The single best medical appointment of my life was when a nurse practitioner asked about my adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)

2015ace rocker 2

Heidi Aylward spent much of 2015 going to doctor’s appointments for back and joint pain, dizziness, swelling of the legs and feet, high blood pressure, elevated platelets, heart palpitations and extreme fatigue.

2016 isn’t looking much better. She’s worn a heart monitor, had a bone marrow biopsy and continues to have blood work. She holds down a job as a full-time project manager, tends to her daughters, home and pets.

But she feels like her body is falling apart.

“I’m not going to make it to 60,” she said, “Why do I even contribute to my retirement savings account?”

Heidi Aylward: Present

Heidi is 39.

She’s also one of my best friends.

I can’t help but wonder how much her body is burdened by her chaotic childhood.

For personal and professional reasons, I’ve been learning about the new science of human development, which includes the epidemiology of childhood adversity and how toxic stress from childhood trauma can damage the structure and function of a child’s developing brain. Toxic stress also embeds in a person’s biology to emerge decades later as physical disease.

The CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study) shows that childhood trauma is linked to the adult onset of chronic disease, mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence. The research, led by Dr. Vincent Felitti (Kaiser) and Dr. Robert Anda (CDC) measured 10 types of childhood adversity that occurred before the age of 18.

They are physical (1), verbal (2) and sexual abuse (3); physical (4) and emotional (5) neglect; a family member who has been incarcerated (6), is abusing alcohol or drugs (7), or has a mental illness (8), witnessing a mother being abused (9); and losing a parent to divorce or separation (10). The lowest possible score is 0 and the highest 10. Of course there are many other types of childhood adversity – bullying, witnessing violence outside the home, being homeless, witnessing a sibling being abuse, experiencing a severe illness or accident – but this study focused just on these 10.

ACE body diagram (448x640)
ACE art: Margaret Bellafiore

The higher a person’s ACE score, the greater the risk of chronic disease and mental illness. For example, compared with someone who has an ACE score of zero, a person with an ACE score of 4 or more is twice as likely to have heart disease, seven times more likely to be alcoholic and 12 times more likely to attempt suicide. Of the 17,000 mostly white, college-educated people with jobs and great health care who participated in the study, 64 percent had an ACE score of 1 or more; 40 percent had 2 or more and 12 percent had an ACE score of 4 or more (i.e., four out of the 10 different types of adversity).

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) contribute to most of our major chronic health, mental health, economic health and social health issues.

Heidi teen
Heidi Aylward: As teenager and mother.

Heidi has an ACE score of 9. I have an 8. This is concerning because those with ACE scores of six or higher die an average of two decades earlier than those with an ACE score of 0. (Got your ACE Score?)

Heidi and I were both diagnosed with PTSD in our 20’s. Combined, we’ve seen our share of therapists, doctors, nurse practitioners, social workers, psychiatrists and healers. We’ve discussed how childhood chaos contributes to lousy moods or relationships, but never poor health, disease, discomfort or premature aging or dying early.

Not one medical professional had talked to either one of us about ACEs or mentioned how early adversity poses health risks and concerns.

In fact, when Heidi asked her doctor about the ACE Study at her appointment, he told her:

“There’s a school of thought that says it’s better not to bring up the past or think about it.” She felt defeated and irked.

“It’s not so much that I was thinking about the past a lot,” she says, “it’s just the way my body reacts to stress.” She thought it might be relevant.

She’s not wrong.

“Hundreds of studies have shown that childhood adversity hurts our mental and physical health, putting us at greater risk for learning disorders, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, depression, obesity, suicide, substance abuse, failed relationships, violence, poor parenting, and early death,” writes Donna Jackson Nakazawa in Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology and How You Can Heal.Donna book cover

Dr. Jeffrey Brenner, recipient of a 2013 MacArthur Foundation genius award, wrote: “ACE Scores should become a vital sign, as important as height, weight, and blood pressure.”

But they aren’t. Not yet.

“We’re on the cusp of a sea change,” said Jackson Nakazawa, “I don’t think it can happen fast enough.”

She pointed to the nascent ACEs movement, which keeps her optimistic.

There are nearly 10,000 members of, a social network for people who are implementing trauma-informed and resilience-building practices based on ACEs science.

Donna picture
Donna Jackson Nakazawa


“I think the population is changing ahead of medicine,” she said.

Supporting her optimism for change is the fact that hospitals now have birthing centers and integrative medicine approaches, both of which happened relatively quickly. Neither were “driven by physicians,” she said, but “by patients – and hospital centers realizing they were losing a lot of business” as people left and were willing to travel to birthing clinics or places with integrative approaches.”

As I did.

Motivated entirely by the ACE Study — particularly the statistic about those with an ACE score of 6 who die decades earlier than those with an ACE score of zero — I drove almost an hour out of my way to meet a nurse practitioner in a functional medicine practice.

As a result, I had the single best medical appointment of my life.

It was in October 2014, and it was a one-hour conversation I had with Lisa Vasile, a nurse practitioner of functional medicine at Visions Healthcare in Needham, MA.

We sat by her desk.

She didn’t poke or prod my body. She didn’t record my weight, height or blood pressure. She didn’t wear a lab coat or ask me to be naked under a johnnie. We talked.

I told her I wasn’t sleeping well and was hoping to taper off medications for post-traumatic stress disorder. I was weighing the long-term side effects of prescription drugs with the possible relapse or withdrawal if I went off. My concerns were early menopause, premature aging and worries about disease and early death.

I brought a research binder about the ACE Study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

Lisa Vasile
Lisa Vasile

Vasile hadn’t heard of the ACE Study when we met, but wasn’t at all surprised by the major findings.

“We know stress is a major player in disease, (stress) happening now or in childhood where it’s been cumulative,” she said, which is why functional medicine practitioners, “dive deep” into childhood.

Unlike traditional medicine, which often focuses on the treatment of acute problems, often with drugs and surgery, functional medicine explores the causes of diseases and issues. Patients partner with practitioners to identify, treat and prevent them, and start their journey with a practitioner who takes a thorough history.

“Were you a wanted child?” was one of the first questions Vasile asked me.

“It’s probably safe to say I wasn’t planned,” I said.

I told her my mother got pregnant at 16 with my sister, and was 19 when she had me. I told her I didn’t know my father, a violent alcoholic who left before my first birthday.

She wasn’t looking for fill-in-the blank answers. She made eye contact with me and was curious about my experience of my own childhood. That felt so different than being with someone filling out a form or staring from behind a computer screen.

We went over falls — one from a porch and another from a moving car — and the pinky that got amputated before I was two. I mentioned abuse, bed-wetting and when my period started, as well as family moves and changing dads, towns and schools.Capture1

She treated trauma and family facts the same as information about ear infections, bronchitis and antibiotic use. She seemed neutral, caring and curious.

At typical appointments, when asked about my father’s health, I have said “unknown,” if I feared the person asking would be unable to handle hearing about homelessness, alcoholism, abuse, desertion or mental illness without judging me. Psych topics often feel out of place with physicians, like ordering steak off a vegan menu.

Vasile was different, even in the way she worded things, such as when she asked:

“How did those early childhood experiences manifest during the teens?”

How – not if.

It made it easier to mention depression, migraines, anemia and my use of diet pills.

It made it possible to share a secret I’d never disclosed with a nurse or doctor – that I’d been bulimic for most of my teens. In every other medical appointment, I had held back this information even when I’d had a spastic colon, GI problems, vitamin deficiencies and problems absorbing food as an adult. It was embarrassing, long in the past and no one had ever asked.

Vasile asked everything about my childhood, including if I did sports, had friends and what skills and passions I’d had.

She seemed to break my childhood into four distinct periods.

1. 0-5
2. 6-12
3. 13-18
4. 19-24

I’m not sure I’d ever talked about the college years, which had been particularly rough for me. Even though I was the first in my family to finish college. I did not feel lucky. During those years, my grandmother and the guy I called Dad both battled cancer and died. My sister met our biological father, and a friend committed suicide. I got anxiety attacks for the first time and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by the therapist I started seeing.

Nothing I said seemed to shock Vasile. She just nodded her head as if I’d say my skin was itchy after the chicken pox.

She even educated me about the impact of stress:

• how stress in childhood prevents proper growth and the way the body handles stress;
• how frequent antibiotic use from ear infections or bronchitis can impact gut health and weaken the immune system;
• how nutrition can be used to support good health;
• how an eating disorder, vegetarianism and anemia, all of which I had during my teens, can contribute to depression and anxiety;
• how my childhood and adult stressors probably had an influence on the age I was when menopause started.

She explained the tests she’d like to have done.

• Blood work to check my hormones, vitamins, minerals, cholesterol;
• Blood work to assess cardiac health and inflammation;
• A bone scan to check bone health as bulimia can be a factor in osteoporosis;
• The mammogram I was behind on;
• Allergy testing.

As for tapering off prescription medications for PTSD, she suggested waiting on test results. She didn’t want to place any additional demands on me such as weaning off medications without supporting me better

I teared up in relief. I confessed that even though my PTSD management skills were strong, life had been harder since menopause. I felt more fragile, less hearty and didn’t know if it was from hormone changes or life events (divorce, flood, money, mid-life dating).

I’d always been able to dig deep, into my bone marrow if necessary, to suck it up, endure or rally but this ‘super power’ seemed to be fading fast. I wondered if my nervous system was like a set of balding tires that I couldn’t replace or change. I’d hydroplane and skid off course easily no matter how slowly I drove. Could I get some tread back in order to cover more varied terrain without worry about flat tires?

After our visit, I made more sense to myself. My symptoms weren’t strange. I wasn’t strange. Vasile thought there were things she could suggest which might provide some relief.

She validated my concerns and experiences. Rather than leave feeling numb, depressed or like damaged goods, the way I usually felt leaving medical appointments, I felt great.

She treated me like a marathon runner at the end of a race – as though I was successful but tired. She was there with a high five, water and a blanket.

It was life-changing.

Jackson Nakazawa said others have benefitted from ACE-informed medical appointments. She wrote:

“In one recent study of 125,000 patients, Felitti found that those who took the ACE Study questionnaire as part of their medical history and who discussed their ACE Scores with their doctors had a 35% reduction in their doctor visits and an 11 percent reduction in emergency room visits over the course of the following year.”


The “practitioner-patient conversation is a really important conversation,” said Jackson Nakazawa. “When the doctor is fully present and caring, we begin to activate reward mechanisms in the brain that are associated with a healing effect, similar to the placebo response.” When we activate “this interpersonal neurobiology between patient and doctor, the relationship becomes a healing force that furthers personal healing,” she said.

Is it possible that some people would just avoid going to doctors and hospitals after an ACE conversation because it’s awkward or painful to talk about the past? I can’t speak for others but that wasn’t the case for me. It was a relief not to suppress, deny or avoid the truth of trauma or complicated family stories or medical background.Capture4

I know I felt better about my past, future and myself after my appointment.

I couldn’t wait for my follow-up where my test results would be discussed and we’d develop my personalized don’t-die-early plan.

The Don’t-Die-Early-Plan to Combat My High ACE Score

My grandfathers both died at about age 50. One of a heart attack and one from cirrhosis. My paternal grandmother died of cirrhosis in her later 50’s and my maternal grandmother died of cancer in her mid-60’s. My mother battled cancer in her early 20’s – and twice in recent decades. Alcoholism and mental illness plagued my father starting in his teens and until he died of cirrhosis at age 69.

Gone is the smug notion that as long as I don’t drink or smoke I can be a doting grandmother living well into my 90’s. Being a sober non-smoker doesn’t inoculate me from health risks associated with developmental trauma and post-traumatic stress. There’s no easy way to override the long reach of childhood toxic stress, trauma and neglect.

Is it possible for me to live a normal life span?

Can I reverse the death-disease-despair curse of early adversity?

“There is no recipe or formula” for those with high ACE scores, says Vasile. “Everybody is different and every BODY is different.”

However, Vasile’s approach to health that she uses with all her patients is one that I’ve found helpful. It’s called DINE.

D is for Detox.
I is for Inflammation.
N is for Nutrition.
E is for Energy.

Detox involves removing health threats such as smoking cigarettes, drug or alcohol abuse, and even food, which many people use food as medicine or a coping mechanism, she says, either to numb or comfort themselves.

ace art
ACE Art: Margaret Bellafiore & Christine Cissy White

Vasile advises most of her patients to limit or eliminate dairy and gluten from the diet, no matter whether they’re allergic or not. Doing so, will “reduce inflammation in the body” and “makes people feel better” because “the immune system and serotonin levels get shot because of dairy or gluten,” she says. She suggests “eating as many colors of fresh fruit and vegetables in the rainbow as possible.”

She addressed unhealthy relationships with other people, jobs, situations or environments as part of her detox approach as well. It helped me admit how stressful it had become to live in a flood zone as sea levels raise.

flood clean up
After flood clean-up.

Some changes, like moving, cause more stress before things improve and this can be more challenging when changing or leaving jobs or relationships too.

“We know stress is bad” and “crucial in disease,” Vasile explains, “Cumulatively – it’s worse.”

“Stress is fine if you’re running from a tiger,” she explains, but stress “isn’t curative. It’s inflammatory. It inflames and attacks the body.”

She explains how not sleeping well, one of my menopausal problems, can “increase cortisol and cortisol being up all the time is very inflammatory on the body. “

She says studies have shown C-reactive protein (CRP) increases after major life stressors. To assess cardiac health and inflammation, she tested my CRP level.

My CRP was elevated, which didn’t surprise her given my childhood adversity and major adult stressors such as divorce, single parenting and having my home flood twice. She recommended an anti-inflammatory, and to “make yourself happy on a regular basis.”

Daily joy might mean meditation for some or painting the toe nails for others. She sometimes recommends acupuncture and Reiki in addition to anti-inflammatory supplements for those with high CRP levels.

For good nutrition, Vasile had one simple bit of advice: “Eat as many foods with a sticker UPC code on them — like apples and peppers have — as possible.” The suggestion many of us hear — to shop the perimeters of grocery stores where food is fresh — is ideal.

For me, she suggested Vitamin D supplements at a high dose (5000 iu daily with food), magnesium (in powder form, at night, 175 to 350 mg. daily) and iron (with organic beet root, twice a day with Vitamin C) as my levels were all low. The magnesium was meant to improve my sleep and reduce my anxiety.

She suggested daily fish oil supplements as well as primrose oil. I got only the fish oil only (to save money).

By energy, Vasile means moving energy with exercise and physical activity, as well as working with the energy system as is done with techniques such as acupuncture, body work and with spirituality.

She calls energy the “fourth leg of a healthy table” that stabilizes the system so it’s less likely to tip. The types of energy work she’s recommended for people to use at home are meditation, journaling, HeartMath, (a type of biofeedback which can be done online or on smart phone 5 to 10 minutes a day), as well as walking and yoga.

aces storyJournaling, hypnotherapy, therapy, and EMDR are ways she suggests to help balance energy after trauma, she said. “Any way to pull (trauma) out and dump it instead of carrying it” in the body can be useful.

She suggests a daily gratitude list or journal before bed so people are “shutting down with the positive” each night. This practice can increase levels of happiness in three to six months.

“There’s a lot of research that journaling is very therapeutic,” she also said. She suggests a three-page writing habit each morning with page one used to dump stress, page two listing things to look forward to and the third page detailing what one is thankful for.

I’ve written in my journal since I was 11, and she encouraged me to continue. We pondered whether writing might be one reason my health is not worse.

I had two appointments within three months with Vasile – enough to make me feel empowered and hopeful about my physical and emotional health. However, the practice that employed her, Visions Healthcare, closed in August 2015 soon after implementing a $33 per month fee for patients. Because insurance companies only covered a fraction of most office visits, the patient payment plan was meant to help defray costs. Patients such as myself were unwilling or unable to pay. Vasile runs a private practice now, 4 Better Health, in Hopkinton, MA.

While I can no longer afford to see Vasile at her new practice, I’ve benefited from my two insurance-covered appointments. I’m incorporating her DINE protocol with some success.

• DETOX — Going gluten- and dairy-free can be difficult, expensive and boring. When I’ve adhered to her advice, my joints are less achy, my nose has stopped running and I never get bloated. I’m working at making these changes work for me more often.

• INFLAMMATION – With the anti-inflammatories, I nap less and feel less groggy in the afternoon. I have normal blood panels regularly for the first time in my adult life. Whenever I had a complete blood count (CBC) I usually had at least one low value. This year I’ve had two normal CBC’s in a row. That’s a significant change for me. I’ll continue to monitor my CRP levels with my insurance covering providers.

• NUTRITION – With the supplements and a better diet, I don’t feel quite as depleted or thrown off when super-stressed.

• ENERGY – I found a therapist covered by my insurance who does tapping and energy work along with talk therapy. My spiritual needs are met by weekly yoga, hikes, IMG_3249the poetry of Mary Oliver and Rumi, connecting with other survivors of ACEs who “get it” so we can “get it together.” My almost daily practice of listening to guided meditations and imagery from healers such as Tara Brach, Cheri Huber, Pema Chodron, Belleruth Naparstek and Rick Hanson is most helpful. All validate the impact of grief, trauma and adversity and also offer relief – teaching why and how mindfulness-based approaches can be helpful.

• Although I switched from Paxil to Prozac — something I’d failed to achieve prior to incorporating Vasile’s protocol — I did not wean off all my medications as I’d hoped. As a single mother I couldn’t afford not to be fully functioning. I need to be emotionally present and to pay the bills.

From first-hand experiences, I know trauma-informed care can improve physical and emotional health. I wish it were available still to me and others with ACEs.

wp_20160623_11_45_25_proAt least I know we ACE-informed patients can make a difference. Vasile now uses the 10-question ACE survey in her practice.

“We use the ACE score on our intake form,” she said.

It’s “so great to have this information when meeting with patients,” she said. “Clearly there’s so much more coming with them than their complaint at hand — and so much more risk should we not be aware of their ACEs.”


  1. I appreciate you taking the time to write about your experience. I first took the ACE test a couple of years ago when it was reported about on NPR and wasn’t surprised about my results. I’m a solid 10 without even blinking. I remember reading about the health and life span effects of scoring a 6 or higher and I rolled my eyes. Not because the experiences of a 4 or 6 isn’t real or meaningful, but because, as usual, no one bothers with numbers that high. The reality is that there aren’t a lot of 10s walking around because we tend to self destruct early on. It just felt like another way to reinforce to me that my experiences are not normal and that I don’t quite “fit” into the average person’s understanding of the world.

    I also just say “unknown” about my father because it’s a whole lot easier than dealing with the looks I get from a nurse when I say “he was murdered while stealing heroin when I was 3.” I’m a considerate person who recognizes that pain is relative, but I don’t have it in me to make people feel better after they hear the real answers. And that statement about my father is just one of a million other things and I would guess with a 9, it’s the same for you.

    I recently had a neuro-phych evaluation and decided to just pop the lid off and gave them all the information they wanted. Unfortunately the doctor did exactly what I was hoping they wouldn’t do, which was to completely disregard my illness’ role in my cognitive issues (MS diagnosis) and instead put it all on emotional distress from PTSD. It makes me feel completely dismissed as a human being and I get so tired of people immediately breaking me down to my trauma. I’m traumatized, no doubt about it, but that isn’t ALL that I am. It’s like when you were seeing a GI doctor. If you’d said that you’d dealt with bulimia they’d all stop doing their job because that’s always going to be the answer.

    I’m happy to see another high number surviving and thriving and again, thank you for sharing. Based on your experience, i’m going to seek out a functional medicine doctor and see if they can help me sort some of this out. I have a ridiculously complex set of coping techniques and the MS is really causing problems for me cognitively which is shaking apart my foundation. If I can find someone who will treat me from that standpoint then I will have won the lottery.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Unicorn Love ~ Thrilled to hear this empowered you to keep pushing for a practitioner who listens and wants to work with you to heal ‘all’ of you. In the functional medicine paradigm we look at the GUT first (regardless of your bowel habits), we also look at hormones, nutrient levels, toxicities, etc to see what else is out of balance – stress reduction and self love are huge pieces of healing that we would also ensure was in place. Here’s a link for you to find a functional medicine practitioner in your area
      Peace and Health to you ~


    • Unicorn Love:
      Thank you for sharing. My guess is that there are far more of us than we even know because so many of us are in the habit of saying so little for fear of making others uncomfortable and it’s a shame because we can’t learn from one another about how we struggle as well as how we manage and are amazing because it can be all of that!

      You wrote: “I also just say “unknown” about my father because it’s a whole lot easier than dealing with the looks I get from a nurse when I say “he was murdered while stealing heroin when I was 3.”

      There’s so much of this that you described. It’s so deeply disheartening. I’m sorry.

      “I’m traumatized, no doubt about it, but that isn’t ALL that I am. It’s like when you were seeing a GI doctor. If you’d said that you’d dealt with bulimia they’d all stop doing their job because that’s always going to be the answer.”

      Thank you for sharing and writing. I’m glad you are looking for a functional medicine nurse practitioner or doc. I was so lucky and am grateful for knowing how different care can be. I’m glad if my experience is validating, encouraging and comforting in any way at all. If you find someone you like, come back and share about that experience. I see you got a referral from Lisa Vasile. She’s awesome like that!



  2. Hi Christine.

    Love this article. I would love to use it with permission in a handbook I am doing for caregivers. I wonder if it would be ok to reprint it with attribution, of course. My email is Thanks for your writing! My NP daughter will get a copy of this!


    • Hi Jeanne:
      Thank you for reading, asking and sharing! It’s absolutely fine to republish with attribution. We’d love to see the handbook when it’s done, if possible. I’ll email you an address. NP’s are the best!


  3. I understand that the concept of ACEs is about experiences in childhhod. I’m interested in the impacts of adverse adult experiences. I had some stress as a child but nothing on the ACEs scale, however, as a teen I was groomed by an abuser and at 19 I married him, a man twice my age. I lived with the emotional/psychological abuse for 22 years followed by years of continuing trauma as he used (and still uses) our children as pawns. I’ve been in therapy for years but worry that all this trauma has set me up for a shortened life span. Do you think I should have similar testing done?


    • Dear Survivor:

      I have a friend who isn’t sure what her ACE score is for similar reasons. The trauma she experienced was at ages 18/19. When we talk, I’ve asked, would being more pro-active or protective about health have any down side? I think the good things we do for our health are probably good for most people overall. I’m no doctor or nurse and don’t claim to be. But I shared the DINE approach that was shared with me because my nurse practitioner likes it for good health. And then, for me, knowing my history, she tweaked her approach (testing for CRP inflammation earlier than she might have).

      I think it would have been bad advice even if I had an ACE score of 0.

      And personally, I think if you have a practitioner who is safe and trustworthy, talking about having lived for decades with violence, chronic and toxic stress, might be helpful. I say might because not all experiences are positive. My friend Heidi’s experience was not. But if you have someone you can trust, I think just talking about the impact can be positive and powerful.

      And I think, for anyone, for all of us, if we can reduce stress and inflammation, that’s good. For myself, knowing my stress burden and history, I think the self-care stuff is essential and not optional. I used to think it was kind of strange or indulgent. I no longer do.
      I’m sorry for your past and present pain. Cissy

      For me,


  4. What do you suggest we do as patients when we explain ACE and the doctors look at me if I am crazy? I read in Donna’s book, about a dr from Johns Hopkins who helped, I tried to find this dr and get an appointment, no such luck. My own primary care managers don’t think I need to see a person that understands this dynamic. Any advice would be so appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us! We DO need to talk more about this topic and act on it. People like you encourage me make this happen.Keep up the good work!


  6. Cissy: thank you so much for this work you are doing. I can’t say enough about how important I think it is to share this information. And you write sooo well — the information is so clearly laid out and easy to read. Your account of your personal history and health is brave and adds a great deal to the effectiveness of your message. I think your post should be published where it can be read widely. Thank you again for your dedication and for this service.

    I’m sorry about the abuse and neglect you had to endure as a child; you deserved to be loved and nurtured like the precious gift you are and always were. I reach out my hand to you as a fellow trauma survivor and walk the journey of recovery with you. I wish you good health and every success.



    • Rebel Recovery:
      Love your name!!!! Thank you for your kind words! I’m so glad the personal stuff helped this piece feel impactful! Thanks for your survivor to survivor support! I wish you health and success and joy as well!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I changed doctors when my insurance changed and the new doctor told me how overweight I was..well duh no crap I never noticed….told me I needed to put my big girl panties on and stop acting like a depressed person..I had a great husband and he had a stop whining.male doctor by the way.He didn’t know that I had grown up in an extremely abusive household.I was an unwanted mother had me at 16 to keep my father…I use that term loosely as he was not present even when he was home.My mother was a raging drunk who bore 4 children and told us daily how much she hated us.I had a dear friend pass in a car accident and both my mother and sister and a teacher who saved my life all died of cancer in the same year.I left home at 18 and never had contact with my parents again.My mother died and I felt like she took the promise of I am sorry with her…she never said it and I needed it.I see horrible things that she had done to us in my nightmares…it never goes away.I have a new doctor but she has never asked me about any of those things and In the limited time of the appointment I have no time to bring it up…sad what some parents do to their children..they ruin us for life and it takes a lot of you are worth its to make up for one you are worthless.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I loved this article! I am a nurse practitioner in primary care and actually gently brought this concept up with a patient the other day. She has a multitude of subclinical symptoms which have never been sorted out with other providers, even my collaborative physician, so when I asked her how her childhood was and she said horrible, I wasn’t surprised. Wondering how to further address care of the whole person once making this realization about a person’s ACE score? I shared the article with her and briefly discussed the DINE concept with her. Fortunately some things she already practices- other not sure she’s ever considered so guess that right there is the starting point.

        Thank you for enlightening me to a new way of addressing the health of many of my chronically ill clients. I myself have a fairly high ACE score so will also benefit from this perspective.


      • Linda:
        I’m thrilled that this article provided info. and insight as a Nurse Practitioner and as someone with ACEs. Thanks you for letting me know.

        I think there’s still so more to be done for those with high ACEs that it’s too late to prevent. Education and sharing is huge. You might like reading Childhood Disrupted by Donna Jackson Nakazawa which offers lots of research as well as practical and helpful information for those of us with high ACEs.

        Also, there’s lots to discover and constantly being shared at AcesConnection which is free and available to everyone.

        Thank you so much for your comment! It makes me feel fantastic.


    • Stamping granny- this is a horrific example of how so many people’s emotions and traumas are discounted when it comes to WHOLE body health. It’s imperative to include all pieces of the puzzle when supporting all people to find joy, health and vitality. Please do reach out to the new MD or find someone who will never make you feel worthless again.


  8. We need to talk more about this subject. (It’s also the focus of a book I’m writing, much of it reflecting back 50 years to a t urbulent childhood). It occurs too often and makes us feel ashamed, too ashamed to discuss it openly. But it’s all too common

    Liked by 1 person

    • Saundra:
      We DO need to talk more and share on this subject – and without shame (easier to say than do). Please share a link to your work so people can find your book.


  9. An excellent article on how stress can impact and healthy living. I would encourage the author to talk to Heidi and have her contact a neurologist to see if they can determine if she has an over-active parasympathetic nervous system. In my late 50’s I had many of her symptoms plus going into afib about once a week during the night. Most doctors are trained to treat these sorts of symptoms based on the functions of the sympathetic nervous system and often prescribe the absolutely wrong treatment – for me that was beta blockers that actually made the afib worse. A lot of this goes back to the vagal nerve and it becoming over excited – which can cause the heart issues, immune response etc.


  10. Wow, thank you for taking the time to articulate and share. Wonderful to read. Warm wishes for your continued healing and happness.


  11. I was surprised when my Kaiser doctor asked me questions about my childhood and shared the A.C.E. Study with me. It hit the nail on the head for me and my several siblings.


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