By Emily George
I am angry.
No, anger is not a strong enough word, I am furious right now.
I just learned I am more likely to die from 7 out of 10 of the leading causes of death in the United States. I just learned that heart disease, the number one killer of Americans, is something I could die of, and it is not because of the way I eat or how I take care of myself. It is because of something I had no control over.
Childhood abuse and neglect is something people do not like to talk about.
For some reason it is taboo and people would rather avoid the topic. It is something that does not just go away when childhood ends. It affects us for the rest of our lives. Admittedly, I was under the impression that those affects were mostly mental, but as I have learned from Nadine Burke Harris, a pediatrician, specialist in public health and the woman speaking in the TED Talk attached to this article, there are many, many physical affects as well.
I will talk about the physical effects I have experienced myself. I was diagnosed with PTSD a few months ago, but I have been living with it for years. I have had nightmares and night terrors for as long as I can remember.
I hardly ever get enough sleep.
I have trouble falling asleep and when I finally do fall asleep (after hours of tossing, turning, wishing, crying, begging, etc.) I can’t stay asleep because of the nightmares.
Eight hours of continuous sleep is like unicorns for me. I have trouble concentrating, I am moody, I cannot control my impulses or emotions, I am not as active as I want to be because my body is so exhausted, and these are just a few of the detrimental effects lack of sleep causes.
As Harris explains in a much more scientific way, I deal with the repeated stress inducing fear response daily. As she says, this response is natural. If you see a bear in the woods your body will release chemicals to induce the fight or flight response, and, like she says, it is a wonderful thing…if you see a bear in the woods. Then you have to wonder, what if that bear comes home drunk every night?
What if that bear is someone called mom or dad? What if that bear is an uncle or mommy’s boyfriend?
This response can go on for years in a young child’s life, and if that child is diagnosed with PTSD it can go on for even longer. The leaves rustled outside of my window; I am scared. A car door slammed; my heart is racing. That person is walking way too close to me; my palms are sweaty. My neighbors are fighting, the noise the rain makes on the pavement sounds like footsteps, I am alone in my car and someone walks too close to it, that man at the gas station is staring at me, my cats are staring at the front door suddenly, and the list of things my body responds to with fear goes on and on.
And I hate it. I am angry. I am furious.
I want to break things and scream as loud as I can because I can’t control it. I did not ask for this yet here I am having to deal with it and it can cause diseases that are fatal.
This is something I am tired of feeling embarrassed about. I am tired of feeling ashamed when it is mentioned. I am tired of my family completely avoiding the subject. I am sick of people thinking I just want sympathy.
I am talking about this because no one else will and because not one doctor ever saw it in a routine exam.
Not one person recognized my destructive, rebellious, and hateful nature as an adolescent for what it was. No one paid attention and it is time we take the shame and fear out of the subject and start talking about it. Medical professionals are not the only ones that should be trained in spotting childhood abuse and neglect.
We are all responsible for the children in this world, and it is time our society steps the fuck up.
Editor: Ty H. Phillips
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