Tag Archives: ACEs

Steps to Healing from Early Childhood Trauma

I’m not new agey or touchy feely, or into incense and bells. And, while I’ve bought a couple of self help books in my life, I can’t say I’ve ever read one from cover to cover. (Except Chump Lady’s book).

But the time has come to begin to heal myself and I’m just slightly aware of what I need to do. Lucky you, I plan to share this adventure here.

To be honest, as broken as I am, I am still sort of a walking miracle. I should be dead, an alcoholic, in jail. So even though I feel like a loser for just getting on my feet financially and buying my own home again, I am so lucky I was able to do it.

When the cheater ex left me penniless and suicidal almost four years ago I said to myself, “You cannot let him win. You simply can’t.” And from that moment I decided I had to pull myself up from nothing.

If you had said to me at that time that I’d be working full time, in fact get a promotion and raise at said job, and even buy my own little home, I would have said you were nuts. But here I am. Don’t get me wrong. I struggle to get buy and drive a 17 year old car. My house is only 877 square feet and is nothing fancy. But I like it and I’m here and it is mine.

So now and then I have to stop and acknowledge that, and give myself a little credit for not giving up. At that time I had been on disability. I could have signed up for assisted living and spent the rest of my life there living among other mentally ill, broken, forgotten people, but I decided that was not the life I wanted for myself.

I react badly/weirdly to things and I get very defensive. I have lots of quirks that make my heart pound and make me want to run away. These are the times when I remember that I am a damaged and broken person and need to cut myself some slack and be gentle with myself.

Other imperfect people walk this earth with me, but they don’t feel there’s a spotlight on them — they know it’s okay to be imperfect. They can laugh and shrug off mistakes and have the inner confidence to move right to the next thing without missing a beat. But for me, with all my insecurities, I get crippled and set back constantly.

I found this article from Psychology Today and actually read it:

Six Ways Developmental Trauma Shapes Adult Identity

Identity formation is an important part of normal development, and takes place across the lifespan. Identity — including one’s sense of being good enough, integration of emotion and intellect, basic awareness of emotional state, feeling secure and coherent as an individual, and even the basic experience of who one actually is — is disrupted by developmental trauma, because basic survival takes precedence over, and uses resources ordinarily allocated for, normal development of the self. Early trauma shifts the trajectory of brain development, because an environment characterized by fear and neglect, for example, causes different adaptations of brain circuitry than one of safety, security, and love. The earlier the distress, on average, the more profound the effect.

My neglect began the moment I was born six weeks premature and never stopped. My mother neglected me and physically and emotionally abused me. My parents fought violently in front of us. My mother outwardly despised my sister and I and unnaturally adored my brother, focusing all her attention on his academics and sports.

Sometimes I think if she had just treated the three of us equally, I could be more understanding. But she knew how to be a decent mother. She just chose not to be one for my sister and I.

I adored dad, but he’s not without fault. We lived in terror of his temper and violence. I think mom didn’t like that I felt close to dad. But dad could have stood up to her and at some point he chose not to. She’s an incredible bully and no one can pout for a longer period of time. I guess he chose his battles. But I told him recently that he didn’t do us any favors. We walked on tiptoes around mom so that she would not get upset when he should have stood up to her and told her to fuck off.

I also lived in fear that they’d get a divorce and I’d end up living with mom and some pale skinned Christian who would sexually abuse me. I don’t know why I had such an specific fear, but I did. Mom was the Christian who dragged me to church every week. Dad would not go near a church ever.

Dad did a few things for me that I will always be grateful for (he built a darkroom for me, for one). But I was so used to getting crumbs that I felt grateful for anything. I remember going to my parents asking if I could buy a high school class ring like all my friends were and I knew they simply would not part with money for me. There was never any money for me so there was no point in asking for it.

But it didn’t occur to me until much later, that they always had enough money for my brother’s letter jacket, class ring, sports fees, sports clothes, proms, dances, trips, and even the year he went to study abroad in college. I think my sister and I felt we had to suffer because the money needed to go to our brother — the one with potential. It was only right.

While my classmates were getting their hair done and putting on their pretty necklaces and buying blue sweaters for our high school senior photos, it never occurred to me to go to my parents and ask for anything. I just made do with what I already had.

But by then my relationship with my mother was so horrific, that I’d have died before asking her for anything.

I don’t want to spend any more time today rehashing my childhood. I do want to begin to form a plan to become more of a whole person.

  • I want to ease some anxiety
  • I want to have a couple of friends
  • I want to become physically healthier
  • I want to learn to love and accept myself

I think my list is simple and attainable, nevertheless I don’t think this journey will be quick or easy.

The article I linked to above has a follow up article:

Six Ways To Beat Childhood Trauma & Stop Self-Sabotage

The author has suggestions on self care, mindfulness, recovery groups, and cultivating patience and compassion.

So this is where I am going to begin:

  1. Taking more time to make meals that I am deserving of and then enjoying those meals.
  2. Find ways to move/exercise more both alone and with others.
  3. Go find social interactions whether through Meet Up, or Overeaters Anonymous, or church, or hiking club.
  4. Find a good therapist who knows how to help people who experienced trauma.

I’m open to any advice and encouragement and would love to hear stories of how others have found ways to thrive in spite of the neglect and abuse they endured.


It’s that Oversensitivity Thing Again

I’ve been eating well since Monday, just five days. Instantly I was aware of certain things.

I’m up three or four times in the night to pee even though I don’t think I’m drinking any more water than I did before. I guess that’s some sort of system flush, so to speak.

I’m very headachy. That could be from it being the peak of allergy season but it could also be from going from a ton of sugar to no sugar. Sort of a detox, if you will.

I’m raw, anxious, and feeling the feels, as they say. In other words I am sober. I am not eating my weight in simple carbs to numb myself and have to say that I don’t like how I’m feeling.

But I can’t stop. I just can’t. I have to keep on.

I pass by a mirror and am mortified by what I see and I’m ashamed. Funny how you can choose to not see for so long.

In the last two or three weeks a young co-worker of mine has been teasing me about forgetting stuff and doing it in a pretty painful way. I resolved to talk to her about it when she was feeling better. (She had been ill this last week). But today she did it again and I reacted before I could stop myself. Now I’m hating myself for what I said, even though what I said wasn’t that bad.

I hate that when I speak up for myself I feel horrible for hurting someone. Yes I could have said it more calmly and I certainly wish I had, but what I said was still true. “You’re hurting me with all your criticisms.”

Now I can tell she’s pissed and not going to speak to me. That’s fine, but I feel like an idiot that I didn’t get to have that calm conversation with her, rather than lashing out. I truly feel like an idiot. And I feel she’ll tattle to our supervisor who is also her bff.

Three days ago she hurt me and I went in to the doctor I work for and told her. She told me she thought this young woman was blunt and judgmental and encouraged me to have a sit down with her about how her criticisms are making me feel bad. But alas, I spoke without thinking today.

And in my fucked up ALL OR NOTHING mind, I imagine being fired, being hated, losing my shit.

SHUT THE FUCK UP! Calm the fuck down, ffs!

She’s been a bit of a bully with me. She’s been insensitive. She’s teased me past the point of good taste. I don’t know why she’s doing it, but it was making me so anxious. It was making me fearful of making a mistake in front of her. She’s made comments about my memory. She’s only 26 so she doesn’t realize how horrifying it might be to an almost 59 year old that her memory is shit.

So yes, I blew it, and wish I had behaved differently. But for God’s sake, I need to forgive myself for it! This behavior of mine is so deep. I wonder how I became this way. Don’t answer that. I was never allowed to express myself or have an opinion and when I did express it, I was always wrong, wrong, wrong. Thanks, mom.

This co-worker was starting this up before I started reducing my calories and I don’t know what brought it on. Can it be that she really is kidding? That she really does think it’s funny to tease an older woman about her memory?

When I put it that way I understand that this is not all my doing. But fuck I wish I could have handled it differently.

I felt terrible about it all day. We were so busy there was no way we could chat quietly about it. I texted her after work and she was dismissive about it and didn’t want to talk about it. I apologized to her for lashing out when I could have calmly told her that she is hurting my feelings.

“Hurting my feelings” sounds so fucking juvenile! She probably thinks I’m such a freak for taking it too hard. Am I simply being over sensitive? Am I just supposed to laugh and shrug off everything she says? Is it possible that someone’s told her before that she’s a bit of a mean girl?

But then I was mean when I spoke to her. Sigh.

I am so sad that the person I am emotionally is only 12 years old, at best. I am so sad that I fear I will never know what it’s like to be a mature woman in my behavior.

But, in spite of feeling really shitty that I hurt someone’s feelings, I didn’t go off and eat a bunch of shit. So there’s that to be thankful for.

On a parting note, the doctor I work for did a talk on ACEs which are Adverse Childhood Experiences. You can find copious amounts of material about it online, but the bottom line is, the more ACEs you have, the more you are likely to have mental illness, be fat, be an alcoholic, a drug addict, get cancer and autoimmune diseases, die young, and a million other things. ACEs put you in a higher risk for everything that’s bad.

When I think of my childhood I don’t know how I’ve come through it as well as I have. By all accounts I should be dead. So the fact that I sit here sober (although fat), employed — well, I count myself lucky.

My brain is not like a person’s brain who has had a good childhood — and the memory most definitely can be affected. As I listened to her talk I thought Oh My God, is there any hope for me?

But we talked about it later and this is why it’s important for me to paint, play my music loud, swim, cook, nest in my home, create a beautiful garden — those are the things that can bring healing.

What things do you do that make you feel that a small part of you is healing from the action?

I have to admit, I prefer the roller coaster over the merry-go-round: