Childhood Trauma

I’ve been away from this site for quite awhile, as everything I’ve wanted to write about seems pointless and Debbie Downer.  But, I have 5 posts that I’ve been editing over all these months, and a blog by DrugOpinions on trauma got me to thinking about why I’m stuck in writer’s block hell.

Can ACE helps to solve our societal problems?

Backstory:  It’s been a challenging Summer, with a bunch of myCOPDteam friends passing away, and with my budget being incredibly tight due to a car accident that totaled my new (4 months old) car, and dealing with the pain involved in the (relatively minor) injuries I received.

I’m broke due to being out of pocket to replace my car (found an IDENTICAL model, yes!), and the ongoing physical therapy co-payments as I work to rehab my body without relying on pain killers or other aids that might make my existing ailments worse, (for those who might have lost track – Asthma / Emphysema / COPD;  diabetes;  non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; blah, blah, blah).  With all this being said, writer’s block is an additional bonus to my frustrations for dealing with my life right now.  Usually, I write until whatever’s bugging me is purged, and that outlet has been closed for quite a bit of time.

So, to try and clear my head, I’m going to try and figure out my ACE score to see if it adds any clarity to the crap floating around behind my eyes and between my ears these last few months.

ACE Questionnaire

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 __  [ 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 __    [ sort of?  Touch was used for control and silencing me, after all spankings stopped at age 5, when my Mom was afraid my father would beat me to death at my refusal to be apologetic when being defiant ]
  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 __   [ No ]  but, I had lots of surgeries, including one on my bladder, and I often wonder if that impacted my early interest in how the body parts worked…
  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 __   [ No ]
  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 __  [ No ]  My father was a functional alcoholic, but my Mom was the bulwark of the family and we were well cared for.
  6. Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __  [ 1 ] yes, thank heavens !
  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 __  [ No, never in front of me.  That trauma was reserved for my Aunt and Uncle, who I was sent to live with for 3 Summers after my parents separated, and who seemed to get aroused by the violence after we were all in bed but unable to hide from the sounds of their fights, violence and sex, late at night].
  8. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __  [ 1 ]  Yes.  My father and my Aunt were both functional alcoholics.
  9. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?                        No___If Yes, enter 1 __  [ No.  While I believe depression runs rampant on both sides of my family tree, my father was on lithium when I was 9, which contributed to the quietest 6 months in our household before he couldn’t stand the peace and quiet and refused to continue on the medication].
  10. Did a household member go to prison?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __  [ No ]

Now add up your “Yes” answers: _ This is your ACE Score

It turns out that as the ACE score increases, so does the risk of chronic diseases, social and emotional problems later in life.

To continue the topic for scoring, one summarizes the scoring as follows:

What’s Your ACE Score? (and, at the end, What’s Your Resilience Score?)

There are 10 types of childhood trauma measured in the ACE Study. Five are personal — physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect, and emotional neglect. Five are related to other family members: a parent who’s an alcoholic, a mother who’s a victim of domestic violence, a family member in jail, a family member diagnosed with a mental illness, and the disappearance of a parent through divorce, death or abandonment. Each type of trauma counts as one. So a person who’s been physically abused, with one alcoholic parent, and a mother who was beaten up has an ACE score of three.

There are, of course, many other types of childhood trauma — racism, bullying, watching a sibling being abused, losing a caregiver (grandmother, mother, grandfather, etc.), homelessness, surviving and recovering from a severe accident, witnessing a father being abused by a mother, witnessing a grandmother abusing a father, involvement with the foster care system, involvement with the juvenile justice system, etc. The ACE Study included only those 10 childhood traumas because those were mentioned as most common by a group of about 300 Kaiser members; those traumas were also well studied individually in the research literature.

The most important thing to remember is that the ACE score is meant as a guideline: If you experienced other types of toxic stress over months or years, then those would likely increase your risk of health consequences.

The focus on the ACE scoring that I find most interesting is how “toxic stress” is defined to highlight impacts on your health.

While I don’t consider my ACE score particularly high based on the questions asked, it’s the focus on resiliency which really captures my attention.

I consider myself extremely resilient.

But, considering the fact that my first chest surgery occurred at about six months old, and involved breathing issues due to a physical deformity involving my chest and ribs, as my bones curved inward, endangering my lungs and heart and preventing proper growth as I aged, it comes back to a whole chicken vs. egg question for me.

Looking at this score image in particular, focusing on COPD, throws the entire dynamic into the trash bin for me.

If I started life with a birth defect, and the inevitable evolution into COPD is a foregone conclusion if I lived long enough to wear out my body, then the ACE score has no relationship on my likelihood of contracting COPD.

This is one of those kitchen sink analogies where everything impacts one’s quality of life and rate of illnesses, negating the value of the cause and effect study for me.

So many people with horrible childhoods are hale and healthy into old age, so I’m going to lump this into the, “if you only have a hammer, then everything looks like a nail” theory.

So, let’s look at the resiliency scoring from another study:

Aces Too High

RESILIENCE Questionnaire

Please circle the most accurate answer under each statement:

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

Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True

2.  I believe that my father loved me when I was little.
Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True
3.  When I was little, other people helped my mother and father take care of me and they seemed to love me.
Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True
4.   I’ve heard that when I was an infant someone in my family enjoyed playing with me, and I enjoyed it, too.
Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True
5.  When I was a child, there were relatives in my family who made me feel better if I was sad or worried.
Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True
6.   When I was a child, neighbors or my friends’ parents seemed to like me.
Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True
7.  When I was a child, teachers, coaches, youth leaders or ministers were there to help me.
Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True
8.  Someone in my family cared about how I was doing in school.
Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True
9.  My family, neighbors and friends talked often about making our lives better.
Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True
10.  We had rules in our house and were expected to keep them.
Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True
11. When I felt really bad, I could almost always find someone I trusted to talk to.
Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True
12.  As a youth, people noticed that I was capable and could get things done.
Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True
13.  I was independent and a go-getter.
Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True
14.  I believed that life is what you make it.

Definitely true         Probably true         Not sure         Probably Not True        Definitely Not True

How many of these 14 protective factors did I have as a child and youth? (How many of the 14 were circled “Definitely True” or “Probably True”?)   [ 8 ]
Of these circled, how many are still true for me?  [ 8 ]

2 thoughts on “Childhood Trauma

  1. I’ve long suspected what you confirmed for me today. Stress causes physical damage. Over the summer there’ve been a lot of discussions about whether or not remembering and sharing childhood traumas is ‘wallowing in the past and being unwilling to get over it and just move on’ or not. There are a couple of bloggers who deal with mental health issues (my own biggest battle) who invite discussion and dialogue about such things as you’ve shared today. I know your COPD eventuality was based on medical (genetic) factors which made the condition inevitable. And your resiliency has obviously done you favors when faced with dealing with the issue. I’m wondering if those ACE scores are meant to determine the impact on one’s PSYCHE, not their physical self; which over time lead to physical problems or exacerbation of existing problems due to emotional/mental trauma/damage as children? I’m fairly certain my own physical problems (worse than anyone else in my family thus far and at a younger age too) are partially due to the childhood trauma I endured. My opinion strictly, although they are finding out that stress damages people physically. The further stress caused by bad relationships and a bad marriage and then being a caregiver for ailing parents and spouse and watching them die, in my opinion, has really super charged my own illnesses (mental and physical). Just a connection I’ve made because I think that way.

    Thanks for sharing this very enlightening and fascinating information! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad this has helped you, Sparks. While I agree that stress can kill, and toxic stress can lead to the body’s self-sabotage, I guess it’s the “inevitability” conclusion that I’m struggling with.

    Even though I know my health got markedly better after Daddy Dearest was no longer in the household, and even though my health also improved when I was no longer trapped in school, warehoused and miserable while waiting to start a life of MY choice.

    And, finally, even though I know my health stabilized markedly once I left town and relocated 3,000 miles away.

    So, I have few certainties, but am absolutely on a quest to get the message, whether or not I want to hear it, about the whole cause and effect of stress on one’s body.

    By the way, I am the healthiest Stage IV COPD patient anyone can recall seeing, and I *do* credit that to the removal of stress from no longer having to work and hide when I’m under the weather. So, some part of old Doubting Thomas me, IS getting the message and doing better despite what my brain may want to believe.

    Thanks for visiting, as always, and I hope you checkout DrugOpinions blog as you never know what she may write about from one day to the next.


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