young alone

I have a double lot, L shaped, because the 1930s garage extends 5 feet into the second lot.

I don’t mow the second lot. It is in the center of the block and has an apple tree, a plum tree, a maple with a tree house, wild roses and weeds.

The deer leave their young to stay. Intemittently there are young alone in my lot. I went to go in the tree house this weekend, but this small one was alone. I don’t like to scare them into the streets or more exposed yards, so I backed off.

Mundane Monday #166: parent and child

My theme for Munday Monday #165 is parent and child.

I have this small statue in my clinic. I have a small collection of parent/child and mother/child art that I have collected for years. I was separated from my mother at birth, from my father and his family at 4 months and back to my mother and father at 9 months. I was sure that adults loved me but I did not trust them: they kept abandoning me.

As an adult I understand that it was because my mother had active tuberculosis and that the first separation saved my life. But…. I can love people, but trust must be earned.

A patient said last week that I had a political statement in my waiting room. “I do?” I said. He was talking about this statue.

If this is a political statement, I stand by it.

Attach your parent child picture, political statement or not. And much love and hope for every parent and child and love.

One entry from last week, Mundane Monday #165: sand:

KL Allendorfer: Sand.

 

 

small child

my small child was locked under rock for years

she came out shy reluctant distrustful

you are special, the first adult in whom
she recognized another small child
locked in and called you
out to play

and we played hard

now she stomps her foot at me
“He does not play fair! He won’t come to my house!
He makes all the rules! He doesn’t listen!”

yes, bear, I know

time to go home, small child
you have had your first playmate
since you were locked away
but he is still locked in a dungeon
of monsters and zombies
you unlocked him for a little while
just a tiny bit

but he has decided not to play
he is locked down

come, small child

she is in my arms, head on my shoulder
sucking her thumb, crying
until she is too tired
and falls asleep

she will always love you, you know

anything, to have someone to play with
she let you make all the rules
for a long time

but now she wants
someone who will play fair
and share the rules
and love her back

 

12/2015

Adverse Childhood Experiences 3: Attachment Disorder

I ought to have an attachment disorder, which now is called “separation anxiety disorder” in the DSM IV, now redefined in the DSM IV-TR and then the DSM V. That is, they keep changing the definition of psychiatric disorders. It’s a bit unnerving, isn’t it? Not only the brain is “plastic” and can be rewired throughout our lives, but the psychiatric diagnosis manual is being updated.

When I went into allopathic medicine, I was under the impression that I needed to learn everything I could and apply it. Spectacularly wrong. I needed to learn everything and then track everything because at least one fourth of what I learned was wrong or was going to change. I just didn’t know WHICH 25% was wrong.

This is why older doctors have a healthy skepticism towards new medicines, new equipment, new ideas. Older doctors are more likely to use old cheap medicines and eschew the new-fangled samples. It’s not just that the pharmaceutical companies only give us samples of the new expensive stuff. It’s also that some of the new expensive stuff is not as good as advertised and has a chance of hurting people. I still would advise my patients to use coumadin (warfarin) if they have a clotting disorder. Yes, you can take the new drugs without doing a monthly blood test — BUT if you bleed, I can’t reverse the new medicines. So I wouldn’t take them: if I need a medicine to keep me from clotting, I want coumadin. I will decide about the new medicines in 5-10 years. Old and cynical, that’s me….

As previously written, I had five “experiences” under age three that left me not trusting adults. However, the adults seemed to love me, even though they kept abandoning me to other adults. At under three, this did not make sense. I could have decided never to trust anyone and presumably would have really gone off into some sociopathic bad place, but I didn’t do that.

The clue to what I did is in my mother’s stories. My sister was born five days before my 3rd birthday. She came home right by my birthday, at Easter.

My mother said, “You asked if you could dress Chris. She was two days old. She was nearly ten pounds and had a triple chin. You wanted to put a lacy dress on her. I decided that you could try and told you to be very gentle.

You put Chris into the newborn baby dress. She was so big that it barely fit and in fact, that was the only time she ever wore it. You had to stuff her arms through the sleeves. She cracked her eyes and looked at you, but she did not object at all. You were gentle.”

That doesn’t seem like much. Next story:

My mother said, “You would meet visitors who came to see Chris at the door. You would say “Come see my baby.” I let you open presents for Chris because she didn’t care. You would show the visitors your sister.”

My baby. That is the key.

I think what happened is this:
1. The adults who took care of me did seem to love me.
2. Even though they loved me, they kept abandoning me, or giving me to other adults. I really really disliked this.
3. I thought that adults were misguided and wrong to give me away. I thought there must be some explanation. I would try to figure it out. Meanwhile, I was going to take care of my sister: she was MY BABY. I was going to show those stupid, loving, confused adults how to take care of a baby and NO ONE was going to give HER away. I could love adults but no way was I going to trust them.

That was my crisis brain wiring by age 3. Adults are loving and untrustworthy. You can love them back but they may abandon you to someone else at any moment. You can’t predict what they will do. They may be even LESS trustworthy if they are loving and you know them, than if it is a stranger.

My mother again, “When I got you back at nine months, you didn’t know me. You wanted to be as independent as possible. You missed your (maternal) grandmother. In the grocery store, you would cry if you saw a white haired woman. We couldn’t comfort you.

I thought that you didn’t like us at all until you ate a cigarette butt and got really sick. You let us take care of you. Then we left you with friends for a night. You were absolutely furious when we got back and I thought that you really did like us….”

Poor young mom, 23 and recovering from tuberculosis and still not strong, with an angry and grieving nine month old who really didn’t want much to do with her and didn’t trust her at all…..

Changes from the DSM IV-TR to the DSM V: http://www.dsm5.org/Documents/changes%20from%20dsm-iv-tr%20to%20dsm-5.pdf

The DSM IV criteria for separation anxiety: http://behavenet.com/node/21498

Theme song: The Devil Makes Three “All Hail”

Adverse Childhood Experiences 2: Out on a Limb

We are approaching a seismic shift in psychiatry. I am now going out of a limb to predict the direction we will go in.

The allopathic medical community will resist, including many psychiatrists. But it is the neurobiologists and brain imaging and psychiatrists who will prevail. If the creek don’t rise and we aren’t hit by a giant asteroid, nuclear winter, devolve into fighting over the remaining arable land as the world heats up….

I have been thinking about this all through my career, but especially since the lecture on adverse childhood experiences, which I heard in Washington, DC about ten years ago. I wrote about that lecture on January 6, 2015. The lecturer was a woman. She said that it appeared that the brain formed differently in response to childhood adverse experiences. She said that we don’t yet know what to do with this information.

Staggering understatement. I went from that lecture to one about ADHD. The lecturer was male. He said, “Children diagnosed with ADHD have brains that are different from normal children on PET scans and functional MRIs. We don’t understand this.” He sounded puzzled. I thought, he didn’t go to the previous lecture….

Childhood adverse experiences are scored zero to seven. I score a five. I am at high risk for addiction. I assumed this when I realized at age 19 that my father was an alcoholic and my mother was enabling. I was very very careful about alcohol. I tried pot twice and didn’t like it. I refused to try anything else, and refused benzodiazepines when I was depressed: they are addictive. With an ACE score of five, I am also at higher risk than a person with a score of zero for ALL mental health diagnosis: ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc. People with a score of five had a 60% chance of being diagnosed with depression compared with a 10% chance in people with a score of zero over the life of the study. In the last fourteen years I’ve only been diagnosed with a “grief reaction” which is a temporary reaction to grief. It is also called an adjustment disorder. High adverse childhood experience scores are also at higher risk for morbidity and mortality from heart disease, emphysema, arthritis, basically everything and tend to die younger.

What this means, I think, is that our brains are plastic in utero and in childhood: the wiring is put down in response to the environment. This is adaptation. I have crisis wiring: my mother had tuberculosis when I was conceived and born. Really, from an evolutionary standpoint I AM weird: babies whose mothers had tuberculosis died. Quickly. I was saved because my mother coughed blood one month before I was due. A lot of blood. She thought she had lung cancer and would die. The fetus is bathed in those stress hormones, grief, fear….

I was removed from my mother at birth to save my life. I then was removed from people at 4 months and at 9 months. I grew up trying to be independent and highly suspicious of adults.

I predict that we are going to revamp all of our ideas about mental health. The brain wiring is set up depending on the environment, physical and emotional, that the child grows up in. My friend Johanna was outraged in college when we learned that the fetus and placenta basically take over the hormones of the woman for 9 months. “I’m not letting some baby grow in me and do that!” Johanna said. “I am going to figure out how to implant the pregnancy in a cow. You take good care of the cow and you can drink beer through the whole pregnancy! The cow won’t even notice when the baby falls out!” She has three children, an MD and a PhD in genetics. She did not use a cow.

The brain wiring is an adaptation to the environment. If there is war or domestic violence or addiction or mental health problems, the child’s brain kicks in emergency wiring. This is to help the child survive this childhood. As an adult they are then more at risk for mental health disorders, addiction and physical health disorders.

In the end, the sins of the parents, or the terrible circumstances of the parents, are visited upon the children. We have to take care of the children from the start in order to be healthy.

And people who have low adverse childhood experience scores don’t understand. They grew up with nice people and in a nice environment. They wonder why people can’t just be nice. The fear and grief and suspicion and emotional responses that appear maladaptive in adults, that is what helped people survive their childhoods. That is what I remember each time I see an addict in clinic, or someone who is on multiple psychiatric medicines, or someone who is acting out.

Adverse Childhood Experiences

I went to a sparsely attended lecture about the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, or ACE Study, in 2005 and it blew my mind. I think that it has the most far reaching implications of any medical study that I’ve read. It makes me feel hopeful, helpless and angry at God.

The lecture was at the American Academy of Family Practice Scientific Assembly. That year, it was in Washington, DC. There are 94,000 plus Family Practice doctors and residents and students in the US, the conference hall had 10,000 seats and the exhibition hall was massive. At the most recent assembly, there were more than 2600 exhibitors.

I try to attend the lectures numbered one through ten, because they are the chosen as the information that will change our practices, studies that change what we understand about medicine.

The ACE Study talk was among the top ten. Yet when I walked in, the attendees numbered in the hundreds, looking tiny in three joined conference rooms that could seat 10,000. The speaker was nervous, her image projected onto a giant screen behind her. My experience has been that doctors don’t like to ask about child abuse and domestic violence: I thought, they don’t want to go to lectures about it either.

The initial part of the study was done at Kaiser Permanante, from 1995-1997, with physicals of 17,000 adults. The adults were given a confidential survey about childhood maltreatment and family dysfunction. A simpler questionnaire is at http://www.acestudy.org/files/ACE_Score_Calculator.pdf, but it is not the one used in the study. Over 9000 adults completed the survey and were given a score of 0-7, their ACE score. This was a score for childhood psychological, physical or sexual abuse, domestic violence, or living in a household with an adult who was a substance abuser, mentally ill or suicidal, or ever imprisoned.

Half of the adults reported a score over 2 and one fourth over 4. The scores were compared with the risk factors for “the leading causes of death in adult life”. They found a graded relationship between the scores and each of the adult risk factors studied. That is, an increase in addiction: tobacco, alcohol and drugs. An increase in the likelihood of depression and suicide attempt. And an increase in heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, fractures and liver disease. The risk of alcoholism, drug addiction and depression was increased four to twelve times for a score of four or more.

The speaker said that the implications were that the brain was much more malleable in childhood than anyone realized. She said that much of the addictive behaviors and poor health behaviors of adults could be self-medication and self-care attempts as a result of the way the brain tried to learn to cope with this childhood damage.

I left the lecture stunned. How do I help heal an adult who is smoking if part of it is related to childhood events? From there I went to a lecture about ADHD, where the speaker said that MRIs and PET scans were showing that children with ADHD had brains that looked different from children without ADHD. I thought that speaker should have come to the other lecture. And I did not much like my ACE score, though it does explain some things.

I feel hopeful because we can’t address a problem until we recognize it.

I feel helpless because I still do not know what to do. The World Health Organization has used the ACE Study in their Preventing Child Maltreatment monograph from 2006. But it is not very cheerful either: “There is thus an increased awareness of the problem of child maltreatment and growing pressure on governments to take preventive action. At the same time, the paucity of evidence for the effectiveness of interventions raises concerns that scarce resources may be wasted through investment in well-intentioned but unsystematic prevention efforts whose effectiveness is unproven and which may never be proven.”

Do I do ACE scores on my patients? With the new Washington State opiate law, we do a survey called the Opiate Risk Tool. It includes parental addiction in scoring the person’s risk of opiate addiction. But not the rest of the ACE test. At this time, I don’t do ACE scores on my adult patients. I don’t like to do tests where I don’t know what to do with the results. “Wow, you have a high score, you will probably die early,” does not seem very helpful. But I remain hopeful that knowledge can lead to change. And it makes me more gentle with my smoking patients, my addicted patients, the depressed, the heart patient who will not exercise.

I am angry at God, because it seems as if the sins of the fathers ARE visited upon the children. It is the most vulnerable suffering children who are most damaged. That does not seem fair. It makes me cry. I would rather go to hell then to the heaven of a God who organized this. I stand with the Bodhisattva, who will not leave until every sufferer is healed.

1. ACE study   http://www.cdc.gov/ace/about.htm

2. American Academy of Family Practice   http://www.aafp.org/events/assembly.html

3. ACE questionaire   http://www.cdc.gov/ace/questionnaires.htm

4. Score correlation with health in adults   http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/PIIS0749379798000178/abstract

5. WHO preventing child mistreatment   http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2006/9241594365_eng.pdf

6. Washington State Opiate Law   http://www.agencymeddirectors.wa.gov/

7. Opiate Risk Tool   http://www.partnersagainstpain.com/printouts/Opioid_Risk_Tool.pdf

First published on everything2 November 2011.