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Adverse Childhood Experiences ACES

by Nancy D. on 09/25/19

I'll never forget the day I ran across the YouTube video from Nadine Burke Harris's Ted Talk about ACES.  I've been studying addiction, grief and trauma for 14 years now....and in that order.  I thought addiction must come out of grief, and many times it does, but there is an even deeper layer than grief.  That's Complex Trauma.  CT is when someone suffers trauma, normally as a child and normally at the hands of ones family or person who they should be able to trust, to look out for their best interests.  And rather than doing that, they betray a child's trust, wound them very deeply, giving them messages of unworthiness and  a shattered view of self.  Never being worthy of love, care, respect or any simblence positive self talk.

Rather than growing up with healthy coping skills, someone who has suffered complex trauma in childhood, has no idea what healthy relationships look like, what good self care is or what healthy coping skills might look like.  Their view of the world is skewed, because they don't know who they can trust with their welfare, friendship or heart.  All of their relationships they build over the course of a lifetime are now built on that skewed vision and unhealthy ways of relating.

Because we are always in fight or flight mode, always anticipating the next potential danger, our cortisol and adreline are constantly in overload.  This changes the trajectory on how a young mind is able to develop in a healthy be able to weigh out danger or sense who can and cannot be trusted.  Because of this, we are at other health risks as we mature, such as diabetes, cancer,  heart disease and addiction; to name a few.  

The good news is, we can re-build resilience.  We can re-build healthy ways of coping and learn how to develop trust.  We can break addiction cycles, we can take better self care and help stave off disease that may have ended our lives earlier, had we of not found recovery for ourselves.  We can trust ourselves.

For me, going back and visiting my early trauma, then seeing the ways my maladaptive coping skills helped me make poor choices and relationships as I got older, helped me put the puzzle pieces together of a well intentioned, yet skattered life.  It has been like reforming a puzzle that had missing pieces for 50 years, then suddenly, one by one, finding them and being able to be whole for the first time in my life.  

I still make discoveries about my reactions to situations, every day.  I still get triggered, but now, I am able to go back and find why something triggers me, deal with it now, and be able to move forward and not let it own me.  I still have self doubt, I still have those little voices that tell me I don't deserve.....(fill in the blank).  But now, my resiliency fights back.  The guts that I have to face off with the monster behind those voices, and protect myself NOW, in the present from allowing them to push me down and keep me there, has given me internal strength I never thought I'd have the courage to possess.

I can be honest about my feelings.  I can stand up for myself.  I can protect myself from frightening situations that used to cripple me and I can move forward.  Situations still frighten me, but now, they don't have the capacity to stop me.  I'm able to regain my perspective over the illusion of someone else's power and rise to be more powerful than those who would want to keep me down.

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