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    A Survivor Shares Her Powerful Reasons Adult Survivors Need Advocates

    Why Do Adult Survivors of Childhood Trauma Need Advocates?

    It’s a question I asked of readers a few weeks ago. Many wonderful–and heartbreaking— responses arrived, which I will share in an upcoming blog post. One of the most moving answers came from my friend, Barb Johns. Her poetic piece perfectly captures the incredible challenges that arise from a history of childhood trauma and abuse. Here is her response.

     

    A Survivor Shares Her Powerful Reasons Heather Tuba @heathertuba childhood trauma

     

    Why do I, as an adult survivor of childhood trauma, need an advocate?

    I lost my voice at the time of the abuse. In fact, I didn’t have a voice….I was pre-verbal.

    I need someone to be a voice for me.

    I don’t know my own story..it was lost at the time of the abuse. It went away.

    I need someone to help me find my story.

    I feel lost and don’t really know who I am.

    I need someone to be a mirror for me to reflect the truth of my identity. It got lost when it had to go into hiding.

    I need someone to stand up for me because I’m little and weak inside.

    I need someone to tell me that it’s ok….and that I’m safe now.

    I feel it was my fault.

    I need someone to give me a bigger picture of what happened to me.

    I don’t know the way out of this darkness.

    I need someone to point the way for me.

    I’m not easily coaxed.

    I need someone who is gentle and not bossy to be my advocate.

    I don’t really know how to trust.

    I need an advocate to draw me out and let me learn to trust.

    I’m wounded, confused, and unable to fight.

    I need someone to take care of the threat and show me that it’s safe now.

    I have bad reactions that I feel guilty about.

    I need an advocate to show me forgiveness.

    I need to have a place to feel even if it means I will be really loud and scream. I need an advocate that can understand that need because not everyone will.

    This is why adult survivors of childhood trauma need advocates.

     

    A Survivor Shares Her Powerful Reasons Heather Tuba childhood trauma @heathertubaBarb Johns is a survivor of pre-verbal trauma and has come to understand the power and effects of dissociation. She began an intentional healing journey some 17 years ago and has not stopped following the Way towards freedom ever since. She has been a teacher and practitioner of Theophostic (Transformational) prayer. She is a spiritual director having recently completed certification with Sustainable Faith. Barb lives in Winnipeg, Canada with her husband of 39 years. One of her greatest joys is spending time with any of her seven grandchildren.

    Related posts:

    This is Why I Advocate for Adult Survivors of Childhood Trauma

    Here are 20 Reasons Adult Survivors of Childhood Trauma Need Advocates

    An Honest Answer to the Question ‘Was Your Vacation Restful?’

    Was my vacation restful?

    Some of you know that I took the month of June off for some vacation time. I traveled to Victoria, BC to visit friends, spend time in nature, shop, and have fun! Sounds perfect, right? Having never visited the West Coast of Canada, I was enthralled by the massive trees, the lush gardens, the harbours, and the quaint coffee shops and boutiques. I loved spending time with my dear friends in their beautiful condo.

    Yet, the answer to the question of a restful vacation remains somewhat elusive. Yes, I slept more, laughed more, and cooked less! The kids were at home with my husband, Derek. But, alas, Derek’s struggles with PTSD did not take a vacation–even from a distance. I still had to take calls and texts regarding his health issues, which included a really bad flashback. Then, there was the ongoing, necessary discussion about upcoming treatment options and insurance coverage.  And although I did limit these conversations, I couldn’t completely get away from it.

    Is there such a thing as a perfectly restful vacation? (especially when you or your partner is a trauma survivor)

    For me, the question of a perfectly restful vacation falls into the same category as the perfect wedding, the perfect graduation, or the perfect marriage. It really doesn’t exist. This applies all the more when a member of a family struggles with PTSD.

    So, I’m letting myself off the hook when it comes to my vacation–and I hope my honest answer might let you do the same. Was my vacation restful? Somewhat. Did I enjoy it? Yes, immensely! Would I do it again knowing that it will not be as restful or as refreshing as I’d like? Of course!

    What About You?

    • Have any of you had the same experience with vacation time?
    • Have you been disappointed by a vacation or have you been able to accept the reality that trauma symptoms don’t take a break?
    • As a trauma survivor or the partner, how do you answer the question ‘Was your vacation restful’?

    When You Need to Take Self-Care to the Next Level

    “How do you practice self-care?”

    It’s a question I’m asked a lot.

    I have a list of answers.

    • Exercise
    • Enough sleep
    • Keep extra-curricular commitments to a minimum
    • Spend time outdoors
    • Talk with friends either by phone, text, or social media
    • Read stimulating material (yes, trauma books are a form of self-care for me!)

    Mostly, these things work well. Running clears my head. Reading is enriching. Contact with friends makes me feel cared for. Sleep helps me focus.

    But what happens when regular self-care routines aren’t enough? What if, even with diligent or increased application of self-care, you still aren’t bouncing back or you’re feeling worse?

    What Do You Do When Self-Care is not Enough?

    A month ago, the collision of two situations knocked me off my feet and nullified my self-care routine.

    One was a particularly difficult flashback experienced by my survivor husband, Derek.

    The other was the growing opportunities of my online blogging and advocacy work.

    Neither situation was anyone’s fault. My husband can’t help it when he is swept into the throes of a flashback. I am happy and excited about my growing business.

    Now, Derek and I have gotten pretty good at navigating the world of trauma flashbacks. We have code words and questions. We use humor to diffuse them. I am not thrown off by them as much as I used to be.

    But this was different.

    This type of flashback was an emotional flashback, which in my opinion, is the dirtiest, darkest, and most disorientating type–not just for the survivor but for the supporter. I’m providing the following information to give you an idea of what these flashbacks are. (You can be sure I will be writing more on these in the near future!)

    Emotional flashbacks are sudden and often prolonged regressions to the overwhelming feeling-states of being an abused/abandonned child. These feeling states can include overwhelming fear, shame, alienation, rage, grief and depression. . .Flashbacks can range in intensity from subtle to horrific. They can also vary in duration ranging from moments to weeks on end where they devolve into what many therapists call a regression. Pete Walker, Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving, p. 3.

    Emotional flashbacks are destabilizing for me as well as for Derek. I describe it like a tsunami that sweeps through our home. We all feel the impact of Derek’s distressed nervous system.

    At the same time as the flashback was sweeping through our home, I was preparing for three guest interviews plus trying to maintain the weekly blog plus keeping up on social media plus preparing for a new website. . ..

    The flashback tsunami and the growing work commitments collided and left me reeling.

    I lost five days of work.

    And even when I was able to get out a blog post, I could tell something wasn’t right. I couldn’t seem to shake the effect of the collision.

    I continued on trying to work while using my well-established self-care routine. But I was struggling. It was while I was out for my regular jog that I realized a few things:

    • I was not bouncing back.
    • To ignore and to continue adding to my schedule could be disastrous for me and my business.
    • I needed to take self-care to the next level.

    How Do You Know When You Need to Take Self Care to the Next Level?

    Here are a few thoughts on recognizing when you need to go there and what to do about it.

    1. Admit that you are struggling and that you need to do more.

    • Recognize that you are not bouncing back.

    2. Let your closest supporters know.

    • Reaching out to your safe people will help you feel less alone.

    3. If you need even more support than your peer supports can offer, find someone to fill in the gaps.

    • Consider paid counseling, coaching, or therapy

    This is what I decided to do. I realized I needed to have a regular appointment time to talk.

    4. Consider taking a complete break.

    • Two days or two weeks can make a difference.

    Another decision for me. I am taking two weeks off to recharge.

    5. Be kind to yourself.

    • Anyone who lives with an adult survivor deserves kindness because besides the survivor, partners feel the trauma the most.

    Let yourself off the hook. It’s okay to pull back for a bit.

    6. Let go of the fear.

    • Recognize that your health must take priority over every other area including work, family, and friends.

    One of my biggest fears about taking a break was that somehow it would jeopardize my work. The recognition that without going to the next level of self-care I would jeopardize my business encouraged me to take time away.

    7. Evaluate.

    • After you recharge, take the time to evaluate.
    • Perhaps there are more efficient ways of living your life. Perhaps there are new and better self-care strategies for you.

    I’ll certainly think about this in the coming weeks.

    8. Don’t be surprised if you have to go the next level of self-care in the future.

    • Yup. Expecting and accepting that life will throw curveballs or send tsunamis will help you recognize and implement the next level of self-care when needed.

    9. A Special Word for Partners

    If you do not yet have a self-care routine in place, I urge you to establish one as quickly as possible. Having a base enabled me to quickly connect to the urgent need for greater self-care.

    Taking time for self-care is an important part of regular routine. Taking self-care to the next level can help you recover from the irregular and unexpected collisions and tsunamis of life.

    Related posts:

    This is What Supporters Need to Know About Flashbacks

    STOP: 4 Simple Self Care Strategies for Trauma Survivors and Supporters

    Here are 20 Reasons Adult Survivors of Childhood Trauma Need Advocates

    Adult survivors of childhood trauma are misunderstood, misjudged, and mistreated. They face an ongoing battle of shame, stigma, and disbelief–not just from individuals but from society.

    The following are real statements made about survivors:

    • They’re adults now. The past shouldn’t still be affecting them.
    • They just need to move on. Put the past behind them.
    • After all, that happened 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago.
    • You need to forgive and give your pain to God.
    • Why are you bringing this up now? You should have said something years ago.
    • Nothing can be done about it now.

    Then, there are the misinformed conclusions about survivors’ symptoms.

    • What’s the matter with him? Why can’t he get his life together?
    • Why does he always end up dating people like that?
    • Why can’t she stop drinking, lose weight, keep a job. . .?
    • She’s doing this for attention.
    • He looks fine. (implied: there’s nothing wrong with him.)
    • He’s just being lazy, passive, manipulative, a victim.
    • She’s just making up her struggles with that illness. She told me the doctors can’t find anything wrong. There’s nothing really wrong with her.
    These are real comments.

    These are statements that I’ve heard, my husband, the survivor has heard, or other survivors I know have faced. (For some reason, people thought I needed to know what they thought of my husband.) Others weren’t so tactful and directed their accusations directly at him. I know from the survivor communities with which I am involved that he and I are not alone in battling this mistreatment.

    This is the reality of what adult survivors of childhood trauma face.

    In part 1 of this series, Here’s How I Became an Advocate for Survivors of Childhood Abuse, I shared my story of recovery from childhood trauma and my subsequent advocacy journey from self-advocate to advocate for my survivor husband to advocate for adult survivors.

    This week, I want to talk about why adult survivors of childhood abuse need advocates. (Although I hope you’re already connecting the dots!)

    I’ve put together a list of twenty reasons adult survivors need advocates. It’s certainly not extensive and I’d love to hear more reasons from you by email or through social media.

    But here’s my list so far.

     

    Here are 20 Reasons Adult Survivors of Childhood Need Advocates Heather Tuba @heathertuba childhood abuse

    20 Reasons

    1. Childhood trauma occurs during early development. This means that the developing brain is especially vulnerable to the impact of trauma.

    The greatest impact on the developing brain occurs from ages zero to three. – Lori Gill, M.A., Certified Trauma Specialist, Director of Attachment & Trauma Centre for Healing

    The job of the brain is to keep a person alive. When a child lives in an abusive environment, the brain adapts or changes in response to the situation to keep the child alive.  Although life-saving at the time, these adaptations ultimately prove maladaptive as the person grows into adulthood when survival is no longer threatened. These maladaptations create difficulties for the adult survivor.

    2. Due to the trauma in childhood, key developmental stages may be missed.

    A brain focused on survival is not concerned with acquiring the normal skills of childhood. The adult survivor may have missed out on areas like socialization, learning how to plan or make decisions, and how to manage stress.

    These skills do not magically appear upon adulthood. Survivors who did not acquire skills as children must learn them as adults.

    3. Survivors may have difficulty managing distressing emotions. 

    Learning to regulate or to calm oneself is a skill gained during childhood from caregivers. However, if caregivers are unavailable, neglectful, or abusive, the child does not learn how to self-calm. Adding to the dilemma is the heightened distress from the abuse.

    Survivors who do not know how to regulate themselves are susceptible to developing addictions or other unhealthy coping strategies.

    Dr. Gabor Maté writes in his book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts that the source of addictions is not to be found in genes but in the early childhood environment.

    4. Adult survivors may not be able to speak about their childhood trauma. 

    A part of the brain called Broca’s region shuts down when trauma occurs. This region will continue to shut down when flashbacks occur or when survivors are asked about the abuse.

    5. Forcing a survivor to talk about past trauma can retraumatize him or her and cause a resurgence of symptoms.

    Please respect their privacy and their choice as to how much, with whom, and when they share.

    6. Childhood abuse is relational trauma as it often occurs in the context of early caregiving relationships.

    These relationships serve as the foundation upon which all other relationships are built. If trust and intimacy are broken in this context, survivors will deeply struggle with other relationships.

    High rates of relational breakdown, including divorce, are common. Many survivors live in isolation due to fear of intimacy.

    7. Many survivors cannot count on family members to believe or to support them.

    This is different than other conditions in which family members often play a positive and supportive role during recovery.

    Abuse within family environments is thought to make up two-thirds of all child sexual abuse, and as few as one in eight victims come to the attention of authorities, previous research by the commissioner’s office found.

    Some survivors have now described feeling abandoned after telling their families about the trauma they had suffered, and in powerful testimonies they spoke of their frustrations at a lack of support. Child victims of sexual abuse in families let down by system: report. The Guardian. April 20, 2017.

    8. Adult survivors may not able to detect the signs of unhealthy relationships.

    This can lead to the formation of predator-victim relationships again.

    9. Childhood trauma survivors often struggle with dissociation.

    Dissociation is the brain’s way of protecting a child who has no escape. Once set in motion, through no fault of their own, the brains of adult survivors continue this once-protective mechanism when experiencing a trigger. Dissociation is not a choice.

    10. They may have issues with memory, planning, and decision making.

    Again, these struggles are rooted in brain development.

    11. High levels of stress hormones from abuse may contribute to higher than average rates of physical health conditions including autoimmune diseases, heart disease, and cancer.

    12. Treatment for childhood abuse involves many modalities.

    Unfortunately, comprehensive trauma treatment, called trauma-informed and trauma-specific, is difficult to find.

    13. Treatment is expensive. Wait times can be long.

    The cost can prevent survivors from seeking help. The wait times for affordable care are often long.

    14. Many therapists receive little to no training in trauma at either the undergraduate or graduate level.

    15. Childhood trauma impacts employment.

    Many survivors’ symptoms are so severe that they cannot work either short-term or permanently.

    16. There are stigma and shame to the admission of abuse by those who should have cared for you.

    17. There is not a separate diagnosis for childhood trauma.

    The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-V places childhood trauma of this nature under Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. However, trauma clinicians admit that this diagnosis is not adequate. Trauma experts Bessel van der KolkJudith Herman, and Martin H Teicher suggest diagnoses like developmental trauma disorder or complex PTSD as more accurate descriptions of the causes and symptoms of childhood trauma.

    18. The medical system often does not ask about a childhood trauma history leaving patients vulnerable to misdiagnoses and a host of unrelated treatments.

    When symptoms don’t respond because the root causes are not addressed, survivors are vulnerable to hopelessness, despair, shame, and suicide.

    19. Sexual abuse is often minimized or dismissed by the legal system.

    In addition, reporting to police or pursuing litigation can be retraumatizing for survivors. Most survivors do not take legal action even though they are victims of crime.

    20. Unresolved childhood trauma does not diminish with time.

    Without opportunities to heal and to recover in the context of trauma-informed therapists, coaches, support groups, partners, and friends, there is a high likelihood of the individual not moving forward.

    Above all, adult survivors of childhood abuse are vulnerable.

    What do vulnerable people need? They need protection, support, resources, funding, care, and advocacy. They need to be heard, understood, and validated. They need dignity and respect.

    Adult survivors need these things too.

    This is why adult survivors need advocates.

     

    Why do you think adult survivors need advocates?

    Let me know in the comments, send me an email, or drop me a note on social media. I’ll keep a list and update this one (all added comments will remain anonymous).

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    Related Posts:

    Here’s How I Became an Advocate for Survivors of Childhood Abuse

    A Survivor Shares Her Powerful Reasons Adult Survivors Need Advocates

     

    Here’s How I Became an Advocate for Survivors of Childhood Abuse

    “What? Me? An advocate for survivors of childhood abuse?”

    Those were my thoughts last summer. I was preparing a brief biography for a writing project and searching for terms to describe myself.

    As I sat and thought about what to write, the word ‘advocate‘ dropped into my mind. Having never considered that descriptor before, I looked it up. I knew it fit.

    Advocate: A person who supports or speaks in favor; a person who pleads for another.                            – The Concise Oxford Dictionary, 8th ed., 1990.

    I didn’t use that bio just then. It would be a few more months until I launched a website, began regular blogging, and connected with online adult childhood abuse survivor groups. It would be a while until I called myself an advocate.

    My Background: Definitely Not an Advocate

    If you knew me way back, the word ‘advocate‘ would not come to mind. If anything, I grew up as quiet, compliant, and not given to sharing my opinion. Standing up to people–NOT.

    Although I always held a strong internal belief that people deserved just and fair treatment, my family-of-origin did not welcome different opinions. From an early age, I learned not to speak up.

    It wasn’t until my late thirties, after a long struggle with depression that I began to explore the impact of my childhood and my inability to speak up. It was definitely linked to the early loss of my dad and unprocessed grief. I sought out resources, learned about the connection between unprocessed grief and depression and began to heal.  And the more I healed, the more I found myself speaking up. The more I spoke up, the stronger I felt.

    Then, my husband, Derek, the survivor got sick. You can read more about this in my free ebook For the Partners of Childhood Abuse Survivors, but he experienced the return of blocked (dissociated) childhood memories and could not cope. He left work and we began the long road of looking for resources and ways to help him heal.

    It’s a good thing I found my voice because he lost his.

    My Journey to Becoming an Advocate for Childhood Abuse Survivors

    In hindsight, I realize that I was an advocate long before I associated myself with the term. I sought out resources to help me heal from my childhood trauma. Then, when one of our daughters was diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder, I kept at it to get her the academic and the medical supports she needed.

    And when Derek got sick, I did the same things that I had done before.

    • I Researched.
    • I Read.
    • I Reached out.
    • I kept doing it until I got Results.*

    A Definition of Advocacy

    Advocacy in all its forms seeks to ensure that people, particularly those who are most vulnerable in society, are able to:

    • Have their voice heard on issues that are important to them.
    • Defend and safeguard their rights.
    • Have their views and wishes genuinely considered when decisions are being made about their lives.

    Advocacy is a process of supporting and enabling people to:

    • Express their views and concerns.
    • Access information and services.
    • Defend and promote their rights and responsibilities.
    • Explore choices and options.”

    Source: SEAP Advocacy, UK.

    Here's How I Became an Advocate for Survivors of Childhood Abuse Heather Tuba @heathertuba childhood abuse

    How Can You Become an Advocate?

    • Become self-aware. What frustrates you? What pains you? What makes you want to make a difference?
    • Read and research on your topic.
    • Add your voice to the conversations that ignite you. Write, text, and talk about the issues.
    • Keep at it. 

    In my craziest dreams, I would not have imagined myself as an advocate. Yet, here I am today. An advocate for childhood abuse survivors.

    Would you like to become an advocate for childhood abuse survivors? Or perhaps you are already involved in this type of work?

    Either way, I’d love to connect with you. Drop me a note or find here:

    Facebook: Heather Tuba

    Twitter:    @heathertuba

     

     

    Related posts:

    A Survivor Shares Her Powerful Reasons Adult Survivors Need Advocates

    Here are 20 Reasons Adult Survivors of Childhood Trauma Need Advocates

    This is What Supporters Need to Know About Flashbacks

    What comes to mind when you think of a ‘flashback’?

    A war vet? A person (usually female) pushing the other away during sex? Someone diving for cover at a loud noise?

    Yes, these are possible portrayals of flashbacks, but they are certainly not the only ones.

    Most flashbacks are not the dramatic occurrences on which Hollywood thrives. Flashbacks and the preceding triggers occur in the small moments and the simple interactions of daily life. They are subtle, sneaky and surprising. They are often difficult to detect for the survivor and for the supporter.

    Flashbacks are subtle, sneaky and surprising.

    If you are in a relationship with a childhood trauma survivor, whether you are aware of it, you have probably witnessed a flashback.

    A trigger is an unconscious reminder of past trauma. A trigger could be a sound, scent, look, word, feeling, thought, or sensation.

    A flashback is an emotionally-driven, intrusive, sensory memory from the past that feels like it’s occurring in the present. It is an overwhelming experience, which causes the brain to go on high-alert.

    (Fortunately, survivors can learn to identify and manage triggers so that they don’t go into a full-blown flashback. See this article by RAINN.)

    A Flashback Story

    Last spring, my husband, Derek (the survivor), and I went for a walk down our country road. Spring had finally arrived and we were enjoying the warm air and the budding nature around us. As we walked, I excitedly shared some ideas about a new writing project.

    The sound of crunching gravel on the road indicated a moving vehicle behind us. We moved to the side and a pickup truck passed. I kept talking.

    Halfway through one of my sentences, Derek interrupted. (It wasn’t a polite interruption. It was abrupt.)

    “Look at that truck.”

    Yeah, okay. I squinted in the direction of the truck which was now turning into our neighbor’s driveway. What about it? And what did that have to do with our conversation?

    But Derek was already headed down the road towards the truck. His pace matched that of an Olympic speed walker.

    I, on the other hand, stopped. Stunned, I couldn’t move.

    Over his shoulder, Derek shouted, “That quad has a pesticide tank attached. He’s going to spray the neighbor’s weeds.”

    Weeds? What weeds?

    Now, I had noticed the dandelions popping up everywhere. It happens every spring. But as far as I knew, weeds did not indicate an emergency.

    Or did they?

    For Derek, they did.

    The presence of dandelions sprouting everywhere triggered an out-of-control feeling. Weeds meant extra work. Weeds meant spending money to get them sprayed. Weeds meant so much more than just weeds.

    I began to walk. I passed by Derek who was in engrossed in a conversation with the weed truck driver. I feebly shouted that I was going home. I don’t think he heard me.

    That, my friends, is a flashback.

    Today, Derek and I are both much better at recognizing flashbacks when they occur. We have figured out how to communicate with each other about them. Derek is working on understanding and managing his triggers. I am learning how to remain calm!

    For supporters, an understanding of flashbacks will help lower stress and frustration with these unbidden trauma responses. It will not only improve your relationship with a survivor but will help to establish a safe relational environment–all of which contribute to a faster and smoother recovery. Everyone wins.

    To help supporters and survivors, I’ve created a short list of flashback basics. Here they are.

    Flashback Basics

    1. It’s about the brain.

    • The brains of trauma survivors are wired for emergency.
    • Flashbacks are an unconscious brain-driven trauma response.
    • The survivor is not being manipulative or difficult. Sadly, people think and say these things.

    2. Education and understanding about the impact of childhood trauma are essential for both survivors and supporters.

    3. Help the survivor access trauma-informed and trauma-specific resources.

    • Offer to go with him or her to appointments.
    • Offer to pay if they can’t afford treatment.

    4. Learn how to communicate with the survivor in a caring and compassionate way.

    • Ask: I’m curious about your response.
    • Don’t point fingers: Did you know you just had a flashback? (said with anger)

    5. Supporters, learn to manage your frustration with flashbacks.

    • It’s incredibly stressful when someone is highly triggered and seems to easily go into a flashback.
    • Take breaks, practice self-care and have your own support system.

    6. Survivors and supporters must learn to calm their own nervous systems. This is called self-regulation.

    • Regulation involves healthy self-soothing, self-nurturing, and calming activities.
    • Learning to regulate is important for supporters because the nervous system of the survivor will impact yours.
    • Breathing, essential oils, exercise, warm baths, and more settle the body and mind.

    Flashbacks are difficult, but they do not need to derail you. With understanding, self-care, and skills, supporters and survivors can work together to overcome them.

    Related articles:

    What Lies Beneath: Could it be childhood trauma?

    A Childhood Abuse Survivor’s Struggle With Self-Care and the Key That Helped Me Understand

    April 19, 2017 / Partners Survivors /

    When Childhood Trauma Collides with Another Family Member’s Health Issues

    What do you do when one member of a family is a survivor of childhood trauma and another family member has a serious health issue?

    What do you when the other’s health issue is also chronic and disabling?

    What about other family members like the siblings, the other parent or the other partner?

    What do you do?

    This happened to us. In 2005, our oldest daughter was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (formerly Asperger’s Syndrome). At that time, we had no idea that my husband, Derek had an extensive history of childhood trauma. As I share in my ebook “For the Partners of Childhood Abuse Survivors,” he had dissociated from most of his childhood.

    During those years, we navigated the world of an Autism diagnosis. We enlisted medical, psychological and academic supports. At home, we supported our daughter in small and large ways. She also has attention and math disability so much of our involvement included reminders, checking homework, and helping her stay on task. Her struggles with social anxiety meant lots of reassurance from us. Although we are fortunate that she does not struggle with verbal expression, the daily input was high.

    In 2012, the collision happened.

     

    In one lane: our daughter with the challenges of Autism. In the oncoming direction: my husband mentally struggled as suppressed memories came back.

    Neither of these health issues is over. Our daughter still has Autism. Derek still has a dissociative disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. My other two daughters and I still find ourselves emotionally and mentally tossed about.

    Autism Blueprint Podcast

    This week, I was honored to be a guest over at Autism Blueprint podcast. The show is called “The Trauma Tightrope: 8 Survival Strategies When Autism and a Parent’s Traumatic Past Collide”.

    The show notes include 8 Survival Tips When Autism and a Parent’s Traumatic Past Collide.

    Here, I’m modifying the concept to include any health condition.

    There are different types of health scenarios too. Three examples are:

    1. A temporary health condition. For example, one of our children had warts. It went on for three years. The extra appointments, waiting to see a dermatologist and then, the trauma of wart-freezing were really stressful!
    2. A chronic and debilitating condition. In our case, we have a daughter with a neurodevelopmental disability.
    3. Stress-related health issues. I have struggled with chronic back pain and an intermittent skin rash.

    What do you do when childhood trauma collides with another family member’s health issue?

    1. Watch for signs of depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues in family members.

    2. If you suspect or know you have a history of childhood trauma, please consider professional help before a collision occurs.

    3. Survivors: If the health struggles of another family member trigger overwhelming feelings or memories (powerlessness, guilt, rejection) from which you cannot disengage, please enlist professional help to process your reactions.

    4. Don’t minimize or downplay the impact of the health condition or the childhood abuse. Both are difficult.

    5. Become self-aware:

    • Learn about your coping strategies.
    • Practice awareness and acceptance of your emotions.
    • If you are the ‘healthy’ parent/partner, learn to regulate your emotions.
    • Mindfulness practices can help.

    6. Inform your other children’s’ schools, coaches, music teachers, best friends’ parents, etc of your home situation. These people can play an important role in supporting your other children. (If age-appropriate, tell your children what you are doing and why.)

    7. Accept help. When someone asks what he or she can do for you, have a ready response. Don’t be shy about accepting help!

    8. Stress management and self-care are crucial. Check out the free self-care guide at Autism Blueprint. It’s applicable for any health issue.

    9. Seek education about your health issues, physical or mental.

    There is no-easy-answer when childhood trauma collides with another family member’s health issues. Keep going. Reach out for support. Be informed.

    Most of all, take a deep breath! If I can do it, you can too!

     

    If you’d like to hear more of my story, sign up here to receive a FREE download of my book.

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    April 18, 2017 / Complex Trauma /

    Anna O: A Role Model in the Age of Trump

    Who is Anna O?

    Anna O  (pseudonym) is known as the ‘original patient of psychoanalysis’. Most think of her as Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis patient. Anna O (real name Bertha Pappenheim) never saw Freud. She received treatment from Josef Breuer, Freud’s colleague. Her case is documented in the collaborative work by Freud and Breuer, The Aetiology of Hysteria (1895).

    Anna O presented with symptoms of what was then called hysteria: altered states of conscious (dissociation), unexplainable somatic symptoms, and emotional reactions. Today, she might receive the diagnosis  Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    Over the course of her therapy, and while treating other female patients, Breuer and Freud concluded that the origins of hysteria lay in premature sexual experiences. In other words, childhood sexual abuse.

    These conclusions along with 18 case studies were published in The Aetiology of Hysteria.

    A century later, this paper still rivals contemporary clinical descriptions of the effects of childhood sexual abuse. Judth Herman, M.D. Trauma and Recovery, p. 13.

    With this triumph, one would have expected Freud and Breuer to continue their roles as therapists, researchers, and writers on psychological trauma. One would have expected these men to continue to educate society about the connection between hysteria and childhood sexual trauma.

    One would have expected that.

    The Betrayal: Freud and Breuer Recant

    Within one year of publication of The Aetiology of Hysteria, Freud privately recanted the theory of the origins of hysteria.

     

     

     

    His correspondence makes clear that he was increasingly troubled by the radical social implications of his hypothesis. Hysteria was so common among women, that if his patients’ stories were true, he would be forced to conclude what he called ‘perverted acts against children’ were endemic. . .Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery, p. 14.

    Breuer also terminated all connection to the traumatic theory of hysteria. He abruptly terminated his therapeutic relationship with Bertha Pappenheim sending her into a mental health crisis that resulted in her hospitalization and several years of ill health.

    What Happened? The Politics of Sexual Violence Against Women and Children

    In France, in the late 1800s, interest in hysteria grew alongside the establishment of a new French Republic (1870).

    The word ‘hysteria’ was so well known that The general public understood its meaning.

    What does hysteria have to do with politics?

    The political leaders of this new government were men who considered themselves proponents of enlightenment. Their political battlefield was with the church and the aristocracy. They launched an aggressive campaign to secure their power base, which included disproving spiritual experiences such as apparitions, visions, and faith healings. These manifestations resembled the symptoms of psychological hysteria.

    These men wanted scientific reasoning to trump religious experience.

    However, the investigations into hysteria went someplace else. No one expected the investigations of hysteria to uncover the stench of society. No one expected the investigations to uncover societal scandal of unimaginable magnitude. No one expected that.

    And, with that discovery, the men of power and the structures they inhabited abandoned the cause.

    By the turn of the century, the political impulse that had given birth to the heroic age of hysteria had dissipated; there was no longer any compelling reason to continue a line of investigation that had led men of science so far from they originally intended to go. . .As long as the study of hysteria was part of an ideological crusade, discoveries in the field were widely applauded and scientific investigators were esteemed for their humanity and courage. But once this political impetus had faded, these same investigators found themselves compromised by the nature of their discoveries and by their close involvement with their women patients. Judith Herman, M.D. Trauma and Recovery, p. 17.

    Bertha Pappenheim

    In the midst of the upheaval was Pappenheim. Over several years, she recovered.

    And, then, Bertha Pappenheim did what many women and marginalized people do: She got up and did something.

    She joined other women and became an active voice in the women’s liberation movement of the early 1900s.

    She became an activist, a writer, an organizer, and a tireless advocate for women and children.

    • She translated A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft from English into German.
    • She was a social and political activist.
    • She was a director of an orphanage for girls.
    • She founded of many institutions including community homes and places of education.
    • She was President of the League of Jewish Women, a position she held for 20 years.
    • She traveled extensively speaking against the sexual exploitation of women and children.

    Pappenheim: A Role Model in the Age of Trump

    Is the age in which we live so different than that of Bertha Pappenheim?

    1. Power structures minimize, deny, dismiss, and suppress the truth of sexual trauma.
    2. When there is no political, economic, or professional gain, issues such as sexual trauma are not taken seriously -if listened to at all.
    3. Vulnerable persons continue to be blamed, slandered, and humiliated by those in power.
    4. Vulnerable persons rarely receive justice.

    Today, the tragedy of Anna O is just as relevant as it was over 100 years ago. Today, the triumph of Bertha Pappenheim rings true.

    Anna O was a victim. Dismissed by the power structures of her day, she disappeared. Pappenheim was an overcomer. She recovered, arose, and lent her voice to the causes that would bring change.From her, we learn that trauma does not have to define or destroy.

    Today, let us look to people like Pappenheim as role models.

    Today, let us continue to gather, to speak, to write, to advocate, to march, and to encourage one another.

    Today, as Bertha Pappenheim, let us not give up.

    Resources:

    A comprehensive history of trauma is found in Judith Herman, M.D.’s book: Trauma and Recovery: The aftermath of violence-from domestic abuse to political terror. New York: BasicBooks, 1992, 1997.

    See chapter 1 A Forgotten History.

    April 12, 2017 / Partners Survivors /

    10 Reasons I’m Tempted to Downplay the Truth about Childhood Trauma

    At the moment, the study of psychological trauma seems to be firmly established as a legitimate field of inquiry. Now each month brings forth the publication of new books, new research findings, new discussions in the public media. But history teaches us that this knowledge could also disappear.” Judith Herman, MD Trauma and Recovery

    Last week, I attended a Trauma & Attachment Conference in St. Catharine’s, Ontario, Canada. It was an incredible time hearing top experts in the field of trauma research and treatment.

    The third day featured Martin H. Teicher, M.D., Ph.D. from Harvard Medical School, Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Teicher began his lecture by echoing the concerns of Judith Herman.

    We are in an exciting time in terms of research, acceptance, understanding, and openness to the idea that childhood trauma is a serious matter with long-term health consequences. However, history shows that openness to the roots of trauma is followed by periods of suppression of truth. When this happens, those of us in the field must be prepared to continue our fight for truth (my summary).

    It is easy to guess why institutions, organizations, and systems would downplay the prevalence and the impact of childhood trauma. A systemic recognition would require a shift in medical, psychological and social services. (See my blog post: Anna O: A Role Model in the Age of Trump.)

    And it’s easy to blame the system for the minimization of childhood trauma. The system (whoever that is) is removed, distant and intangible. It’s easy to blame them. 

    The truth is, I’m also tempted to downplay the truth about childhood trauma–even though I write, talk, and read about it every day. Not to mention that I am married to a childhood abuse survivor! I’m still tempted to minimize, to dismiss, or to try to lighten up the topic.

    Why would I do that?

    Because childhood trauma is. . .

    1. Overwhelming.
    2. Frightening.
    3. Confusing.
    4. Painful.
    5. Heavy.
    6. Sad.
    7. Childhood trauma asks hard questions about life, humanity, goodness, faith, and the world.
    8. The topic triggers painful memories of my past.
    9. Because childhood trauma survivors deserve a compassionate response, but sometimes I don’t know what to say.
    10. Mostly, I’m tempted to downplay it because it’s uncomfortable.

    Although it’s hard to do, I’ve found that getting comfortable with the emotions, the thoughts, the questions, and the past is the best way to resist the temptation to downplay the truth about childhood trauma.

    How can you practice not downplaying the truth?

    Here are five things I do:

    1. Accept the facts. One in four girls and one in six boys are victims of childhood sexual abuse. This statistic does not include domestic, verbal, or emotional abuse, all of which are extremely damaging.
    2. Get help if you find yourself struggling with your childhood. It is courageous and wise to seek professional support if you need it.
    3. Learn how to engage with survivors and families impacted by childhood trauma. Check out Sarah Beaulieu’s Tedx Talk An Uncomfortable Conversation Worth Having.
    4. Appreciate beauty. Awareness of suffering, childhood trauma or otherwise, heightens awareness of the simple pleasures in life. Take note of what you see, hear, smell, and feel!
    5. When you feel the pull to downplay suffering, pause and breathe before you respond.

    The truth is that childhood trauma is made up of all the things that cause us to downplay it. It is painful, sad, overwhelming, and heavy. The other truth is, we can get better at staying connected to it through practice, education, and acceptance.

    We can learn not to downplay the truth about childhood trauma.

    Related posts:

    7 Truths about Childhood Trauma I’m Taking into 2017

    5 Questions to Ask the Partners of Childhood Abuse Survivors

    It Happens Here Too: 5 Ways to Stop Minimizing Sexual Abuse

     

     

    March 23, 2017 / Partners Resources /

    It’s Here! My Free Ebook: For the Partners of Childhood Abuse Survivors

    A little over five years ago, I was hired for a new role: spouse to a childhood abuse survivor.

    I didn’t apply for this position. I didn’t know it existed. But there I was–confused, scared, and alone. Sometimes, I still feel that way.

    Along the way, I learned a few things that have helped me survive and thrive as a partner to a childhood abuse survivor. This short ebook is an introduction to the six strategies that, honestly, saved me, and saved my relationship with my spouse.

     

     

    Although this book is for those in an intimate relationship with a childhood abuse survivor, there’s information for any supporter. After all, statistics say that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys experience sexual abuse in childhood. Most of us have contact with survivors every day.

    If you’d like to learn more, sign up below, and I’ll send you a free download of the book. If you know of someone who could use encouragement, education, and support, especially if he or she is a partner, spouse, or close friend to a survivor, please share this post with them.

    I hope you’ll join me. I’m excited to share what I have learned!

    Excerpt:

    There is no manual to read on how to survive this kind of stuff. Often, there is no one to talk to. In our case, family was out of the question. I could not find a local support group. Therapists who said they could treat childhood trauma and dissociation made things worse. Friends struggled to understand and to know what to say. Our faith community was ill-equipped to support someone with this type of issue–although statistics tell us that survivors are everywhere. Our children suffered due to the constant upheaval.

    Our life was upended.

     One definition of survival is this:

    To remain alive after going through.

    For the last five years, that statement sums it up!

    Yet, the subtitle of this little book is:

    6 simple strategies to survive and thrive while living with your partners traumatic past.

     As a partner, is it possible to thrive? How?

    I believe you can, and this little book provides six strategies to help partners get there.

    Sign up to read more.

     

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What do you when your life is upended by a partner’s childhood trauma?

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