Sunday, February 21, 2016

My Father's Eyes

My daddy Eugene in 2005
Last time I wrote about the Adverse Childhood Experience test and mentioned the companion concept of resilience. Here's the second test to figure out if some factors might have given us some armor against the tsunami of abuse we may have survived.

I wrote before that my daddy loved me. He had his problems and he made mistakes, but he did indeed try his best. I did well in school and I did have teachers who liked me and treated me with dignity and respect. My best friend's mom and dad also provided a safe and calm image of parental figures. I hope you can find lots of times when you had someone helpful from your childhood too.

RESILIENCE Questionnaire

Please number the most accurate answer under each statement:

1. I believe that my mother loved me when I was little.

    1. Definitely True
    2. Probably True
    3. Not Sure
    4. Probably Not True
    5. Definitely Not True            Score          

2. I believe that my father loved me when I was little.

    1. Definitely True
    2. Probably True
    3. Not Sure
    4. Probably Not True
    5. Definitely Not True            Score          

3. When I was little, other people helped my mother and father take care of me and they seemed to love me.

    1. Definitely True
    2. Probably True
    3. Not Sure
    4. Probably Not True
    5. Definitely Not True            Score          


4. I was told that when I was an infant someone in my family enjoyed playing with me, and I enjoyed it, too.

    1. Definitely True
    2. Probably True
    3. Not Sure
    4. Probably Not True
    5. Definitely Not True            Score          

5. When I was a child, there were relatives in my family who made me feel better if I was sad or worried.

    1. Definitely True
    2. Probably True
    3. Not Sure
    4. Probably Not True
    5. Definitely Not True            Score          

6. When I was a child, neighbors or my friends’ parents seemed to like me.

    1. Definitely True
    2. Probably True
    3. Not Sure
    4. Probably Not True
    5. Definitely Not True            Score          

7. When I was a child, teachers, coaches, youth leaders or ministers were there to help me.

    1. Definitely True
    2. Probably True
    3. Not Sure
    4. Probably Not True
    5. Definitely Not True            Score          

8. Someone in my family cared about how I was doing in school.

    1. Definitely True
    2. Probably True
    3. Not Sure
    4. Probably Not True
    5. Definitely Not True            Score          

9. My family, neighbors and friends talked often about making our lives better.

    1. Definitely True
    2. Probably True
    3. Not Sure
    4. Probably Not True
    5. Definitely Not True            Score          

10. We had rules in our house and were expected to keep them.

    1. Definitely True
    2. Probably True
    3. Not Sure
    4. Probably Not True
    5. Definitely Not True            Score          

11. When I felt really bad, I could almost always find someone I trusted to talk to.

    1. Definitely True
    2. Probably True
    3. Not Sure
    4. Probably Not True
    5. Definitely Not True            Score          

12. As a youth, people noticed that I was capable and could get things done.

    1. Definitely True
    2. Probably True
    3. Not Sure
    4. Probably Not True
    5. Definitely Not True            Score          

13. I was independent and a go-getter.

    1. Definitely True
    2. Probably True
    3. Not Sure
    4. Probably Not True
    5. Definitely Not True            Score          

14. I believed that life is what you make it.

    1. Definitely True
    2. Probably True
    3. Not Sure
    4. Probably Not True
    5. Definitely Not True            Score          


How many of these 14 protective factors did I have as a child and youth? (How many of the 14 were scored 1 “Definitely True” or 2 “Probably True”?) _______

Of this score, how many are still true for me today? _______

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to go through each question and share how they relate to real life sutations to enhance recovery from childhood trauma and toxic stress.

Kind comments welcome along with anonymous scores and how you are feeling about them. Be well and know there's hope.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Gambler

I wrote about the Adverse Childhood Experience test in a post I called "I Got Knocked Down" last year. Then I came upon a really interesting video where pediatrician Dr. Nadine Burke used the ACE test to help kids. See her talk in this Youtube Video. "How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime."

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to go through the ACE questions one at a time and include experiences that really happened and how we all might find bits of recovery. By no means are these the only way to react to trauma. You may have tools I don't and I'd love to hear about them Toxic Stress belongs to all of us who survived childhood abuses.I welcome additional resources in the comments.

Here are the questions:

Prior to your 18th birthday:

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?
No___ If Yes, enter 1 __

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?
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 Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?
No___ If Yes, enter 1 __

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?
No___ If Yes, enter 1 __

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?
No___ If Yes, enter 1 __

6. Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
No___ If Yes, enter 1 __

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 over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __

8. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?
No___ If Yes, enter 1 __

9. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide? No___ If Yes, enter 1 __

10. Did a household member go to prison?
No___ If Yes, enter 1 __

Now add up your “Yes” answers: ____ This is your ACE score

An ACE score of 4 or more can have major consequences on health later in life. Most notably suicidality increases by 12 times. Seven out of the 10 major causes of disease correlate to higher ACE scores.

I dunno about you, but I always feel a bit guilty at the doctor. Like being sick is somehow my fault. Now I realize that those abuse patterns left a unseen scar that continued into my future.

In my next post, I'll show the resilience test and how those factors can help us find help.

Kind comments and any links to additional ACE material below. Feel free to share your own ACE score anonymously. If you like, a bit of context of a piece of memory and any health troubles. We are not alone and we can help each other with information.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Take a Letter, Maria

Whenever I need to work on something seriously I really like to write it in pen on a legal pad. For goals or plans, any color will do. For deeply emotional work, I like to grab a colored one of blue or purple, I even have one that has multiple colors like a rainbow.

I hadn't thought of why the physical act of writing things down seemed to make it more "real" and grounded in the "real world." Lucky for us all, some researchers figured it all out.

French psychologist Stanislas Dehaene told The New York Times, "When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated," he said. "There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain, it seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we didn't realize. Learning is made easier," he concluded.

So we form a connection when we write stuff down. Though the studies refer to college student note taking, I don't think it's a leap to connect it to life engagement. Especially in the realm of personal emotional growth. This is tough stuff, engaging our hands in some activity relieves stress.

Typing just isn't the same thing. We also add to our mental picture the sense of touch and scent of the paer and ink. Creating such subtle neural connections give our brain alternative reference points to whatever we're working on.

I do many exercises to connect me to my emotional self. I write pro/con lists just to see how I feel inside my head. They're often very lopsided because I have figured out that what I really want gets etched in my subconscious. I think I'm confused but I'm really not.

Writing with my non dominant hand has really interesting results too. It shows my child like wonder at many things. Sometimes questions come up and I answer with the dominant hand. Like mother and daughter sharing secrets.

Using drawings, different colored pens, highlighter and even stickers or sticky note flags create even more connections. Consider using different paper textures too.

So grab that pen and lets start making a connection!

Kind comments welcome.