April 7, 2023

The Pain Of An Unhappy Childhood

In this episode, I explore the powerful and sometimes painful impact of childhood memories. I delve into a thought-provoking question that was asked on another podcast: "Did you have any happy childhood memory?"...
See show notes at: https://www.thinkunbrokenpodcast.com/the-pain-of-an-unhappy-childhood/#show-notes

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In this episode, I explore the powerful and sometimes painful impact of childhood memories. I delve into a thought-provoking question that was asked on another podcast: "Did you have any happy childhood memory?"

The question prompts a deep introspection about my childhood experiences, and the memories that shaped me into who I am today. I share my own personal struggle with this question, as I reveal that I have no happy childhood memories.

Through my vulnerable storytelling, we discover how even small moments of joy can be overshadowed by trauma, and how these experiences can impact us long into adulthood. Join me for an honest and heartfelt conversation about the power of memory, and the resilience of the human spirit. 

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Hey! What's up, Unbroken Nation! Hope that you're doing well.

I was thinking about a question that I heard on a podcast earlier today, one that actually in my own personal life, I've thought many times over, and that question is;

“Did you have any happy childhood memory?”

And I thought about that question a lot, and actually I thought about whether or not I even wanted to sit down and record this and share this with you. And the short of it is my answer to that question, not to sharing it, because obviously here we are.

The thing that comes to mind is no. There are no happy childhood memories that I have. There are these moments in which this small incremental moment, like solitary moments of joy would happen, and then they would immediately be stripped away.

I'll give you an example. You kow, as a child, the thing that I always enjoyed the most were on these rare, occasional, Saturday mornings in which my mother would go and turn on the old RCA record player, and this thing was gigantic. I mean, it's like five feet wide, it's heavy and wooden, and it weighs 2 million pounds. Right? Especially if you're a child. And we would clean the house as she played records. And those records would be things like Queen and Fleetwood Mac, sugar Hill, Gang, run DMC, Michael Jackson journey, you know, and she would play these records and like that's like where my love for music today comes from.

And in this 90-minutes to two hours on these Saturdays, if we were lucky enough, things felt a bit normal, but that's it because there was always something around the corner, some kind of pain, some kind of hurt, some kind of torment. Watching her fall down the stairs, drunk, crash the car on pills, hurt us, abuse us. And then when my stepfather came into the picture, those moments entirely disappeared because if things in the house weren't perfect, there was punishment, there was some kind of torture, some kind of hurt that was surely coming, and that was not always physical while the majority of times it was sometimes it was very mental, it was the mental torment. I think that bullying from him, particularly that impacted my childhood the most. I gotta distinctly remember these times as a kid where I'm like, I just, I hate. And I hate myself because of what he is telling me I am. I'm a loser. I'm dumb. I'm not good enough. I mean, even on birthdays, on Christmas, on Mother's Day, there was always something.

I remember one Easter; I was having trouble getting my shoes tied. And I tried to explain to him, I said, I can't figure it out like, I don't know, you know, there those really thin nylon waxy shoestrings, and it was probably the first pair of those I had ever had. And because I couldn't get it tied, like he beat the sh*t out of me. And I remember being like, but it's Easter like this is like the Lord's there or whatever. Right. And as childhood continued to go, like I would sit and I would think about these moments that were supposed to be filled with joy and happiness, connection, companionship, family love, and, and it was like we would get these microseconds of that, but they were always so, you know, if we are on a lucky day, I remember these moments of like my mom being sober and that sobriety in alcohol or pills, whatever it may be. Like I remember these moments in her sobriety, she was kind of there. And what I'm gonna say I think will only make sense to people who understand what it's like to have a parent, a family member, a friend, a lover, be an addict.

And so, you would get these small little glimpses of who it is that she could be loving, caring, nourishing, compassionate, kind. And the second that she had that first drink or popped that first pill, it was like staring into the eyes of a ghost. It was looking down the barrel of the gun because I knew whatever was next was coming and it was inevitable. And even at a very young age, 8, 9, 10, 12 years old, I would sit and I would look at her and I'd be like, well, this day's over. And sometimes that would happen before I was even out of bed in the morning, you could hear her screaming and thrashing about in the living room, fighting with my stepfather, getting into massive arguments, hitting each other, breaking things, yelling at us, pulling us, and ripping us out of bed over nothing things that seemingly brought no value to anyone and was like this consummate battle. And on the really bad days, it would be them comboing, teaming up on my brothers and the verbal torment was just unbelievable. And again, sometimes like the verbal was so much more difficult to deal with than the physical.

And I learned how to turn off, I learned how to be a robot, to feel no emotion, to feel no pain to exist as a physical entity and nothing more because there were these moments where the biological response mechanism just would kick in. We'd be in the car, my mother would be intoxicated, and she would say, I'm gonna drive this car off this bridge and kill all of us right now or she would do something insane, like, and what I mean by insane is literal, she would do something insane, like go and turn the oven all the way on, put food in there, go drink a fifth of alcohol, and we're like 7, 8, 9 years old, and then pass out on the couch, set the kitchen on fire.

I probably have used a fire extinguisher like 30 times in my life. When my stepfather would come in and he would get integrated into this, he would be navigating her and the violence that they had between each other, both verbal and physical. And then he would lash out on us and you have to imagine this guy my size, right? Six footh four, 220, 250, whatever size, he was just a gigantic human to a seven-year-old boy and he would punch us and slam us in the walls, lock us in closets. He used to do this thing where he'd flick me in the head all the time and it was torturous, like it was literal torture. To me there's a scene, if you've ever seen zero dark 30, it's a really insane movie about the hunt for Bin Laden that kind of starts in Guantanamo Bay and they're torturing this guy. And they lock him into a box and he has a mental breakdown in the box where they're asking what day of the week is the next attack. And he's just rattling off day, he's like Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday. And he's just going back and forth and back and forth, like until he just cracks. And I remember watching that movie and I was like, oh, that feels like my entire childhood just cracking constantly this torturous experience. And then once they were out of my life, my mother going on her path into deep rehab, which eventually, unfortunately did not work. My stepfather and her are getting a divorce, him disappearing, going wherever it was that he went. My grandmother adopting me at twelve. Well, and I've said this before, a lot of people will say, well, that was a godsend, that was this incredible experience. And in some light, it was right, because I had a roof over my head, I wasn't an intimate danger every single moment of every day, but my grandmother was also violent, mentally, emotionally, physically. She was incredibly racist. Like this is one of, if not the hardest things that I had to navigate as a child was here on this one hand, you have this person who supposedly loves you and here to take care of you and help you escape from the chaos that was your parents. And here on the other hand, being biracial, she's incredibly racist like, and in fact, we could not even have, I'm not even joking when I say this. My grandma would not allow my black friends to come in my house when I was in high school. And one time I did, my friend, I won't say his name, but he comes over and he's in the house. She goes, Michael, get in the kitchen right now. And she says, you need to tell that nigger to leave our house. And I was like, what the f*ck is happening right now?

In that moment, I was probably 15 cemented the end of the relationship I had with her now, while I still might have been in the home for a while, like everything else was just gone. So, this furtherance of like stepping into this shell of a child continued to happen. We know this, we talk about this. It's the survival mechanism. And so, I would see this thing happen with my mother, my stepfather, my grandmother, people like I would watch them turn into ghosts where it's like one second, they're there, and the next second, they're not. The drugs, the alcohol, whatever that switches that existed in their brain would come in and they would be a different person.

And as I sat in my therapist's office that day and he asked me that question, and then I heard that question again just now on this, I was literally listening to this podcast like 10 minutes ago. I had to pause it and come in here and sit down. I realized that there are some of us who do not have any happy childhood memory, who suffered greatly, who went through bullying, alcoholism, and, and drug abuse in the family who had family members arrested who were hurt physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, religiously, sexually, right? And I categorize myself in all of those things.

Some of us do not have any recollection of anything that was normative or peaceful or loving or kind or compassionate and I include myself. And as I look at my life today, there's this weird reckoning that I've had and what that looks like and what that feels like is it's actually really more of reconciliation of sitting in this sh*t and being like, yo, that happened, but I can't change it. And the earliest parts of me, the youngest parts of me, I just try to remember to acknowledge the reality and this changed my life forever. I don't have any control over this. There's nothing I can do about this, I do not get any say in any of this, and it's awful for all of us. And going through being bullied, not only in my own home, which like I categorize all of that as abuse, right? But being bullied in school, not only by peers and other kids, but teachers, all of these things made me hate myself. I mean, that's what it comes down to. I don't have another way to phrase it. I hated the way that I looked, the way that I spoke, the way that like I existed in the world the fact that I had these learning disabilities, the fact that I couldn't comprehend reality in the same way the other kids did ‘cause I was obviously knowing now was so dissociated and I look back on that and this is gonna be a really hard thing for most people to understand, but I'm gonna say it anyway because it's just simply my truth.

I'm glad those things happened so that I could be here having this conversation with you today. But I also f**king hate that it happened, you know, carrying the scars, carrying the memories, carrying the torment. There's something I share with the people that I coach, if you've ever come into group coaching or if you've been a one-on-one client with me, there’s something I tell everyone who decides to walk this path, and it's very simple.

This is the rest of your life journey. You will always be healing this. The traumas will dissipate an impact, I don't think they ever go away. I believe that. And, you know, I've had the fortune of speaking with incredible leaders in this space like Dr. Gabo Maté, Dr. Caroline Leaf, Ana Lembke. I mean, the list goes on and on and on, and they all agree. And what I'll say is that because of those experiences of childhood, of just this massive suffering when I was 14, like I was done. I tried to kill myself. I didn't wanna live anymore. I would go to bed at night praying that I didn't wake up the next morning. I wanted nothing more than to not wake God if I could at 14 years old, if you would ask me what is one thing that I wanted more than anything, and be like to not wake up for this to all be over. And I took this bottle of Advil one night, my mom was passed out, trashed, we couldn't even get her up the stairs, so she had become pretty overweight. And when I was younger, I could help her kind of navigate, right? I became like this human crutch for her at times, and so did my brothers. And this one particular night, she is so wasted. She falls and passes out, like up the stairs vertically like she doesn't fall down them. And I'm trying to help get her up to get her to her room, and I just couldn't. And I started to just have this intense breakdown moment and there was an album that had come out that I was listening to and I won't say, I don't know why, I won't say it's just something I've always kept for myself, but this album comes out, I'm listening to it and the lyrics are going through my head and I'm just thinking to myself as I'm playing this one particular song on repeat for an hour, two hours, I have no idea, it's just on repeat. In my little CD player, I was like, I'm done. I don't want this anymore. I went into the bathroom, into the medicine cabinet that we had, and I just grabbed this bottle of Advil and I just took them. I was like, this is the way out. And what I didn't know, and or maybe it's just f**king luck, I have no idea but I didn't die, I just basically threw up all over the floor, passed out, and then woke up the next morning feeling really, really awful. And then it was like, here we are again, another day, the one wish I have to not be here has not been granted to me and it was misery. It truly was like, and I know some of you guys can relate to this, and I'm not sharing this as a mental dump, but more so as I want to create context for what I'm leading into in just one second. I spent all this time alone, isolated, suffer, feeling obscure, unloved, unappreciated, that I don't matter, that the world is here to hurt me, to take from me. And it drove me to insanity, right? That thing I talked about in terms of I would look in the eyes of my mother, my grandmother, my stepfather, and it's like there's a ghost on the other side.

Well, I became that ghost, and that moment at 14 was such a turning point for me because that became the moment where I did not care anymore about life or death. The impact that I would have on people, the things I said, the things I did, the way I hurt people, running with guns, robbing people, hurting people physically, mentally, emotionally, breaking people's hearts, massive violence. Violence I can't even explain to you. And there was a moment I realized like, oh, I'm communicating through what I've learned, right? I'm violent at that age because I learned violence was communication, violence is love, that's what it is. And that continued on for a long time. I didn't care about myself at all because there were no moments in my childhood that said I mattered. And I mean, even today, like I think about that, what that's like as a child, knowing that so many of you understand this experience and wanting to share mine with you.

One to let you know. You're not alone in this. Like I've said this before. My DMs are always here for you. I mean, I will say this, I cannot always give everyone my full-time and more often than not, it's in your best interest to join one of the coaching programs so we can really connect. But I will always respond to you and it's ‘cuz I want you to know you're not alone. As adults, I know there are teenagers that listen to this. If you are hurting right now, DM me please, like seriously, Michael Unbroken all the platforms. I will respond to you. No one on my team checks this but me. It is only me. And I want you to know also, and especially if you are now an adult and you're trying to navigate this, maybe this is the first episode of this podcast you've ever listened to, you've never heard my story before, or maybe this is the 500th episode you've listened, either way. What I will say is in the same way that I gave up on life, I found a way to not only embrace life, but learn to create the happy memories today that in its own right is a f**king challenge, I'll tell you that much. And a lot of it came through letting go, something I've shared on this show before, which became really powerful for me, it was like I had to let go. I had to let go. I had to take these people out of my life. I had to go on my own journey. I had to step into the depths of who it was that I am, who I thought I could be.

And ultimately, I think the most important thing that I had to do was I had to recognize that they were wrong, that I do matter, that I am important whether or not it's to you, but to me, like f**king matter to me. I'm important to me, I love me. And if you can get to that place, and I've talked about that mirror moment in my journey so many times, I won't go into it, but if you can get into that mirror and you can stare at yourself and just say, I love you. It's gonna f**king suck, but your life will be different. And I want that for me and for you, and I want it for you, but I can't want it more than you want it for yourself. And all of those negative childhood memories, all of those experiences that you didn't deserve, all the hurt, the pain, the suffering the moments that were stripped and solely and taken away, I don't get those back, I can't do anything about it, and I can be tortured by it or I can heal it. And healing it isn't like, there's no part of me ever that's not gonna be not mad. I mean, I can't imagine a world in which I'm not going to feel some sort of emotion to this, but I've learned to control my emotional response and in the way that it used to destroy me literally just destroy me and send me down these spirals of realize like, no, I can control this. I can be sad and I can cry, but I don't have to let it take me through a whole day, week, month, year. I can be happy, but not let that control me either and it's like finding the stoic equilibrium, which has given me a lot of power and help me take that power back.

So, as I listen to that, and I've sat in this and I've shared this conversation with you. I just want you to know like there's more, like there's this whole other side of life. It's like, you know when you're at a restaurant and you see that f**king room back there and all those people are in it, and sometimes you get in that room and that that room might be contentment, happiness, joy, love, compassion, right? Sometimes you can get in that room and you're looking at it, and if you're really paying attention, what you realize is there's actually another room in that room. And there's a very, very small number of people in that room, but in that room, because there's always going to be another room but, in that room, there's another level and that level to me, and this is just my opinion on it, is self-love. And yes, you may not have had a good childhood, and yes, you may have felt tremendous pain and suffering in the same way that I do. But I will say this with full and unbridled certainty, that if you can learn to love yourself and walk through that other door, it makes those other moments a lot easier to navigate.

So, I'll leave you with this. I'm here for you. This community is here for you anyway, we can support you. You message me, you dm. Email me. It sucks. It does. I'm not taking that away from anybody. F*cking sucks for me, a lot of times there are days I'm like, f*ck, man, I cannot believe that happened and I just remind myself that it's over. The worst thing I've ever went through has already happened and so I might as well chase the greatness.

Thank You For Listening To My Friends.

And Until Next Time.

Be Unbroken.

I'll See Ya.

Michael UnbrokenProfile Photo

Michael Unbroken


Michael is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker, coach, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma.