I felt inadequate and ill-prepared to speak to licensed mental health professionals about ACEs. But when I was asked to attend the 40th Annual Training Institute on Behavioral Health & Addictive Disorders in Clearwater, Florida to represent ACEs Connection, I was honored and eager.
My background is in health planning, not mental or behavioral health. I review health data and look for gaps and inequities. My time is spent looking for and addressing the health needs of a community. So, when I learned about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), I had that Aha! moment that so many of us have had. My eyes were opened up to a world full of hurt that was always there, but that I had never before fully seen. Not only was childhood trauma a health indicator, it was like a little match that could set off the entire book of matches.
I know I am preaching to the choir here, so I won’t digress further. I drove up to Clearwater on February 13th, fully expecting to be preaching to the choir there as well. However, I found that while most of the folks I spoke with that day fully appreciated what I had to say about childhood adversity and its physical ramifications, most had never heard of the ACE Study.
Knowing the science behind trauma’s connection to physical health makes all the difference. Knowing that ACEs aren’t reserved for low-income minority populations makes all the difference. Knowing that even more research is being done to combat all that we now know about childhood adversity makes all the difference.
Knowledge is power.
I had a terrific conversation with one woman from Maryland. She was particularly interested in hearing about the research behind ACEs. As I shared more and more with her, she kept nodding her head and saying, “It makes sense.”
It makes sense.
That really resonated with me. This message is not new, and it isn’t hard to believe. It makes sense. The fact that our bodies hold onto the emotional turmoil we have suffered while our minds are still developing and turn that emotional turmoil into physical ailments makes sense. That the determination of our lives is a combination of both nature and nurture (or lack thereof) makes sense. And that there is hope despite early adversity makes sense.
So, don’t hesitate to share what you know, even if you aren’t the most educated person in the room. Knowledge is power – and this knowledge makes sense.