Why Am I Not More Screwed Up?
When I was getting my counseling degree, the major topic I focused on was trauma. I wanted to help others who, like me, had experienced significant trauma in their life. I also wanted to understand myself better. But as I dug into this topic from the perspective of a clinician rather than a client, I thought, “Wow, I should be really screwed up!” But the reality is, I’m not.
One way to measure trauma is through a person’s ACE score. ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences. It measures events in a child’s life before the age of 18. These adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, include abuse, neglect, parental mental illness, parental substance abuse, divorce, incarceration of a parent or close family member, and domestic violence. This study found that the more ACEs a child has, the more health problems they may have as an adult. These health problems include heart disease, cancer, obesity, stroke, and mental health issues. To learn more, go to https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/preventing/overview/framework/aces/
My ACE score is 8 out of 10. Bars, Dumps, and Other Childhood Hangouts is the story of all the adverse experiences I had during my childhood and describes why my score is so high. An ACE score of 8 is high, so why am doing fairly well as an adult?
There is also a resiliency quiz along with the ACE quiz. This shows how your ACEs might be counterbalanced. The resiliency factors include supportive friends, engagement with a community, and role models to look up to. https://cls.unc.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/3019/2016/08/From-ACESTOOHIGH-ACES-and-Resilience-questions.pdf
Other ways to build resiliency for a child are to have rules and guidelines, responsibilities, a sense of hope, and adults to encourage the child.
My resiliency score is high as well, 12 out of 14. Most of my resilience came from the relationships and community support I had in the second half of my childhood with my foster/adoptive family. Please Don’t Send Back talks about this part of my life. This is when the healing process from my earlier trauma started. This time wasn’t perfect and I got a couple of my ACEs with my new family. However, the good I received by being a part of this new family definitely outweighed the bad.
There are many stories in this second book that show the safe and supportive relationships I had. In my new family and home church, I felt valued, loved, and supported. This helped me view myself differently and this is one of the greatest gifts I received from that time in my life.
Trauma and abuse affect not only the child but the adults they become. The impact of trauma is important to work through and process with qualified counselors and trusted friends. However, we do not need to let the trauma define us. Understanding the resilience that was built in our young lives is also important. For me, understanding and focusing on the resiliency factors is immensely significant in my healing journey.