Childhood Trauma & SD

It is often easy to blame our parents or childhood experiences on how we behave as adults. What is a family unit supposed to be? Well, it’s supposed to be two parents, wonderful siblings, food on the table, love, nurturing, encouragement, safety, protection and bedtime stories. Right?

Wrong. For many this is not the case. The question is; does it affect us in later life, or more to the point is a traumatic childhood a trigger for chronic illness?

My own childhood was a troubled one. I saw it as a big dirty secret a bit like my SD. I was ashamed and did not want anyone to know the truth. Fact is; there were probably lots of other families going through similar experiences. To me my family were the only dysfunctional family, and I started internalising from a very early age.

Dysfunction can be defined in many different ways from neglect, abuse, conflict or violence. The dysfunction in my family was alcohol which led to neglect, violence and abuse. The alcoholic in my family was my father. Witnessing violence towards my mother and living in a perpetual state of uncertainty makes for an emotionally disturbed child. Me.

I lived in constant fear. Fear my father may be sober, as that would raise my hopes which I knew would be shattered within a matter of weeks. Fear of my father being drunk, as this was chaotic and violent which could happen on a daily basis. When I was old enough to realise what was happening that’s when I started to live in a dream world (I still do to some extent). I became an imaginary person, I gave myself a different name; Gloriena. I shut down reality and learned not to speak about it. Yes there it is, the word ‘speak’.

So you see it started very early in my life where I could not speak about the reality of my home life. Only a few people knew the truth. I compensated by never speaking about it but I knew it was real. I witnessed violence at a level that became the norm for me. Of course I was scared and would cry, but I could never ever verbalise how it affected me. I saw blood on the walls, my mother lying in bed with a broken nose, my father lying in a pool of blood, and police hitting his head on a police van in order to detain him. At times I was hungry and did not know what I would walk into after school.  This was my life until aged thirteen. My father eventually left. How did I feel? Abandoned.

Why? Well I don’t know, because I’m weird, or sensitive, or needed the chaos, or simply despite the trauma I loved my father.  Hard to believe isn’t it, but yes I missed him and spent the next twelve years pining for him until I found him living in virtual squalor. I was twenty-five when I saw him again. I had practiced what I would say to him over and over. When we came face to face, he was drunk and I was speechless. My father died five years later. I never saw him drunk again. I wrote to him explaining that I could never visit if he drank, and so he didn’t. Looking back it was my default pattern never to speak to anyone about what was bothering me, but to write it down instead. And here I am still doing it to this day.

Ok, pity party over. I’m now a well adjusted, educated woman (well I like to think so!). I’m very opinionated and usually like to get the last word even though I can’t speak at times! Oh the irony.

We now live in the 21st Century as I’m sure you all know, and there are some very clever people about. Some of those people are interested in possible links of childhood trauma and chronic illness. I recently came across one of those clever people; her name is Donna Jackson Nakazawa, she is a science journalist and author of the book Childhood Disrupted. I tweeted her to ask permission to cite her in my blog and she tweeted back and said yes! How fantastic; she even said happy healing too. I now know a famous author and very important journalist.

Let’s talk about the book:

Donna had a bit of a tricky childhood herself and spent two years interviewing world leaders in science who research the affects of Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE). I was astounded to learn there was over seventy research papers and hundreds of other studies which supported the findings of the ACE study; in short this simply means children who suffer trauma are more likely to develop health issues and chronic illness in later life. Well, I guess I’m one of those children. Fast forward to my SD diagnosis; my doctor did mention that traumatic life events could be a factor in triggering SD.

This is not to be confused with illness that develop from poor lifestyle choices or genetics, however the ACE study compared childhood trauma as having commonalities with post traumatic stress disorder. Well that’s an understatement-the stress of childhood trauma most certainly catches up with you in some form or another. So, is it really possible that this type of trauma could cause SD? While there is no research to quantify this there is certainly a suggestion that stress can trigger or worsen SD.

In the fascinating book Childhood Disrupted there is even a chapter called ‘The heavy price we pay for secrets’ oh dear, I guess that’s me. Now the book does not suggest that children from troubled backgrounds all develop health problems in later life, so please don’t panic if you’re reading this!

Let’s look at the ACE questionnaire:

 

While you were growing up, during your first 18 years of life:

  1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often … Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?

 

Yes No If yes enter 1 ________

 

  1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often … Push, grab, slap, or throw   something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?

Yes No If yes enter 1 ________

 

3.Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Try to or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal sex with you?

Yes No If yes enter 1 ________

 

  1. Did you often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?

Yes No If yes enter 1 ________

 

  1. Did you often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?

Yes No If yes enter 1 ________

 

  1. Were your parents ever separated or divorced?

Yes No If yes enter 1 ________

 

  1. Was your mother or stepmother: Often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes or often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?

Yes No If yes enter 1 ________

 

  1. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic or who used street drugs?

Yes No If yes enter 1 ________

 

  1. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill or did a household member attempt suicide?

Yes No If yes enter 1 ________

 

  1. Did a household member go to prison?

Yes No If yes enter 1 ________ Now add up your “Yes” answers: _______

This is your ACE Score

 

So there you go that’s the ACE questionnaire. Pretty simple questions with potentially huge implications on health.

Interestingly, the ACE study has been cited in more than 1,500 papers. The World Health Organisation uses the ACE questionnaire in fourteen countries to screen poor health that may stem from emotional stress or trauma. If you would like to read more about this I suggest buying the book it is a fascinating read.

My question now is: if stress and trauma can damage our brain; can we unpick it? I think there is a lot of unpicking for me! Might even take a lifetime. It feels like a lot of work to be honest, and I am sick of all things to do with brain, neurological, voice, vocal cords, etc. etc. Why can’t I just be normal! But the reality is I have got SD and I do need to try and turn it around as much as I can, so I will be looking at ways that we can delve into our murky past and figure it all out. I mean it’s only a brain how hard can it be.

I forgot to mention: My ACE score is 9-so according to that I may not have much longer. So, my dear followers if you don’t hear from me again thanks for reading my blog.

Follow Donna Jackson Nakazawa on twitter

@DonnaJackNack

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3 thoughts on “Childhood Trauma & SD

  1. I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you create this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you? Plz answer back as I’m looking to create my own blog and would like to know where u got this from. thank you

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