I had a troubled childhood where neglect, abuse, and violence were common. It did something to me inside my brain and affected the rest of my life.
I suffered from Parent Abandonment Syndrome when I was eleven, and my parents divorced. My mother was unavailable in my teen years because of her alcoholism. I rarely visited my father in Salt Lake; he was emotionally absent and was never involved in our lives. I suffered emotional, verbal, and physical abuse and neglect at my mother’s hands. She passed these on to me partly because of incest she survived from her father. He weaned her onto alcohol in her baby bottle when she was 3. She told my wife. She couldn’t bring herself to say to me she was sexually abused. My mother suffered extreme shame because of the abuse and fear. She used to keep her light on in her bedroom all night when I lived with her; she didn’t like the room dark. She tried to commit suicide when I was 11.
My Dad was an alcoholic and a heavy smoker. When drunk, he would throw my sister by her hair across the floor and yell at her to do the dishes because my mom was passed out drunk. One time he took my brother, who was ten, grabbed him by his legs, and held him upside down while he banged his head onto the floor.
When I was little, I was often left alone because my sister was born 18 months after me, and my mother had to care for her. I remember my Dad sitting on the couch; he was there, but he wasn’t. He never interacted with us and looked depressed. He got very violent when drunk and would beat my mom. My older brother would hide us in the closet, where I would cover my ears with a pillow to drown out the yelling. The police would come to our house, but they did nothing. My older brother was beaten with a belt in our bedroom when I was in there. Another time when I was about 3-4 years old, my Dad was drunk and violent and came looking for my mom and us kids downstairs. We hid under the stairs, and my mom said, “be quiet, or the monster will get us.” Other times my mom would run to the neighbors crying and wanting protection, bruised. I would play outside, yelling, to drown out the yelling from my drunk parents. It was awkward and embarrassing when my friends were around. I lived in fear, sleeping against the wall, scared at night. I still suffer from night paranoia.
Our family was poor, and my mother always cried about money. She would frequently ask for money from friends and family. She would always cry on Christmas night. She spent a lot for Christmas and stressed how she would pay for it.
When I was 5, I had a severe bloody nose and cough and lost 3 pints of blood. I was weak and lying in my bed. My parents were talking about whether to take me to the hospital or not. It was a life-threatening situation; I knew they needed to take me, but I didn’t tell them. They didn’t visit me when I was in the hospital. I had to have a blood transfusion and have my nose cauterized. The nurses were friendly, and I craved their attention; I didn’t have it at home. I kept a puppet from that hospitalization for many years.
In 5th grade, other kids teased me a lot, and my self-esteem was low. I wanted attention so bad that I ate a piece of dog poop. I came home that day ashamed and upset. I cried in my room and said I wanted to kill myself. I never told my mother about this or the two fights I was in because I felt she was unavailable emotionally, and I had to learn to comfort myself. I was very lonely as a child and would look out the window at a neighbor with a nice figure. Looking at her was the beginning of my addiction. I was about 9.
Now I have a wonderful marriage of 40 years and eight grandchildren. I vowed to be a better dad than I had. I have been a good father and have great memories with my wife and children. I have Bipolar 1 disorder and am on many medications to keep me stable. I have a sexual addiction that comforts me. I keep it in my bedroom, so there is no risky behavior outside the home. My wife is understanding of this and my mental illness.
I have had a successful career as a Radiologic technologist (X-ray Tech) for 36 years. If it were not for my religion and neighborhood father figures, I probably would have tried to commit suicide as well. My ACE score is seven, so that is incredibly high for what I have been able to accomplish in my life. In the early 2000s, I had suicidal thoughts of wanting to throw myself in front of a train. Medication has saved me from those thoughts, and they have left me, and thanks be to God for this.
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Additional resources for help
Mental Health America (MHA) is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those with mental illness and promoting overall mental health.
Crisis Text Line – Text HOME to 741741
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – For TTY Users: Use your preferred relay service or dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline – (800) 662-4357
Learn more about ACEs associated with mental health issues here. Learn how you can help break the cycle of trauma by subscribing to our newsletter and supporting our work. Read about the ten categories of ACEs by following our blog. Do you know your ACE score? Take the ACE test here.
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