Adverse Childhood Experiences 9: crisis wiring

I spoke to a patient recently about ACE scores. A veteran. Who has had trouble sleeping since childhood.

“What was your childhood like?” I say. “Was sleeping safe?”

“No, it wasn’t. We were in (one of the major cities) in a very bad part of town.”

“So not sleeping well may have been appropriate. To keep you safe. To survive.”

We both think this veteran has PTSD.

“I think I had PTSD as a child. And then the military made it worse.”

I show the veteran the CDC website and ACE pyramid: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/about.html.

Adverse childhood experiences. Leading to disrupted neurodevelopment. Leading to a higher risk of mental health disorders, addiction, high risk behavior, medical disorders and early death.

Ugly, eh? Damaged children.

“But I don’t agree with it.” I say.

My veteran looks at me.

“Disrupted neurodevelopment.” I say. “I don’t agree with that. Different neurodevelopment. Crisis neurodevelopment. We have to have it as a species in order to survive. Think of the Syrian children escaping in boats, parents or sibling drowning. We have to have crisis wiring. It isn’t wrong, it’s different. The problem is really that our culture does not support this wiring.”

“You can say that again.”

“Our culture wants everyone to be raised by the Waltons. Or Leave it to Beaver. But the reality is that things can happen to any child. So we MUST have crisis wiring. Our culture needs to change to support and heal and not outcast those of us with high ACE Scores.”

My Veteran is quiet, thinking that over.

I say, “You may read more about ACE scores but you do not have to. And we can work more on the sleep. And we do believe more and more that the brain can heal and can rewire. But you were wired to survive your childhood and there is no shame in that.”

 

I took the picture in Wisconsin in August.

 

the bacon burning

She’s listening to the radio
while cooking

her mother would say with half an ear

rape victims
if they had done something different
not THAT dress
not that date
too many drinks
did she flirt?
THAT college has statistics
would not have happened
if if if

she is holding a spatula

riding the school bus
age 7, second grade
look at the other kids
the only girl
who is not a virgin
played with
the high school senior next door
she loved when he would push the swing
trade: lie down here
I won’t hurt you
she got scared “stop” ran
asked her mother what it meant
when boys
worries until the doctor
surely the doctor
would notice if she is pregnant
her sister is four
never ever go near
the boy next door
her sister cries
she keeps an eye on her
she’s different now from other girls
should have known
never speak to him again

the bacon burning on the stove
cry, throw the bacon out

radio: violence
is never acceptable
it is not the woman’s fault

nor the child’s

 

previously published on everthing2.com in 2010

Yes, that is a house burning down. The owner and cats got out. Barely.