August 14, 2021

I may look “Normal” but I’m Not your Typical Mother.


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I drop my kid off at school and camp just like you do.

I organize playdates, pack lunches, make sure he is fed and has his school supplies just like you do. I love him just as much as you love your kid, maybe more.

I look pretty “normal,” I’d say, to the public eye. No one would know that I am different or the different things that go on in my head.

I know all parents worry, but I fear I worry more than the average.

My hypervigilance is always percolating under the surface, and I question every damn decision I make.

Don’t get me wrong. Over the years, I have worked hard to become a chameleon of sorts, and you won’t ever see me slipping. I overcompensate for my feelings of always lacking something, and you might think I’ve got it all together.

My brain goes haywire when there’s something new we are going to try. Luckily, I have learned some strategies to control that “monkey brain” I live with daily.

I live with developmental trauma.

What does that mean?

It means that my brain didn’t fully develop when and as it should have. I have lived in a state of fear and worry when I should have been enjoying my childhood. It means that my security instinct has gone awry, and I always felt like I was in danger.

Because of this, as a young girl, I sought ways to make myself feel different, and by different, I mean better. By better I mean secure.

Here’s some information about developmental trauma: we have to acknowledge it before we can heal it.

According to Global Teletherapy, symptoms of developmental trauma include:

>> Deep-seated shame
>> A sense that there is no ground and the feeling of powerlessness
>> Becoming hopeless and despairing about life
>> Hyper-vigilance and inexplicable fear
>> Emotional regulation difficulties
>> Feeling isolated and disconnected

It also occurs at home.

The Portico Network defines developmental trauma as, “A term used in the literature to describe childhood trauma such as chronic abuse, neglect, or other harsh adversity in their own homes. When a child is exposed to overwhelming stress and their caregiver does not help reduce this stress, or is the cause of the stress, the child experiences developmental trauma. Most clinicians are familiar with the term Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but the vast majority of traumatized children will not develop PTSD. Instead, they are at risk for a host of complex emotional, cognitive, and physical illnesses that last throughout their lives.”

Most adults with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can relate to feeling similarly. 

ACES can be in the form of:

>> Abuse: physical, emotional, and sexual

>> Neglect: physical and emotional

>> General Household Dysfunction: mental illness, incarcerated relative, mother treated violently, substance abuse, divorce

And there is a lovely quiz on the website here to see where you fall on the spectrum: Take it here.

The problem for me is that I am an almost 45-year-old woman who is still working against these ACEs. My parents have long since passed, but I still carry around their baggage. Through years of therapy and other alternative therapies, I have improved 100 fold, but we need to teach people (even therapists) about trauma-informed care now, not later.

As a child and teen, I didn’t know what was wrong with me and why I ran to addictions to drugs and alcohol to cover up the pain I felt. I felt different and knew my homelife was insane, but I carried too much shame and had no idea what to do with it.

I was referred to a therapist in high school, and we did some talk therapy, but by then, I had already worn the path to escaping through any means possible.

I say this for women and men who are suffering and don’t know why.

Many times, looking back at our past can open a door to freedom in our present lives. I know many of us want to shut the door on our childhoods or past and move on. I have tried that, and pretending to be “fine” didn’t work for me. I could blend in but still feel alien at best.

Digging up the past hurts, and fully processing it is the ticket to the freedom we seek. We can see once we drudge all of those painful memories and scenarios up that they have been running our lives. Once we bring them up and out to the light, their power over us is removed.

We want to break the cycle of childhood dysfunction, and our only key is looking at our own and healing it so as not to pass it on to our children.

So when you see another mother doing the best she can, let’s have some empathy. Let’s know that it isn’t always as it seems on the outside.

Let’s be there for one another.

Let’s heal.

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