How I Stopped My Abuse

I ran from my trauma only to find it embedded in jobs and partners

Amy Punt


A photo of the author in the video she created to show how exhausted she is
Self portrait by author —

This is hard to say, even harder to explain to myself, but I will try. I’m so stressed I can’t breathe.

I always hated my jobs because they were re-enacting some aspect of my trauma. When you’re in your trauma, you don’t register it in the same way you do similar dynamics enacted on you by someone outside your toxic family system. It’s sort of like, “They’re OK, because they’re my family, but how dare you!”

And the feelings those abusive bosses and narcissistic systems triggered in me were world-ending. I have a hard time finding the words now, and to be sure, I’m confident the world is ending even as I type this. The money is running low, and I still don’t have an income and can’t work. I’ve applied for disability, but I’m sure I fucked up the application. I’ll have to call about that. But everything I’ve ever feared is coming to pass.

— OK, wait. Stop. Let’s back up.

Deep breath. Start again.

I must move, but I don’t want to, and that’s really what this is all about.

— Nope. Try again.

OK, here it is. The feelings. The terror. The sickening sink in the pit of my stomach. The swirling eddy of disorientation driven by the certainty that I will fail and end up back in my mother’s home, back in her vile clutches. The worst things that happened to me are happening again and will always be happening. This is exactly what it felt like to be in my skin in my family. But they’re gone, and so are all the terrible jobs I’ve ever had, and it’s just me, and I fear that nothing can help me or stop this free fall. I was not built for success. I was not built to do more than lose.

— OK, OK, but you know that’s not true, right?

I don’t. Or I’m not sure.

I shot a video, and as I edited it, I saw myself in a way you can’t when you look in a mirror. My eyes were half closed. I’m exhausted, and I had no idea. Trauma does that to you. You’re usually the last to discover what’s happening in your body.

This morning, I woke up with an acid stomach. I think I’m only sleeping four hours a night. It’s like there’s pure…



Amy Punt

As a child, writing saved my sanity. As an adult, writing saved my life. Now, I write in hopes of helping someone else.