Support System

We have had many thoughts running through our mind. This time of year – well from Easter to mid July is rough. With our history, support is needed, required. So what is support? How do we find it or better yet, have it when we need it.

All I can do is speak for myself. I have found it’s better for me to have more than a few people in my support system. Typically, we have one person that we have to connect with every day and sometimes several times a day. Everyone else are the backups. It’s never a matter of who is liked more or less; or of convenience. Sometimes, it is based on availability. East coast vs. West coast. Busy family, work, social,  vs not-so-much. What it basically comes down to is – connection.

Even with the best preparations and support system in place…WE have had times where we were alone. Many in my support system understand the struggle of wanting relief of pain so much so as to want to end ones life. That understanding of relief of pain can bring connection, understanding and you find you aren’t alone in the pit. Some people struggle with mental health conditions, others have life circumstances that have brought them to close to their utter end and yet others who have other life events. As one friend of mind says, “No one leaves this world unscathed.”

Yesterday I finished watching the Netflix series “Th1rteen R3asons Why? Probably not a series I should have watched as it was triggering, yet WE also found it very validating and profound. There is one tape that starts with Hannah talking how we as humans are social creatures. We do everything based on connecting to another human being. We are social and can literally die if not engaged with others. Can this be why isolating when struggling is so NOT good? As a person disconnects more and more from others, they may take time off their life.

I came across an article today “21 Things People Who Experienced Childhood Emotional Abuse Want Their Friends to Know” https://themighty.com/2017/06/what-friends-should-know-emotional-abuse/ via @TheMightySite.  They fit for me these 21 things … there are a few other things I ask of my friends; 1. Be honest with your time with me. If you can’t talk, don’t pretend to. Let’s just arrange a time that works better. As long as WE know that WE will connect in the near future I have the ability to keep going – and that is what back-ups are for … the support system. Not having just one person. 2. I don’t except nor want you to fix me, be my counselor or my savior; just be there. I know this can be really hard when I am dealing with ideations and the pit is deep. WE just need someone to be there. It’s extremely validating to have someone just be with you and it’s something I am not comfortable with nor familiar with; yet require. WE are learning and you all have been helping. 3. Silence is a MAJOR trigger for me, of abandonment. This is especially true if we go from talking every day to not. I have come to learn that unlike me most people when they struggle, they turn inward – isolate and don’t reach out. Maybe it’s the WE (DID), living alone, having struggled alone for so long, however WE reach out. WE search for that someone WE have connection with to be there – with us. Silence without understanding why brings up so much of my past conditioning – the words WE heard repeated so frequently that WE still believe in. WE are a mistake. WE have no worth. Others have more value, so serve the needs of others. If you must be silent, to survive, I hope the connection can as well.

I/WE are not sure why WE felt the need to post today or about this. A lot has been going on in our lives and the support I/WE receive from our support system has enabled us to keep going. Luckily mid July is only a month away and with that my rough yearly time will be over. Counseling will continue. I/WE will keep going day-by-by. My program starts back up again in the fall and WE have some personal goals WE will begin working on.

 

 

 

 

BDP…and me

Last night the pain was heart wrenching. Sobbing for three hours my breathing was chaotic and full of thoughts of if I hold this breathe in long enough could I…could I just stop the pain.

Ten months ago I was diagnosed with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). Another set of letters added to the list of disorders. I had never heard of BPD, however after “Googling”it. I learned why three more letters of this new diagnosis had been added.

September 15 2015; I had the will, a plan, and a date. I had in the past attempted suicide twice and at five other times had plans, which all lead to hospitalizations. Suicide ideation is always present, the many voices of my childhood (and littles) are always there and the way I interpret (assume) situations, with black and white thinking, is always there and I am always in the tar pit – the depth and thickness is all that changes.

I found this short video on youtube that somewhat describes BDP for me.

I know some friends are going to read this – please take no offense.

So, what lead up to the heart wrenching pain and desperate desire to have relief. I feel a very brief background of my childhood needs to highlighted. My conception… birth… very existence was told to me by my biological father as being a “mistake”and the only way I would find worth would be to serve others – completely. This belief that I am “mistake” of no worth had been conditioned  through various forms of abuse, a younger sister no-matter-what happened was always right and me always wrong, mother’s abandoning me, never being validated for my emotions and silence.

The pile is building…..great I need to do that – add it to the list….I need to check on my friend ….online class…….great student intern cancelled meeting…..okay you can do this….we have time. What happened to ____ I didn’t get a morning pic…. I wonder if she is okay….I know she has been struggling….. I hope it isn’t about our last conversation…… She said a trigger word, but it was an accident…..hope she knows that – I did tell her that/right?……need to get Cella in the utility room……great a slow driver….why can’t people learn to at least do the speed limit….. UGH can’t handle this (go around – safely)….. no parking….why does this campus have so few handicap parking spaces…… wow! the trees look great, love the colors, maybe I will post pics later…. great a spot…… boy it’s hot in here (office)….. {open window and get settled in office} …… I really like having a place to work on my online class and program, wish i could decorate better….. hmmmm i wonder if _______ is online since she didn’t post a pic…….man I hope she is okay……{check emails, FB, Twitter – no one}…..earlier student cancelled meeting send message that another day works even though I came into town for the one meeting…… okay lets finish online class….. an hour video?!!! WOW…..just do it…..100% quiz……{check to if she ______ has logged on – nope} ….. hmmmm i had to have done something…..need to finish this final test since I have the $ for the CEU’s……. crap I missed one…..wait what – oh what an idiot you are you knew that one- whatever it’s done…..{finish the class and pay}…..that took longer than I thought guess I will go pick up prescripts and head home….. OH MY GOSH what is with the drivers in this small town…… fake a smile at the prescription window because you know the pharmacist….SERIOUSLY you pullout in front of me when I am doing 50 mph and then brake to turn left…..UGH UGH hit the horn!!!!….. put the car on cruise….check mail -none for me although my landlord’s need to get theirs…..the trees look great….grab the phone {took pictures}…. home.

After I get home I typically eat, play with my two month kitten – Cella, watch sports on TV, and since I have still not spoken to a friend in person; I go online. She still isn’t online…. wait she is…. now gone…..send a group “HI”….. Hey ________. ……. have you heard from ______? ….okay…..go on Twitter ask mutual friend. “Have you heard from _____. Is she okay?”…….. Group chat okay……doesn’t work…..send message – send her a message………SILENCE…….

 

A friend says don’t assume -but I need to find a reason….. I leave the group chat {start crying} ….. another person wants to know why I left…..I explain, they say they understand….. she cares – right? ….it’s getting late but I know I have another friend I talk to every night…..it will be okay….. no more silence…..no more being dismissed…..I am not merely here to serve others who are struggling or to be a service project…..a mutual give-and-take friendship….okay it’s early for bed – whatever….get ready….only 8:30 pm…..okay play a phone game until 9:00pm when she is settling down (for the most part)….it’s after 9 okay play it cool – ask how she slept last night since she didn’t last night…….sent…..good she slept…..no more talking ….. crap I don’t want to seem desperate…..need to take night meds…..send a message and I will be honest with her {sent emoji of person crying – which I had been doing since I left group chat}…. SILENCE….. {crying turned into sobbing the pile had peaked and the tar pit depth reached}….. She did message later explaining company – for the weekend……I actually did reach out to another…..it took me until 1:00 am before I could be calmed down enough to sleep and I am grateful this friend stayed with me…….when I sent the text I had my keys in hand while lying in bed….. I was done only because I needed relief.

Of course those aren’t all my thoughts and nothing I have said is written to hurt anyone’s feelings. I have learned four outcomes when I reach out…1. they may not respond back (silence); 2. they may not have the time; 3. they maybe going through a rough time themselves; 4. they may perceive me as being TOO needy and walk away (abandonment). Have to enjoy BPD black and white thinking….LOL.

So here is what friends can do….be honest. 1. If you don’t have time to talk – don’t because  I can tell, just tell me; 2. If you do have time, but say only a limited amount of time – tell me; 3. If you have plans, company or just don’t what to – tell me it’s not a good time; 4. If you are struggling with issues of your own and need time for yourself – tell me; 5. If you are going on vacation – tell me; If you have family stuff to take care of – tell me….. the point is  – JUST TELL ME. You don’t have to tell me the details, just that you aren’t available. HOWEVER, here is the clincher I do better and don’t spiral down if I know we will reconnect later {THAT IS THE KEY}. Whether it is in an hour, tomorrow, next week…whatever!!!!! If I know we are going to reconnect in the future it helps me give you all the time you need/want without me feeling the silence (dismissed) or you walk away (abandoned).

I found this picture:

20150324142154197_0001

For me I live 90% of the time in the emotional mind. The rollercoaster of BPD with MDD (Major Depressive Disorder) I find myself in the tar pit often. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) with it’s four modules; Mindfulness, Interpersonal Relationships, Emotional Regulation and Distress Tolerance, has helped me learn new skills I should have learned as a child….but it is what it is {RADICAL ACCEPTANCE}.

….for more information.

13886417_833645866737626_8939090810243852251_n

My mental health diagnoses are: ADHD, C-PTSD, DID, MDD, HSP and BPD

ACEs and MY Mental Health

ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) has as one of it’s questions; “Did you between the ages of 0-18 live with a parent who had a mental illness?” Both of my biological parents, I believe have/had mental health issues. My biological mother suffered severe Post Partum Depression and was hospitalized following giving birth to me and my sister. My biological father I feel had Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I have not researched whether mental illnesses are genetic and passed down generationally, however I do personally feel trauma during childhood especially during the developmental stages changes a person’s chemistry brought about in the fight, flight, freeze response which might predict later mental and health complications.

In a previous post I indicated that I have 9 of the 10 ACEs, which means I have experienced several different adverse occurrences between the ages of 0 – 18. I also experienced a lot of severe trauma. As of today, as I write this blog I have eight different mental health diagnoses. Two of them I feel might be genetic. One is MDD (Major Depressive Disorder – severe recurrent) and the other Post Partum Depression since my mother had suffered the same diagnosis. The other six mental health diagnoses I feel are due to the trauma and ACEs I experienced during my childhood; ADHD (Attention Deficient-Hyperactivity Disorder), Bi-Polar II, Anxiety/Panic attacks, C-PTSD (Complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) and DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder). I have several health issues as well, but I am not listing them.

Mental Health has come a long why since I was first diagnosed with depression at the age of 12 years old, yet it is still very stigmatized in religion, the public and even in the professional fields of mental and medical care services. The days of institutionalizing, straight jackets and over medicating has changed, as well as new medications and new treatment techniques to treat the various chemical changes that contribute to a person’s diagnoses. In my research of ACEs along with my own trauma, attachment and coping mechanisms that children use to survive, mental illnesses are often a byproduct from surviving. All of the six mental health diagnoses I listed each have symptoms, which are now considered to be maladaptive coping mechanism as an adult, yet were adaptive in surviving my childhood.

The most stigmatized mental health diagnosis I have is DID. I realize it can be very difficult for people to understand someone could have more than one identity, more than one person/parts/yous/littles… living within their mind. TV shows such as “Sybil” and media influence people’s perception of what it means to have parts/yous/littles… – a WE instead of a ME. Another major contributor to the stigma is that within the mental health and medical field itself, there are many that doubt the existence of DID. Throughout my life I have hidden my parts/yous/littles… and have not honored them for what they did for me until recently. No longer will I hide US. Currently I have 12 active parts/yous/littles…, I (Debbie) call them the littles, because they are young. I have the sense that there are more, but they are not actively wanting attention or seeking to protect; do their job. WE range in age, I (Debbie) am 51 years old, but the littles range from infant to 13 years of age; some are boys and some girls.

I (Debbie) have been asked recently if I (Debbie) could describe what DID is, since it is different for everyone, which is also why it is hard to diagnose and is stigmatized. WE have together, me (Debbie) and my littles, been pondering how WE might share OUR DID in a way that people could understand as well as bring harmony to US. This is OUR description – Imagine when you meet me (Debbie) the 51-year-old person in front of you. You see a single person, yet inside the body/mind there are several. WE are like a home. The body you see is the home and is owned by Debbie the hostess. When you interact with her, Debbie has invited you into THEIR home. Within the home, Debbie maintains as much as possible your attention, yet within the home are her littles. Sometimes, the littles interrupt the hostess (Debbie) and interact with her and/or both her and the guest. When I (Debbie) the hostess is still apart of the conversation between the little(s) and the guest, I (Debbie) have the ability to still move around the home allowing life to function to some degree; at times. It depends on the amount of interaction between the hostess (Debbie) and the little(s). Often the guest may not notice, but some have seen the switch or lack of being totally present. When a little(s) takes full control of the attention I (Debbie) lose time, like a blackout. Sometimes the control by a little(s) can be brief and appear as if I lost my thought. Other times the little(s) have been in control for longer periods of time especially, when I was younger.

Another component to understanding US is knowing about how OUR thoughts work. As individual people have thoughts, emotions and inner voices of “I can’t do that” “you’re not worth it” “no one will like you”, etc. I (Debbie) not only has her own, but each individual little has their own thoughts, emotions, and inner voices as well. You know those people in your life that know how to push your buttons? My littles know ME (Debbie) so intimately that they push my buttons for attention, to be heard and to be validated. So, when I (Debbie) am feeling an intense emotion of sadness and loneliness, etc., I (Debbie) not only battle the intense feelings and thoughts of my own but those little(s) who share the same intense feelings and thoughts.

I (Debbie) am grateful my parts/yous/my littles. They each served a purpose in surviving severe trauma and continue to protect watch out for ME (Debbie) and each other – US. In September, 2015 my second step-mother, who after a divorce became my legal guardian, saved US from my biological father and possible death. WE learned that she had cancer and felt her time with US was short. Feelings of abandonment which is the most intense feelings of loss all of US share, brought my current littles active. The intensity of knowing WE would no longer have her with US caused US such unbearable pain, WE ALL considered suicide and created a plan. Today, WE are no longer going to hide. ME is WE. WE need to honor each other and for ALL contribution to the building and safety of the current home.

Thank you for listening to OUR story and for your support. WE couldn’t have done it without the many friends, check-in system, sisters, Central Washington University and my SNW family.

ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) has as one of it’s questions; “Did you between the ages of 0-18 live with a parent who had a mental illness?” Both of my biological parents, I believe have/had mental health issues. My biological mother suffered severe Post Partum Depression and was hospitalized following giving birth to me and my sister. My biological father I feel had Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I have not researched whether mental illnesses are genetic and passed down generationally, however I do personally feel trauma during childhood especially during the developmental stages changes a person’s chemistry brought about in the fight, flight, freeze response which might predict later mental and health complications.

In a previous post I indicated that I have 9 of the 10 ACEs, which means I have experienced several different adverse occurrences between the ages of 0 – 18. I also experienced a lot of severe trauma. As of today, as I write this blog I have eight different mental health diagnoses. Two of them I feel might be genetic. One is MDD (Major Depressive Disorder – severe recurrent) and the other Post Partum Depression since my mother had suffered the same diagnosis. The other six mental health diagnoses I feel are due to the trauma and ACEs I experienced during my childhood; ADHD (Attention Deficient-Hyperactivity Disorder), Bi-Polar II, Anxiety/Panic attacks, C-PTSD (Complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) and DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder). I have several health issues as well, but I am not listing them.

Mental Health has come a long why since I was first diagnosed with depression at the age of 12 years old, yet it is still very stigmatized in religion, the public and even in the professional fields of mental and medical care services. The days of institutionalizing, straight jackets and over medicating has changed, as well as new medications and new treatment techniques to treat the various chemical changes that contribute to a person’s diagnoses. In my research of ACEs along with my own trauma, attachment and coping mechanisms that children use to survive, mental illnesses are often a byproduct from surviving. All of the six mental health diagnoses I listed each have symptoms, which are now considered to be maladaptive coping mechanism as an adult, yet were adaptive in surviving my childhood.

The most stigmatized mental health diagnosis I have is DID. I realize it can be very difficult for people to understand someone could have more than one identity, more than one person/parts/yous/littles… living within their mind. TV shows such as “Sybil” and media influence people’s perception of what it means to have parts/yous/littles… – a WE instead of a ME. Another major contributor to the stigma is that within the mental health and medical field itself, there are many that doubt the existence of DID. Throughout my life I have hidden my parts/yous/littles… and have not honored them for what they did for me until recently. No longer will I hide US. Currently I have 12 active parts/yous/littles…, I (Debbie) call them the littles, because they are young. I have the sense that there are more, but they are not actively wanting attention or seeking to protect; do their job. WE range in age, I (Debbie) am 51 years old, but the littles range from infant to 13 years of age; some are boys and some girls.

I (Debbie) have been asked recently if I (Debbie) could describe what DID is, since it is different for everyone, which is also why it is hard to diagnose and is stigmatized. WE have together, me (Debbie) and my littles, been pondering how WE might share OUR DID in a way that people could understand as well as bring harmony to US. This is OUR description – Imagine when you meet me (Debbie) the 51-year-old person in front of you. You see a single person, yet inside the body/mind there are several. WE are like a home. The body you see is the home and is owned by Debbie the hostess. When you interact with her, Debbie has invited you into THEIR home. Within the home, Debbie maintains as much as possible your attention, yet within the home are her littles. Sometimes, the littles interrupt the hostess (Debbie) and interact with her and/or both her and the guest. When I (Debbie) the hostess is still apart of the conversation between the little(s) and the guest, I (Debbie) have the ability to still move around the home allowing life to function to some degree; at times. It depends on the amount of interaction between the hostess (Debbie) and the little(s). Often the guest may not notice, but some have seen the switch or lack of being totally present. When a little(s) takes full control of the attention I (Debbie) lose time, like a blackout. Sometimes the control by a little(s) can be brief and appear as if I lost my thought. Other times the little(s) have been in control for longer periods of time especially, when I was younger.

Another component to understanding US is knowing about how OUR thoughts work. As individual people have thoughts, emotions and inner voices of “I can’t do that” “you’re not worth it” “no one will like you”, etc. I (Debbie) not only has her own, but each individual little has their own thoughts, emotions, and inner voices as well. You know those people in your life that know how to push your buttons? My littles know ME (Debbie) so intimately that they push my buttons for attention, to be heard and to be validated. So, when I (Debbie) am feeling an intense emotion of sadness and loneliness, etc., I (Debbie) not only battle the intense feelings and thoughts of my own but those little(s) who share the same intense feelings and thoughts.

I (Debbie) am grateful my parts/yous/my littles. They each served a purpose in surviving severe trauma and continue to protect watch out for ME (Debbie) and each other – US. In September, 2015 my second step-mother, who after a divorce became my legal guardian, saved US from my biological father and possible death. WE learned that she had cancer and felt her time with US was short. Feelings of abandonment which is the most intense feelings of loss all of US share, brought my current littles active. The intensity of knowing WE would no longer have her with US caused US such unbearable pain, WE ALL considered suicide and created a plan. Today, WE are no longer going to hide. ME is WE. WE need to honor each other and for ALL contribution to the building and safety of the current home.

Thank you for listening to OUR story and for your support. WE couldn’t have done it without the many friends, check-in system, sisters, Central Washington University and my SNW family.

 

Attachment…Human connection!!!

What is attachment and human connection? How is it defined? How is it formed? When do humans form attachment? Is it fixed or fluid? To answer these questions, it depends on whom you ask, and what article you are reading. One thing I believe everyone can agree upon is that human beings are social. Another is that human infants require the assistance of others for their survival, and that survival is more than meeting the basic needs of shelter, food, and being clean.

Much of my reading on attachment argues that attachment is multifaceted. One facet of attachment is the hormone oxytocin, which is released for some women during birth and breastfeeding, and can aid in fostering attachment between mother and infant. Another facet of attachment occurs when one individual is meeting the needs of another such as in service or through sacrifice of one providing care and support to another. Having a child that is yours can also create feelings of attachment. There are countless other possible facets to attachment and human connections, but these are just a few that I will be looking into over the next few weeks.

Bowlby and Ainsworth are known as the two main attachment theorists. Bowlby developed his theory of human attachment by using the various ideologies of Freud, Piaget, and evolutionary theorists by describing how humans, who are social beings, develop an internal working model during their infancy. According to Bowlby, we are all born into the world with an innate ability to attach to one person. When an infant expresses a need, whether they are responded to or not, typically by their primary caregiver (often their birth mother), the infant develops an internal working model of how they expect people in general to respond to them. An internal working model is basically our self-concept; how we see our selves, our level of trust and self-esteem.

internal-working-model

Ainsworth is a researcher who used what is known as the “The Strange Situation” to evaluate attachment styles. The Strange Situation involves having a mother and her child come into a room with a stranger present and then after some time, the mother would leave for a brief period of time and then return. How the child responded to their mother upon her return would describe the child’s attachment style. Children who were securely attached to their mother cried and searched for her when their mother left the room. When their mother returned to the room the child went immediately to their mother for comfort, and the children were able to be consoled. They returned to the emotional state that they were in prior their mother’s departure. Children who were classified as having insecure attachment may or may not have cried or searched for their mother when she left the room; it was the children’s response when the mother returned to the room that classified their insecure attachment. These children may have not even acknowledged their mother re-entering the room, or they did the complete opposite and were unable to be consoled and comforted, possibly acting angry and or clingy. The key here is that these children were unable to return to their original emotional state. If you wish to watch a seven-and-a-half-minute video titled Ainsworth Strange Situation here is the link https://youtu.be/s608077NtNI

Attachment-Styles-Chart

Bowlby and Ainsworth provide a great foundation to defining attachment and what other behavioral outcomes might come about beyond the Feudalists view. When an infant whose primary caregiver does not respond to their needs, their internal working model may develop trust issues and have lower self-esteem. In her experiment, Ainsworth provided further clues as to why some children might respond with anger, anxiety, avoidance and a mixture of emotions when their primary caregiver leaves and a stranger is present. Attachment style or how an individual has developed their internal self and trust in future relationships is commonly linked to the mother-child relationship and the mother’s ability to respond to her infant.

Next week we will look into the hormonal facet of attachment.

Being Vulnerable…and going off script.

This weeks blog post is going personal and off the research script. I thought that, since I have only a few followers and my blog is just getting started, it might be easier to open up now about my childhood than it would be later. If you have read my previous post, “A brief introduction to ACEs,” you saw that my ACEs score was nine. There were only adverse experiences according to this study, which I hadn’t experienced was parental incarceration. However, the ACEs study does not go into what age the “ACEs” happened and if it happened more than once.

So here is a very minimalist description of my childhood. I don’t remember a lot from my early childhood years. I was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (DID) as an adult with children. It was at this time that I started dealing with flashbacks and memories.

I was born on July 3rd to a mother and father who conceived me after a Homecoming Dance and married because of the pregnancy. My mother suffered extreme Post-Partum Psychosis and ended up in the hospital. From my birth on I never emotionally attached to my mother or anyone else and I was rarely held. My sister is 1 year and 9 days younger than me and my mother was hospitalized again after her birth. My father, along with his mother and grandmother paid my birth mother to sign the divorce papers and to walk away. She did. Around the age of two I was found in a highchair by my Grandmother with a severe head injury. My father was suspected as having caused the injury. I am not sure whether CPS was involved or not, but I was placed in a foster home after my hospital stay. My father regained custody of my sister and me when he remarried. My second mother was pregnant from a previous relationship when she married my father.

My father became a compulsive gambler (he had a very addictive personality). My second mother left with her son when I was eight. After my second mother left my father’s gambling became worse and so did the beatings. I remember being told to make a stack of horserace track tickets to be “winners.” If they weren’t, I was whipped by a belt from my feet to back with no clothes on. My father also played poker. Some nights if he lost and had nothing to pay off his debt, I became the pay-off. I remember always feeling dirty, scared, and thinking that the only way people could show they cared about me was through sex.

I was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints by my father at age nine. I often wonder, how could an unworthy member of a church baptize a child were they could live a worthy life? I always wanted to feel loved and connected. Yet even those who said they loved me had physical bodies and yet I felt disconnected, so how was I ever to feel connected to or loved from a spiritual non-mortal God. My worth came from how others treated me and by the actions of my parents, who I was told loved me, but who time and time again failed to show it. If my mother abandoned me and my father abused me, and they were by definition love, then how was I ever to find self-worth, much less God’s love. I have always believed in a God, just never felt worthy of His love. I included this part of my childhood because my self-worth was always told to be of no value to me by my father in word and action. I first attempted suicide at age 10. I was found to have learning struggles during this period and I was angry all the time.

My father remarried again when I was 11. My third mother had three daughters from her first marriage and then she had another daughter with my father. My father had an affair while married to my third mother and conceived a son. My third mother filed for divorce and sought custody of my sister and I when she learned of the affair and because my father’s gambling problem began rising to the surface once again. It was during their divorce proceedings that I experienced more physical and verbal fights with my father when I was trying to defend my sisters and third mother. My third mother had gone to the courts for protection and harassment orders. However, my father would often disregard them and enter the home, which would end up in an argument or a physical fight with me. One day my father entered the garage were my third mother was doing laundry. I approached him and asked him to leave. When my third mother and I went into the house to phone the police he broke through the door and pushed me over the couch. I hurt my back. I remember getting up and being really dizzy and running toward the back door to escape. He followed me, ripping off my shirt and hitting me.

We spent some time hiding, and at one time my father had a gun pointed at us when we left my Junior High School. All of the schools had the court protection orders and knew that my father had no contact rights. One day while I was in school he entered the school grounds. My third mom was called. While we were driving away he came up behind us in his car with a rifle pointed at our car until we left the parking lot. We ended up staying in hiding for a couple weeks with no contact with friends in hopes of staying safe.

I was so angry and yet I knew that eventually my third mother would leave as well, moms leave, fathers don’t. I remember one night my father being outside my bedroom window asking me to leave with him. I went to leave. As I went to open the front door my third mother was siting in the living room and said, “If you go, you won’t live much longer.” I stayed. Next thing I knew I was in counseling. I felt that I couldn’t do anything right. I attempted suicide again and became very sexually promiscuous. I lost partial membership in the church and constantly wondered if I was even worthy or worth existence. I wanted freedom from the pain.

Although we lived in a very upper-class neighborhood, during my high school years my family was poor. We borrowed a car from a neighbor and because my high school was in walking distance, I would walk to and from school every day. My father raped me on my way home from school one day. I aborted the pregnancy that resulted. I again attempted suicide. During all of this my father would call me at school with threats and pleads, “I love you, I hate you, don’t tell anyone or I’ll kill you!!!” After one of these phone calls and the abortion, I froze in class. I couldn’t move. The teacher noticed my tears and my inability to move. The next thing I knew, I was in the Principal’s office surrounded by many people; counselor, police officers, CPS, and my third mother. The next day I sat in the Police Department with four individuals (don’t remember their titles) who were encouraging me to press charges; I knew the best thing to do was nothing. Ever since I was a child I knew that the best thing to do when dealing with my father was to take it and never push it or fight back, unless it was when I was protecting others. This was between my father and I and I knew that he could and would kill me if I prosecuted. No restraining/protection court appointed orders had ever protected me or my family from my father previously, so I knew they wouldn’t be able to protect me now. It was better to do nothing.

After divorcing my father, my third mother became the court appointed “guardian” of my sister and I. One night I had a fight with my third mother, and ran down the street, wanting to run away, but then I asked myself “wait I didn’t do anything wrong, if she would just listen.” I ended up running away that night during a thunderstorm. I attempted suicide again in hopes of relieving myself from the pain and the despair of feeling so worthless. I went to a friend’s place to stay. It was while I was at my friends a couple of weeks later that I played in a basketball game as point guard. I came down from a rebounding a shot and blew out my knee. I found out I had to have surgery. It was during my surgery that my third mother signed papers to have me placed into a foster home. I was right: mothers leave. The foster home was not even two blocks from my family, but I was told I could not contact them. No one attended my high school graduation. I left town after graduation and got a job as a nanny. I used the money from this job to move and attend college. I earned an Associate degree in Psychology; this was another graduation that no one attended. I found another nanny job and moved to Dallas, TX. I asked to be excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. When I was 20, my sister told me she had found our mother. This was exciting news; I had always wanted a MOM!!! I always felt like I was never loved, never attached/connected, never really knew if I mattered…but then if someone really knew me, would they still be there? Would they stick around? Would they love me?

Being an adult hasn’t been any easier. Neither was being married. I have been diagnosed with several mental illnesses, learning disabilities, and health issues. I attempted suicide in 1995, which sent me to a hospital that diagnosed me with ADHD. Unfortunately at times I still get depressed enough to contemplate suicide, but never to the point of making a plan.

So why would I share this personal account? Because I want you to know that I not only can understand childhood trauma associated with ACEs, I can also empathize when it comes to many of life’s struggles. I haven’t experienced everything…thank heavens, but I have gone through a lot. And I still haven’t shared everything. Like I said this is a minimalist description of my childhood. Some say I am resilient… I think my anger as a child served me well. I also believe that disassociating protected me from the memories. It was that eight year old me that decided that one day she wanted to help others if she was going to endure, and that has kept me moving forward. Sometimes I feel my childhood is a lifelong conviction that my parents sentenced me too. But another side of me doesn’t want them to have any power over me. I am who I am.

Side note- why do I keep going? One night after my father had sexually molested me (age 8), I pleaded with Heavenly Father (God) that if I was to endure this, that one day I could help others. Since that night, my focus has been to serve and assist parents so no child would ever plead as I did that night. We need to find a way to support parents in raising their children so no child will ever feel the need to disappear, or to relieve the pain by disassociating or suicide.

Next week I will be posting about attachment.

Brief Introduction to ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences)

This week’s blog is going to lightly cover the subject of ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences).

As I sit here contemplating this weeks post, my thoughts are brought to the image of a patient lying on a couch telling the Psychiatrist all the things that happened during their childhood.

images

Why does one’s childhood have such an impact on their remaining life? I know it is a deep question, and I hope that with this blog, comments, and discussion we can enjoy some great conversations.

While I was attending college our community sponsored a Town Hall meeting where community members could learn from research about how “childhood trauma can lead to disease, disability, social problems, and early death” and “how resiliency impacts childhood trauma.” It was during this Town Hall meeting that I was introduced to ACEs.

Fellitti, Anda, Norenberg, Williamson, Spitz, Edwards, and Marks (1998) did a study of over 18,000 participants that took both a retrospective and prospective look at ACEs and possible health and social outcomes. The study included ten empirically researched questions that are often not discussed due to shame, time, social taboo, and secrecy (Fellitti et al., 1998).

The ACEs study itself asks these ten yes/no questions:

While you were growing up, during your first 18 years of life; (I am taking the test and you will see my answers in BOLD)

  1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very 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
  2. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often push, grab, slap. or throw, something at you? Or ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured? Yes / No
  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 attempt to actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you? Yes / No
  4. Did you often or very 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
  5. Did you often or very 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
  6. Were your parents ever separated or divorced? Yes / No
  7. Was your mother or stepmother often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? Or sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? Or ever repeatedly hit at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife? Yes / No
  8. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic or who used street drugs? Yes / No
  9. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide? Yes / No
  10. Did a household member go to prison? Yes / No

What is your ACEs score? My score is nine. You do NOT have to share your ACEs score. What does the score mean? Well that depends on several factors such as; personality, age and developmental stage of the adverse experience(s), risk and protective factors, resiliency, supportive people, etc.; actually there are too many variables to count.

For the most part the ACEs score has been used as a method to bring about awareness of childhood trauma and it’s effects on latter health issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, type II diabetes, and early death, etc. However, new outcomes are gaining attention; for example, some research suggests that ACEs might affect a child’s educational ability. My curiosity leads me to wonder, can an individuals ACEs score affect their later parenting? Especially a mother’s (sorry dads) parenting? What about during pregnancy? Is there attachment prior to birth?

The biggest question… Is there a way to support an individual, no matter their ACEs score, so that they can securely connect to their child?

Reference:

Felitti, V. J., Anda, R. F., Nordenberg, D., Williamson, D. F., Spitz, A. M., Edwards, V., & Marks, J. S. (1998). The relationship of   adult health status to childhood abuse & household dysfunction. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 14, 245–258. doi:10.1016/S0749-3797(98)00017-8

Introduction

I thought it might be prudent to first introduce myself, as well as my interest and inspiration for this blog.

My pen name is Selah. I am a 51 year old divorced mother of three adult children. I recently completed my Masters degree and wish to further my research and understanding on the possible effects of ACEs on future parenting.

The topics of my blog will be varied. However they will generally center on attachment, motherhood, parenting, ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences), and other subjects as I continue my pursuit in developing a mentorship-parenting program for new mothers who have experienced ACEs.

During my Master’s Project defense I was asked this question, “Why did you pursue this topic for your research?” My reply was as follows: As a child, I knew that I was not being parented correctly; I resolved that if I was to be abused and neglected, that one day I might use those experiences to help others.

I later went to 2 years of college, married, raised my children, and then my husband left me. Now what was I going to do? I had been a stay at home mom for 22 years! My only credential was a measly Associates degree in Psychology; I had no work experience. So I went back to college at 48 years old.

My sole reason for going back to college was to learn and study, so that I might help others parent their children. I am determined to seek ways to better understand how to stop the cycle of intergenerational transmission of insecure/abusive parenting. Finding tools to create stronger family unity between mothers who have been impacted by ACE’s and their infants is my mission. This mission continues today in my life endeavors and blog.

Every week I will be posting my thoughts and findings about research articles, books, videos, and other media publications to bring about awareness, facts, opinions, comments, and maybe even some vulnerabilities. There are no right or wrong answers here… so be kind, or you’ll be blocked.

The last question asked at my defense was, “What is the greatest thing you have learned from your experience?” My answer was simple: “That I am LOVED!!!” Isn’t that what we all want? To know that we are loved by at least one person, that our existence matters, which can bring about connectedness and purpose to life.

I dedicate this blog to ALL of those wonderful people in my life that love me and to those who I love. The greatest connection – LOVE!!!