This is Part 1 of what I think will be a three-part personal foray into the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
If you have read my book, then you know some of this about me; I was pretty severely traumatized in my early years. Without being adopted, I suffered a pretty good amount of neglect, physical abuse, and emotional abuse at the hands of my parents when I was a kid. Then, as a teenager and young adult, I got a couple of whammies that changed the trajectory of my life. My ACEs score is 9 out of a possible 10. That’s high, and it could have been worse in terms of intensity, so I feel lucky and grateful. Still, my regulatory system was a chronic adrenaline dump from the beginning of my time on Earth.
As I entered early adulthood, I experienced daily lightening bolt mood shifts and regulation management issues. Those around me took the emotional hits. I just kept on going, as though I were unaffected by the scorched earth I left in my wake. What I didn’t realize then was how truly different my brain was from many of my peers who had “normal” childhoods. I did, however, always feel different.
For as long as I can remember, I was overweight. Weirdly, I didn’t (and still don’t) eat that much. In third grade I lost my first 20 pounds without telling anyone. All I knew was that my mother referred to me as fat, and that wasn’t a good thing. By my twentieth birthday, I had gained and lost hundreds of pounds. To lose weight I had to workout about two hours a day, everyday, and eat only baked chicken.
I have always marveled about people who get runners high or who like pushing their body to the limit. Working out is torturous to me due to a mysterious chronic condition I didn’t have a name for until I was in my early 30’s. On occasion I stress injure myself during workouts in the gym or by just standing up wrong. I am ridiculously clumsy, falling flat for no apparent reason at all. I gave my dorm buddies a consistent laugh in the dining hall where I regularly failed to negotiate food trays and long legged jocks creating hurdles in my way. I swear they saw me coming and purposely stretched out. Okay, probably not.
There was a year after adopting my children when I had to do my desk job while laying flat on the floor in exhaustion. I never connected the stress of adoption with the disabling fatigue. Call me crazy (everyone around me did); I insisted the pain I felt was in my body. I took all kinds of prescription pain meds that first adoption year while doctors told me it was mostly in my head–so, I took low dose anti-depressants, too. After awhile, I began to agree that it must all be psycho-somatic. Either way, I had to do my job from the grimy underbelly of my desk. Good thing it was a one-person office and my work was supervising others over the phone. I never told anyone my dirty little secret. I felt like the definition of my middle name—Shame.
To Be Continued…
Look for Part 2 of The Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences: A Personal Story tomorrow.
Until then, love matters–I promise.
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