Know Your Story
So now that Bruce Perry and Oprah have put ACES on CBS’s 60 Minutes it is officially time to have the conversation about OUR Adverse Childhood Experiences(ACES). Yes OUR, I don’t know anyone who is exempt.
My Story started when I was 8 years old, at least what I can remember. I was in 2nd grade when my Grandfather died and my Mom had somewhat of a hysterical reaction. Not sure why… but fast forward to my 30s, I go to the OBGYN and they refer me for therapy based on my inability to report my medical history because my Mom had died of Mental Illness. She had been in and out of the psychiatric hospital since the time I was about 8. I know she had serious bouts of alcohol abuse and was diagnosed with every possible label out there in the 70s. Long story short, she never healed and died from the side affect of medication, smoking and deep mental strife.
I went to the therapist as recommended because something inside of me told me this was a good idea… and it was. Two years later I got divorced. My husband had left the marriage and I wasn’t quite aware of that because I was in survival mode. I had been for most of my life. I just didn’t know it. It was just how I knew how to be. And it served me well through school, and college and my Master's degree…
My therapist asked me some questions to assess how I was feeling. I did not know… I could not tell her. Soon enough I was having back pain and challenges walking and doing multiple sessions of Physical Therapy(PT). My PT asked me “Do you know how to breathe?” “I guess not” I said. My body was in knots.
I remember telling my Therapist the story of My Mom. The words ring, “…and she never got better.” My story of my Mom had a very sad ending. I did not want that for myself or my daughter (or anyone). So I worked at understanding what had happened to me and why my life was changing so dramatically. My Dad died at the same time my marriage ended. Double whammy… lot’s to learn.
About 10 years later I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Yikes… time for more work… what is happening to me?
My goal in going to therapy was to not take medication be mentally healthy. After 12 years, before moving on, I thanked my therapist for keeping me from having to take medication. She responded, “ My goal was to support you as a person who didn’t have a present parent.”
Wow! What a different way to reframe my story. Although my Mom was physically there when she could be, she wasn’t always present. Through my years in therapy I learned to get in touch with my thoughts and feelings. It has been amazing and changed the way I look at my relationship with my self, others and the experience I am having in the world.
Full circle, I learn about the Adverse Childhood Experience Study. I attend a workshop where the keynote speaker is the OBGYN who referred me for therapy (Actually it was his nurse midwife who referred me) presenting about the history of the ACES study and the implications, he was now in the Legislature. I was right there listening to his information… he emphasized the impact on people just like me. I had gone to school and was a “successful” professional. I had also already experienced two of the effects of ACES – Divorce and Cancer. He also described many of the children and families I have worked with over 25 years in the public schools and child care centers.
I encourage you to learn your story… things don’t happen to you… they happen, and when you understand why, you understand how to make the necessary changes to rewrite your story. AND, when you change the world around you changes.