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The prevalence of abusive or deeply uncomfortable home environments is a reality that, unfortunately, impacts countless children everywhere.

And alongside that depressing truth is another supplemental tendency that accompanies those hardships: children tend to get used to the horrible environment they've been dealt.

In the moment, that's a coping mechanism that allows a child to press on and grow, as much as possible, despite ruthless surroundings.

But the repressed always returns.

Sometimes months, years, or even decades later, people suddenly realize that their home life was not at all okay.

Curious to find out what that realization looks and feels like, Redditor Shiekhspeare asked:

"At what point did you realise your childhood was messed up?"

Some Redditors discussed realizing how bad things were right in the moment. Usually this took the form of a particularly horrifying incident that even a young child could decipher as not at all healthy.


"In the middle of our second time being homeless I overheard a kid bragging in class about his vacation."

"I pooped in a bucket the night before and that kid had been to six flags."

-- AnEsteemedCactus

No Other Way to Interpret That

"When I was 5 years old and watched my father put a shotgun in his mouth and threaten to pull the trigger, my mom crying and trying to convince him not too, while my brothers and I watched from the swing set"

-- Pandalinc

The Myths are True

"When I was locked in a concrete basement with the lights off for an unknown amount of time for my 5th birthday." -- Soloskystar

"I have a 5 year old and this just broke my heart. I am sorry that happened to you." -- justagirl--

Other people responded that they only had the realization when they reflected upon their early years from years down the line.

It often takes a push or a specific set of circumstances to prompt the reexamination, but it's an important moment.

In Plain View

"My sister got our family videos all digitized as a Christmas present one year. She loves being the center of attention, always has been, so she puts it on the TV. Her childhood looked happy. Our parents were together, big family, everyone showing up for her birthday."

"Fast forward to me. Mum looks tired, my grandparents are old, dad's not there, and I'm just sorta there. Fast forward 10 years later to my middle school graduation videos. I'm not even smiling or happy. Hurts to see lil you so sad all the time."

-- rockgardensalad

Textbook Case

"I was studying to be a teacher and took a course on complex trauma in children and it was like reading about my childhood. It did help me to understand a lot of the mental health issues I had going on at the time so that was a silver lining."

-- SlightFlamingo

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From Colloquial to Clinical

"Oof. Not until I was 27 and completed an ACES survey at work as part of a training focused on trauma informed care."

"My score was very high and that literally forced me to see my past as traumatic versus 'lol my family's kind of crazy.' "

-- kismetkitten

With a Little Help

"When I went to a counsellor about my depression and I learned that it wasn't normal to be routinely dragged out of my bed in the small hours of the morning and act as a mediator for my feuding parents, and be forced to side with one or the other on the insults they made about each other."

-- Usidore_

Always Stepping In

"When I went to a counsellor about my depression and I learned that it wasn't normal to be routinely dragged out of my bed in the small hours of the morning and act as a mediator for my feuding parents, and be forced to side with one or the other on the insults they made about each other."

-- Usidore_

A Sudden Epiphany

"I was about 33, sitting at work on a Sunday and all of these memories started hitting me and I was like, omg, that is child abuse. I really just sat there and took memory by memory. And now, almost 10 years later, I do not know what to do."

-- abarthvader

For others, it was all seen through contrast. They simply opened their eyes and ears to look at the families and lives of the kids around them.

The differences were shocking and illuminating.

No Touch

"When seeing kids hug their parents/siblings and thinking it was weird AF." -- MasterPip

"To this day, I'd feel more comfortable hugging a complete stranger than I would hugging one of my parents." -- onthe_strugglebus

Chump Change

"As an adult watching a movie with scenes of child abuse and neglect with a group of friends and everyone else was commenting on how horrible the actions were while i was like 'eh... thats not so bad.' "

-- Braj13


"Was talking with a few friends about my parents one night while drinking, i said that despite the floggings i got growing up my mum and step dad were still awesome."

"My friends had a confused look on their faces and asked what did i mean... so i told them about the numerous times i was beaten with wooden spoons, belts, spatulas, jug cords, extension cables and basically anything else that would hurt but not break skin."

"My friends were beyond horrified and explained to me that what i had experienced was child abuse and that my parents should've been locked up for it... i honestly thought it was normal up til that moment"

-- amorphim

Another Way

"When I went to my friend's places, and figured out how nice and caring theirs parents were" -- No_fu**ing_one

"i once saw my friend's parents hold hands and i found it fascinating because my parents never talked to each other" -- AlternativeEgg02

A Learned Walk

"When I realized that not everybody had to tiptoe around their dads to avoid triggering his anger." -- amelie_v

"Very relatable. Do you also get 'whoa! didn't hear you there!'; from folks? I'm 6'4" 280 lbs and I inadvertently sneak up on people all the time. Old habits die hard." -- 500th_throwaway

Just Blank

"when people would talk about what they can remember from their childhood, i was never one to say anything. later learned that not remembering much from your childhood is a trauma response"

-- saaaaadtime

The worst part of it all? Even through all those years when a person doesn't quite realize their childhood was seriously problematic, the deeply internalized traumas and coping mechanisms are impacting behavior every single day.

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