I’m a mother, a trauma survivor, an activist and a writer.
For years, I’ve written personal essays, profile pieces and a few research-style papers about post-traumatic stress disorder, developmental trauma and interpersonal violence. Yet, something was missing.
In my own recovery, I’d often say, in therapy and to friends and lovers, “I know what not to do but I don’t know what TO DO instead.”
I said this in my teens, 20s and 30s, too. I knew not to be abusive, to myself or others, but that didn’t mean I knew what healthy was.
Learning about trauma and recovery was important, to be sure. It helped me understand why I struggled with anxiety, nightmares and social issues. It helped me understand there were reasons I struggled with an eating disorder and trust.
But it didn’t teach me how to gain what I lacked as an adult or had missed as a child.
How to be happy and healthy and feel safe in my skin.
How to connect with other people.
How to express emotions.
How to depend on other people and invite them to do depend on me.
How could I teach my own child things I had never learned?
How could I not pass on my unhealthy coping skills, like shutting down and numbing out and dissociating, that had served me well but which I hoped she would never need?
How could I create new family traditions and ways of interacting?
How could I learn the difference between a healthy emotion and what was a symptom of post-traumatic stress?
The medical model that views symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as personal problems to be remedied by talking about trauma is limited. Knowing one’s trauma, inside and out, doesn’t necessarily teach a person how to be healthy or happy or what it means to feel and be safe.
It didn't for me.
It wasn’t until I became a parent, through adoption, that something shifted. I learned the word attachment. While I was reading about the types of attachment (secure, anxious, avoidant), for my kid, I soon realized that I had attachment issues as the adult.
As a parent.
They came not only from trauma of abuse (physical, sexual or emotional), but from neglect and dysfunction as well.
Or, what I now know as adverse childhood experiences.
The trauma model assumes there is general health and wellness, marred or changed or derailed by incidents of trauma. But for many, trauma is less an event or even a series of events. Rather, it is a consistent environment where neglect and dysfunction are constant. For months, years or even decades. For a childhood.
I knew focusing only on trauma didn’t help relieve anxiety or make me feel more centered or calm. But it wasn’t until my 40s and learning about ACEs that I understood the cumulative impact of childhood adversity.
It wasn’t that I was weak or too sensitive or prone to crazy, as I had thought. It was just that the cumulative impact of adversity takes a toll.
On me and also, generally, as evidenced by a study of over 17,000 others.
This did more for my self-compassion and confidence than all the therapy I have ever received, combined.
And it did more than that.
It inspired my parenting because it also showed that a lack of adversity promoted health. It was not actually just a personality issue.
There were things -- stability and security and feeling loved and nurtured and being sober and attentive – that I could provide for my child that would improve her health and wellbeing – for life.
This is empowering and exciting and motivating.
ACEs provide a roadmap for what works and, if you grow up with a lot of ACEs, that’s a fantastic and practical resource to learn about.
And can be positive!
So while attachment helped me learn to bond with my child and nurture her, learning about ACEs helped me believe this is fundamental to all human beings.
It’s a little bit embarrassing to admit that I didn’t know this my whole life and especially for all of my daughter’s life.
But I didn’t.
Sometimes, when she was young, I worried that if I was too responsive, she wouldn’t be strong or independent….or that maybe I was spoiling her. The ACEs test and study help me still err on the side of stability and attention in my parenting choices.
I’ve also developed more compassion for myself as a result. I understand why it can be challenging for me sometimes. And by it I mean both "adulting" as well as parenting.
I want to share these facts and resources with others who are interested in the intersection of ACEs and parenting.
Now that you’ve met me, I hope to learn more about you.
- Why are you here?
- What are your experiences, questions and needs?
- How has learning about ACEs impacted you?
- What are your struggles and your successes as a person or a parent with ACEs?
- What tools or resources do you wish you had not or when you were first parenting? And now?
- What has been most challenging if you are parenting with ACEs?
- Who and what has helped you through crisis or uncertainty as you navigate personal, health or social issues relating to ACEs?
- Are you inspired by individuals or organizations doing incredible work? Do you need to share that?
The Parenting with ACEs group is the place for all of it. As well as for your individual insights or organizational strategies.
Help me get to know you so that we can do what ACEsConnection does best: Connect.
Connect people to people, people to resources and resources to other resources and people.
The Parenting with ACEs group is a safe place to share stories, research, resources and real-life experiences. In this community we support and educate each other and ourselves about the obstacles and opportunities faced while parenting with ACEs.
I’m so grateful to Jane for inviting me to manage this amazing group.
Please invite others who can contribute and benefit. Please let me know what you want and need.
I’ll post articles, stories and questions several times a week and we’ll grow this group together.
P.S. Interested in how Parenting with ACEs began? Read Jane's blog post.