Congressional briefing addresses public policy to improve response to ACEs

Room view with Senators Heitkamp & Durbin.jpg

In the final weeks of the 114th Congress, Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) welcomed her colleague Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) as a new host for the third and final briefing on addressing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). The December 1 briefing focused on public policies to improve coordination, prevention and response to childhood trauma.

ACEs comes from the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study and subsequent surveys that show that most people in the U.S. have at least one ACE, and that people with an accumulation of childhood adversities — including divorce, racism, living with an alcoholic parent, and physical abuse — have a higher risk of adult onset of chronic health problems such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, suicide, and alcoholism.

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I’m not cured, but I am healing

Donna Jackson Nakazawa

Donna Jackson Nakazawa

More than 133 million American adults — one in two of us — suffer from a chronic condition, including autoimmune disease, fibromyalgia, digestive disorders, migraines, back pain, depression, diabetes, cancer and chronic pain. A recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that those of us in our 40s, 50s and 60s are twice as likely as our parents were to suffer from debilitating chronic conditions in middle age.

I’m one of those statistics. I’ve spent much of the past decade navigating my life around health crises. Twice I’ve been paralyzed by Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease similar to multiple sclerosis, but with a more sudden onset and a wider array of possible outcomes. Other diagnoses — low blood cell counts, thyroiditis and the need for a pacemaker — have also complicated my health and my life.

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A memoir about surviving ACEs

aorphans

I became a professional reader long before I was a writer when I was living in homeless shelters, subsidized housing, and welfare hotels with my mother in New York City.

Most of the middle class and affluent black folks I would come to know in the future would wince and give me a look I couldn’t read when I would tell the story that I outline in my new memoir, The Beautiful Darkness: A Handbook for Orphans. All some intolerant, ignorant bigots need is to continue to hear about the dysfunction of black families or the lie that we are all poor (living in inner cities) and broken and hopeless. But unfortunately, in my case, the dysfunction was just part of what I lived through as a kid.

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Dr. Seuss takes over community heroes panel at ACEs conference in California

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(l to r) Teri Barila, director of the Children’s Resilience Initiative; Dr. Ariane Marie-Mitchell, assistant professor in Loma Linda University Preventive Medicine and Pediatric Depts. (Photo: Jennifer Hossler)

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Sauntering on stage to the beat of Everyday People by Sly and the Family Stone, four “heroes” of the ACEs movement took their seats for a panel on trauma-informed and resilience-building communities on October 21, the last day of the 2016 Adverse Childhood Experiences Conference in San Francisco.

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Assisting refugees: Lessons on trauma and resilience

arefugee

Lao wedding in the U.S.

Making do with what you’ve got

 There are a lot of stories about refugees in the news. Some years ago, I helped resettle refugees from the Vietnam War. Trauma and resilience define what it means to be a refugee. All of them had lived through years of warfare. They had seen friends and family members killed. They had to flee the familiar towns and villages they had lived in all their lives. They arrived in a new country with hardly any resources, in a land where nobody spoke their language or understood their customs. Could you do that?

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Teens lead way in teaching Camden, NJ, about ACEs and resilience

Hopeworks teens lead a workshop about ACEs science

Hopeworks teens lead a workshop about ACEs science

 

Two volunteers race against the clock to stack red Solo cups into the highest tower they can manage.

Queenie Smith keeps knocking them down.

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The boy born out of resilience

Aboy

A few months ago I published a blog, “A Mother’s Rage”. I re-accounted my rage and helplessness regarding my daughter’s high school rape in Miami, FL. I ended my post with words of hope. I wrote how several years had passed since my daughter’s assault. She was now engaged and pregnant with my first grandchild.  This is the rest of the story.

I held my daughter’s hand as she labored through the night with my grandson. I tried to comfort her fiancée, who felt helpless. I rubbed my daughter’s back, and held my breath each time she pushed. She pushed for five hours, but never gave up, because she is resilient. She brought her son — my grandson — into the world with her strength, love, and resilience.

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