Tuesday, January 14, 2014. As I begin to think about the BIG idea of starting a new blog that would connect to “the cover story” under which the books relating to my childhood will be published I return full circle to the words of my abusive mother I had in mind as I opened this Stop the Storm blog in April 2009. I found them while transcribing the half-million words contained in the boxes of Mother’s disorganized papers that came into my life after her death in 2003.
Mother was raised in Boston,MA and moved to Los Angeles, CA in 1945 with her mother and grandmother. Although growing up she spent many summers on her aunt’s farm in Maine she had never even been camping before she began her Alaskan mountainside homesteading venture in 1959.
She recorded this dream in her diary during the first months we spent on that mountain. It was a time of great stress and of great hope.
I would start a new blog from this same point, and it is a troubled and troubling one:
MY MOTHER’S DREAM – March 29, 1960
The whole family was out walking and suddenly we looked up to see a dark rainbow appear – then it got bright and behind it a skyline appeared outlining massive dormed buildings such as I’ve never seen and skyscraper buildings – then it all disappeared and a big wind came.
We realized it was a hurricane. We could hardly stand up against the wind. We saw big apt buildings on the sides of the streets but the entrances faced another street and we were on the wrong side. The wind grew stronger – finally a door appeared and we went in the building and the person asked us what was wrong? We told her of the great wind but as we pointed outside – all was silent and the wind was gone … and I awoke.
As I pursue the trail of my own truthful thinking about a next blog connected to this one and centrally connected to the books I find that these words appeared to me immediately after again reading Mother’s dream:
CALM THE STORM
I read every word of the Wikipedia entry on The Netherlands last night to give myself a tiny slice of background about why that nation is #1 in the world on taking care of their children as mentioned in this post
+AMERICA, WHERE IS OUR SHAME/GUILT? ‘Child Well-being in Rich Countries: A comparative overview’, Innocenti Report Card 11– UNICEF Office of Research (2013).
America’s ranking is miserable. Abysmal.
The longer I write for this blog the more I think about what I might have to contribute to the process of stopping the storm of the transmission of infant and child abuse trauma through the generations. I am maybe one tiny molecule of one tiny drop of water in the ocean of life. What could it possibly matter to anyone anytime any place EVER what I think or feel about anything?
How can one person — HELP?
It is a big storm, this “trauma thing.” Unlike citizens of The Netherlands, I am living in a nation that does not seem to take the well-being of its offspring seriously.
What do I see if I shift my focus from a macro lens that looks outward to a micro lens that examines what I dearly believe?
What do I have to offer toward improving the bigger picture that this Stop the Storm blog was intended to address?
What do I know? What I have learned since I started this blog?
I live in a body that had to change the course of its earliest development in reaction to severe abusive trauma so that I could stay alive. These permanent changes that were adjustments to surviving severe ongoing unrelenting infant-child abuse trauma have affected how I have experienced my entire life and will do so until I die.
All of these changes make my life difficult in ways that nonsurvivors of early trauma cannot comprehend from the inside out.
All of these changes happened through early RELATIONSHIP trauma with my parents within an ATTACHMENT environment. They were ALL preventable! Every single one of them.
It has ceased to matter to me much what the exact nature of any particular abuse incident was that happened to me. It was not the specifics of the abuse I suffered that changed the course of my physiological development.
What changed the body I live in was my physiological response to the STRESS the torment of abuse created. These kinds of changes to the developing nervous systems, brain included, immune system, stress response system, etc. are now clearly documented in developmental neuroscientific research. This research is extremely difficult for members of “the ordinary public” to understand.
How does this critically important information make its way into the “operating system” of our society to the point that we understand that early attachment trauma changes the life of a survivor primarily because it changes the BODY of that survivor in ways that make continued life – yes, possible – at the same time these changes make our life very difficult?
The horrors my statements point to in the very real life of infant and child trauma survivors were entirely — ENTIRELY — preventable!!
Who gives a damn?
It has been the hope of my writing work that something I might say can create a trickle of change in thinking of someone toward a positive end of ending preventable human-caused trauma.
It has been my hope that in some way through my personal accounts I can ground attachment theory and developmental neuroscience in the everyday world — be it so humble — that I live within along with everyone else.
We survivors need to know about our Trauma Altered Development. We need words to think about and to communicate to others about what it is like for us to LIVE in a trauma changed body. This information is not arbitrary, peripheral or insignificant to our healing. IT IS CRITICALLY CENTRAL!
My mother of course did not ever recognize that she was dangerously, severely (psychotically) mentally ill. My father did not recognize this, nor did anyone else that ever came into contact with our family. This fact does not negate what I have come to understand about what was REALLY going on within my home of origin and what the abuse I suffered did to me.
If I could turn my thinking into a mathematical formula I would say that (1) the sum of all the life force it takes me to believe in myself enough to continue my writing work, added to (2) the sum of all the life force it took me to survive the 18 years of horrific traumatic abuse I endured, added to (3) the sum of all the life force it has taken me to make it age 62 the best way I have known how — does not begin to equal the damage that was done to me as a human being by the abuse I suffered WHICH WAS ENTIRELY PREVENTABLE!
The pattern of my mother’s life and that of my father’s was not far different from mine. In my thinking the pattern of the life for any early severe neglect and abuse survivor is similar.
Early traumatic stress changes the physiological development – importantly including the brain – of all but the most fortunate survivors who themselves had some other contributing powerful resiliency factors that thwarted the negative effects of the trauma they suffered. Personally, I don’t believe ANYONE is in this last category I mention unless those salvation factors existed within strong safe and secure attachment relationships with earliest caregivers (which in my case was primarily my 13-month older than I was baby brother!).
ALL of this suffering was — and is — preventable!
The changes that this article describes (at these links) were all PREVENTABLE –
Direct link to the article is here:
It is important for me to realize that the changes traumatic stress caused in my early development did not BREAK me — they changed me. I am a trauma CHANGED individual.
That I would have had an entirely different and yes, BETTER life had these changes from abuse not happened to me does not take away from the joys I have and do experience in the life I have now. I DID NOT need to SUFFER what I did to be a good person or to have made the best out of the life I am living. There is NO advantage to unnecessary, preventable SUFFERING!!! (BIG DUH!!)
My mother and even my father were also changed by the stress of the early traumas they endured, and these changes were, I believe, directly the cause of the abuse I suffered – and my siblings suffered in different ways.
If I were to pick one entry point that had the power to create the most powerful impact in how we think about infant and child abuse and about “mental illness” and the hosts of troubles that cover the lifespan of most early trauma survivors I would say it would be to highlight what these trauma changes are and what the experience of living in a trauma changed body feels like (is like) in the only way I can do it: By describing my life.
What does any of this thinking contribute to my clarity regarding a new blog and its title?
Sidetracked. Sideswiped. Derailed. Sabotaged. Misled. Blindsided. Tricked. Betrayed. Overrun, overtaken, overruled and overwhelmed. Hijacked. Detoured. All of which leave us troubled, confused and exhausted much of the time!
What I find myself describing is what if often feels like to live in a body whose physiological development was changed by infant-child abuse and neglect trauma.
Words that are used to describe our experience include dissociation (which I think involves both reaction and memory processing changes), anxiety, depression along with disoriented, disorganized and dysregulated. All of these conditions happen because of the trauma altered development our body experienced in response (reaction) to severe early traumatic stress (distress, duress).
Many of these conditions have genetic underpinnings from gene combinations that research shows would not likely have been triggered had the trauma not been present. These factors always interacted with resiliency factors that were within our range of access to either lessen or exacerbate (worsen) the effects our traumatic experiences had upon us.
Where does this leave us? Most of us have one “psychiatric” diagnostic label or “price tag” or another strung around our necks (hamstrung).
We are not flawed. We are not broken. We are not damaged.
We are changed.
Many of these changes are very hard for us to live with. We need to learn as much as we can about this entire topic….
Along with the changes that happened to us came the development of many gifts such as heightened creativity, stamina, strength, courage, determination, compassion, generosity and sensitivity.
I understand that trauma exposure later in life can physiologically change individuals without early trauma histories in ways that I don’t know about. However, my area of focus is on the changes in early development that gave us a different brain, different nervous system, different stress response system and different immune system FOR LIFE than the one we would have had without our trauma exposure.
Insecure attachment disorders are a direct result of early trauma and a direct cause of it. Any survivor of early abusive trauma probably has an insecure attachment disorder that is physiologically built into the body brain.
“What happened to me as a result of what happened to me” is what matters to me, which is to say that “How what happened to me changed the body I live in” is what actually matters, as I mentioned above.
Around and around and around I go to see what is at the center. It’s TRAUMA ALTERED DEVELOPMENT (TAD) — which is not outside of our body. Not only is it inside our body, it made our body, snf our body is MADE of TAD in this lifetime.
Because it happened to us so early and during such rapid and extremely important initial stages of our development – post womb – those interactions that reflect the conditions of the world we are born into and thus have to adapt to – TAD has crossed “the line,” the boundary that if it could have been protected could have allowed us to keep the impact of our traumas at some distance from our SELF.
Here in my thinking I encounter the myth that says, “If something bad happened to you before you were old enough to remember it – well big deal! It doesn’t matter then.” This could not be further from the truth. Those early traumas BUILD our body as they also determine how our memory processes themselves work for our lifetime.
But I cannot take on and do battle with all these problems that are in effect a kind of schrapnel from TAD itself – or more accurately from the trauma that caused the TAD to happen.
TAD that is not recognized or understood is a dangerous breeding ground for infant and child abuse and neglect. It is within the wounds that created TAD that the most verile seeds lie for the transmission of unresolved trauma down through the generations.
TAD is not invisible. We can learn to detect it by the troubles it causes in people’s lives. TAD is the key player in “trauma drama.” (I am not talking therapy, a subject I am not qualified to discuss in detail. I am talking education.)
TAD, in my opinion, does not touch the core (essential, soul) self although because it can make the body sick, as it did in my mother’s case most clearly, it can prevent the core self from entering one’s life in the truest sense of the word.
Living well with TAD requires an increasing consciousness over the difficulties trauma built into the body creates in terms of its automatic sidetracking, etc. reactions to experiences, choices and decisions that to more “ordinary built” people appear to come naturally. We do not have the SAME KIND of body that non-early-traumatized people have. The sooner and more profoundly we realize this truth the better off we will be.
Just as TAD presence or absence lies at the hub of the wheel of our life in our body so it also needs to be at the hub of how we assess and redress problems we detect in our own response to life and in the responses of others that do affect and have affected us.
I do suspect that the more extreme severe cases of TAD are forms of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) although “professionals” do not recognize that adults can “have” that condition. A high number of readers seem to find their way to this blog using RAD as their search parameter and that tells me a lot.
Because I am not a professional of any kind (other than art therapist) I can say what I want about what I personally suspect and believe. I think RAD is the closest over-arching umbrella term I have yet found to describe my personal conditions. RAD would fit within the more formal structure of a disorganized (rather than organized) insecure attachment disorder.
This thinking would clearly put TAD and RAD in the same blog space.
I first began to clearly delineate TAD on this blog within my first year of its creation:
November 29, 2009
This post as among others related to the topic:
November 29, 2009 by
I see as I do a Google search for Trauma Altered Development that I am finding my blog among the best possible company:
Traumatized Children: How Childhood Trauma Influences Brain Development
by Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D.
Along with this:
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