The Lifetime Channel and after-school specials have shed light on a lot of traumatic experiences that can occur in childhood. But television tends to accentuate the negative. I’m sure there was a movie about a teenage girl abducted from her drug addicted mother who ended up engaging in prostitution and went to jail for killing her pimp. We watch a show like that and think “well my childhood was great!”. Unfortunately, we have ourselves believing that you had to have escaped a nightmare to qualify for having adverse experiences as a child.
Do any of these sound like you?
I can’t stand conflict or loud noises, I go in to flight mode, I never fight back
I can’t accept compliments
I’m an overachiever, I need to prove I am good enough
I apologize for everything, I feel I’m always to blame
I have problems trusting people, making eye contact, connecting with others
I’m a people pleaser, I don’t know who I am
I have anxiety and/or depression
It’s possible you are suffering from adverse childhood experiences.
The Center for Disease Control has been studying adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)and the effects they have on adults since 1995. And guess what? You don’t have to have lived an after-school special kind of life to be negatively affected by your past. The CDC study identified ten types of childhood trauma that can affect your long-term health. How many of these are a part of your biography?
Watching your mother be abused
Living in a home with an alcoholic/substance abuser
Living with a parent with mental illness (yep, including depression)
Divorce, separation or parent in prison
Death of a parent
But wait, aren’t some of these just a fact of life? Where is the Lifetime movie angle? Some of those things don’t seem THAT bad.
ACEs can have lasting effect on your physical and emotional health. And guess what? They are all equally harmful. The study shows that there is a correlation between the number of ACES and risky behavior, psychological issues addictions (chemical and behavioral) and physical illnesses.
The higher your ACE score, the higher the likelihood of:
Chronic lung and heart diseases Liver disease, viral hepatitis, and liver cancer
Autoimmune diseases; Eating disorders
Sexually transmitted infections Depression and other mental health conditions.
Stress Alcoholism and other addictions
To take the quiz and get more extensive information
Depending on when your trauma occurred, certain parts of the brain don’t have a chance to properly develop. New developments in neuroscience offer hope. It used to be “common knowledge” that once your brain was wired a certain way, you couldn’t rewire it. Basically, that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Turns out the experts were wrong. We keep building new neural pathways, it’s called neuroplasticity, and it means you can fix the things that didn’t develop correctly. You don’t have to dwell on the past, you can’t change it. Don’t accept that you can’t change how you feel and how you are behaving.
You aren’t crazy, you aren’t broken, and you can make your life better. Find a good therapist, discover which pathways in your brain need rewiring, and do the work. Humans are amazingly resilient.
If you are in the Austin area, call or email me!