Sometimes, it lasted days. Other times, weeks. It always returned. When it did, it was hard to read, concentrate or focus. It was hard to eat or sleep or work.
It was hard to parent.
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. Dysfunction.
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.
“Resilience is a message of hope,” says Debbie Alleyne, a child welfare specialist at the Center for Resilient Children at Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health, located in Villanova, PA.“It is important for everyone to know that no matter their experience, there is always hope for a positive outcome. Risk does not define destiny.”
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?”
I used to sneak away for a hot bath as often as possible when my daughter was in the need-me-every-minute years. I’d soak long past when the water went cold and I felt guilty at times but sometimes I needed to be alone.
To read poetry.
To have some physical space.
I didn’t always know where or how to pamper or provide self-care to myself. There were few adults I trusted to help me. I believed in attachment-style parenting and wanted to be there all of the time for my daughter. And that even made me feel guilty when I craved alone time. Like any alone time I took meant not being present for my daughter.
Bird walks wearily through her “sad and dreary” world of “blizzards and freezing rain and children with rocks and men with shot guns.” This trauma-sensitive tale tackles topics such as depression, violence and bullying in simple language. It offers a child-friendly take on post-traumatic stress that is both realistic and optimistic.
“It’s about so much more than childhood sexual abuse,” says Johnna Janis about her feature documentary, Invisible Scars, a remarkable film about her own sexual abuse and her journey of recovery.
Janis produced and directed the film with long-time friend, Sergio Myers, an award-winning filmmaker and owner of 7Ponies Productions. Together, they took on topics many would consider too triggering or taboo to address and did so without sensationalizing sexual abuse or trivializing trauma. The result is a personal, powerful and informative movie.
What started in 2010 as a “small little project” about one woman’s healing journey “expanded” when Janis learned about the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study).
The Aces movement is filled with pioneers. There are physicians, professors and researchers who treat, teach and study. There are leaders of non-profits who partner with individuals, neighborhoods and organizations. Volunteers who give time. Experts who draw on wisdom gained in academia, clinical practice, community work and personal experience.
But rarely does one person do all of these things while parenting three children under the age of thirteen.
- parenting as a survivor
- parent triggers
- break-the-cycle parenting
- support for parents who had abusive childhoods