in a chaotic and unpredictable home environment made me feel constantly anxious—and
often scared. Even though my mother and I were very close, and my basic needs
were always met, she worked almost around the clock to make ends meet and I was
often left to fend for myself.
As a kid, I
was sick a lot. Initially, I mostly had persistent gastrointestinal
issues, but then I developed other problems too, and became a frequent flyer at
the emergency room. The doctors suspected that my many illnesses were probably
physical manifestations of the traumatic stress I was experiencing.
Like so many
other children who have to deal with traumatic experiences, I coped as well as
I could and tried my best to power through my fears as I grew up. When I got a
little older, I seemed to be sick less often as I became braver in the world.
But then… Fast forward to my mid-twenties…
I noticed I hadn’t
been feeling right, was unexpectedly losing weight, and had developed a slight
tremor in my hands. Three days after going to the doctor to get my symptoms checked
out, I got the diagnosis: thyroid cancer.
road to recovery was very rough, I eventually got through it and the depression
that threatened to take my life. In time, I was also able to embark on a
journey to heal from my traumatic past.
years, as I have learned more and more about the impact and consequences of
adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on mental and physical health, it is no
surprise that, not only was I sick all the time as a child, but that I
developed more serious health problems as I got older.
In a nutshell, ACEs refer to these traumatic childhood experiences:
can find an ACE quiz online if you’re interested in identifying your ACE score)
and Physical Illness from ACEs
When children grow up with persistent chaos and trauma, they are living in a state of chronic stress, which causes their fight-or-flight system to be overactive. When this happens, the brain and body are flooded with stress hormones, and because of how trauma affects the nervous, metabolic, and immune systems, it can wreak havoc on a person’s health.
Once I understood this, it made total sense to me. I was always so stressed out until I came to terms with my past. Fortunately, I became very invested in natural ways to stay healthy and was vigilant about my diet, exercise, and stress management. However, I continued to learn more about the long-term consequences of ACEs and the numerous ways they can impact a person’s emotional and physical health.
surprisingly, many people who endure childhood trauma are at risk for mental
health problems such as:
Because of these consequences, trauma survivors—especially people without positive role models or adequate emotional support—are vulnerable to engaging in unhealthy coping mechanisms like smoking, overeating, and using drugs or alcohol, which (aside from addiction) can lead to serious and long-term physical health problems, including:
If any of
this applies to you or to someone you care about, I want you to know that
treatment is available and can make all the difference in the world. I understand
that it isn’t always easy, but it is possible—and worth it.
that if I hadn’t taken the path that I did to get the help I needed to heal
from my trauma and change my lifestyle habits to become physically healthier, there’s
no way I could be where I am today.
It really is
possible to get better, and I encourage you to reach out for the help you need
so you can begin the journey to heal the wounds of your past, improve your
health, and start living the life you want.
To learn more about how I overcame my past trauma, order my recent memoir, The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child: How Persistence, Grit, and Faith Created a Reluctant Healer.
If you’re struggling with mental health issues and need professional help, Amen Clinics is here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.