ACEs studies usually focus on the bigger, more tangible adverse experiences in a child’s life. However, there are a number of minor stressors that may not be really traumatic for kids not going through significant ACEs, are nevertheless devastating to a child already going through trauma.
A week before my mother died I had shared a secret about another girl to my best friend. After I returned to school post my mother’s death, I realized my best friend had revealed what I had shared with the girl concerned. Both of them ganged up and shunned me, I was an outcast. My relationship with my best friend ended. It was devastating. My 11-year-old self concluded, my mother's death was a punishment for telling tales about others
Not even a month after my mother died, a cousin 10 years older tried to sexually molest me. Moreover, my paternal grandmother blamed me ‘Saying just like her mother” How does an 11-year-old react to that shaming and besmirching my beloved mother's character,
My brother very loving and protective up to my mother’s death violently banged my head on the wall to stop me from intruding on his boy talk. The second closest relationship in my life was shattered one month after my mother died.
An aunt taking me to home in the guise of helping me cope with the loss of my mother's death and then putting me to work cleaning her home and dirty vessels. How does a grieving 11-year-old cope with this covert deceit and self-centeredness?
A teacher punished me for not completing my homework and sending a note home just a week after my mother died. I got a good spanking.
My maternal grandmother began hiding food and acting cold and rejecting. Till my mother was alive she was the best grandmother in the world. My confused 11-year-old self was left wondering what had I done wrong.
One of my uncles would make fun of my dirty clothes. My 11-year-old self couldn’t understand how an adult couldn’t understand my mother was not there to take care of my needs. I was managing the best way I could.
My aunt accusing me, an innocent 13-year-old who was desperate for love and affection that I was trying to seduce her husband. I did not know what seduce was or what it was to be a woman. Even today I am confused about how to be a woman.
When we talk of the resilience of kids, it is not about surviving the big stressors it is having to contend with the meanness, invalidation, tiny cruelties, shunning that may not be as ongoing but nevertheless add to one’s cup woes. According to the PTSD Cup theory one can bear trauma to a certain point without our cup overflowing or hitting a breaking point.
For those who kids who are going through a series of major ACEs, any additional wounding is like adding salt to their wounds.
When one is already struggling through successive losses and wounding which cuts out a large chunk of our soul any additional stress easily sends us spiraling into depression, rage, suicide or mass-murder.
When dealing with kids or for that matter adults we need to understand how all those micro traumas slowly destroy one's resilience to bounce back from adversity.