Following is an excerpt from, I Worry About the Kids, Chapter 1, Introduction…
“Although children are resilient and adapt to their immediate surroundings and their broader environment—good, bad, indifferent, and ugly as it might be—kids inhale the pain of loved ones, especially parents they look to for love, support, and security. Parents don’t always see or even think that toxic behaviors in the home, school, and neighborhood will have long-term implications on the healthy growth of their children. Parents who suffer from severe post trauma stress are fully engaged in their own world of emotional pain, a private agony that can strike at any moment by haunting triggers from the past. Outbursts of anger, panic attacks, and irrational behaviors represent a trauma-affected adult who is expressing grieving emotions from past traumatic events. When these scary events occur in the home, kids become frightened for their safety. Children are often silent and try to stay clear of threatening violent behaviors, but they never forget. They live and cope with whatever happens around them just like adults. I’m often asked why I worry so much about babies and young children when thinking and writing about post-traumatic stress and the toxic circumstances that surround a family when a parent suffers from it. I worry because even unborn babies can be damaged from post-trauma family dynamics. And I worry about the kids because the longer the delay in paying attention to them, the more permanent the damage. Where do I find these children? The terrible answer is I find them in every social strata, every economic level, in every neighborhood, everywhere. Children exhibiting the signs of post-traumatic stress often live in military families that include a parent who served in hard combat but came home fueled by anxiety, depression, and anger. They are children of 1st responders whose work places them in the midst of terrible violence and chaos, and they can’t help but bring some of their despair back home. They are homeless kids sleeping wherever they can lay their head for the night. Sometimes their parents are with them, sometimes not. They are the children of alcoholics and drug users. They are kids living among convicted criminals who need supervision of their own. They are the children of chronically depressed parents. They are undernourished kids living in poverty. They are kids with limited access to education—for whatever reason. They are children who have witnessed a murder, or a gun accident, or pulled the trigger themselves—you read about these stories in the newspapers way too often. They are children who found a parent dead of suicide. Or who was in the room when their mother was raped. They are foster children taken from parents who abused or neglected them, only to end up in another abusive situation. They are kids whose father or mother skipped out one day, never to return. They are children living with their grandparents because their own parents are dysfunctional or violent. They are children at the mercy of adults—stepfathers, pastors, relatives, neighbors—with sexually deviant personalities. Our society is experiencing an epidemic of children suffering from post-traumatic stress right this minute.”
So how is it that out of suffering we can come to not only return to our baseline state but to deeply improve our lives? And why are some people crushed by trauma, while others thrive? Tedeschi and Calhoun explain that post-traumatic growth, in whatever form it takes, can be “an experience of improvement that is for some persons, deeply profound.”
My experience with post-trauma personal growth has been “deeply profound” as suggested in the referenced article. It is possible through awareness, mindfulness, and alternative treatments, one does walk and run on the trail to healing. But staying on the path to healing is a challenging work in progress, at least for me. Setbacks are part of the forward progress and lifelong endeavor. With each day, weeks, months and years since beginning my own recovery, there have been bumps in the road that can be painful, but also fuel the healing process with a lessons learned attitude. Each of us as trauma survivors find our own unique way or form of healing. Everyone has different life events and circumstances that give each of us a unique perspective. But what has been most beneficial to me in healing from experiencing severe trauma, especially as a child and young adult, is to first, forgive yourself; and second, forgive others! Once this happens you free yourself to find your own special and unique path to lasting peace of mind. Resilience then becomes a key factor as you thrive in life after trauma.
My books and those of others, including blog reference articles, on the topic of post-traumatic stress (PTS) can be extremely helpful in self-discovery and awareness. Writing books and this blog represents my own personal treatment strategy to not only understand the roots of PTS symptoms and behaviors, but also provides a healthy perspective, allowing me a comfortable way to heal emotional wounds of the past.