Not all forms of abuse are visible. In fact, many people go through their lives silently suffering from childhood trauma.
When you are a child, you hope that your family will protect you, look after you when you are sick, and make sure you have everything you need. You assume the people who brought you into the world will care about you.
Unfortunately, life is not that simple. There are thousands of adults who are living with chronic emotional stress and other conditions rooted in traumatic childhood events. Many have no idea those long-ago traumas have a long-term impact and still affect them today.
The process to heal from ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) can be long and complicated, but there are hopeful outcomes for people living with ACEs.
If you want to know how to heal from ACEs and childhood trauma, you need to understand what happened to you and who you can turn to for help. You don’t have to bear your trauma alone.
There are hundreds of resources and support networks available where you can connect with people who are also suffering from ACEs and childhood trauma.
Let’s begin by understanding ACEs and how they affect us.
Understanding ACEs and Childhood Trauma
Defining ACEs is the first and most important step in better understanding ACEs and childhood trauma.
ACEs refer to a range of traumatic childhood events, including emotional neglect and physical abuse. Other examples may include:
No matter what form of childhood abuse you have experienced, the long-term complications of these events can last a lifetime.
People who are haunted from childhood may find it difficult to transition into adulthood and make important decisions.
How ACEs Affect Your Brain
When you experience something traumatic and painful as a child, your brain learns to adapt to these stress triggers.
As a kid, you are not fully aware of what is happening around you, so you develop responses to stress in order to survive. This may mean withdrawing into yourself or acting out.
If you are put under chronic stress growing up, your whole body is affected. Your nervous system stays in a constant flight or fight response, and your immune system can be compromised.
Due to these horrific experiences, a child starts to view the world as a terrifying and overwhelming place. This can lead to more mental health problems later in life.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is very common amongst survivors of childhood abuse.
You may have problems sleeping and may also feel numb. This is because your body is constantly under acute stress.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is also something that adults with ACEs may develop. This can make it difficult for survivors to stay focused and sit for long periods of time.
The emotional stress caused by ACEs can make it extremely difficult for people to form healthy attachments to other people and, therefore, can lead to more feelings of loneliness.
Not only do ACEs affect your brain, but the underlying emotional causes of past trauma can resurface when you are older and cause physical illnesses.
Physical Illness and ACEs
If childhood trauma is left untreated, it can put more stress on your body, which can lead to health complications such as cancer and chronic headaches. Research shows there is a link between these health conditions and ACEs.
It can also be difficult for ACE survivors to form healthy sexual relationships because they never learned about their bodies in a healthy and confident way.
Apart from this, ACEs can lead to Dissociative Identity Disorder, which happens as a result of trauma. This is when you do not feel a sense of identity and fluctuate between different personas.
Trauma is complex, and the mental health effects look different on everyone depending on personal experience. However, understanding this helps you learn how to heal from ACEs and childhood trauma and ultimately helps you move forward in life.
How to Heal from ACEs: The Steps
To heal from ACEs, the first step to take is finding out what help and information you need to support your healing journey.
You can begin by taking the ACE Test here, which will help provide you with some information you can share with a licensed professional. It will also help you discover more about what happened to you in your childhood.
This may provide you with the answers to questions you might have been asking yourself for years. It may even help your memory put pieces together of a childhood event that might seem foggy.
As Adverse Childhood Experiences differ from person to person, healing is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. The more information you have, the easier it is for you to find the help you need.
Types of Therapy to Heal from ACEs and Childhood Trauma
Childhood trauma can cause low self-esteem. You may find yourself internalizing the blame and guilt for your abuse. The truth is, it was never your fault.
Therapists and trained professionals can help you work through and process these feelings so you can develop better self-confidence and belief in yourself. Addressing childhood trauma can even strengthen your ability to make good life decisions, leading to healthier relationships, careers, better physical health, and other positive outcomes.
Meditation can be a powerful way to gain control over your negative thoughts, supporting your ability to cope with the complex mental health issues that come from ACEs and childhood trauma.
Learning to self-regulate is a key part of the healing process after surviving Adverse Childhood Experiences.
There are medications that can be prescribed to help with depression, anxiety, sleep, or other issues that arise from the effects of ACEs. Should your licensed medical practitioner advise it, don’t feel bad about taking it. That’s why it’s there. Don’t stop seeing your counselor, nurse practitioner, or other mental health professional. In some cases, therapy work can help you move forward without medication in the future, but even with ongoing medication, talking to someone will continue to be an important part of healing.
Help is always available if you need it.
Plant the Seeds for a Better Future
You might not be able to control what happened to you when you were younger, but you can always regain control over your life when you are an adult.
When you plant the right seeds for the future, such as building support networks, getting help, and learning more about ACEs, you can start to experience the good that can come from living a life more free from trauma.
The world will start getting hopeful again, and you will feel more like yourself.
The way it should have always been.
Want to help make sure childhood trauma doesn’t happen to any other child? You can start by signing up for the Stop Abuse Campaign newsletter for more information, support, and advocacy campaigns.
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Andrew was a Captain in the British Army before practicing integrated marketing communications and marketing, mostly for global brands. A survivor of child sexual abuse, domestic violence, and suicide, Andrew dedicated the second half of his life to protecting children from trauma.