Adult Survivor Of Childhood Trauma PTSD New Years Eve Story

The Night I Ruined New Years Eve

“What were you thinking when designed it this way?” my boss asked me the other day. His meaning was simple and innocent, with no hidden messages, he simply wanted to know my thought process behind a design. Unbeknownst to him, as soon as those words were out of him mouth, entering my ear canal, my entire body tensed up and I went on the defensive, preparing myself for attack. My heart rate increased, palms got sweaty and a slight buzzing sound seemed to permeate everything.

“What were you thinking?” are four words, when put together become a trigger. Suddenly I am 11 years old, sitting in a kitchen chair with a man screaming at me. “What were you thinking?!” Over and over again. I have retreated into myself, willing the moment to end while he stands above me, yelling, his face contorted into monstrosity. As I stare at him, his face starts to grow and twist, contort and shrink. The same thing used to happen when my mom would yell at me. At one point in his long and angry tirade he grabs some cold water and throws it at me. Soaking my cloths. His wife E. stands aside, watching, never saying anything, never stepping in. “What were you thinking? What were you thinking?” The four words I remember most vividly from the whole ordeal.

Rewind a few minutes and you get a young girl excited to be spending her first New Year’s Eve with her new family. The adoption is not final yet, but the date is fast approaching. She is about to leave the house with her new Mom and Dad to go to the grocery store to pick up cheese for a fondue, which she has never had before. She is so excited, she opens the door to the porch and steps out, before the interior door closes she opens up the door to the outside. Suddenly she is being thrown into a chair in the kitchen. Her new father is screaming at her. His face pushed up close to hers. Yelling and yelling. Angry.
She broke a rule. Never open the outside door until the inside door is closed. They have cats and do not want them to get out. How could she have forgotten? Stupid. What was she thinking?

After the tirade, after the yelling and screaming and thrown water she is told that they are still going to the store. She is not given the opportunity to change her clothing. She walks out to the porch, waiting to open the outside door. She follows her new parents to the car, shivering because the water has started to turn to ice on her clothing. She is instructed to say nothing when they go to the store. He new father does not speak to her, will not look at her, her new mother is silent but she gives sympathetic looks.

As they walk through the brightly lit store filled with families, mother and children, fathers, old people and young, she wants to scream out. She wants to ask someone to take her home. She wants to be saved. Instead, she walked unseen, unnoticed through the store with her new family. They buy the cheese and leave. Darkness, unhappiness, pain filling her with every step back to the car. She knows that when they get home, the pretence of normalcy will end and she will suffer more punishment.

When they get home she is banished into the cold unfinished basement. Still in her wet clothing she huddles on the one small rug by the washer, wondering what will happen next, tears silently falling down her cheeks.

She hears the basement door open and steps as someone walks down. While she watches, her new father pulls a table and chair together and puts a block of cheese on it. His back to her he demands she sit in the chair. “You are going to eat all of this cheese. Right now.” She looks at the cheese through blurry wet eyes, then back to him, his face ugly and contorted. “You will eat it or I am going to pull your tongue out with these.” he says quietly and he shows her a pair of pliers.

Sniffling, she picks up the big block of cheese and starts to eat. He stands in front of her, holding the pliers, watching. She starts to wretch and he yells “Eat it all or I will rip your tongue out! Every single bit. Eat it!” Somehow she manages to eat the whole block, occasionally she wretches, almost losing it but somehow she manages to keep it down. She stares at the wrench while she forces the cheese down her throat.

When she is done, he picks up the plate, turns around and walks back up the stairs. He flips the light switch and leaves her sitting in the dark. After a while, when she is sure he will not come back, she gets up and walks back over to the rug by the washer. She folds herself up as small as she can and cries herself to sleep on the floor.

The next morning, E comes down the stairs carrying a laundry basket. She sees her and says, “You’re still here? You could have gone up anytime.”

Later, E tells her that her new father is going to pretend that he does not have a daughter for a while. At night he plays music really loud while she is trying to sleep. He ignores her, does not talk to her.

What were you thinking?

Everyday I struggle in some way with the past. I try to beat back all of these bloody triggers. The thing is, the world does not know or care why you behave a certain way or say certain things. You have to function. Or you don’t. My boss does not know why I respond negatively to certain things and it is my responsibility to make sure my internal mess does not affect those around me. It is a daily struggle and I am filled with so much guilt because I am not a better person. I am not cooler. I am to emotional. But lets face it, I am lucky I can dress myself in the morning!

2 replies
  1. d
    d says:

    I sent this letter to my mom recently… and I wonder about my own heart to a certain extent… so much rage came out of nowhere when she reached out to tell me she was divorcing my step dad and how he had been violent with her recently…

    I’m 4 years old. I’m sitting on the floor watching Picture Pages with Bill Cosby, wishing with all my heart that I had just one book to go with the show, but you won’t buy them despite your constant shopping for yourself… I doubt you even noticed my request. You’re of course asleep on the sofa behind me. I’m fidgeting with my three little kittens book when I realize someone forgot to color the pages in it ( it’s a black and white story book). and I decide fixing this book is going to make my mom so proud. I work and work until a couple more shows pass and finally you wake up. I present my masterpiece to you. Immediate hatred shoots out of your eyes and I’m yanked off the carpet by my arm, while you scream at me about respect for books and literally spit at me and on me how we NEVER EVER write in a book, you beat my bottom and my upper legs so hard that I can’t decide if I’m going to choke on my sobs or stop breathing entirely.

    My first semester of college, I’m told I must write in and highlight my books if I’m to be able to study efficiently. It even has a word, ” annotation”… It takes me another 2 semesters to be able to do this without needing to throw up while I watch all of my fellow students underline and highlight anything they find interesting or brilliant or memorable…. I’m frozen in nauseated fear. But you have taught me well. I am not worthy of respect, but my books are.

    Later a similar scene to this one occurs when you teach me how to fold towels. Fold them in half and in half again and then in 3s. Any other variation and I will be beaten. To this day, try as I may, I cannot stop folding towels this way. I have tried. I have cried and screamed over my inability to fold towels any other way. I am a 39 year old women, mother to 5 beautiful children and I cannot fold my towels in a shape that best fits MY linen closet. They must fit yours!!!!I

    You have taught me a great many things…
    So you will stop contacting me through linked in or any other website you can find me on! I do not care if Jim is beating you, the way you allowed him to beat me… Pulling down my pants when I was 16 years old to “spank” me as hard as he could with his thick black belt, or pulling over somewhere between El Paso and Arlington to make welts on my legs and butt and back, that stayed for quite sometime… with a metal dog chain to remind me that I am to be quiet while an adult is sleeping in our vehicle…or slamming my head against the roof of a car I was refusing to get into because I was unsure what was about to happen to me , or even to cut me with mere words like “slut” and “bitch” before my 10th birthday and before you even said ” I do”. A man you introduced me to within 24 hours of my hearing of you and my fathers divorce. A man who never left after that, a man who you constantly tried to bully me into calling dad.

    And you echoed his cutting words or were the originator of them… I don’t know anymore, but they still rattle in my head echoing off of my soul anytime someone hurts me and I believe them even when I shout back, “NO!!” And this is how I ended up with a man who doesn’t know what the word “No” means when we are in bed at night, it’s why any failure I experience, consumes me and eats my flesh and my guts…it’s why I will never understand the love my children have for me and will always fear I am messing up. You ARE the hole that lives in me.

    So do not come looking for sympathy!! Or money as I have heard rumor of your scrounging. (Has a job ever entered your mind??? God forbid!).

    You are not my mother.. I spent from age 18- 33 begging for any recognition of what you have done to me. But you lack any real capacity for empathy. You are my sociopathic perpetrator, made worse by the fact that you wear a mommy suit and I can’t find the zipper but I know you’re in there.

    Your sadistic voice is in my head everyday of my life and I cannot handle hearing it outside of my head as well… So please please please leave me alone! Let me be in this cage you crafted out of my blood and bones born of your insecurities and hatred. I will not rescue you because I cannot survive the pain you cause. I’m simply not strong enough anymore.

    But what I can do is refuse to let you hide in the shadows of my silence, so I speak out today. My mother was abusive and I am a survivor!!! And even she can’t take that from me! It is mine and her voice is not louder than my wailing! I am a survivor and my life cannot include you!

    • Jess
      Jess says:

      D, first of all, wow. Congratulations on standing up and speaking out to your abuser. I am in awe and so proud of you. This was well written and it shows how much pain and abuse you endured. You have to remove the abusers from your life and you are doing just that and my heart goes out to you. I wish you the best in your journey to healing and recovery. Thank you so much for sharing this. I feel like it will help others and I am grateful that you shared this with us. <3 -Jess


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