months at a time. Either that or when we’d drive, there would be times where she would tell me about the "school" she was going to take me to and that I would live there. I remember her describing the horses they had (lies) and how much I would love it. She never ended up taking me there but would always talk about it like it was some magical place. I found out from my uncle years later that it was an orphanage. The only reason she didn't end up taking me is that he threatened to hurt her if she did.


#8 Taking Tums

In middle school, I started getting a lot of stomach aches due to undiagnosed acid reflux. I was also a really anxious kid, so I feared I was going to throw up a lot. Thus, almost every night, I’d take half a Tums. When I offhandedly told my best friend, she looked terrified. “I think you might be addicted to Tums,” she said.

We had just learned about addiction and I told her I didn’t feel withdrawal without the medicine and that I was just taking it as prescribed. She still seemed unconvinced, so I told her she was being silly and dropped it. In high school, I learned her brother’s addiction had been tearing the family apart and she was probably terrified one of her closest friends was using too.


#9 Bath Toys

When I was in the second grade, my older sister once came into the bathroom while I was taking a bath to play with my toys with me. I didn't find out until later it was because my father was having a stroke from partying too much and was making sure I didn't finish taking a bath before the paramedics arrived.


#10 The Babysitter

My mom would lock me inside the house after promising that the babysitter would show up any minute. But most days the babysitter never showed up and I was all alone in my house for eight hours or more, which was simply haunting. I wasn’t allowed to watch TV, so it felt like an eternity, and every little sound was scary.

When mom did show up, she would yell at me for making a mess, but I was just so happy to see her again that I would apologize and agree to do extra chores around the house. Really, the more I remember my childhood, the sadder I get because a lot of sad things happened that I didn’t really comprehend at that time.


#11 Missing Recess

From the ages of eight until about 10, the school ESL teacher would sometimes pull me out of recess to sit down with me and play weird games. I hated it because it meant I wasn't outside writing my stories and besides, I was a native English speaker, so why would I ever need to do anything with the ESL teacher?

She was the counselor and she was trying to get enough information to show that I had signs of a learning disorder to give to the national health service. She also planned to get me an actual psychologist because my parents were refusing to send me to one. Unfortunately, her husband passed away before she could finish and I didn't end up going to one until I was 17 when I was legally allowed to do that sort of thing on my own.


#12 Angry Kangaroo

My little sister and I used to have lots of little coping mechanisms to get us through our parents’ tirades. I remember once we had an inside joke that ran for years about our mom looking like an angry kangaroo once when she was flipping out because once she got so mad she literally started jumping up and down.

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#13 Disciplinary Methods

When I was in kindergarten in Bavaria, they would make us kneel in a corner on some wood piece that was utterly painful. It happened every time we hurt each other or cursed. As soon as I got to elementary school, I asked the teacher after I got in trouble where I should kneel. They took attention to that and, long story short, they called the police on our old kindergarten and it has been closed since 2006.


#14 Absentee Father

When I was a little kid, I remember that my dad would often go out every night and we only got to see him when he was completely partied out or not at all. We always had a plate of dinner saved for him, however. But, what was upsetting is that he would usually scream at my sisters and mother if he did get home early enough.


#15 Locked Outside

I thought that whenever a kid got home late, it was normal for them to be locked outside for the night. I also thought an appropriate response to not doing your chores was to be locked in a closet without any food. My younger siblings never got this kind of treatment, though, so I just thought I was an extra awful child.

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#16 Failing in School

When I was growing up, my parents told me that I had a learning disorder and that was why I was failing in school. According to them, I was too "stupid" to do better. It wasn't until I was an adult that I figured out what they told me was complete nonsense. There was no learning disorder, just low self-esteem due to their awful parenting.

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#17 Looking Back On It

I remember one night when my dad threw a temper tantrum and whipped a plate full of food at the ceiling because my Mom hadn’t gotten the right sauce. At the time, I remember thinking that it was kind of funny. But when I look back on it as an adult, I realize now that that was an awful way for an adult to act.


#18 Hickory Dickory Dock

My mother used to let me skip school a lot to take me to the hospital to see my older sister. We’d have “hospital camp outs” where I’d sleep in the hospital bed with my sister and she’d sleep in the recliner chair provided for parents. It’s now that I realize she’d do that because everyone told her she needed to give me as many good memories with my sister as possible before she passed away. Surprisingly, that’s not the traumatic memory.

On those “hospital camp outs” she used to make me memorize a nursery rhyme. She’d sing it to me, then make me sing it back to her over and over. It was to the tune of “Hickory Dickory Dock.” She drilled it into my head so heavily that I still remember the lyrics. The first verse was about my dad and that I couldn’t be placed with him. The second verse was about my godmother, her name and her phone number. That she had documents to prove their harmful behavior, and that she will take me in.

My father was terrible to my mother and my mother was constantly trying to prepare me in case he attacked her. Whether it looked like an accident or not, she needed me to be able to tell the police officers that he was awful, that my godmother’s number is XYZ, that she has evidence and will take me in. I learned the nursery rhyme when I was four. I guess it was the only way she could ensure a four-year-old would memorize information like that.


#19 Parents’ Marriage

I remember my parents fighting all night followed by my dad packing a bag, getting in his car, my mom standing in front of the car so he couldn’t leave. They were then threatening divorce every other day and went to being all over each other on their “good” days. I had no idea what a healthy relationship was until my husband and I went to marriage counseling and I saw how toxic that all was and how much it stuck.


#20 Apple Picking

Growing up, every summer we would pick apples at the local orchard, lots of them. We would keep some but most just went to the orchard. I always thought it was just a fun time out. I’d pick up apples, give them to dad to put in his picking bag, see how shiny you could make one, or throw the rotten ones around.

20+ years later it finally occurred to me that it was a little weird, so I asked my dad about it. He looked straight at me and quietly said, "With five kids we needed the money. I would save my vacation at work and we would pick apples for the extra money." My parents worked their butts off to provide for us, make enough money to pay for half of our university educations, and save for retirement.


#21 Sneaking Snacks

My big brother used to give me “treats” when I was younger. He’d often give me things like M&Ms, brownies, cheese and bread or little snacks like that. Only years later did I realize he was sneaking me food because we weren’t being fed. I’m healthy and functional today because a three-year-old stole food for me.


#22 Confused Child

My mom passed away when I was five. When we were at the service at our church, my dad, sisters and I walked to the front pew and everyone was being so nice. When the pastor started talking, everyone around me started crying, especially my dad. I remember wondering why they’re all crying, and when it didn’t stop, I just joined in. I didn’t get why we were crying and thought my mom was just at the hospital resting like she had been so many times before.


#23 Hazy Memory

When I was five, I was home alone. I found a box of matches and brought them to my room. I burned a piece of paper on my carpeted floor, creating a scorch mark in my room. Fortunately, there wasn't a fire. When my dad and stepmom got home, they had put me in the bathtub for a bath. My stepmom was enraged. She grabbed a lighter from her pocket. Then she grabbed my hand. The memory is hazy, but I remember.

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#24 In the Trunk

My mom would hide me in the trunk of our car while she drove around at night looking for my dad at his favorite pubs. She brought me along because she couldn’t leave me alone. Then, she would eventually find him and they would start yelling. Once, I peeked out the back window and saw what I now realize was my dad and a lady of the evening.


#25 Little Silver Backpack

I remember being out at the beach on my own around the age of six. It would have been normal in another circumstance except I had tried to run away. I had a little silver backpack with me and I desperately didn't want to go home. That was the first of many attempts to run away in my child and teen years.

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#26 Learning to Swim

My mom taught me how to swim by pretty much tossing me in the ocean. Every time I'd cry, she'd go deeper in the water and just let me go, leaving me to go under until I basically “learned how to swim” by saving myself from drowning. I always thought I was just being a brat because I cried so it was justified, but it caused me to refuse to ever go into deep water. I had to re-teach myself how to swim for pleasure in my mid-20s.


#27 Comforting Dad

Comforting my dad while my parents were getting divorced. I always thought that I was such a big mature girl for being there for him, and telling him that it was okay if he left mom because I knew they fought. The first time I can clearly remember asking when they were going to divorce was around the age of five. My dad and I would have lengthy discussions about “everything wrong with my mom” and he would ask me for permission to leave her. I used to think it was because he loved me so much and valued my opinion.

It was only several years later, in my early teens, that I realized exactly how messed up the entire situation was. He unloaded all of his issues and anger out onto a child. He would ask me for permission so that I would feel responsible and he didn’t have to take the blame. A child should never have to do that. I genuinely believe that it can be linked to the issues that I now deal with socially and with connecting to certain people.


#28 Totally Prepared

When I was 11, my parents helped a battered wife out of a terrible situation. Her husband was a bad bad guy but was still roaming free. Nobody knew where he was and he had made serious threats against my family. My mom ran me through the "steps" if he were to break in. I would get my younger siblings in the closet with me, she would run and draw him out and away from the house to a predetermined location in the backyard. Once they left, I would attack him. I was groomed to hurt a man at 11. I never had to, but totally prepared.


#29 Rapture Drills

My cousin's extremely religious mother would practice "rapture drills" with her. This consisted of her mom bursting into her room at 3:00 a.m, banging pots and pans together, and screaming, “It’s the rapture! The rapture is happening. Will you be saved?!” She would then make my cousin confess her sins to her and then tell her that she would be going to the underworld for her sins. It terrified her. But she thought that this was a normal thing that all mothers did until adulthood. When she casually mentioned it in conversation, the whole room went silent. Her now-husband had to explain to her that no, that is not normal.

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#30 There on Weekends

My father was an alcoholic. He literally partied every single day to the point of severity. Luckily, he wasn't violent. The vast majority of my memories with him take place in a pub. I thought I was the luckiest kid ever. I got to hang out every weekend and get endless cans of soda and eat chips and beef jerky. I also got to hang out in his one-bedroom apartment with him while he partied and chain-smoked in my immediate presence. Luckily, he and my mom were never together so I was only there on weekends.


#31 Cutting All Ties

My biological father’s mental mistreatment. I thought it was normal the way he treated me until I gained a stepdad who treated me like his own daughter. He didn't yell at me for playing with my barbies, not eating spoiled chicken, or being bisexual. It gave me the strength to cut all ties with my biological dad.


#32 Food in the House

My mother didn’t have food in the house when my brother and I were living with her. The fridge was only full when she had her boyfriends around for visits. To this day, I take my brother to go get food any chance I can. There’s no way I’m ever letting that little dude feel what being that hungry was like again.

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#33 Talking to Them

My dad was a type one diabetic who would have severe hypoglycaemic attacks and often be unconscious, so we often had the ambulance at our house. We thought it was great as kids as they always talked to us and we knew most of the officers. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized most people have never had an ambulance at their house at all much less more than once! Many other things related to him being ill too.

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#34 Parents Insults

My parents criticized almost everything, especially my appearance. My grades were too bad, I hung out with the wrong people, I would never get a boyfriend if I don’t change my looks, etc. They always said they have to tell me these things because otherwise, I will never know how to be a normal adult. I thought they were right. Now I realize they kept me from becoming a confident person and I always feel inferior, weak and stupid, whatever I do. They also said they just want to prepare me for the real tough world out there, but no one ever insulted me as much as my parents did.


#35 To the Bathroom

My mom would tell me to play with my brother because she had to talk to the neighbor. The neighbor then came over and went straight to the bedroom. My mom then closed the door. I was a child and I thought nothing of it. It kept going on for a while until my Dad came home early. I remember lots of screaming and the dude jumping out of the window.


#36 Enough For Me

I remember when I was young my father’s sister took her own life. I didn't understand why my father was crying in our house when he heard the news, but just seeing him cry made me cry too. I guess even without knowing why he was sad, just witnessing my dad in that state (he never cry usually) was enough for me.


#37 Protective Thing

My dad used to make me hide in the backseat of his car whenever he’d take my half-brother (who I thought was my full-brother at the time) to meet up with his real father. It was always at this one shady gas station late at night and he’d just duck my head down because he didn’t want me to know what was going on. Apparently, my brother’s real dad was in and out of prison a lot too so maybe it was a protective thing.


#38 Scratching Their Ears

I  skipped first grade, so I was always a year younger than everyone. This story happened in 1993 and likely would not fly today. When I was 11, my sixth-grade teacher held an "intervention" for me where she sat me in the middle of the room and got all the other people from my class to tell me exactly why it was entirely my fault that I had no friends and was bullied all the time.

It mostly came down to the fact that I was "weird" and "annoying." The teacher told the class that "the next time they do something weird or annoying, scratch your ear to let her know." So more or less any time I ever opened my mouth even once for the rest of junior high, everyone would start scratching their ears and laughing at me. In 2005, at the age of 23, I was finally diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome.

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#39 Dad on the Job

My dad is a police officer. Growing up, it wasn’t unusual for him to work odd or late hours. One evening, my mom said she was going to take my sister and me to visit dad at work. Six-year-old me thought it was a little odd to visit him at work, but didn’t think much of it because I was excited to see my dad. My mom drove us to a nearby bank that has tons of police officers standing around it.

We found my dad in the crowd, chatted for a few minutes, and headed home. Years later, my parents told us that about an hour prior to that visit an armed and dangerous person robbed the bank and fled to the mall across the street where he was hiding in the bathroom. That evening, my dad was sent to talk him down and get him to surrender peacefully. I didn’t realize until then that our little “visit” was so we could see my dad one last time in case things didn’t go well. Happy to say everything went okay that evening.


#40 In the Garage

In the second grade, my "best friend" and his new best friend threw me to the garage floor covered in dog waste. Then they stuck the dog on me and taunted me as it chased me around the garage. They kept opening the door and calling for me to come inside. They then shut it when I got close. I ran around that garage for 10 minutes trying not to get mauled before a parent came and found me. My repressive mind told me for years that it was a story I should laugh about.

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#41 Eating Breakfast

My grandma had a psychotic breakdown when I was about nine. I didn't realize at the time, but she tore into the kitchen while me and my sister were eating breakfast. She was completely unclothed and screamed, "Help me! You have to help me!" I thought it was just a joke or something at the time, but nope. She got sectioned.


#42 Waiting in the Car

My mom drove me and my sister somewhere with her boyfriend and told us to wait in the car. We had air conditioning on, so we were okay. After about 45 minutes, I went into the store to check on her and I got yelled at by a lady asking what I was doing in the store. Turns out, the store was an adult shop. I don’t remember anything I saw in the store because I didn’t know how to comprehend what I was seeing.

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#43 Oral Surgery

When I was about 11 or 12, my orthodontist told my mom I needed to have three teeth removed before I could get braces as they were crowding my mouth. I don't remember most of the details but because we didn’t have the month for oral surgery. So, my mom had to get creative with her removal. It wasn’t until I was married and discussing with my wife that the realization that this was not cool came to light. Now, as a parent myself, I could never bring myself to do something like that. I would find the money to have something like that done as painlessly and safely as possible.


#44 Precocious Child

When I was about six or seven and my sister was four or five, my family took a vacation weekend to a resort. We had adjoining rooms. When my sister and I woke up in the morning, there wasn't anything in the room to eat. Instead of waking my parents, we both got dressed and I took my sister to the little café in the resort. I ordered the two of us breakfast and signed for it with the room number. I always thought it was amusing how precocious I was. It wasn't until decades later, in therapy, that I explored how my parents didn't really take care of me and my sister, and how I learned to cope.


#45 It’s the Trauma

My mom had me at 16, so I went everywhere with her. When she said, “I’m running to the store then gonna see a friend” or anything at all about leaving the house, you could bet I was sitting in a random bedroom in someone’s house. My mom did the “buddy” thing with me. It was always, “Nah, she’s good. She’s not like some people’s kids running around telling everyone everything. She’s quiet” Thanks mom, it’s the trauma.


#46 Out in the Woods

I had a cat that was like a second mother. She saved me from a large dog once, attacking its face when it came charging. When she got really old with renal failure, my father took her out into the woods and left her. It was only as an adult that the full weight of that sank in. This beloved pet who treated me like her kitten, who protected me and loved our family for years, was taken into the middle of the woods and left there. None of her loved ones were around, no food, or shelter. My dad is the worst. He also didn’t have the heart to end her life, so he left her alive to pass.


#47 Y2K Scare

I was raised in a doomsday cult. The Church Universal and Triumphant led by Elizabeth Clare Prophet. All the leaders were reincarnations of famous people like Gandhi, Cleopatra, JFK, to name a few. I never really gave it much thought until Y2K and my mom sent my sisters to spend the holiday in an underground bunker in Montana. It wasn’t too traumatizing but I've spent my whole adult life trying to retrain my brain to not automatically "decree" when I'm afraid or anxious.


#48 A Friend’s Wrath

I thought it was normal to have friends suddenly hate you for no reason. When I was about seven, my best friend just started hating me for absolutely no reason. Then it happened again, but with another friend. I had no idea why this was happening. Turns out that my grandma was scamming the parents out of medication and then the parents would then tell their child how bad our family was. My grandma did other things too. My toys would go missing randomly, only to find them hidden in the car. I learned that she would sell them for her purposes. I only learned about this about three years ago.


#49 Old Babysitter

When I was younger, my dad would take me and my brother to hang out with my neighbor’s old babysitter and her kid. We went to the movies right next to my mom's work, we went to McDonald's, that kind of stuff. I thought it was so cool that we "bumped into" my neighbor's old babysitter, so I told my neighbor. Her dad overheard and told my mom. And that's (I believe) how my mom found out my dad was going with someone else for the first time. This led to years of arguing.

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#50 Crossing the Road

I almost got hit by a bus once. I looked up and down the road and I crossed. I was about halfway across the road when I heard that “brakes harshly stopping” kind of sound. I looked up to see a bus driver shocked out of her wits. I didn't know what to do, so I carried on across the road. I was about seven at the time.



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