How facing ACEs makes us happier, healthier and more hopeful

ACEs, Motivation

I relate to feeling relief when I discovered ACEs! It’s nice to know I’m not alone with this perspective.

ACEs Too High

Ahappy

Won’t it depress people?

Isn’t it triggering?

Aren’t the topics troubling?

Won’t it make people sad or upset?

Fear is what I often fight when talking about ACEs — adverse childhood experiences. It’s not my fear though. It’s the fear others have about all things ACEs. Adversity. Abuse. Addiction. Abandonment. Neglect. Dsyfunction.

I don’t think this fear actually belongs to those of us who have lived with ACEs, who have lived through ACEs, who live with the aftermath of ACEs as adults.

When I found out about ACEs I was overwhelmed with joy. I felt radical relief. What I experienced was a profound sense of validation. It was epic.

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ACEs – The Bright Side

ACEs, Motivation, Resilience, Spirit, Thriving

ACEs

So, I have taken the ACE Survey and assessed the answers to my 10 questions – now what?

The survey was the first step toward healing in my P3 Journey, because it helped me identify the experiences that took me off course at a critical stage in my life (adolescence).  After completing the survey, I realized that much of what happened to me was at a very early age (with the exception of the molestation).  I also realized that there were many incidences that I no longer recall the specific details.  Yet, at times, I am triggered and act out accordingly.

The Bright Side – RESILIENCE

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, resilience is defined as: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.  Like ACEs, there is a survey (questionnaire) based on resilience research developed by a group of researchers, therapists, pediatricians, and physicians.

RESILIENCE QUESTIONNAIRE

Please circle the most accurate answer under each statement:

1.  I believe that my mother loved me when I was little.

Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True

2.  I believe that my father loved me when I was little.
Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True
3.  When I was little, other people helped my mother and father take care of me and they seemed to love me.
Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True
4.   I’ve heard that when I was an infant someone in my family enjoyed playing with me, and I enjoyed it, too.
Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True
5.  When I was a child, there were relatives in my family who made me feel better if I was sad or worried.
Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True
6.   When I was a child, neighbors or my friends’ parents seemed to like me.
Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True
7.  When I was a child, teachers, coaches, youth leaders or ministers were there to help me.
Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True
8.  Someone in my family cared about how I was doing in school.
Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True
9.  My family, neighbors and friends talked often about making our lives better.
Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True
10.  We had rules in our house and were expected to keep them.
Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True
11. When I felt really bad, I could almost always find someone I trusted to talk to.
Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True
12.  As a youth, people noticed that I was capable and could get things done.
Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True
13.  I was independent and a go-getter.
Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True
14.  I believed that life is what you make it.
Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True

 

How many of these 14 protective factors did I have as a child and youth? (How many of the 14 were circled “Definitely True” or “Probably True”?)   _______
Of these circled, how many are still true for me? _______

 

My Score

A real aha moment for me is when I completed this survey.  My score is 0.  It makes sense!  I have always been successful with recovering in times of difficult situations and circumstances.  I am excellent at adapting to change.  In fact, I embrace it.  In my corporate career, I was known as a “change agent”.

That is the bright side of my story.  It is also what has made my life journey so interesting.  More about this later…meanwhile…be sure to complete the resilience questionnaire and reflect on your score.  This is a huge part of your journey towards healing mind, body, and spirit.

 

 

ACEs – Prison

ACEs, Motivation, Resilience, Spirit, Thriving

ACEs Question #10

Did a household member go to prison?

The final question in the ACEs Survey does not cover all the potential adverse childhood experiences.  However, this one is very significant.

More than 2.7 million children in the U.S. have an incarcerated parent. That is 1 in 28 children.2
 Approximately 10 million children have experienced parental incarceration at some point in their lives.3
 One in 9 African American children (11.4%), 1 in 28 Hispanic children (3.5%), and 1 in 57 white children (1.8%) in the United States have an incarcerated parent.4
 Approximately half of children with incarcerated parents are under ten years old.
According to a recent Rutgers University study, Parental incarceration is now recognized as an “adverse childhood experience” (ACE); it is distinguished from other adverse childhood experiences by the unique combination of trauma, shame, and stigma.

Reference: https://nrccfi.camden.rutgers.edu/files/nrccfi-fact-sheet-2014.pdf

Many of my students have a parent in prison.  Some have both parents incarcerated and they are being raised by other family members or legal guardians.

As a child, I did not experience having an incarcerated parent.  My answer to question #10 is NO.

ACEs – Household member depressed…

ACEs, Motivation, Resilience, Spirit, Thriving

ACEs Question #9

Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?

To be clear, this is the definition of depression that I am referring to: b (1) :  a state of feeling sad :  dejection anger, anxiety, and depression (2) :  a psychoneurotic or psychotic disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies bouts of depression suffering from clinical depression

Unforgettable Memory

I was in the back seat of the car.  My first stepfather and mother were arguing.  It was pouring rain.  We were on the freeway.  I was young, perhaps pre-school age.

Mother opened the door and jumped.

Cars swerved.  A doctor was on his way to the hospital.  He stopped and put her in his car and rushed her there himself.

Perhaps the rain slowed the drivers…I honestly don’t know.

She spent a few days in the psych ward.

She survived…

That was only the first of three attempts I am aware of.

The answer to question #9 is YES.

Depression. (n.d.). Retrieved April 9, 2017, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/depression

Focus on Consistency #8 – Positive vs. Negative

ACEs, Consistency, Motivation, Resilience

Lately, many of my posts have been about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

These posts have not exactly been a joy to read.  Actually someone commented one post was “tough to like”.  I totally understood where that person was coming from.  I do not enjoy reading posts that are sad or reminiscent of painful experiences either.  However, I am aware of the importance of some people exposing those feelings with the intention of healing.  Even my blog site title can be interpreted as a bit negative if you analyze or perceive it in that manner.

Pain, passion, purpose is an evolving process that I believe we go through.  Because I see the potential in the end result – PURPOSE – it is positive to me.

At first glance, dealing with childhood trauma definitely doesn’t rate high on the positive side.  Actually the outcomes are what I focus on:

  • What are the lessons learned?
  • What good decisions can I make now?
  • How will my health improve from resolving past hurts?
  • Who will I have a better understanding of?
  • Who can I support?
  • Is my passion clearer now?

This is all POSITIVE!  What do you think?

ACEs – Just Get Over It!

ACEs, Motivation, Resilience, Spirit

I was recently at a professional development session for teachers. The presenter, who I believe meant no harm in her statement, suggested that we just get over our own childhood trauma.

She followed up by saying, “… your parents probably don’t remember anyway.”

As I pondered this notion, questions flooded my mind:

  • Should we just get over it?
  • What does that mean?
  • How does one go about ‘just getting over it’?
  • When you just get over it – does that make it go away?
  • Is there a residual effect?
  • Do you feel better?
  • Is it bad for me to share my experiences?

Over the years, I attempted to “just get over” situations and circumstances that impacted me.  It certainly sounds easy enough.

Here is what I realized:

  • If you become emotional when you think about those events in your life and emotions are triggered, you aren’t over it.
  • When people say, “…just get over it”, they feel some kind of way about it.
    • they don’t know what to say
    • how to help you
    • can’t relate
    • it’s conflicting with the agenda they have set before you in life
    • or, they are the perpetrator and they want off the hook!
  • Getting over it is sometimes “stuffing or burying it alive” which manifests into physical illnesses

The people that I coach are those who genuinely want to expose those pain points and do the work to resolve the feelings, get a healthier perspective, and maybe even develop a passion to help others take those same steps.  

I realize there are many people who are completely comfortable with their lives.  If you are that person who has done the work, meaning dealt with the issues and placed them in proper perspective in your life – then this isn’t for or about you.  However, I would caution you to be careful with minimizing the effort it took to get to that place.  We are all at different places on the continuum of life!  Some people need more support than others to make it through the storms they encounter.

Today, I am a great deal more patient and understanding of others as a result of the work I have put in to be more resilient.  I developed a passion for helping hurting people to overcome and thrive above and beyond anything they dreamed possible.

No matter the age or stage of your life, it’s not too early or late to thrive!

 

ACEs – Was your mother or stepmother…

ACEs, Motivation, Resilience, Spirit, Thriving

ACEs Question #7

Was your mother or stepmother: Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?

Unfortunately, my students mention the abuse of a parent almost daily.  They share it without emotion; as if it is common and no big deal.  Sometimes, they celebrate how dad hit mom and she courageously hit him back – getting the best of him because he was too drunk and weak to do anything about it.

Unforgettable Memory

My mother was abused by both of her husbands.  I was a witness.

The most unforgettable memory was during my 3rd grade year.  It was the same year as when I attempted to enter the police car and received the whipping with the thorny switch from the rose bush.

They hosted a party in our home.  Of course, I was sent to bed at a certain time and could only hear the music and noise.  I eventually drifted off to sleep.

At some point, in the middle of the night, I was awakened by loud screams and objects breaking or crashing in.  I got up – peaked out into the living room area and saw my stepfather choking my mother.  She couldn’t breathe!

I ran and leaped on his back.  He flung me off to the sofa without hesitation.  I didn’t give up!  I did it again until he let her go.  He was cursing and asking her, “Where is it?”

I did not know what “it” was at the time.  Later, I found out that she removed the spark plug wires from the car to keep him from leaving the party following some woman he was fixated on – something mom had observed during the party.  She hid those wires and the car was dead.

After more hitting and choking she relinquished the wires.  To keep her from calling the police, he took the phone cord from the wall outlet and left.

At this point, mom and I set out to find a telephone in the neighborhood.  Both of us in our nighttime clothes and desperate to get help before he returns, strike out in the neighborhood looking for a home where the lights are on.

Down the block, there was an apartment building.  We knocked on a door where there were several people (maybe a party also) who let us in.  There was a phone on the wall in a hallway that they motioned us towards once mom asked.

I remember they were young – perhaps teens or young adults.  They were teasing me in a playful half-mean way, while mom was on the phone.  I remember a couple of them laughing as mom was still gasping for air while talking on the phone.

I stood there – arms folded and wishing I could gain superhero powers to end this nightmare!

The answer to question #7 is YES!

ACEs – Parents separated or divorced?

ACEs, Family, Motivation, Resilience, Spirit

ACEs Question #6

Were your parents ever separated or divorced?  

During my first year teaching, I facilitated a discussion to get to know my students.

One of my students blurted out, “My parents are getting a divorce!

In that moment, I did not know what to say to make it better for that young person who was obviously preoccupied with the pending event which was about to impact his family system.  This was also prior to me understanding ACEs and the potential lifetime impact it would have on him.

I simply knew that my student was hurting.  It was one of my first emotional experiences as a teacher.  I realized that there is more to my role than academics.  My heart ached because I knew that student only cared about his mom and dad staying together – not what I was about to teach.

Unforgettable Memory

My biological father was never in my life.  As I mentioned in another post, my mother married my first stepfather when I was 6 months old.  Their relationship would be classified as horrible by anyone’s standards. He was abusive.  They both drank alcohol almost daily.  He was gone every weekend carousing with women, but home Sunday night to prepare for the work week.

They divorced when I was in the 6th grade.  Finally, she had enough.  It took courage and a chunk of her soul to walk away from that relationship.  When I think about this – the divorce wasn’t nearly as traumatic for me as the years of their marriage. Perhaps it was a blessing, until stepfather #2 came along.

The answer to question #6 is YES.
 

ACEs – Parents were too drunk or high…

ACEs, Motivation, Resilience, Spirit

ACEs Question #5

Did you often or very often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?

My mother met my 1st stepfather when I was 6 months old.  For years I believed he was my biological father.  I found out the truth while playing in the neighborhood with his nieces and nephews (my so-called cousins who hated me).  From their perspective, I had everything they did not have.  The words, “You ain’t really my cousin!” was the revelation of a lifetime.  I was about 10 years old.

Mother was a great housekeeper.  Our home was immaculate.  To this day, mom’s food tastes the best to me.  She cooked wonderful meals and made sure I was well fed.  She did all of this while drinking everyday.  She would rotate drinking beer, wine, and hard liquor.  However, she was very consistent with her duties as a wife and mother.

My stepfather had a routine of partying every weekend and chasing other women.  My mother settled for that as long as he brought home his paycheck.  Because she knew he caroused with women, she would sometimes send me on errands with him.  Perhaps it was to get him to come back sooner than later or to simply NOT cheat that time.  Either way, it did not matter.  I saw more than I ever needed to see, and was pressured to NOT tell my mother what I knew.

Unforgettable Memory

One night, I was sent to tag along with my stepfather (I no longer remember where or why), but I do remember we were riding up and down the street in my uncle’s new car.  His brother had just bought a brand new red Mustang.  I was in the backseat.  They were drinking and driving – yelling out the car window to God knows who – showing off.


Finally, they pulled over someplace like a parking lot.  I remember a bright street light shining into the car.  I heard an argument between my stepfather and some stranger.  It became pretty intense.  I couldn’t really see what was happening because it seemed as if I was sitting down low in the backseat.

I remember the passenger side door slinging open wide and my stepfather frantically climbing in to the backseat on top of me.  Then I saw why he was so frantic.  The man he was arguing with had a razor (a sharp blade) slicing the air with intent to cut him.   

When the man realized I was in the car, he stopped.  I remember how close that blade came to slicing my face. Of course, I was forbidden to tell my mother about the incident.

Over the years, I have often wondered why he would bring that danger to me – a child, whom he should have been protecting.  Well, he was drunk at the time.  I know that if he was sober, it would not have happened that way.

Although, I had a brush with danger – my answer to question # 4 is NO.

I have reconsidered this question and now I am dropping my score to an 8 from a 9. Mother always managed to physically take care of me.  She may have been drinking but she definitely fed, clothed, and made sure I had timely medical care if needed.  She had no idea about this particular memory until about a year ago.