If you want to know why you’ve been married three – or more — times. Or why you just can’t stop smoking. Or why the ability to control your drinking is slipping away from you. Or why you have so many physical problems that doctors just can’t seem to help you with. Or why you feel as if there’s no joy in your life even though you’re “successful”, there’s a book that will show how the problems that you’ve been grappling with in your adult life have their roots in childhood events that you probably didn’t even consider had any bearing on what you’re dealing with now.
After hundreds of interviews and two years of writing, science journalist Donna Jackson Nakazawa’s long-awaited book, Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal, hits the bookstores (and e-bookstores) on Tuesday.
Besides being the first self-help book about ACEs, it’s the first book that explains what’s been called the unified science of human development in clear language for people who aren’t scientists or medical professionals.
ACEs refers to adverse childhood experiences, a term coined in the CDC-Kaiser Permanente ACE Study that was first published in 1998. The study revealed that childhood trauma is very common — two-thirds of us have experienced at least one type — and how that can lead to adult onset of chronic disease, mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence. It also showed that the more types of trauma you experience, the greater the risk of alcoholism, heart disease, cancer, suicide, etc. (Got Your ACE Score?)
Childhood Disrupted goes into great detail about how the consequences of the toxic stress caused by that trauma damages kids’ developing brains (and damaged our developing brains when we were children), as well as our bodies and genes. The good news is that the resilience research shows just our plastic our brains are, and how much our bodies can heal, given the chance.
What makes Childhood Disrupted come to life are the 13 people whom Nakazawa followed for year through their histories of trauma and their journeys of healing. Through their stories, it’s easy to see ourselves.
Last week, as Donna was preparing for launch party for Childhood Disrupted at her local bookstore, The Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore (7 pm ET, Tuesday, July 7), she and I talked about how she came to this day.
Jane Stevens: Why did you decide to write Childhood Disrupted?
Donna Jackson Nakazawa: As a science journalist specializing in the intersection of neurobiology, immunology and the inner workings of the human heart, I had already spent 20 years writing about the human immune system and the human brain. I began thinking of the immune system like a barrel. If you put enough stress on the immune system, there can be that last drop of water that it can’t hold, causing the barrel to spill over, and havoc