Back in 1989, shortly after I entered recovery, recurrent thoughts and feelings of shame, guilt and unworthiness began to surface.  My sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous suggested that I might need counseling to address possible “family of origin” issues.   At that point in my life I did everything the women surrounding me with support, love and guidance suggested I do.  Their eyes were bright and clear, their energy was peaceful and full of joy.

I wanted what they had so I gathered my courage and called The Women’s Center.  I told the lady answering the phone that I needed to talk to someone about what happened to me as a little girl.  I went on to explain that I didn’t have any money to pay for therapy, certain that she would tell me they couldn’t help me.  She replied, “Haven’t you paid enough already? The counseling is free.”  and proceeded to put me on the list for services.  My eyes still fill with tears when I remember that moment of grace.

I went to the Women’s Center for four years, discovering, uncovering, processing, feeling and releasing all that I had been running from up to that point in my life.  I remember sitting in my counselor’s office one day, waiting for her to come in and begin our session.  There my clinical chart was, lying on top of her desk, so I snuck a peek.  Being a curious person, I wanted to know what my diagnosis was.

I surreptitiously opened the cover of the file and found the section that contained my diagnosis…Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  What?  What was that?  I had never even heard of PTSD before.  What was my counselor thinking?  I was certain she had misdiagnosed me.  But she did not, I researched it on my own and she was spot on.  I could see how so many of my choices, behaviors and reactions were based on responses to traumatizing events that I had experienced as a child.

PTSD wasn’t a typical diagnosis at that time but since then there has been groundbreaking research and study on PTSD and the effects of trauma and traumatic events in childhood and throughout an individual’s life.  PTSD is a real illness. You can get PTSD after living through or seeing a dangerous event, such as a war, a hurricane, or a bad accident. Traumatic childhood events, abuse and neglect also cause PTSD in individuals. PTSD makes you feel stressed and afraid after the danger is over. It affects your life and the people around you.  My own PTSD stemmed from childhood trauma.

There has been foundational research around the study of childhood trauma known as the  Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).  Adverse Childhood Experiences have been linked to risky health behaviors, chronic health conditions, low life potential, and early death. As the number of ACEs increases, so does the risk for these outcomes.  Listen the TED Talk by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris on “How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime”.

If, after reviewing any of the information I’ve provided, you discover that you too may have been exposed to trauma and have questions, please reach out for help, call MHMR Tarrant’s ICARE at 800-866-2045 or your health professional.