#2 in my ongoing book series; original post July 26, 2013
“Don’t Try This At Home” takes you along on the journey to the center of my brain, tripping down what felt like my old New York City apartment building’s incinerator shoot, blind and alone, after the first professionals I saw called the wrong shots. I discovered, with no desire to do any of this, the realities of Attachment Disorder in a world half sick with it – unbeknownst to all but a few of the 3.5 billion folks involved.
Some 50% of Americans have some form of Attachment Disorder, also the average worldwide. This story is meant not to depress you, but to inspire the 50% of us in this reality to recognize it, respect ourselves and our injuries, and seek serious healing – because it can happen. This mess can even turn out to be a blessing; but you won’t believe such an ending could come about until much, much later.
So bad news first, then good.
The bad news is way bad: this is really gonna hurt. Healing is impossible without feeling the boatload of emotional pain hiding frozen inside us.
Attachment Disorder often involves “developmental” injury to the brain stem in the womb or before age 5, which no one involved ever knew happened. We just walk around all our lives feeling hyper-sensitive to feelings. I couldn’t believe how bad it hurt when I first got in touch with this “baby pain.” When I say pain in my chest or gut, we’re talking knife-stabbing level pain. Some days it felt like crawling across Mordor, except on my belly, butt naked. Frodo at least had clothes.
The emotional pain is so bad, that the brain stem actually knocked us out into oblivion whenever it was first experienced, to protect us from feeling it as a helpless kid in the first place. It’s the same biological mechanism that takes charge when we see a mouse pass out as the cat picks it up, often called “freeze,” or technically, “dissociation.”
Trick is, we’ve got to un-freeze the frozen pain from those early months and years, and feel it – to release or “discharge” the stored-up stress energy deep in our muscles and viscera. And feeling our feelings, I learned, bad as they felt, can never kill us. It doesn’t even harm us in the slightest. In fact, afterward we feel better, though it might take a while.
It’s when we refuse to feel this stuff that it silently eats at us from the inside, first emotionally, then by generating enough stress chemicals to physically destroy body parts. That’s what actually kills many of us.
Attachment Disorder stems from any disruption to an infant’s attachment to the mother, and unfortunately, babies are very easy to damage. It can start as soon as the sperm hits the egg, or at any time in the next 45 months, since a baby requires solid, calm attachment from conception to 36 months, for the brain to develop in a healthy way. Any stress to a mother carrying a baby is a warning sign. Recent studies show it is prevalent in underprivileged areas, orphanages, alcoholic homes, or any home where mom is under existential stress. Neuroscientists in a recent book call it the “hidden epidemic.” [FN3]
But Attachment Disorder also occurs “in the nicest families” due to factors as simple as a mom smoking while pregnant as did moms of many baby boomers. Unwanted pregnancies (however wealthy the home) are at high risk. Neonatal incubation and adoption deeply damage attachment; only recently have remedial treatments been introduced. Infant or childhood surgeries or any medical trauma are a red flag. Mothers who as kids had little air time with their own mom and thus are tone deaf to others’ emotional state, unwittingly pass the damage on to their infants.
Many health professionals today did not adequately study attachment during training, if at all. It goes unnoticed in schools, medical systems, and houses of worship, all the places where hurting people go for help.
This makes a chunk of our population an emotional health time bomb. It may account for much of our 50% divorce rate and the work productivity crisis draining our economy. The top trauma specialist for the Pentagon says it’s one reason Congress can’t seem to function. [FN4]
The good news, however, is so good: healing is worth the fight.
As I move further into my own healing, I feel so much better than I ever have in my life. This may be difficult to believe until you experience it.
I sure didn’t feel this way when I first started contemplating all those layers of pain — but I got through it.
You will never trade how you lived before for how you’re going to be able to live now, the fullness of feeling everything wonderful you haven’t been able to feel all your life, freedom from all that raging anxiety deep inside, which kept you as frozen up as that conked-out mouse or fish.
Trauma specialists compare recovery from AD to a religious experience of God or a metaphysical awakening to enlightenment, the relief is that profound. [FN5]
Whatever the words, it’s a transformation which can make us feel so loved and full of life and relief that weeping for joy can become a bad habit. The feelings of sheer gratitude have put me on a first name basis with God, and He’s a really nice Man.
Since most of this book is going to tell you in graphic detail how bad it feels when we first discover Attachment Disorder and walk through the necessary early stages of pain and healing, there’s no reason not to believe me about the happy ending.
And I’ve even got clinical proof. Never in my wildest imagination (and that’s saying something) did it occur to me to even address the various medical issues “we all develop” after 40. Just by addressing my emotional pain, feeling it, and finally releasing it, the oddest results began to materialize in my body.
During the first 18 months of this purely emotional program, my cholesterol dropped 35 points, my kidney disease numbers dropped way back into the “lots better than normal” range, a nearly crippled foot simply healed itself, and the list goes on. Just wait, it’s all in Chapter 14.
These days, my family doctor looks at my annual check-up lab results and asks “Do you plan to live forever?”
Meanwhile, my friends have to put up with hearing me repeatedly blurt out, wherever we go: “I can’t believe how much better I feel than the last time we were here!”
This is from the Preface 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 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.
3. Lanius, Ruth A., MD, Vermetten, Eric, Pain, Claire, Editors, “The Impact of Early Life Trauma on Health and Disease: The Hidden Epidemic,” Cambridge University Press, 2010. “Early Childhood Adversity, Toxic Stress, and the Role of the Pediatrician,” American Academy of Pediatrics, 2012 (New York Times 1-7-12), and many more.
4. van der Kolk, Bessel, MD, “What Neuroscience Teaches Us About the Treatment of Trauma,” June 6, 2012 webcast, National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM). Dr. van der Kolk said the US Congress is “dissociated,” or they’d feel the simple human compassion to know that sending youth to war brings back a flood of PTSD suicides. (To me that means more than 50% of Congress has attachment problems, which is why they made a career of trying to control others. ) See footnote 9 in http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/developmental-trauma/
5. Levine, Peter A., “Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body,” ‘Sounds True, Inc.,’ Boulder CO, 2005; ISBN 1-159179-247-9
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