Tag Archives: attachment disorder

Pediatricians Screen for Child Trauma

To prevent childhood trauma, pediatricians screen children and their parents…and sometimes, just parents…for childhood trauma”
guest blog by Jane Ellen Stevens, Editor, ACEsTooHigh.com and ACEsConnection.com

Tabitha Lawson & kidsWhen parents bring their four-month-olds to a well-baby checkup at the Children’s Clinic in Portland, OR, Drs. Teri Petersen, R.J. Gillespie and their 15 other partners ask the parents about their adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).  [Tabitha Lawson of Portland, OR with her two children, who greatly benefited from the new program; more below]

When parents bring a child who’s bouncing off the walls and having nightmares to the Bayview Child Health Center in San Francisco, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris doesn’t ask: “What’s wrong with this child?” Instead, she asks, “What happened to this child?” and calculates the child’s ACE score.

In rural northern Michigan, a teacher tells a parent that her “problem” child has ADHD and needs drugs. The parent brings the child to see Dr. Tina Marie Hahn, who experienced more childhood trauma than most people. Instead of writing a prescription, Hahn has a heart-to-heart conversation with the parent and the child about what’s happening in their lives that might be leading to the behavior, and figures out the child’s ACE score.

What’s an ACE score? Think of it as a cholesterol score for childhood trauma.

Why is it important? Because childhood trauma can cause the adult onset of chronic disease (including cancer, heart disease and diabetes), mental illness, violence, becoming a victim of violence, divorce, broken bones, obesity, teen and unwanted pregnancies, and work absences.

The CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study) measured 10 types of childhood adversity: sexual, physical and verbal abuse, and physical and emotional neglect; and five types of family dysfunction – witnessing a mother being abused, a household member who’s an alcoholic or drug user, who’s been imprisoned, or diagnosed with mental illness, or loss of a parent through separation or divorce.  (There are, of course, other types of trauma, but those were not measured in this study. Other ACE surveys are beginning to include other types of trauma.)

Each type of trauma — not the number of incidents of each trauma — was given an ACE score of 1. So, a person who has been emotionally abused, physically neglected and grew up with an alcoholic father who beat up his wife would have an ACE score of 4.

The ACE Study found that childhood trauma was very common — two-thirds of the 17,000 mostly white, middle-class, college-educated participants (all had jobs and great health care because they were members of Kaiser Permanene) experienced at least one type of severe childhood trauma. Most had suffered two or more.

The more types of childhood trauma a person has, the higher the risk of medical, mental and social problems as an adult (Got Your ACE Score?). Compared with people who have zero ACEs, people with an ACEs score of 4 are twice as likely to be smokers, 12 times more likely to attempt suicide, seven times more likely to be alcoholic, and 10 times more likely to inject street drugs. Compared to people with zero ACEs, people with an ACE score of 6 have a shorter lifespan – by 20 years.

Twenty-two states and Washington, D.C., have done their own ACE surveys, with similar results.

The ACE Study is part of a perfect storm of research emerging over the last 20 years that is revolutionizing our understanding of human development. Brain research shows how the toxic stress of trauma damages the structure and function of children’s brains, which can explain their hyperactivity, inattentiveness, angry outbursts and other behavior. This affects their ability to learn in school, and leads them to use drugs, alcohol, thrill sports, food and/or work as coping mechanisms.

Biomedical researchers discovered that toxic stress experienced as a child can linger in the body to cause chronic inflammation as an adult, resulting in heart and auto-immune diseases, such as arthritis. And epigenetic research shows that the social and emotional environment can turn genes on and off, and childhood trauma can be passed from parent to child to grandchild.

Let’s put this another way: A huge chunk of the billions upon billions of dollars that Americans spend on health care, emergency services, social services and criminal justice boils down to what happens – or doesn’t happen — to children in their families and communities.

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The pediatricians mentioned in this article know that, and they also know that if they intervene early enough to stop or prevent childhood trauma by building resilience factors in children and families, children won’t suffer, and they’ll have happier, healthier lives as adults.

Pediatricians aren’t just about sore throats and ear infections anymore, says Gillespie. “This is a culture shift. We’re here to support families.”

The profession is moving away from looking solely at healing a child, to healing a family and a community. For the last several years, the American Academy of Pediatrics has been helping pediatricians create medical homes where all needs of children and their families are met, including “specialty care, educational services, out-of-home care, family support, and other public and private community services that are important for the overall health of the child and family.”

Two years ago, the AAP encouraged pediatricians to also address adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress in early childhood. Last month, AAP President Dr. James Perrin launched a new initiative, the Center on Healthy Resilient Children, to “coordinate the academy’s response to the issue of adverse childhood experiences, the promotion of healthy development, and the prevention of toxic stress.”

Feeling overwhelmed…and someone to turn to

When Tabitha Lawson brought her four-month-old son in to the Children’s Clinic in Portland, OR, they both were having a hard time. Unlike her 6-year-old daughter, he wasn’t an easy baby. He had colic, and Tabitha and her husband were under stress from his long bouts of crying.

“I was feeling overwhelmed,” she recalls. “I had no breaks. I work full time. From my job to my house is five minutes, where I’d go into my other life mode, and every evening, the scream-outs.”

She filled out a survey with 10 questions about her adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)…  click here to READ MORE…

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Excommunication Blues

#16 in my book blogs from “Don’t Try This at Home,” Chapter 3

Excommunication 1Last time, I wrote that just when I thought 2008 couldn’t get any worse, October-November 2008 with Mom in the hospice in Florida turned out to be my psychological Cambodia. It was going to get a whole lot worse.

I also noted that Adam and Eve had a Perfect Parent, but a 50% failure rate producing their kids, meaning babies damage real easily.  What if my Mom in reality was a fine (if not Perfect) parent, but I (like Eve) somehow got damaged, and had a mess in my head which made me project my own neurosis onto Mom?  Everybody loves their mom; I do, too.  I sure didn’t want to demonize my own mother.  Ouch!

Linda, my beloved little sister, I know you love Mom so and I know you won’t like this chapter. I’m looking at your photo now and I weep. Yes the one I took in your junior high acrobat leotard; even then you were hot, babe.  I love you like Life itself and I’d do anything not to hurt you – except to live another decade with these horror stories eating at me.

So the truth must come out, and I am so sorry that I could not talk it all through with you at the time, but there was just too much pain.  Today’s 2013 brain science says that the emotional pain was so intense in 2008, that my brain stem literally knocked me out like a mouse when a cat picks it up.  Forgive me, darling, that this comes so late.  I love you so.

Gulp.  Well folks, that one surprised me, too.  Gosh, being a writer certainly has its ups and downs.  Those soggy tissues on the floor all around my desk, where did they come from?  Er, back to our story…

Scholars note that Buddha, Moses and Jesus all had trouble with their family when they went home.  That’s simply because the ones to whom we are the closest, are the ones to whom we are the most vulnerable. We all need closeness and vulnerability, but that’s also where we can all get hurt most. Since nobody’s perfect, that’s where we do get hurt.  They call it the “need-fear dilemma;” we need closeness, but we fear it. [FN1]

Thinking back on what happened next in 2008, I had plenty of need and fear inside my own head. But maybe Mom did, too; she had it none too easy as a kid, as detailed in “Butt End of Evolution.”  See what you think.

It’s always hard to watch a mother die, and my Mom was very hard to watch, as I wrote last time.  But then, I was not just an observer. I was the designated pin cushion.  Mom had made no bones for decades that she pretty much didn’t want me anywhere, least of all in that hospice at the end.  And I did promise you the back story.

Hero or Villain?

Astronaut Parade 1Decades before, I’d started medical school in the Philippines and came home to New York at age 25 for a visit, where Mom feted me like a returning astronaut at family parties to honor my acceptance into that professional track.

I never had a performance problem; I graduated high school a year early with a full college scholarship and finished college six months early. It seemed natural enough to me that I was alone on the other side of the world among strangers, killing myself pulling all-nighters as med students must for years on end. But one day after my return from Manila, talking with my former college sweetheart (now my ex), it hit me that I was trying to do something I didn’t want to do.

And I can’t find a more diplomatic or more truthful way to say this: Mom always wanted me to be a doctor, and I saw that’s why I was doing it.

I saw that I couldn’t go back to Manila, and decided to return to my boyfriend in New York. “I’ve realized that I’m not doing med school for myself,” I told my parents, “but I can’t do something this serious my entire life, for someone else.”

My mother despised my ex for his political involvements; that became grounds for a sudden explosion. “You’re throwing your life away,” she said in great anger. Before I knew it, she had accused my ex of “killing my daughter” by talking me out of medical school. And yes, my 20-20 hindsight freely admits my ex had lousy politics, in as deep with one of the many whacky groups which lined the streets of New York after the Vietnam War. No mom would want to see a daughter with such potential get mixed up in that.

But that could have been discussed in the bosom of the family. I could have left U Manila and gone to work in New York while I figured out what I wanted to do or where to go to grad school.

Instead, I was booted out of the house so fast it made my guts spin. This was not simply, “you’re a quitter, no more parties.”  It felt like one minute I was John Glenn the hero riding in a parade with confetti, then awoke to find myself metamorphosed into Lee Harvey Oswald. The message was: “Go, and Never Darken My Doorway Again.”

I couldn’t think; I just wanted to die. Where was Jack Ruby when I needed him?

I had been excommunicated. There’s that odd feeling again; why does something always remind me of the Inquisition? It just keeps popping up. Perhaps I should create a new perfume line, “Eau d’Auto-da-fé ” or simply “Eau da Fe” for short (maybe have it marketed by Daffy Duck).

He’s a Bad Man

Oswald & Jack RubyIt took me another 25 years to notice the real shocker:  all concerned were distressed, yet everyone accepted Mom’s response as a fait accompli. Scratching my head in 2013, I can’t recall a debate from anyone, not from my father or any other member of my family. Now that I think of it, it never entered even my head to debate it, either.

Everyone, including me, seemed to be in silent agreement that I was in the wrong and bad, while Mom was in the right, and good. That required all to nod in endorsement, as if to the law. It was like I’d been caught in a mortal offense to the Ten Commandments.

I simply condemned myself “guilty as charged” and slunk off as if to some den of inequity. “You’re supposed to feel bad when you’re treated bad!” one therapy expert later quipped on hearing the tale, in an effort to shake me awake. “You were in a sick system so long you became numb to it,” he said, it’s technically termed “dissociation.”

Were my ex or his politics a Nuremberg crime heinous enough to merit this?  No one ever distinguished my being a med school quitter from his hated politics — not even me. It was all one huge ball of wormy guilt.

I didn’t steal from my dad or sleep with my sister’s boyfriend.  I just said, “I can’t go to medical school, I’m going to hang out with a guy you don’t like, and I may have some politics you don’t like.” Yet suddenly it was “Off with her head!”  Not until decades later did I realize it was all nuts.

No one ever said simply: “He’s a bad man, he’ll be bad for you — we love you, stay with us!”  I would have stayed with my family in a New York minute.  I was just trying to come home from the other side of the planet to find a little love for my wildly mixed-up head in a very cold world.  But then I jumped out of a certain controlled script.

Unwanted

Ugly Duckling 1No one said “But we want to see her!”  There was not one protest, as if they were muttering “whew, glad it’s not me.”
They didn’t even attend my wedding five years later.

Now, here I was in 2008 in Mom’s Miami hospice, where as I wrote last blog, I’d come to her room each morning and Mom would roll over and turn her face away.  She’d ask the nurses “Where’s my daughter?” with me standing there. When I’d say, “I’m right here, Mom,” she’d say, “Not you.  Where’s Linda?”

How could Mom and I have run so far off the rails?  I had plenty of time sitting in that hospice to agonize over that.  It hurt a lot.  One thing I knew:  it didn’t start when I returned from Manila at 25.

Mom had been hostile ever since I could remember, since age 4 at least, which I knew from memories predating my sister’s birth.  A few early incidents popped up out of nowhere in my first group therapy session as mentioned earlier.  But as a kid I could never fathom it or discuss it with anyone.  We just didn’t discuss such things at our house; there was too much to get done at home, work and school.  I sure wasn’t going to mortify myself by telling anyone at school.  It was a serious Ugly Duckling routine which never got to the swan part.

Another puzzle piece arrived in January 2006 when I flew in alone from Washington DC for a cameo appearance at my parents’ 50th anniversary dinner in a swank Miami bistro.  With my sister and her family in their finest, amid the champagne toasts, Mom suddenly announced that she had always resented my existence.

Fixing an eye on me across the table decked with flowers and candles, she said out of the blue and loudly, without a trace of a smile:  “I nearly died having you; you almost killed me.  You gave me an infection that put me flat on my back for weeks.  I was so sick that Grandma begged Dad not to have any more children.”

There was stunned silence at the table.  I looked into Mom’s eyes an instant in panic, but there was no way to make a connection with what I saw looking back.  To be blunt, it looked like either a very cold fish or something more dangerous.

I went blank, and made a beeline for the ladies room so no one could see me break down, collapsed in a stall in a blur of chiffon, stilettos, and tears.  My sister eventually pulled me out. Everyone acted as if nothing had happened.  Again.  Even my poor sister blanked out the entire incident, and denies to this day that anything occurred.

————————
This is from Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in Adults, Adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

FN1  “We have a need in our heart for love, but when it’s wounded or hurt or unavailable, something very bad happens.  We don’t just sustain need.   If my Mom dies when I’m age 7, I can’t just wait 20 years and say  ‘OK now I’ll find someone nice to love me.’  Instead, when we have unmet need or injured need, something bad develops called the need-fear dilemma.  What we need the most, we begin to fear.  If it’s needing love, then we’re uneasy around love.  If we need understanding of our weaknesses, we get very uneasy about being weak.”
—  Cloud, Henry, PhD, “Getting Love on the Inside,” Lecture, April 2002 (CD),  www.Cloud-Townsend Resources.com

“The insecure resistant ambivalent child shown in the video is experiencing what has been referred to as the need-fear dilemma; he both needs the mother for comfort, but something in his history with this mother has instilled fear, and distrust whether he will find what he needs.  The video is of the Strange Situation, developed by  psychologist Mary Ainsworth in the 1970s to describe secure and insecure attachment. These two attachment patterns are vividly seen in the interaction of two mother-child pairs: http://youtu.be/DH1m_ZMO7GU
   — Gerson, John, Phd, “Understanding Secure and Insecure Attachment,” www.theravive.com/research/understanding-secure-and-insecure-attachment

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I Oughtta Have My Head…

#11 in my ongoing book blogs from “Don’t Try This at Home”

After my divorce and the saga with Rebound Dan back East, did I mention dating in California? I did meet several fellows who looked promising at first.  Harvey the Vet, whom I met at a church dance no less, didn’t work out; turned out his dad beat him as a kid and he  couldn’t trust.  And yes there were enough PTSD stories to raise the hair on the back of a gecko’s neck.  But more in Chapter 4: Post-Divorce Dating.

Then there was Pete the high-priced management consultant.  We met in late 2007 when I had a brief binge on Match.com in an attempt to  replace Dan, another California dream that never seemed to materialize.

St Pauli NA cropPete read The New Yorker and Alan Greenspan’s biography, took me to Zagat-rated restaurants, and toured me in his Lexus from fine museums to the LA Book Fair.  He was a perfect gentleman, articulate, earnestly seeking a relationship, loved music and dancing, and generally on the up and up I was sure.

Pete was the first to say that I ought to have my head examined.

We talked by phone in early July 2008 while I was alone back East after my Dad died and Dan ditched me.  Pete concurred that it was definitely a problem to be unable to cry over my Dad, and so he opined that I ought to see a shrink.

Interesting source for the diagnosis.

Pete at first drank St. Pauli Girl NA.  That stands for “non-alcoholic” but Whu Nhu?  Not me, your clueless Singing Nun; it went right by me.  Then, after six months he’d have a glass of wine with dinner; a few weeks later it was a bottle of wine, then by the time I got back to California later in July 2008, it was a bottle of vodka for dessert, after which Pete physically passed out on his elegant glass coffee table. The last time he asked me out, I pulled up to the restaurant to find Pete outside with a Manhattan in a can. “Please put that away, it’s me or the booze,” I said. He popped the lid, I drove off, and never saw him again.

Five months later, shortly after New Years 2009, his boss informed  me that Pete, 55, had overdosed and died alone with his three cats in his upscale home steps from the sand on Huntington Beach.  At the funeral, just before I sang Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” Pete’s ex revealed that here was no average businessman who’d only had an accident. Pete, she said dolefully, had been in and out of expensive alcoholic rehab clinics like Betty Ford since the age of 15.  He died of sheer blood loss when his gut walls rotted through.

Could have fooled me.  “Gosh, the guy market’s in a lot worse shape than I thought,” I said. “Beware of men who cover up their past,” I emailed the girls.  Oh, men, men, men.

But what I couldn’t grasp was the truth.  Despite Pete’s elaborate fronts and apparent virtues, it was remarkable: I had once again found someone who couldn’t attach.  I had no way to know he was an alcoholic when we met, right?  But in fact, anyone who drank that hard for 40 years would have had his head so far up a bottle that there wasn’t much of his mind left for emotional contact of any sort. Not with man, woman, nor beast (pity the three cats).

What nutty part of my subconscious had sniffed out another of these “No Attachment” folks and bought it again?

If you’d ever have told me, as late as 2005, that I’d move to California, land of fruit and nuts, I’d have rolled my eyes. If you’d told me that I’d move to California and get a therapist for Heaven’s sake, I would have laughed my level New York head off. Who, me, the mortgage-paying, foreign exchange rate-slinging business gal?

But by July 2008, I was ready to believe Pete about one thing:  I definitely needed to have my head examined.

I thawt I Thaw a Thewapist  

I did, I did. I thaw TWO thewapists.  Therapist?  Therapist? Oh the thshame of it all; society so stigmatizes us for even thinking about it.

Group Therapy-Family AgainOut of the dating shark pool I stumbled, into the therapy jungle. That’s right, I took the plunge, despite the massive social condemnation, the incredible expense, and the huge time commitment.  I threw myself into treatment heart and soul for seven months, out of genuine alarm at my own mental state.

How did I find a therapist in the dark depths of 2008?  What an act of science.  Back before my Dad died, I was googling “singles events” in the local Orange County CA on-line newspaper.  Amongst the dances, jazz concerts and “Chocolate Lovers of America” events, (seriously, I kept the printout filed) up came a meeting tagged “Support for singles dealing with divorce.”

Armed with nothing but divorce grief and emotional pain, my friend Lola and I sallied forth to that weekly group earlier in 2008 – without a goal or a clue.  But on July 19, 2008, back I went with a vengeance, this time looking for serious answers about my sorry psyche.  Here’s what my notes report:

Dr. Matt went around the room of 8-10 women, asking each what brought us in. “I’ve moved seven times in two years,” Lola said to my shock, though once again I thought I knew the person well. “I left my husband, moved in with my daughter, then with my boyfriend, then I left him. I just keep moving. I’m miserable everywhere I go. No wonder I can’t find someone to love me – I don’t even love me.”

“I lost a 27-year marriage, my Dad died, then I was dumped by the rebound guy and he’s all I can think about,” I said.  “I feel like I’m crazy because I can’t cry about my Dad.  I don’t want to go to work or go out or do much of anything but cry.”

The other women had husbands deeply sunk into substance abuse who were wrecking their finances, or who repeatedly cheated on them in long-term unhappy marriages, or husbands who abandoned them and their small children.

What’s a “Codependent”?

What could Dr. Matt do but explain the concept of a codependent?  “What’s the definition of a codependent?” he asked.  “When a codependent dies, someone else’s life flashes before their eyes.”  Everything he said was spot on; my notes prove it:

“When a child experiences emotionally unavailable parents and is abandoned, ignored, heavily criticized, or feels substantial tension at home, the child is convinced very young not just that they have done something bad, but that they themselves ARE bad,” he reported. “Children cannot externalize cause and effect; in a child’s mind, everything revolves around ‘me.’  When a child sees parents fighting or other stressful behavior, the child thinks it is the cause. When a parent is an alcoholic or a workaholic or otherwise absent, the child thinks it is to blame or they wouldn’t have gone away.

“When even worse parents overtly blame the child, unjustly since it’s a child, the child cannot separate fiction from reality, and again thinks:  ‘I am bad.’  When parents are emotionally unavailable in this way, it creates a false belief structure lodged deep in a child’s subconscious that ‘I am bad.’ ”

“I am bad”? To my shock, suddenly I was resonating on all cylinders. Yikes, there was a part of me that had felt that way ever since I could remember.

My parents were thoroughly clean and upright, never drank or smoked or did anything but work – but they did fight and get angry.  And I sure had never felt they were “emotionally available” to me — what kind of nonsense is that anyway?

What do parents have to do with emotions?  I’d never even heard of the idea that parents were supposed to be emotionally anything with their kids.  Kids who had emotions weren’t behaving properly!  Isn’t it a parent’s job to get rid of emotions in kids, to get kids to grow up?

Trix rabbit caughtEmotions, like Trix, are for kids, right? Boy was I confused.

And then, just sitting there,  suddenly I was cowering in the back seat of the family car in grade school while my parents laced into each other up front. “Please don’t fight, please don’t be angry!” I scrawled madly in my notebook. “What did I do wrong? Why won’t you love me?”

Just like that, right out of nowhere, I was back in grade school.  Oh my.  And, asking my parents “Why won’t you love me?”  Huh?  I just found all this today in my dusty 2008 notebook. Wild.

Dr. Matt went on with his briefing. “Whenever family stress occurs, the child learns wrongly ‘I caused it, I broke it, I’ve got to fix it.’  That’s untrue, plus a child can’t possibly fix it,” he said. “But the child develops ‘repetition compulsion’ – later in life they are always trying to re-live the same childhood trauma, in order to master the situation, to go back and fix it.  It can’t work, it never does, but facts never get in the way of the deep subconscious when it’s bent on a compulsion.”

“Why are you sending me the message that I broke it and you are demanding that I fix it?” I scribbled madly, still bizarrely addressing my parents many decades ago.

Later in life, Dr. M. said, this child gravitates toward spouses and others who behave as the parents did, to people who are distant, angry, or who actually do need fixing – all people who are emotionally unavailable. “ ‘Oh, just like Mom or Dad. That’s a dance I know, I know how to relate to that,’ thinks the subconscious,” he said.

“The textbook case is the codependent wife always trying to rescue her alcoholic husband by paying his bills or covering up his bad behavior.  She’s blindly acting out a childhood repetition compulsion that she’s got to ‘fix it’ – just like as a child she had to cheer up Mom or appease angry Dad.  The original term was ‘co-alcoholic,’ because the fixing spouse is as dependent on the drug as the addict.  They need it around to maintain their subconscious childhood dynamic.”

Dr. M. even managed, hearing me for five minutes in a meeting of eight women, to diagnose my marriage and warn me against a particular brand of non-attaching men. “Enmeshment occurs in people who were too depended upon by one parent, usually the mother, as kids,” he explained, “in the absence of the other parent, usually an absent father. That’s unnatural, so for example, a son who became Mom’s substitute for his absent Dad, will have a deep felt need to escape from ‘too much Mom,’ whether Mom was angel or devil. As an adult, this man has an allergy against relationships; he always has one foot out the door.”

“Larry (my ex) always had one foot out the door!” I scribbled madly, trying to keep up.  “Larry’s Dad was always traveling on business in Europe and his mom made her first born son into a little emperor.  Plus yikes: Dan (the rebound) always had one foot out the door…”

Painting with a Hammer

With such brilliant insights we should quickly be cured, no? Dr. Matt’s words were true indeed. He did fail to mention that they are also the basics in most standard psychiatric textbooks, as I learned ‘way much later.  Too later…

Instead, the RX which came next hit me like a hammer: “You don’t need to go back and fix it. Just let it go,” said Dr. Matt.  Simple as that.  Just think your way out of it.  Just let your head tell your heart where to get off.

I didn’t know then, that this was all head talk, and that head talk has never transformed a heart in human history.  I didn’t know then, that brain science says the thinking frontal brain has virtually no power to influence the emotional limbic brain. [FN1]

“Trying to fix the heart with the head is like trying to paint with a hammer; it only makes a mess,” say John James and Russell Friedman,  the top experts on divorce grief and every other sort of grief. [FN2]  But I hadn’t heard of them yet.

“You know how to take care of others, that’s your expertise,” continued Dr. M.  “But you have another part of YOU that really needs caring for, your hurting child part – so eliminate the middleman.  Stop trying to take care of others, and take care of yourself instead.”  It did sound clever.

Then he lowered the boom. “Go to a safe place and introduce these two parts of you to each other,” he said. “It’s likely they’ve never met. Start with the wounded child part inside you, make sure you’re in a really safe place where the inner child feels safe. Then ask her, ‘Would it be ok to meet another part of yourself?’ Then introduce the care-giving adult part, to the hurting child part and leave them alone together so they can subconsciously process.”

“Leave them alone together?” After his barrage of terrific but crushing data, which had struck such a nerve gusher, this sudden conclusion left my head spinning. It sounded like a gobbledegook segue to nowhere; “go take a long walk off a short pier.” It was an answer to “Now What?” that made no sense whatsoever.

“Do it yourself,” he was telling me.  I had a sinking feeling.

I went home and diligently followed his advice — and I felt much, much worse.  In fact, after a week of trying this out, I got to where I was in such a flat-out panic that I was nauseous.

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This is from Chapter 2 of Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment DisorderHow I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.  Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from her book every Friday, in which she explores her journey of recovery and shares the people and tools that have helped her along the way.

Footnotes

[FN1] Lewis, Thomas, Amini, Fari, Lannon, Richard; “A General Theory of Love”, Random House, 2000. Great link: www.paulagordon.com/shows/lannon/

[FN2] James, John W., Friedman, Russell, “The Grief Recovery Handbook,” Harper Collins, New York, 2009 (original 1998)

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Tin Can Shot Full of Holes

#10 in my ongoing book blogs from “Don’t Try This at Home”

After my Dad’s funeral, back I flew from Florida again to my  consulting gig near Washington DC, and to Dan the rebound affair, who seemed supportive.  I was so relieved to be away from the funeral pain, and being with Dan at his farm felt good.

tin can shooting cartoonImagine my surprise when within five days of my father’s death, Dan sat down to the nice dinner I’d prepared for him one night and asked me to leave.

“It’s just not happening for me,” he announced. “I want mah house back.  I’m just not comfortable with you.”  He had no feelings for me, he said.  Whu Nhu? After almost two years and endless hours of intensity, I had been completely blindsided.

Later on that night (much later, after the inevitable rematch), I asked if he could let me know what I’d done wrong, so I could at least learn something from all this.  All he could do was repeat “I was comfortable with Maureen (his ex).  But you get so excited when you talk that you wave your hands and it distracts me to where I can’t hear what you’re saying.  I’m just not comfortable with you.”

“I’m just not comfortable with you.”  At the time it seemed merely unjust, but make a mental note of that turn of phrase.  It will prove to be another clue to the big picture puzzle.

I left Dan’s farm and rented a room in an elderly widow’s home near the airport to work out my consulting contract for another three weeks, before I could escape back to California.

My Dad was dead — and still I couldn’t cry for him. But now I was crying buckets on the hour for Dan, a stranger I’d known only briefly over just short of two years.

Over the July 4, 2008 weekend I dutifully googled “Grief” on the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) website (since taken over by SAMHSA).  I found this on page two, and in all these years, it’s by far the best way to confront grief I’ve ever seen, packed full of heavy truth in each short sentence:

“How will I know when I’m done grieving? Every person who experiences a death or other loss must complete a four step grieving process:
1. Accept the loss
2. Work through and feel the physical and emotional pain of grief
3. Adjust to living in a world without the person or item lost
4. Move on with life.

“The grieving process is over only when the person completes these four steps,” it concluded bluntly.  This short but dense RX has since been inexplicably removed from the NIMH website, but I’ve kept a folded shard of the printout all these years.  And it proved to be deadly accurate.

I posted “Accept the Loss” in Calibri 16 point font on my computer, my bathroom mirror, and taped it on my wallet (still there to this day), but I couldn’t begin to understand what it meant.  I was dead sure that the shattering loss I was feeling was heartbreak over Dan.
I felt guilty but little more for my Dad.

Right on cue as my personal life went down the tubes, it sure did look as if I were in good company and the whole American economy were simultaneously going down in a hand basket.

I was working 14 hour days on a punishing schedule for the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) info-tech proposal. I could remember when a Defense Department proposal was just that: a large technical document written for a major defense supplier, explaining why our satellite system or computer system was better than the competitors’.

Here, however, at times I was sure I was in the Twilight Zone, there was such disorganization bordering on panic.  This was a $2 billion project, to be built at hundreds of airports, ports and border crossings around the nation, and every large company in the U.S. was bidding. The company which retained me had thrown their entire budget for a year on this one proposal, bringing in consultants by the dozens — without setting up a reasoned structure.

TSA ChipmunkIt was mass chaos. We had computer gurus in turbans from Bombay, and Brits from London who would joke they were here to take back the colonies (to which I retorted “What’s left? There’s no industrial base…”). We had cost cutters from Lower Manhattan who didn’t care whether the equipment we were proposing to sell to Uncle Sam worked or not, if they could just structure the cheapest bid.

We hardly had time to leave our desks to eat and by the last two weeks they were trucking in catered breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Anonymous signs began to appear on doors spoofing the insanity.  Yes, I saved one and scanned it today (above).  Click on it, it’s a riot.

Through the din, every morning at 8 am there was a voice on the speaker phones throughout the building, the voice of the lady Proposal Manager, literally shouting orders to the massed troops.  One day I had to tear myself from my workstation long enough to go down to the basement super-bunker to interview some of the top brass leading the project.  There in what looked like a 5-foot wide loud yellow shirt was a woman who resembled nothing so much as Jabba the Hut, scratching her arms, chain smoking, and shrieking into the speaker phones. “Well, she’s won $10 billion worth of proposals, so whatever Lola wants,” one fellow muttered.

I really wasn’t very sure I wanted to be in this line of work anymore.  But what choice did I have – starve to death alone?
It was as if that Twilight Zone had engulfed my public and my private life in one nasty slurp.

I was leading a double existence, interviewing top executives by day, then crying into the cell phone to my friends in California on my short breaks, standing outside in the muggy Virginia heat.  It had all been a series of psychological champagne drunks I was on, I told them ruefully, to cover up my divorce, the fact that I had lost my 27-year marriage, my overseas projects, my music, and my whole life.

I couldn’t  “Accept the loss” of my entire life, or my divorce;  I couldn’t accept anything.  I just ran.  First I ran to Dan, then to California dancing, singing Country, sailing, and dating, then back to Dan, I told them.  Now I’ve lost the Dan umbilical cord to the East Coast and I belong nowhere.

So what do you do when the champagne factory shuts down? After everyone left the office at 11 pm I stayed on, churning out Dan doggerel well into the early morning.

I didn’t feel any anger at all while I was crying so hard during that summer of 2008; I don’t recall feeling anything like anger for another four years.  I just felt unloved, deadly lonely and miserable.

SONY DSCBut I still had an empty string bean can with a half dozen jagged wounds, from the day Dan posted it as a target at the far end of a back woods field as part of his efforts to teach me to shoot pistols.  Something inside me resonated oddly, to think that I had actually pumped this piece of metal full of lead.

I may not have been aware of any anger, but my reaction to that piece of junk and the poems told another story which didn’t come out until much later.

Tin Can Shot Full of Holes
(Apologies to Bob Seeger)
July 12, 2008

It’s sitting on the wall ledge above my closet door,
It sits and stares right at me;  I know what it’s staring for:
To think a serious woman like me would be concerned,
For such a pile of tin and rust, and might even get burned.
The more I think about it, the less I can control
A visceral reaction to that tin can shot full of holes.

I met a man in Mexico, he had an eagle eye,
He warned me not to go too far, he warned me not to die;
He warned me there was nothing alive behind his smile;
He smiled so warm right through me it almost seemed worthwhile.
I thought his smile might save him, as bright as burning coal,
But nothing could bring comfort to a tin can shot full of holes.

We went up on the mountain with little more to say,
I did my level best to focus on things far away,
We used tin cans as targets for pistol practice shots,
But never could be certain to hit any given spot.
With Dorothy, I’ve traveled over Oz from pole to pole,
But all I’ve come away with is a tin can shot full of holes.

I hate it when these poems just overflow my mind;
I’d rather more be sleeping and my work is far behind.
I see him in the shadows, I see him in the sun,
I see him on the grasslands, I see him on the run,
He’ll have to run forever, for he’s running from his soul;
My heart goes out in pity to the tin man shot full of holes.

Hit Bottom Yet?

By the time I flew back to California on July 18, 2008, tail between legs, I was in bad shape.  But think you’re hurting now, girl?  Ha.  It was just the beginning.

Now the Great 2008 Financial Crisis meltdown was in full swing, banks were crashing left and right across America, and my aerospace engineering and IT consulting market on the West Coast suddenly folded up like a Japanese duck pop.

“Japanese duck pop” is a semi-controversial term I’ve been accused of making up, but which I’m sure I learned from a Korean War Vet in some global timezone at some point in the 1990s.  Imagine a flock of ducks flying along, and one of them while zipping straight ahead at a good clip, sticks his head directly up his rear… until pop!  He simply disappears, in Incheon Landing slang.

An opera-going friend invited me to an elite dinner party in Newport Beach, where of course I did not use this sort of language.  One thing I know how to do is put up a glamorous front at an upscale dinner party.  The woman seated to my right asked my line of work. “You’re a writer? Fabulous,” she said.  “I run an investment fund; my clients invest a minimum of $5 million with me.  I want to publish a book on my investing method and I’d like you to be my ghost author. Come to my office on Monday.”

Soon I was in her impressive Newport Beach office, complete with fountains in the palm-swept courtyard, taking down her book in dictation twice a week, as she rattled it off the top of her head.  Soon we were talking international finance, and she was talking about taking me on to train me to help handle some of her millionaire investment clients.  Magic!  A new California Dream.

Until one day I sat down in her office – and the investment bank on Wall Street where she kept all her clients’ funds had just gone down in flames, bringing the markets with it.  Her cell phones were ringing, the computers were going haywire, her irate clients were pulling up in limos, and her husband and son were running in and out of the room with slips of paper and messages.

bear_stearns on fire 0808It was like trying to write a book on nuclear war, in the middle of a nuclear war.  There went another California Dream.  The Great 2008 Financial Crisis made an end to that book project, along with major investment banks.

It was also the end of my California defense career, because the Federal proposal consulting market in California suddenly died, never to be born again as of today.  All the technical writing jobs for aerospace engineering near Los Angeles International Airport which I had been eying suddenly were shipped back to the Washington DC Beltway from whence I’d just barely escaped with my life.

I’d put some cash away from all those contracts, but that career was gone, unless I wanted to move back to Washington, world capital of defense consulting, home of the rain, sleet, and the long shadow of Dan Heller.  I did not; I physically could not. I was sick to my gut at the thought of travel to the East Coast.

So I was stuck in my one-room in California, which was actually little more than a shack in a young couples’ back yard, with the clothes on my back, $30K in my ex’s debt still on my credit cards,  my hard-earned savings, and a stellar resume – curled up in a heap on my bed like a spider checking out for good.

Did I mention that I’d tried dating in California? I did meet several fellows.  One was Harvey the Vietnam vet, a sweet man who bore a striking resemblance to Tarzan (he was ripped).  Harvey had survived some horrible experiences in combat, though.  And now I was beginning to feel like I knew just what he had been through.

Summer 2008, I thought, surely was the the end of my world. Surely it could get no worse than this.  One of my journal entries at the height of the 2008 Presidential campaign gave some pretty amazing evidence on my state of mind:

The Helicopter
(Apologies to Senator McCain)
August 2, 2008

My friend Harvey fought in Vietnam as a combat photographer,
At 6’3″ he weighed over 220 pounds.
On one evacuation the GIs pushed him off the helicopter:
“Pansy photographer! We can’t take off with your weight!”
Harvey was captured by the Vietcong.  Eventually he escaped.

Sometimes I have that helicopter feeling:
That my parents threw me out of my house,
That my husband threw me out of my life,
That the economy threw me off of the bus.

I forsook my family and gave up everything for you,
But you threw me out of my life,
You threw me into the world completely unequipped,
To know that I was prey.

You threw me, without ever having been loved,
Into Superman’s arms,
He took me for a flight, and I thought “Oh, maybe this is love?”
But soon he was done — and he threw me off the helicopter
—————————–All
———————————————Over
—————————————————————–Again.

Bang!  You’re dead.  All over again.
I’m MIA — and no one even knows I’m missing,
Or will know whether I die or whether I live…
I’m MIA — and I can’t even run for President;
I don’t even have the dignity of a dog tag.

 

———————————
This is from Chapter 2 Part II of Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder – How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.  Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book every Friday, in which she explores her journey of recovery and shares the people and tools that have helped her along the way.

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When Family Doesn’t Get It, Recovery Partners Will

#4 in the news blog series; original post on ACEsConnection, September 26, 2013

When we’re hurting, we all want and need those closest to us to “get it,” but please take comfort from the statistic that it usually does not happen that way.  Why?  Therapist and scholar Jack Kornfield says, “Even Buddha and Jesus had a lot of trouble with their families when they went home!  So did Mother Theresa.  Holding up the ring nuns wear as brides of Christ, she told a journalist: ‘ I’m married, too, and He can be very difficult… ‘  ”

That’s because when we humans get close, to those closest to us, that proximity turns on the fight-flight paranoia in all concerned (in everyone, not just in me).  Why? That’s where humans get the most vulnerable, so that’s where (our bodies and paranoid brain stems feel) we could potentially get really hurt.  There is a lot of literature on this problem – please don’t feel alone on this!  You are exactly normal.

Henry Cloud & John Townsend

Henry Cloud & John Townsend

This is why we have support groups and that is why therapists exist.  In my experience it’s instead my recovery partners, my trauma-informed therapist, and trauma-informed folk such on ACEsConnection who get it.  And that’s a life-saver.

Dr. John Townsend says: “There will be people who are marked, at the same time as you.  Find them.”

Find people who are in the same boat, who are not in denial, who do get it– and spent a lot of flight time sitting with them, face to face.  That’s where the real healing is.

When I did that work, I didn’t know about ACEsConnection, the  private Facebook  of the ACE Study.  ACE is the top research on childhood emotional pain and health;  it shows Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) actually create most medical, mental health and emotional issues in adults.

What I did in 2009 was to get relief by piling on many extra hours of “flight time” sitting with my Recovery partners, one whose parents were dying, and another whose spouse committed suicide.  The emotional pain was excruciating, but the process worked — because we were in the same boat.

We used the “Grief Recovery Handbook” by John James & Russell Friedman and wrote “Grief Letters” as the book assigns. It’s an arduous method and they do caution:  Don’t do this alone!

So arduous, we were advised by the pros to “schedule in the flight hours” with a Grief Partner — and we met in pairs every single Wednesday night for 3 hours and Saturday afternoons for even longer — for three years.  We just read our Grief Letters to each other.

Grief Recovery Handbook,+20th+Anniversary+Expanded+EditionWe shared everything, and I do mean everything, the deepest of grief.  One hour sharing by each of us of our letter of the week, sharing in turn, while the other sat with mouth shut (that’s why “Hello Kitty” has no mouth) and practiced compassionate listening.  After sharing 1 hour each (no one can take more than that in a day!), we’d have a snack and chat, or go walk on the beach on Saturdays.

I can not possibly say in mere writing how deeply healing that was – it saved my life!

This can not be done by email or telephone.  It’s the eye contact that heals the brain; ask Dr. Bruce Perry:  the eyes literally carry the image of the soul from one human into another. That’s how mothers co-create their babies’ brains, and that is the only thing that can heal us for the rest of life.  “It’s all about the face time.”

But our family members were just not in the same boat (or in denial; they might be in the same boat but couldn’t face it; denial harmful to all concerned).  So trying to get from them, something they simply do not have, was just not the best use of our truly valuable time.  Sooner or later, they will get it — but probably later.  I had one family member in denial who lives 3,000 miles away, and that was all the family I had;  I had to wing it from scratch.  That was a big ouch by itself.  It still stings.

Then I “accidentally” met my recovery partners in choir.

If no recovery partners appear magically in your ‘hood,  join ACEsConnection.com — nation-wide and world-wide– and go to or form an ACE meeting.   Or find or form a support group at your local house of worship or county health organization.  I’ve tried all the groups from DivorceCare to GriefShare, Codependents Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery (aka CR, Pastor Rick Warren’s national group), and even Al Anon.

It was incredibly painful because so many just do NOT get it — but I became a gold mine of ideas on how to find recovery partners.  Message me, I’ll help you — I found them, I did recover — and now I feel great most of the time.

If all else fails there are weekly Al Anon meetings in every city in America and they are not just for families of addicts. They will be there for anyone who is hurting and needs loving acceptance; just walk in and admit to that tiny streak of co-dependency that lurks in all of us.

Plus: Here is an incredibly fruitful link I just found on http://acestudy.org/faqs
Q:  I’m a survivor and/or perpetrator of child abuse in search of help; what should I do?
A:  Talk with your physician, and ask for a referral.  No matter what your age, if you do not currently have healthcare coverage, contact the nearest children’s hospital or children’s advocacy center and ask for help. This jumps to the National Children’s Advocacy Center at http://www.nationalcac.org/locator.html and to illustrate, I put in my zip and got 5 matches within 50 miles such as:
1. Child Abuse Services Team (CAST), 401 The City Dr., Orange, 92868  (714) 935-7599
2. Miller Children’s Abuse and Violence Intervention Center, 2865 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach, 90806  (562) 933-0590
3. Children’s Advocacy Center for Child Abuse, 363 S. Park Ave. Ste. 202, Pomona, 91766  (909) 629-6300
4. Riverside Child Assessment Team, 26520 Cactus Ave., Lower Level Moreno Valley 92555  (951) 486-4345
5. Palomar Pomerado Forensic Health Child Abuse, 121 N. Fig St., Escondido 92025  (760) 739-2156

Building a Life Team

I’m no stranger to emotional pain so bad it can lead to suicide. My new book “Don’t Try This at Home: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder” notes the pain was so intense, it nearly did.

Rick & Kay Warren, Matthew 9-28-13In fact this blog resulted from a Sept. 17 interview with Pastor Rick Warren on his son Matthew’s suicide this year. Pastor Warren told CNN, “Matthew was not afraid to die.  He was afraid of pain.”

Pastor Warren and his wife Kay have been passionately calling for a change in our mental health system to recognize and deal with the fact that this happens too often, starting with a July 26 statement calling for complete mental health system reform.

Among the comments I received after posting this warning about how bad the pain can get, were these:

“Thank you for sharing.  I have Major Clinical Depression myself and I can totally relate to what his son went through. Many times, even the people who say they love you the most, don’t really get what it’s like to go through such intense emotional pain that you want it to just stop no matter what the cost.  Then, those you have no choice but to turn to for support–actually work against your recovery by saying and doing things that are counter productive.  It’s the worst ‘Catch 22’ I can imagine being in.”

The next comment was:

“So very well stated! And when folks don’t get that they are acting in a counter-productive way, the person in need is getting re-traumatized again; it’s a mini-re-traumatization. Not unlike a micro-aggression or micro-inequity.

“Micro-aggressions/micro-inquities are usually attributed to minority experiences.  There is a ‘dose-response effect’… a cumulative effect of these and other traumas that create a heavier burden for the person in need as time goes by.  The fundamental essence is that the person is alienated from ‘the group.’  Being a part of one’s social group is a biological need of all mammals ! ”

I replied, “No, most people can’t get what it’s like ‘to go through such intense emotional pain that you want it to just stop no matter what.’  It’s so hard, that Catch 22 you talk about.  Many times in 2008-2011 I was in Matthew Warren’s shoes.  But I had to see a friend every day whose spouse had committed suicide, so I had to look the results in the eye. That is the only reason frankly I survived.

“I’ve been thru micro re-traumatizations like that for decades. This is why I so appreciate ACEsConnection.  Because there, I can be 100% my real self, trauma and all, and everyone ‘does get it;’  you get the real me.   So no re-traumatizations.  Priceless!”

Feel like you’re at the End of the Line?  Here’s the proverbial bottom line:

It is SO important for us to simply be heard saying the truth of what we feel, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – and then to , receive a totally accepting response.

As in “you belong, no matter what you are feeling. ” And it’s just very difficult to get family to do that;  it’s too intense for them.  It’s just human nature; let’s accept it.

That’s why Dr. John Townsend also advises that we all create a “Life Team” of seven people who are not family – Seven “Recovery” team partners – so we can call someone every day and share how we really feel, no bull, and be accepted and validated.

He says it’s only by bringing our “bad parts” into relationship with other humans, that we can heal them. Amazing. You should see what his list of “bad parts” includes, it’s astonishing.  He’s for sharing every not-good thing we feel under the sun.  Even horrid sexual impulses.  Talk about the emotions, so that we can feel it and heal it – then we dissipate the impulse and don’t act out.

Make the Call !  Get Your 5 Supplements…

Dr. Townsend says everybody, every day, requires — as a physiological need — what he calls the Five Supplements:

Grace, Empathy, Validation, Acceptance, and Encouragement.

Can you imagine that?  As an ACE survivor, the first time I heard him say this, I thought:  “This shrink is out of his mind.”  I’d never had such a wonderful experience in my life – let alone every day of my life — and as a doctor-certified requirement of the human soul.

OK, so we need a list of seven people who will do this for us – because obviously, we are also going to be there for them and do it for them!  That’s what “General Theory of Love” calls “100%-100%” agape. I’ve been doing this and it really works.

But then: we have to make the call. That’s usually the worst part, we are so mortified.

harlow-monkey-getty sm, better ResolutionI once told my therapist: “Last night I felt like the Harlow’s monkey shown in ‘General Theory of Love’. ”  It’s a baby monkey huddled up in a ball of agony like a spider about to die — after it was removed from even the terry cloth mother monkey and left in a cold bare wire cage.

But I had called a recovery friend the night before, and simply told them that.  And got accepted telling it.  My doctor replied:  “That’s the point.  The monkey couldn’t make the call.  YOU made the call!”  And I felt better.

To which our team of commentators responded:

“Saying one’s truth and being ACCEPTED as in “belonging” is just spot on! Again, it’s a biological need.  Mammals NEED to belong.  Dr. Gabor Mate states this often.

“Sadly, an excellent example is bullying.  It’s why so many young kids take their lives when bullied.  Being ostracized from the group is to inject disease (or as some would point out “dis-ease”) into the victim; denying one from BELONGING. Then one looks at Dr. Daniel Siegel’s work and understands that individual biology is modulated by interpersonal experiences (click the link).”

And:

“I REALLY appreciate what you’ve both shared with us.  It has a ring of truth to it (resonating loudly within me) and I wish there was a way to TEACH that to every single person on the planet.  It’s as basic a need as food, water, clothing, shelter.  Our society suffers when WE suffer — rejection and isolation are such HUGE barriers to self-esteem, feeling loved, being accepted.”

So that’s it:  Everybody, every day, requires, as a physiological need, Dr. Townsend’s Five Supplements:

Grace, Empathy, Validation, Acceptance, and Encouragement.

Then, let us build our Life Teams, and let us keep working together here in dialogue.

And remember: the monkey couldn’t make the call – but we can make the call.  So make the call!

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No Tears for Dad

#9 in my ongoing book series; original post September 27, 2013

After my 27-year marriage fell apart, by late 2007 I was reduced to writing long poems for Dan the East Coast rebound affair, in a bizarre attempt to figure out how his mind worked, why he kept calling me, and how to inspire him to “get it.”

My notebooks repeated one theme for two years:  I was dead — but now I want to be alive.  I’d been left “home alone” by my ex for so many years I thought I was dead, as I said during my divorce.  I emailed friends often in the months to follow that Dan had brought a dead woman back to life.  One March 2008 poem ends: “If you someday chose to take a breath/ I’ll be there at your command/ You gave me life, I owe you life/ Call upon it if you can.”

BrousBlog11a Turtle Stayin' AliveI didn’t learn until four years later that the reptilian brain stem controls a lot of these functions, and this feeling of being dead has a technical tag: dissociation.
Whu Nhu?

But Dan’s every “come here” ended in a “go away,” so I couldn’t stay alive.  I’d been so happy to escape the marriage torture chamber, divorce, and start a fabulous new life, I just couldn’t understand why I felt so lousy. “Dan ruined California for me,” I decided, and launched into a new round of kayaking, sailing, dancing and dating on the West Coast to replace him.  Good luck in that mindset.

Periodically I’d fly back and forth across North America, making money, visiting Mr. Wrong, and going nowhere at 600 MPH.  Who needed meth, I was high as a kite on my own hyper-schedule.

After a late 2007 trip to visit Washington DC defense sector clients and Dan’s Maryland fortress, I flew back to LAX into the worst Southern California fire season of the decade.  The desert from the air showed flames and plumes of black smoke rising as far as the eye could see, as if the plane were “just taking the tram into Mordor.”  A descent into hell, literally and emotionally.

My California dream had become a nightmare.  As 2008 wore on, Dan the Anti-Christ of Anti-Attachment was eating an ever-larger hole in my soul.  I spent days near LAX writing billion-dollar proposals for radar systems and nights writing Dan doggerel, trying to fathom my obsession and work it out of my system.

But no matter how I tried to fix my present, it never hit me that all this emotional pain could be from way far back in my past.

Reality Check

Reality finally hit when my father died and I couldn’t cry.

In spring 2008 I saw an ad for a concert of my all-time favorite, Mozart’s final ”Requiem Mass,” at a community college in Huntington Beach, and moved to take back my music.  On May 15, 2008, I sang the “Requiem” with full chorus and orchestra, realizing my dream to be singing again and in sunny California with a new start.

The next morning my brother-in-law phoned from New York to say that my Dad in Florida had just had a heart attack, please catch the next plane to Miami Beach.  California?  New life?  A little joy?  Kiss the vision goodbye for the Nth time, honey.

BrousBlog11b Amadeus PosterBack in the air across the country, back to the dreary East Coast I flew, Mozart’s fearsome call of Judgment Day ringing in my ears.  Back to my “family of origin” as it is technically termed, back to my parents and my younger sister.  Back, back, back in time.

My father lay in the hospital dying.  He had an oxygen mask over his nose and mouth and could do little more than groan and wave penciled lists of things that needed doing in the general direction of my mother.  He had had a stroke and acute respiratory failure as well; his major systems had simply given out.

Dad worked long hours into the night and on Saturdays for 40 years for his family because, as the Broadway song from “Carousel” goes:  “She’s gotta be sheltered, and fed, and dressed, in the best that money can buy.”  Yet there was always something strange about his situation. When at age 4 or so I first noticed Dad, he was controlled access only.  He’d come home late, Mom would allow my sister and I each a quick hug, say “Daddy’s tired” (always the same words), seat him in a back room with dinner and the TV on, and close the door with us outside.  She’d joke, “They never knew his name was Ralph; they thought his name was Daddy’s Tired.”

BrousBlog11c Billy Bigelow SunsetIt felt as if Dad was always off into the sunset somewhere, like the movie finale of “Carousel” where Billy the Dad returns to heaven after one day on earth.  Dad would say, “I learned in a house full of women to keep the toilet seat down,” as if he did not belong.

A few Sundays a year Dad would take us to the carousel in the next town, which I awaited eagerly as my only time of any duration with him.  I had such longing to belong with the colored lights and pretty horses, and for Dad to see me and recognize me as part of that beautiful setting.  But Dad didn’t seem to notice me; he’d put me on his horse in front of him and focus on jumping for the gold ring.  The big scary outside moving horses seemed to go awfully high up when I was so little and when Dad jumped it terrified me, but he just laughed.  I wanted to hang onto Dad but he was jumping, so I hung onto the horse’s leather strap instead.

The next memory I have of Dad was in school after the Kennedy assassination, when for no reason anyone could grasp, I began crying uncontrollably and went on sobbing in my room for weeks.  Finally Dad came in and said, “That’s enough now, cut it out.”  Mom and he were displeased when I cried as a kid and that was the signal to be quiet.  It never occurred to either of us for him to ask what was really troubling me, or to hold me while I cried.

Let Me Call You Sweetheart

Dad grew up in a big house with showcases of silver, plastic slipcovers on the furniture, and tennis courts.  His father was a New York City merchant who commuted to Manhattan every day by Long Island Railroad.  After the 1929 crash, Grandpa lost everything, but still went to the station every morning and sat there all day to keep up appearances.  One day the kids at school told my Dad where Grandpa was, and Dad had to go to the station and tell Grandpa “Come on, Dad, let’s go home.”  My Dad never connected this to post-war times, but when I heard the story, it hit me that appearances had always been really important in our family.

Now I realized watching Dad in the hospital, waving lists of things to do, that he was still trying to keep up appearances, to maintain some sense that he had control over events — in a situation where that is notoriously impossible.  I was reminded of the lists later when my sister Linda and I stumbled over eerily similar boxes of objects Dad had stashed at home.  Large cartons of nail clippers, endless cases of pencils, crates of bills from decades past, an empire of things he spent years trying to control.  Lynn was bemused, but I remember feeling scared and wondering why.

I haven’t mentioned Mom much, in order to let you continue to look over my shoulder and see events exactly as I did – or to be blind to them, as I mostly was.  Let’s simply say for now that another reason it was difficult to communicate with Dad was that it always seemed I couldn’t really speak to him except through Mom.  It was still pretty much controlled access.

Mom had her moments; one afternoon she held Dad’s hand and sang “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” until we all were in such tears that emails to the cousins reverberated across the internet. You could hear them singing along with Bing Crosby all 1,200 miles from Long Island, New York to Miami Beach, Florida that night.

But Mom wasn’t glad to see me, as usual.  I felt sad I hadn’t visited them more in later years, but Mom never seemed to want me around and I didn’t have the courage to face her.

When I arrived at the hospital Dad was visibly upset – “Kathy?!” he cried, almost in terror.  I can still hear the alarm in his voice.  It hit me that my face made him realize he must be seriously ill, if I were there all the way from California, and despite Mom’s resistance.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

BrousBlog11d Generic CarouselI spent the rest of May 2008 in what felt like a giant nation-wide United Airlines staging of “Carousel,” jetting round and around, back and forth from the hospital in Florida to Washington DC, where I had a  contract this time to work on a $2 billion proposal to restructure the national information systems at the Transportation Security Agency.

I never connected the two at the time, but in retrospect I was in such emotional pain seeing my parents in Florida, pain so severe I couldn’t even become conscious of it, that my resolve to kick the Dan habit went right out the window.

As I said when I first left home in 2006: “I was in so much pain, I just walked out on Newport Beach and proceeded directly to medicate.”  Straight from the hospital to Dan I went and for a few weeks his brand of organic chemicals numbed me up right fine.

On June 3, 2008, Dad passed away.  Back to Florida I flew.  My sister the Wall Street lawyer seemed to have the funeral service as well scripted as a prosecution.  But in fact it was Mom who literally wrote scripts for everyone but me to read.  Linda’s two sons balked at reading the scripts; they said they loved Grandpa, and wanted to speak of him in their own words.

But finally they had to agree, since Mom was distressed and everyone had to “make Mom feel better.” (Actually that had been everyone’s obligation since at least the 1960s, especially mine.)

Something in me rebelled as I saw this train coming down the track, and when Lynn asked me to start the service, I said “No, I’m the eldest, I’ll go last.” For some reason I’ve never understood, everyone accepted that as fact immediately.

My two nephews each got up and read their scripts, but then extemporized as teens will do, Lord bless ’em.  Linda’s husband spoke, then Linda read a speech she’d had me type for her the night before about the greatest Dad on earth.  “Of course I can’t type,” she said.  “I knew I’d never be a typist so I refused to take typing in high school.”  (I type 98.6 words a minute so I wasn’t sure whether that made me chopped liver but I let it go.)  At the service, Mom didn’t want to speak; she sat impassively.

No one had any idea what I was going to do, least of all me, until the last moment.  I rose and said, “Everyone else has said all the wonderful things there are to say about my Dad.  I’d like to do something for my family here.”  And then I sang; it was “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” the finale from “Carousel,” a long-time family favorite.  The hundred person audience in the posh Miami Beach retirement home all cried and then, almost forgetting it was a funeral, applauded the long high note at the end.

Everyone cried, that is, except me.  I sang that whole slow sustained song acapella (no piano,  no nothing), and my voice was entirely clear.  “I never thought you’d make that high note,” my sister whispered later, “But you nailed it.  How did you do that?” I was shocked, too; I had no answer, but it came easily, and with perfect confidence.

The emotional soprano who cries whenever music moves her, at the movies, or on so many other occasions, could not find tears for her own Dad.  Actually I had tried to cry for days.  Lynn and I both remarked how strange it was.  I was worried, too.  It did not seem right, but there it was: I somehow felt nothing.

My Dad had died, and I could not cry.

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This is from Chapter 2 of Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment DisorderHow I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.  Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book every Friday, in which she explores her journey of recovery and shares the people and tools that have helped her along the way.

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Enter the Dragon

#8 in my ongoing book series; original post September 20, 2013

OK, step away from the brain science; back to how my life fell apart with Attachment Disorder.  When we last looked at the end of my 27-year marriage, I’d stumbled into a rebound affair.  Dan* had a fake southern accent, I was from southern Long Island, and I was toast.  I had no idea how the real world works;  I thought he was looking for True Love.

In “Working Girl” (1988), Melanie Griffith’s character Tess is too nervous to make the corporate cocktail party in her boss’s $6,000 dress, so her friend Cyn passes her a few of the boss’s valiums. Tess then passes out in the cab. Eyeing the bottle later, Cyn quips in New York-ese: “Gee, shoulda checked the milligramage. Oh well, Live and Loin…”

That was me in late 2006 – shoulda checked the milligramage.

BrousBlog10a KB TractorBut Whu Nu, and who cared? After Dan came at me for weeks at the family swimming hole, I finally went to his Maryland farm for dinner.  After dinner, we looked at years of photos showing how he had built his house from scratch; in fact, he was so constructive that one thing led to another.

Before I knew it, all my emotional pain from 27 years of married neglect and abuse was being medicated into oblivion.

This went on for the next few weeks, as Dan pumped a flood of feel-good dopamine, oxytocin, and other mating chemicals through my bloodstream with enough intensity to knock a gal senseless.  I was like a Stradivarius manhandled by a ham- fisted tone-deaf bass drummer (that would be my ex) for 10 years, tossed into storage for 20 years — and then found by a master violinist.  It was a trip from nothing, to a whole lot of something.  To call me putty in Dan’s hands would have be a major understatement.

In his college days, Dan had been seduced by the wife of a French diplomat; this exotic lady taught him more things about a woman’s anatomy than Henry Gray ever dreamt possible.  If not George Washington University, then at least the CIA should have had him teaching post-grad courses in his area of expertise.  Surely there was some branch of our secret services in which he would have been an enormous asset.

Dan was systematic at ensuring my chemical addiction, but he wasn’t just shining shoes to please a client.  He took the abandoned delight of a kid in an ice cream store in what he did, and it showed, which naturally made me think he really cared for me.  “If you enjoy something, why wouldn’t you want to make it last as long as you can?” he would say, going into hour four at 2 am with no let up in intensity.

New York City Girl found herself literally on another planet, playing farm wife complete with apron, wood fires, and home-cooked meals.  (Even though sitting on the tractor, no matter how hard I tried to “go country,” I still resembled nothing so much as Martha Stewart…)

“Grandpa used to say: A woman should be chained to the bed — with a chain long enough to reach the kitchen,” Dan would drawl.  We’d go out back down by the lake where he’d give me shooting lessons so that I could one day join his frequent hunting trips which kept the basement freezers stocked with deer and fowl.  I got to where I made a killer venison chili.

Suddenly, I had an enthusiastic taker for all that country music I’d been logging mindlessly in my head for months. We’d ride around on the tractor or in his four-wheel drive singing “I Ain’t as Good as I Once Was” by Toby Keith at the top of our lungs (singing and dancing ensued, in fact, at the oddest hours and angles). Everything seemed to fall in place.

War on Bonding

BrousBlog10b Iguana no-face CropImagine my surprise when, after three months, Dan began to talk up my earlier plan to move to California.  One day, he announced out of the blue that it would be a mistake for a gal to hang around him too long.  “Why can’t women be like my guy friends? If I don’t call them for two weeks, they don’t care,” he said.  (“Doin’ them same gymnastics with the guys?”  I considered asking, but it seemed counter-productive at the time…)

“Women are too obsessed with relationships,” he went on. “Guys don’t care about that stuff. Relationships are for marriage, marriage is for having children, and I’m done with all that,” he said.

“Women who want to hang on to a guy need to get over it. Sex is for adults. Women who can’t have sex without getting attached to a guy need to grow up.”

Back to brain science, where one of the first things you learn is that our brain has three or four gross subdivisions, which behave very differently, as Dr. Bruce Perry’s Slide #1 showed last week.  First, in the womb, we develop the brain stem and cerebellum for pure survival, aka “Reptilian brain.” After we are born, the neurons of the Limbic brain aka “Mammalian brain” fire up, so we can manage emotional attachment to Mom.  Only much later, the neurons of the Cortex aka “Thinking Brain” finally come on line. [FN1]

Reptiles just don’t get attached; they don’t carry their young, they eat their young.  That’s because reptiles have no emotions, and that’s because they have no emotional limbic brain. The limbic brain first developed in mammals, who developed the ability to feel. They felt it was better to carry and care for their young. They developed the ability to feel attachment.  The lack of which is attachment disorder.

Dan was militant about not using his mammalian limbic brain – and of reptiles he was rather fond.  On one of our vacations in Mexico, I envied the iguana he found, it got so much TLC.  Dr. Stephen Porges explained in a recent interview how to detect such folks, but me in 2006?  Who Nhu?  [FN2]

To be fair, Dan had been through a seriously nasty divorce years before.  He never knew that his wife, whom he loved to distraction, was having babies with other men while he was hard at work at Reagan National airport, until their third child. He went ballistic, and vowed never again to become attached.  “Ah ripped out mah heart with a pick axe, now Ah’m heartless, and Ah likes it that way,” he’d drawl.  “Ah’m famous for being heartless, even at work.  She did me a favor:  she made me bulletproof.”

Dan had years ago declared nuclear war on attachment.  Now he tells me.

Instead, he bought 15 acres of wooded land in the Styx of rural Maryland, way out down a dirt road as far west as he could go. He cleared half of it for a farm, and built himself a fortress by hand, a large, airy, three-story building of wood and stone with a huge fireplace which could heat the entire house even in 20-degree weather.

After one particularly tender evening with me, he awoke next morning with a nightmare which had been repeatedly haunting him for a decade.  He saw his wife enter his new house with a crew of workmen, directing them to rip out of the walls all the custom made-wiring, conduits and pipes he had built so painstakingly by hand.

He could run, but could not hide, from the emotional pain of rejection and grief still lacerating deep into his soul.

As I said in blog #8, I was like the Singing Nun right out of a cloister on this ball field.  And now in my naivete, I was blown away with compassion for Dan’s tragedy – hook, line and sinker.

“Come Here Go Away

BrousBlog10c Girl+SyringeBy now, Dan had learned (one hopes unconsciously) that telling his heartrending tale with his big blue eyes full of hurt, was a surefire way to get a gal’s defenses down.  It brought out the mom in her, her co-dependent wish to rescue the underdog, and all her bonding hormones, in one fell swoop.  While she was in the grip of this mindless emoting, Dan could get away with murder.  Good gosh, it was crazy-making.

I was the No Eye Deer at the time, but it was a classic case of “Come Here Go Away.”  Dan used his tale of woe and his carefully induced chemical addiction campaign to have a gal bond like crazy glue.  But once she got involved, he would flip and say “Go Away.” [FN3]

Only way, way later did I realize that it all resembled nothing so much as the scene in the Bruce Lee film “Enter the Dragon,” in which Hahn the drug lord has built a factory for the white slave trade under his palatial Hong Kong chateau.

BrousBlog10d Girl+Bruce LeeStealing in to investigate, Lee’s character discovers rows of red cages, each holding a kidnapped young woman. Nurses in crisp white uniforms are systematically injecting heroin into their shoulders to addict them, so they never attempt escape.

Now, all those organic chemicals Dan pumped into me had me rowing in the same slave galley.

Far-fetched? Nope.  Helen Fisher, the anthropologist upon whose lab studies all the picky questionnaires on Match.com and Chemistry.com are based, has a book out on it. [FN4]  But I was of course clueless at the time.  Whu Nhu?

I was convinced (and I wasn’t the first gal or the last to buy it) that I could be the one to melt Dan’s heart and save him from his emotional prison. At first, I heard his stern, high-horse lectures about the moral superiority of acting like an adult and not getting clingy, with disbelief.

Then ruminating on it in the months to follow, I began
to wonder if perhaps this is how all men are, for what did I know of men? Certainly my ex had made even less of an effort to relate to me.  If I were to do the math, it’s possible Dan spent more time touching me in those first few months than my ex had in 30 years.  And it sure felt “right.”

As Dan repeated his lecture time and again, I began to wonder: what did I know, anyway, about relating in these matters like an adult, man or woman?  I knew the global foreign exchange markets and I knew how to build a nuclear reactor, but I was clueless on this playing field.

Perhaps he was correct? Perhaps maturity is being able to rule oneself entirely by one’s mind and not let one’s emotions run away with the stage coach?  Either way, what profit argument?  If I just kept showering him with love and compassion, wouldn’t his heart melt one day?

Not only had Dan declared war on bonding – he had sold war bonds to me.  I knew I had a problem with unruly emotions, so I bought his idea that if I didn’t understand him, it was my own emotional immaturity.

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

So what is this lurid tale doing on a mental health website? Have my editors gone nuts?  Nope, but the rest of us might have issues.

BrousBlog10e Dragon Nurses As low-brow as my story is, it is a very common one and it may have happened to you a time or two.  Put it another way: who in their right mind would put up with Dan’s treatment for a month, let alone almost two years? Exactly.  Putting up with this is precisely “not being in my right mind.”  Something which is definitely not mental health is at the root of putting up with this.

OK, why?  Cry “psycho-babble” all you want, but this is exactly what happens to people who did not receive good secure attachment as kids.

And like I say, that’s up to 50% of Americans.  The sad fact is, with a population of over 300 million Americans, about 150 million women and men are putting up with something like this right now, and for years at a stretch.

After the “come here” came the “go away,” and I moved to California as planned in November 2006.  But Dan wasn’t done with me.  He kept calling and emailing; he knew I had Washington DC Beltway defense sector clients offering lucrative consulting gigs which could bring me to his door for a few months a year. I couldn’t say no to the East Coast contracts after what my ex had done to our finances, and I couldn’t say no to Dan and his perfectly legal and lethal natural organic drugs.

Thus it came to pass that the opium-like nightmare simply went on and on.  The rest of 2006, all of 2007, and half of 2008 were a blur of trans-continental red-eye flights, working 70 hour weeks for fat defense sector paychecks, making solo trips from LAX to rendezvous with Dan on the warm beaches of Mexico for tequila plus, and some very interesting long midnight coast-to-coast telephone calls.

This was a guy with a distance thing and an issue against getting close, all right.  A 3,000 mile distance thing.  The whole long, painful time I thought he must secretly “in his heart of hearts” want me back.  But reality was that the only reason he kept calling me was that I was safely (for him) moved in, 3,000 miles away.

*All names, except for mine, have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty, and any resemblance they may have to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

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This is part four of Chapter One of Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment DisorderHow I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all. Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book every Friday, in which she explores her journey of recovery and shares the people and tools that have helped her along the way.

Footnotes

FN1 Lewis, Thomas MD; Amini, Fari MD; Lannon, Richard MD; “A General Theory of Love,” Random House, 2000;  See: www.paulagordon.com/shows/lannon/
FN2 Baer, Drake, Interview with Dr. Stephen Porges, “How To Know If You’re Working With Mammals or Reptiles (and Why It Matters To Your Creativity).” “Can you pick out the reptiles in your workplace? According to neurophysiologist Stephen Porges, if you want to be creative, you want to be on the lookout for the scaly types, and seek out the mammals instead. Porges explains how to detect each behavior and become a creative animal.” [Article features an embedded Porges slide show video] www.fastcocreate.com/1682363/how-to-know-if-youre-working-with-mammals-or-reptiles-and-why-it-matters-to-your-creativity
FN3 Earle, Ralph, PhD, “Come Here Go Away: Stop Running from the Love you Want,” Pocket Books, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1991
FN4 Fisher, Helen, PhD, “Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love,” Henry Holt and Co., New York, 2004

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How Your Brain Works 101

#2 in my News Blog series; original post September 13, 2013

BrousBlog9a Perry head shotDr. Bruce Perry just put out his latest on “How Your Brain Works 101,” in his September 5 webinar for the National Council on Behavioral Health. Perry’s revelations at Dr. Daniel Siegel’s March 8  (2013) UCLA Conference “How People Change” hit me in the solar plexus.  Now you can hear him and download his slides, (Click here and scroll all the way down to September 2013). [FN1]

You know how your car works – don’t you want to know how your brain works? Click here for an introductory  video on how Attachment Disorder causes brain trauma  [FN2]  Click for Dr. Perry’s YouTube channel with educational videos in depth: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCf4ZUgIXyxRcUNLuhimA5mA?feature=watch

I first heard of Bruce Perry in August 2010; not his name, but his substance. I was commuting to another high-pressure defense job on the 91 freeway outside Anaheim, CA, worrying about how to pour concrete at Seal Beach Naval Base.  It didn’t look to my clients, or to me, as though I had anything wrong with my high-performance business brain.

On the car stereo was a CD by psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud. “Humans are neurologically designed, physiologically designed, psychologically, spiritually, emotionally, and cognitively designed, to be in a relationship where you are loved,” Cloud said to my shock. “You are designed to take aspects of that relationship inside of you, and they actually become a part of who you are.  My 17-month-old came into the world with nothing in her head.  A lot of need, not a lot of words, didn’t read.  Babies are all need and they cry. Adults must calm them, and the minute we put them down, they start crying again.

“But after we do that a million times, the gap for how long they can tolerate not being held gets wider and wider. They take our love from the outside, and it becomes part of them on the inside… Love becomes actual equipment that you take in and walk around with.” [FN3]  I felt sad; I couldn’t identify.

But watch how my body reacts to the right research:

Cloud went on, “We can now do scans of the brain of older kids who were in institutions and were not held, comforted or soothed, and there are parts of the brain which are dark. There’s nothing growing in there — because nothing was planted; neurologically there’s literally no brain activity. But the kids who were held and loved, those parts of the brain are physiologically growing.”

I nearly drove off the 91 overpass at 70 MPH. It hit me in the gut the minute he said it. “Oh, S#$%”, I thought, “parts of my brain are dark!”  (Go tell that to the Marines at Seal Beach.)

It wasn’t until 2 1/2 years later when some guy named Perry put up his slides at UCLA in March 2013, that I saw the pictures. It was brain scans of two children aged 3, a normal brain in grey, and one labeled “extreme neglect,” parts of which were black. In that moment, I knew Cloud had referred to Bruce Perry’s work. [FN4]

As I’ve shown in previous posts, maybe 50% of Americans have some degree of attachment disorder, neurological areas which didn’t get Dr. Cloud’s “love on the inside.”  We don’t want to go around with parts of our brain dark.

Most Primitive  Brain Develops First

BrousBlog9c Perry Slide1 Brain 4 PartsDr. Perry says we’ve got to learn about the neuro-biological growth of the brain in order of time sequence from  conception to later development in infancy and childhood.

He calls this the Neuro-sequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT).  Dr. P’s “Four Part Brain” slide above shows the time sequence from the bottom up: first the brain stem develops (pink); then the diencephalon cerebellum (yellow); they make up our primitive reptilian “survival” brain.  Next develop the emotional limbic brain which only mammals have (green), and finally the thinking cortex (blue).

Why time sequence? Our entire big Einstein brain is an outgrowth of its most primitive part: the brain stem (the knob at the top of the spinal chord), and its spin-off, the cerebellum.

This “reptilian brain” is in the back of your head at the level of the ears. It maintains rock bottom survival such as body temperature, heart rate, sleep, and breathing – all the functions you never think about which if they didn’t happen you’d be dead. Not only reptiles have the same apparatus but so do pre-bony fish like sharks. That’s humbling: our whole brain starts with something that primitive.

“During development, the brain organizes from bottom to top, with the lower parts of the brain developing earliest,” Dr. Perry says. Reptile brain better hit the ground running at birth or infants don’t breathe; the rest of the brain can and does grow in later. “The majority of brain organization takes place in the first four years of life,” he says. “Because this is the time when the brain makes the majority of its ‘primary’ associations and core neural networks organize as a reflection of early experience, early developmental trauma and neglect have disproportionate influence on brain organization and later brain functioning.” [FN4 Op cit]

What goes wrong from “conception to 36 months” can fry our reptilian brain and put it in permanent fight-flight or freeze (dissociation shutdown). Then the entire brain can be thrown out of whack starting from its first cell divisions.

As the ACE Study has shown, this results in heart, gut, and many other chronic physical diseases throughout adult life.

“The brain is an historical organ,” Perry said.  “The NMT Core Assessment’s first step is a review of the key insults, stressors, and challenges during development. Intrauterine insults such as alcohol or perinatal care disruptions (such as an impaired inattentive primary caregiver) alter the norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine systems of the brain stem and diencephalon that are rapidly organizing. These early life disruptions result in a cascade of functional problems in brain areas these neural systems innervate.”

Think your thinking brain’s in charge? “Think” again – we’re arrogant about how much our thinking brain can do. Fact is, it’s the new kid on the block in the brain. It has a lot less influence than we imagine on the roiling instincts and feelings in the subconscious or “downstairs” brain, as Dan Siegel calls the rest of the brain below the cortex.  Siegel says the “downstairs brain” also  includes thick clusters of neurons associated with the brain stem that form around our viscera (heart, lungs, gut etc.).  Development of all that can go wrong from the hour the sperm hits the egg. It did with me.

“When a child has experienced chronic threats, the brain exists in a persisting state of fear,” Perry says. This “makes the stress response oversensitive, over-reactive, and dysfunctional due to over-utilization of brain stem-driven reactions. Such reactions become entrenched over time, and the ‘lower’ parts of the brain house maladaptive, influential, and terrifying pre-conscious memories that function as a template for the child’s feelings, thoughts, and actions.” [FN4]

“Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is great if you have a developed frontal cortex – but we’re talking about a five year old kid who’s so scared to death most of the time that it’s shut down his frontal cortex ’cause he just saw his mother get shot,” Perry told his UCLA therapist audience March 8. “You’re going to do 20 sessions of CBT and expect change?  B#$$%&! (expletive)  That’s a fantasy.”  (Wild applause).

Listening to him talk, I can feel things inside me resonating, probably things that didn’t develop right in the womb, and I can feel it healing because, finally, here is compassion for my situation. It’s a remarkable experience.

When I hear Dr. Perry and his colleagues identifying these issues, it hits me in the solar plexus and the gut. I feel like someone is telling me “You’re not crazy, this actually happened deep inside you, you don’t have to conceal the pain anymore. You can be understood, you can be accepted as who you are.

“You can say exactly how you feel for the first time in your life and we are not going to run screaming from the room. We are going to accept you, because we can say scientifically that this is the way your cells developed in the environment you were in.”

Once I feel accepted in this profound way, I literally feel the problem begin to heal.  Dan Siegel reports that it’s been proven by brain scans that this feeling of acceptance and belonging produces re-growth of damaged brain tissues. It simulates the missed environment of love, acceptance and “we’re glad you’re here” which the infant was designed to experience at birth.

“Born for Love”

BrousBlog9d Perry Slide2 Attachment,StressBruce Perry and his Attachment Theory and trauma specialist colleagues like Bessel Van der Kolk, Daniel Siegel, Allan Schore, and Mary Jo Barrett, are also overturning the American Psychiatric Association (APA) apple cart by calling this “developmental trauma.”  It starts in the womb and is continuous from there, going on in the pre-conscious years.

It differs completely from incident-by-incident based trauma such as assault, rape, school violence, or combat stress, which can hit at any age. These later “PTSD” traumas have been assumed to what trauma is, yet horrible as they are, they are just not all there is.

Many (like me) take a lot of damage in wrong therapy which treats developmental trauma as if it were incident trauma. The APA’s latest “what’s my disease” bible, the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5),” just out June 2013, doesn’t even recognize the existence of developmental trauma.

How to heal? Dr. Perry lays out the brain science behind Dr. Cloud’s idea of “getting love on the inside.”

“Attachment is when the baby learns by thousands of good experiences that stress is tolerable because it leads to reward opiates such as dopamine in our body, and that this pleasurable outcome is cathexsized to a person, Mom, who consistently attunes to it about this,” Perry said at UCLA. “When the baby feels distress, the attuned Mom feels distress and gets her own pleasure rewards by responding to the baby. So the infant brain weaves together the neurobiology of what interaction with another human being is, and connects it to stress relief, pleasure and safety, when this happens repeatedly. Ultimately, just seeing or hearing Mom makes you feel safe and pleasurable. Let a wounded combat soldier talk to his mom, and he’ll require 45% less pain meds.”

“Patterned, Repeated, Rhythmic Activity”

“Because the brain is organized in a hierarchical fashion, with symptoms of fear first arising in the brain stem and then moving all the way to the cortex, the first step in therapeutic success is brain stem regulation,” Perry said.  “An example of a repetitive intervention is positive, nurturing interactions with trustworthy peers, teachers, and caregivers, especially for neglected children who have not had the neural stimulation to develop the capacity to bond with others.

“Others are dance, music, or massage, especially for children whose persisting fear state is so overwhelming that they cannot improve via increased positive relationships, or even therapeutic relationships, until their brain stem is regulated by safe, predictable, repetitive sensory input.” An hour here and there of even sensitive therapy is rarely enough, he says.

“Children with relational stability and multiple positive, healthy adults invested in their lives improve; children with multiple transitions, chaotic and unpredictable family relations, and relational poverty do not improve even when provided with the best ‘evidence-based’ therapies. The healing environment is a safe, relationally-enriched environment,” he says.

“The only way you can move from these super-high anxiety states, to calmer more cognitive states, is rhythm,” Perry emphasizes.  “Patterned, repetitive rhythmic activity: walking, running, dancing, singing, repetitive meditative breathing.  You use brain stem-related somato-sensory network regulation, which make your brain accessible to relational reward and cortical thinking.”

Dr. Perry’s ChildTrauma Academy in Houston offers courses such as “Somatosensory Regulation Plan for Dysregulated Children” and “The Power of Rhythm: Music, Movement & Language.”  Somatosensory rhythmic programs at Dr. Bessel van der Kolk’s Trauma Center in Boston feature yoga, drama, drum circles,  trampoline work, and more.

“If you want a person to use relational reward, or cortical thought,” he says, “they’ve got to be emotionally regulated first!  We must regulate people, before we can possibly persuade them with a cognitive argument or compel them with an emotional affect.  All our contingency-based models do nothing but merely escalate their negative arousal!”

Sound stupid, like your doctor saying “Scram and go cool off at the gym” ?  I thought so – until I tried it.  It works, big time. But what happened was so explosive, it’s another blog for another day.

The take-away is 1: Listen to Dr. Perry; figure out how your brain does work; see if anything he says resonates.  Call up the ChildTrauma Academy and get their materials and training on Somatosensory Regulation and the power of rhythm.

Or if you can’t wait, as I’ve said before, find a really empathic, loving therapist who knows trauma inside out, and bring him that Peter Levine book. [FN5]  That’s what I used to do somatosensory work before I heard of Bruce Perry.  You’ll need professional supervision when you do the exercises on the CD in the back of Levine’s book, and look out world.

Even if we’re 92, we can grow parts of our brain. Daniel Siegel did it with a 92-year-old lawyer using mindfulness practice. [FN6]

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Excerpts from Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment DisorderHow I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all and related research of attachment and brain science are posted here every Friday. Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book, in which she explores her journey of recovery and shares the people and tools that have helped her along the way.

Footnotes

FN1  Perry, Bruce D. MD, PhD, “Helping Children Recover from Trauma,” National Council LIVE, National Council on Behavioral Health, September 5, 2013; http://www.thenationalcouncil.org/events-and-training/webinars/webinar-archive/  Scroll down to September 2013.

FN2  Bruce Perry, Daniel Siegel, et.al, “Trauma, Brain & Relationship: Helping Children Heal,” (25 Minutes) www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYyEEMlMMb0 – an introductory video on Attachment Disorder. A new understanding of how trauma effects the development of the mind-body system, and how it affects children’s behaviors and social relationships. Copies at www.postinstitute.com/dvds.

FN3  Cloud, Henry, PhD, “Getting Love on the Inside,” Lecture, April 2002 (CD), Mariner’s Church, Newport Beach CA, www.Cloud-Townsend Resources.com, [Coauthor with Townsend, John, PhD, of “Boundaries,” Zondervan, 2004]

FN4  Perry, Bruce, MD, PhD, “Born for Love: The Effects of Empathy on the Developing Brain,” Annual Interpersonal Neurobiology Conference “How People Change: Relationship & Neuroplasticity in Psychotherapy,” UCLA, Los Angeles, March 8, 2013 (unpublished).
Dr. Perry’s latest research and key slides (otherwise hard to obtain)  are in his National Council speech in FN1 above.
Key videos, articles on Interventions, Trauma, Brain Development/Neuroscience, etc. are at: https://childtrauma.org/cta-library/
“The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics” by Perry, B.D. and Hambrick, E. (2008)  is  at: http://childtrauma.org/nmt-model/references/

FN5  Levine, Peter A., PhD, “Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body,” Sounds True, Inc.,  Boulder CO, 2005; ISBN 1-159179-247-9

FN6  Siegel, Daniel J., MD, “How Mindfulness Can Change the Wiring of Our Brains,” National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine, www.nicabm.com,  March 2011.  Check for the passage on a 92 year old lawyer code-named “Stewart.”

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Surgeon General’s Warning: Rebound!

#7 in my ongoing book series; original post September 6, 2013

I never liked the sticky suburbs of Washington D.C.  My ex had moved us there from New York City years before.  As I was boxing up my three-bedroom Virginia ranch and my life during my divorce, I got a call from a girl friend in Southern California who was gravely ill. When her hair fell out, her husband served her with divorce papers (attachment was not his thing).

BrousBlog8a Newport Memorial Day StanDue to the treatments, she couldn’t remember what happened on a given day in court, so I flew out to help. On my first trip, all I saw was courtrooms and hospitals. On my second trip, I stepped out onto Newport Beach and the beauty of the area hit me hard between the eyes.

“Why not me?” I thought, looking at the ocean, the sailboats, the rows of green palms and red Spanish tile roofs sweeping into the bright blue distance.  Why should I move down the pike in the dreary Old Dominion, shoveling ice and snow to commute the rest of my life — when I could move across the country to a beautiful place like this?  Back to Virginia I flew, now boxing up a storm, with the song of a warm sun, a rolling ocean, and a new life in my heart.

Trouble is, divorce doesn’t come with the warning it ought to have from the Surgeon General’s office:  “Caution: Rebound Affairs Can be Hazardous to your Health.”  Why didn’t the counselors and lawyers at the women’s center tell us?  Why didn’t they tell us that 75% of divorced folks end up in a second divorce?

Why?  Because divorce hurts! It hurts a lot!  So the natural tendency in divorce is to medicate, and many people do medicate, until they learn the hard way to stop. Medicating includes alcohol, drugs, food, or other substance abuse, workaholism, sports, video games, internet fixations of all sorts — anything which changes the subject, anything to avoid facing up to the emotional pain of the loss of an entire life.

Take my sudden Country & Western music jag.  Hindsight stinks, but clearly I was having a profound emotional crisis, emotional pain at a level which I’d later recognize as “break-through grief.”  Suddenly, La Soprano Classique can’t bear classical music, but she’ll bang on the steering wheel to Toby Keith for hours on end?  A clinical case of medicating with music.

At the top of the medication list is the feel-good of a new romance.  But when that’s done on the rebound–
without a time-out to understand what went wrong in the first marriage, or to take concrete measures to heal from such a major wound — then both parties come to the table with a lot of buried hurt burning up their hearts.  Character discernment goes out the window, mis-matches are legion, and even the best people –- each in intolerable pain of their own — eventually project it wrongly onto their unwitting partner. As they lash out, eyes wide shut, it ends in another divorce, more hurt piled on hurt.

Who knew?  “Whu Nhu? He was the Prime Minister of Burma before U Thant,” was again my tag line.  I certainly did not know.  “Whaddaya call a blind doe? ‘No Eye Deer’,” was my other refrain.  I did not get the memo, because for one thing, there was no memo.  Another reason for this book, ‘cos a memo on divorce and the dangers of the rebound sure is needed.

I Thought I Was Dead

In July 2006 when I left home, I had been left “home alone” for dead for so long by my ex, that I thought I was dead.  Larry moved us from New York where we met and married, to Virginia, then left the house one morning, and never came home until past midnight.  For about 15 years.  There was no breaking bread together, no “How was your day?” emotional connection to soothe daily hurts, and for the last 15 years, no physical contact — and no children.

We didn’t have time for that stuff; how could I have kids on airplanes?  We were above all that, we had to save the world! So I furiously trotted the globe on business, organized conferences in Tokyo for diplomats from several nations in three languages, and devoured great music in another few languages.

When I turned 50, a perceptive friend actually asked me if I’d ever thought I’d live past 50, which if you think about it, is a shocking thing to ask a female gym rat as healthy as a horse. “No, I guess not” I blurted without self-editing, “Is it so obvious I’ve been burning at both ends?” I’d been lost in East Berlin in the rain on the wrong side of the Wall, and deep under the Korean DMZ in a miner’s rail bucket. I’d been to so many places on so many adventures that a co-worker asked, “Kathy, is there anything you haven’t done?”

BrousBlog8d Newport boat July 4aWell, er, it turns out there were still a few things, and by Murgatroyd I was going to do them all — and now, starting with a lot of Pacific Ocean water sports.  I really never thought I’d make it to 2010 alive, which encouraged a certain devil-may-care attitude.  (That’s me in red.)

Larry was so callous for so many years that by the time I left, my view finder was filled with nothing but the sheer relief that I was no longer banging my head against his wall of indifference.  Just to be breathing felt like a party.  Just to see the sun and the ocean and the odd palm tree, to be free of the constant adrenaline panic of deadlines, was a breath of air so fresh it made me want to dance, and so I did.

BrousBlog8c Kathy Kayaking Laguna w.hills #63I danced a lot of two-step and wailed to hard rock; I sang a lot of country; I raced sailboats; and ocean kayaked; and hiked; and dated up a semi-tropical storm.  I had no intention of not doing the right thing.  Fun appeared to be the only intensely rational thing to do.

Fact is, I’d taken such an emotional hit with the divorce that I was numb.  I had so much pain from all those decades of being left alone, that I didn’t even know I had pain. ( The technical term is dissociation.)

How was I to know I was serial-medicating a whole landslide of pain with all this partying? Whu Nhu?  I just thought:  “I’m no longer banging my head against the wall! Let’s go dancing instead.”  But reality was that I was in so much pain that I just walked out on Newport Beach and proceeded directly to medicate.

In particular, I thought, love is simple. “I married a bad man, he was mean to me. Now I’ll find a good man to love me,” I told myself.  Famous last words.

The Singing Nun

I knew the global financial markets, but after a 30-year hiatus from dating, I was like a nun out of a cloister on the ball field of romance. As I was boxing up a storm in Virginia, a statistical fluke hit; at least, I thought it was a fluke.  It was to be the first of many. I found myself picked up and dumped into a vat of the ultimate pain medication.

For almost 20 years, every Sunday in August I’d gone to my local pool where everyone knew me as Mrs. Larry. First Sunday in August 2006, while living in my best friend Sandy’s basement, I went to my pool, only to find it padlocked, due to be bulldozed for the construction of a furniture warehouse.

I was weeks from moving to California, and wanted a tan, so across the river I drove to the next pool in Maryland 20 minutes away. It was an innocent family spot where I’d never set foot in my life and in a few weeks would never set foot again; I’d be 3,000 miles gone.

So it was that three weeks out of my home, I was minding my own business in spades, secure in the glum knowledge that Larry found me completely unattractive and certain that no man would ever look at me again as long as I lived. It was 90 degrees in the humid shade and I was half asleep in the pool holding onto a ladder, when he hailed me: “Hey, ladder lady.”

I thought he wanted the ladder, so I swam away.

I was amazed when he appeared minutes later at my lounge chair, a wiry fellow with burning blue eyes, hitting on me like a ton of bricks (not that I knew the term “to hit” at the time). My jaw must have dropped a foot but he wasn’t looking at my jaw. Later he said, “When I saw you, the first thing I noticed was that you weren’t wearing a ring. The second thing was the bikini. I wanted to just eat you all up.”

He chatted awhile, and handed me his impressive business card, which indicated he managed billion-dollar equipment as head of air traffic control at Washington National Airport. “Come to my house for dinner,” he urged. “I’m moving to California,” I said point blank, “I’ll show you my car trunk full of boxes to prove it. It’s pointless.”

I had been with one man for 30 years (including before marriage) and hadn’t dated since college. I was like the Singing Nun out of a cloister, or a dead ringer for Wilma Flintstone with a bone in her hair, from a time capsule out of pre-history. To say I needed to learn about men was the understatement of the millennium (ok, it had been a short millennium so far).

My ex hadn’t touched me since forever and I was a top contender for Loneliest Gal in the Old Dominion. I was already road kill before this truck hit me; I was chum suitable to be tossed to the sharks. I had no tools to handle anything remotely approaching this.

Dan Heller*, for his part, had one heck of a tool box, and was not a man to be deterred. Three Sundays at the pool he came back at me, “Come to my house for dinner.” He had beautiful eyes, and knew how to use them. Finally he figured out that I was fascinated by construction projects and air travel after working on all those Third World development plans on the other side of the world. He guessed correctly that I wouldn’t be able resist a “back stage tour” of the airport.

BrousBlog8e Reagan Nat'l Control TowerThat next Wednesday at 5 p.m. I met him outside the airport office. We climbed into his official Jeep and roamed far and wide, examining the great soaring machines which move people and economic equipment all over the world from angles a mere passenger never sees. We toured the extensive supporting plant and fuel tank farms, acres of new construction, numerous hangars with aircraft of every variety, and I learned the difference between a taxiway and a runway.

The coup de grace was a ride to the top of the new Air Traffic Control Tower which was 99% complete but not yet in service. The control room at the top had a breathtaking 360 degree panoramic view of the entire airfield, the great runways stretching to the horizons, the glorious landscapes for miles around, and a layer of fresh-smelling sawdust from final woodworking in progress. We were alone way up there at sunset, Dan was in his element, and I leave you to imagine the rest.

On the fourth Sunday, I folded.

Walking into Dan’s Maryland farm house for dinner, we entered a great room all of pine with a two story vaulted cathedral ceiling, an acoustic I was sure would be terrific for Mozart (if I could bear to sing it again). I sang a few bars; Dan looked bemused. There was a bay window with a sunset view of the lake, and a promising grand staircase. “Ah built this house with mah own two hands,” he drawled, having somehow acquired a killer Southern accent, and proceeded to show off his construction photos.

He was from southern New Jersey, I was from southern Long Island – and I was toast. I had no idea what goes on in the real world. I thought he was looking for True Love.

No, Virginia, there is no Santy Claus, and he sure wasn’t. He had a closet full of hunting rifles and camouflage, and he was looking for a deer to take. Once he had the carcass, he was going to lose interest in that deer real fast. But of course, Ms. No Eye Deer was blind to the obvious.

*All names, except for mine, have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty, and any resemblance they may have to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

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This is part three of Chapter One of Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment DisorderHow I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all. Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book every Friday, in which she explores her journey of recovery and shares the people and tools that have helped her along the way.

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The Greatest Study Never Told

#1 in my news blog series; original post August 30, 2013

BrousBlog7a ACE pyramid I’d heard of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study — but never asked why does their logo pyramid top with “Early Death? [FN1]  Then last week I stumbled onto a highly-informative website, ACEsConnection.com, social media site for the ACE Study, which has the story and then some. [FN2]

In the ACE Study, 17,337 middle class adults at an average San Diego HMO were asked during 1995-97  if they’d had bad childhood experiences, physical or emotional.  Results were shocking.  Two-thirds (64-67%) had one or more types of child trauma, and 38-42% had two or more types.  In 2016, the same survey in inner city Nashville showed that 71% had four or more types and 51% had six or more.  I believe a true national average would show some 50% of Americans suffer childhood trauma. [FN3]  Check your ACE Score here.

The ACE Study then compared ACE scores to whether subjects developed serious bio-medical conditions as adults – and found a major correlation.  As the ACE Pyramid shows, Adverse Childhood Experiences lead to impaired thinking, unhealthy behavior, disease, disability, and early death.

“Adverse childhood exposures showed a graded relationship to … adult diseases including ischemic heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, skeletal fractures, and liver disease,” study co-directors Dr. Vincent Felitti MD and Dr. Robert Anda MD reported in 1998. [FN4]

They also showed a “proportionate relationship between ACE score and the likelihood of developing autoimmune diseases decades later in adult life.”  Emotional disorders?  They found “depression, suicidality, chronic anxiety, amnesia, and hallucinations were directly proportionate” to ACE  trauma.

“It’s not about ‘them’ – it’s about us,” said Dr. Anda of these huge percentages and widespread lethal results.  ACEs are “the leading determinant of what happens to the health of a nation’s population,” says Dr. Felitti.

The ACE Study began in 1995 at Kaiser Permanente, the largest  HMO in California, jointly with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  But this rigorous research hasn’t woken up medicine and psychiatry, despite the fact that Felitti, Anda et. al. have published over 75 medical articles on it.  [FN5]

You’ve likely never heard of this, ‘tho we all should know about 20 years of official study on 17,337 citizens.  I never heard of it even as a Kaiser Permanente client in 2010-11.  So ACEsConnection is going to the grass roots, some states are doing ACE surveys, and social service agencies are training staff  in “Trauma-Informed Care.”

Dr. Felitti never dreamed of any of this.  He was an internist who fell into it all by accident. Kaiser had an obesity clinic, it was failing, and Dr. Felitti wanted to know why.  Suddenly, by interviewing people who quit, this data jumped into his lap.

Vincent Felitti

Now instead of retiring to the Bahamas after a long career, Dr. Felitti travels the world making speeches like “Why the Most Significant Factor Predicting Chronic Disease May Be Childhood Trauma” [FN6]

He insists that “contrary to conventional belief, time does not heal all wounds, since humans convert traumatic emotional experiences in childhood into organic disease later in life.” One does not “just get over” this, “not even 50 years later,” he says, without serious efforts and treatment.  [FN7]

Baby Casey: the Attachment Disorder ACE

This is not an academic issue.  Fifty percent of the American population has some degree of attachment disorder (see Blogs #1-4), and attachment disorder is a major component of many Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE).

Baby Casey fr video crop2On ACEsConnection.com, created by journalist Jane Stevens, the first thing I saw was a video of a baby in a Polish orphanage that turned me inside out (click here & scroll down page). [FN8]

This is what the physical pain of attachment failure looks like. Left alone for months in the Warsaw facility, Baby Casey did not get the “face time,” physical holding, emotional attunement, or any of the interactions required for an infant’s brain to grow. Humans from birth require a constant stream of “emotional, spiritual, psychological, and physical inputs” from another loving human, says trauma specialist Mary Jo Barrett — just as we require air, food, and liquid.” [FN9]

A child left without this input stream learns that its own hard-wired biological needs are terrifying.   “I learn that what I experienced internally and expressed externally with a cry, was met by a response that didn’t make any sense,” says neuroscientist Dr. Daniel Siegel. “I learned: it doesn’t matter what I’m feeling, because people don’t get what I need.  Ultimately, I’ll become disconnected, not only from other people, but even from my own internal bodily self. ”[FN10]

Babies are also hard-wired to be flooded with stress chemicals when those needs are not met, Dr. Bruce Perry explains. And the flood can go on for decades. [FN11]

The emotional pain and terror are so intense that the child will do anything to distract itself from those needs. “In states of distress I can only comfort myself in ways that are maladaptive – I bite myself, rock myself perpetually, so I’m distracting myself from my needs,” Siegel says.

The fight-or-flight stress chemicals flood the bloodstream at a level which feels so terrifying, that the baby would rather pass out — or even die — than to feel it. “The baby thinks it’s going to die,” as Dr. Nancy Verrier puts it. [FN12]  I saw this video and said, “That baby’s trying to knock herself out.”

Turning Gold into Lead

BrousBlog7c Gold into LeadLeft unhealed, all those stress chemicals and panic feelings begin to physically destroy  body parts.

“The ACE Study findings suggest certain adverse childhood experiences are major risk factors for the leading causes of illness and death in the US,” the CDC reports. “As the number of ACE increase, risk for the following health problems increases in a strong and graded fashion:

Ischemic heart disease
Cancer
Chronic lung disease
Liver disease
Skeletal fractures
Alcoholism and alcohol abuse
Depression
Fetal death
Early initiation of smoking
Illicit drug use
Multiple sexual partners
Risk for intimate partner violence
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
Unintended pregnancies
Abortion
Suicide attempts…”

“The odds of having cancer before 50 among women increased twofold for those who had 2+ ACEs versus those with no ACEs,” confirmed a 2012 study of over 6,000 Britons born in 1958, “Childhood adversity as a risk for cancer: findings from the 1958 British birth cohort study,” published by the British Medical Council.

“This is the largest study of its type which has ever been done to examine the effect of ACE on physical health, over the course of a lifetime,” Dr. Felitti says. All 17,337 participants will be followed up for life.

“We’re asking, ‘How do you get from Here [slide above] to Here.’  From a newborn infant with total potential — to a man who is broken, bio-medically, psychologically and emotionally.

“We found that ACEs are remarkably common – what is uncommon is their recognition, or their acknowledgment. They are well-concealed by time, by shame, by secrecy, and by social taboo. They turn out to be strong predictors of what happens later in life in health risks, disease, and premature mortality. The combination of their high prevalence, and their great power, makes ACEs the leading determinant of what happens to the health of a nation’s population.”  [FN13]

“In no way could you dismiss this as a marginalized population,” Dr. Felitti says of his 17,337 patients. Most of them are white middle class; 47% had attended college; they all had jobs and health insurance; they were at Kaiser.

“ACE are the risk factors which underlie the 10 most common causes of death in the U.S. With an ACE score of zero, you have a very medically uninteresting population – no internist has a chance of making a living with that group,” he notes.

“Swiss psychoanalyst Alice Miller says: ‘The truth about our childhood is stored up in our bodies, and lives in the depths of our souls.  Our intellect can be deceived, our feelings can be numbed and manipulated, our perceptions can be shamed and confused, or our bodies tricked with medication. But our soul never forgets. And because we are one, one whole soul in one body, some day, our body will present its bill.’

“In this study, we are looking at it literally. The cost of this is truly enormous. Whoever would have thought that pediatrics is the breeding ground for internal medicine,” Dr. Felitti concludes.

Feel like you might have an ACE or two up your sleeve?

You can go to http://acestudy.org/faqs and take the ACE Survey, to see how many ACEs you might have. If you feel really awful, go to your family doctor, bring him this report, and tell him you want to see a specialist because you are a normal human responding to abnormal experiences. If you do not have health coverage, no matter what your age, you can contact the nearest children’s hospital or the National Children’s Advocacy Center’s local office and ask for help. At www.nationalcac.org/locator.html, I used my zip code and found four places right near my home, just so I could report to you that they probably have facilities to help near you.

To read more, join ACEsConnection.com, the community of practice “private Facebook” network designed to prevent ACEs & further trauma and to increase resilience. Just sign up, fill out your profile, and go to “My Page” to start adding information about what you’re doing or thinking about these issues. If you’re looking for others doing what you want to do, join a group, or start a group and invite people to join. I joined, and I formed a Southern California ACEs group; here’s my SoCal ACEs page: http://www.acesconnection.com/profile/399727599840151624

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Excerpts from Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment DisorderHow I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all  are posted here most Fridays, unless current events beg an interruption. Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book, in which she explores her journey of recovery and shares the people and tools that have helped her along the way.

Footnotes
FN1 CDC ACE Study pyramid: http://www.cdc.gov/ace/pyramid.htm

FN2 Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “ACE Study DVD Pre-View movie,” 3-minute version: http://www.acesconnection.com/blog/ace-study-co-founders-tell-story-on-dvd-here-s-an-intro

FN3  Dr. Felitti reports   67% of participants had one or more types of ACEs, and 42% had two or more types of ACEs. The CDC website states that 64% had one or more types of ACEs, and 38% had two or more types of ACEs; http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/prevalence.html    These percentages varied depending on when readings were taken as more subjects joined the study in the second “wave.”
Note: all these refer to “types” of ACEs. Thus, if 38-42% of the middle class Kaiser population had at two or more types of ACEs, each likely suffered multiple incidents of that type, be it abuse, neglect, or more.
In less privileged populations, far higher percentages suffer two or more types of ACEs as shown in Nashville, TN by The Family Center in 2016: http://www.familycentertn.org/our-impact

FN4  “Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults: The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study,” by Vincent J Felitti MD, Robert F Anda MD, et al,  American Journal of Preventative Medicine, May 1998, Vol 14, Issue 4, p 245–258
http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797%2898%2900017-8/fulltext#back-BIB65

FN5  Felitti, Vincent, MD, “Adverse Childhood Experiences” www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQwJCWPG478

FN6  Felitti, Vincent, MD, official speaker biography at www.apbspeakers.com/speaker/vincent-felitti

FN7  Stevens, Jane, “The Adverse Childhood Experience Study” — the largest, most important public health study you never heard of — began in an obesity clinic”  also published by Huffington Post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jane-ellen-stevens/the-adverse-childhood-exp_1_b_1943647.html

FN8  Brooks, John, “Video of Baby Casey in the Orphanage,” Warsaw, Poland, 1991, from Brooks, John, “The Girl Behind the Door: An Adoptive Father’s Lessons Learned About Attachment Disorder,” at http://parentingandattachment.com/the-girl-behind-the-door/.  Baby Casey video at http://acestoohigh.com/2013/08/02/the-early-heartbreaking-rages-of-a-baby-with-attachment-disorder/. Original video at http://parentingandattachment.com/meet-my-casey/.

FN9  Barrett, Mary Jo, MSW, “How to Treat the Patient Without Further Trauma,” NICABM webinar June 29, 2011, NICABM.com.  She is a professor at the University of Chicago; founder and director of the Center for Contextual Change; co-author of “Systemic Treatment of Incest;” and co-editor of “Treating Incest: A Multiple Systems Perspective.”

FN10  Siegel, Daniel J., MD, “Early childhood and the developing brain,” “All in the Mind,” ABC Radio National, Australia.

FN11  Perry, Bruce, MD, PhD, “Born for Love: The Effects of Empathy on the Developing Brain,” speech at conference “How People Change: Relationship & Neuroplasticity in Psychotherapy,” UCLA Extension, Los Angeles, March 8, 2013. See also “Overview of Neuro-sequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT),” www.childtrauma.org, 2010

FN12 Verrier, Nancy, PhD, “Coming Home to Self: The Adopted Child Grows Up,” self-published, Lafayette, CA, 1993

FN13 Op Cit Footnote 3, Felitti 13 minute video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQwJCWPG478

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