It is difficult to talk about trauma without considering the emotional and mental “foundation” we have as individuals. By “foundation” I mean the internal and external resources we possess and could aid us in coping with life stressors. This foundation is usually laid in the childhood and adolescent stages of development. If something goes wrong during these periods, a person may lack the proper coping skills that may make them vulnerable to more traumatic experiences.

We all come from different family backgrounds and our experiences growing up have a significant impact on the type of adults we become. Chances are that we have been exposed to one or more of what mental health workers call Adverse childhood experiences (ACE’s)

Adverse childhood experiences are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood between (0-18 years). They include the following but are not limited to; experiencing abuse directly
(physical violence, emotional, sexual, neglect), witnessing violence in the home or community, having a family member attempt or die by suicide or homicide.
From this list alone, I am sure that some of us can identify with some if not most of these circumstances. So what does this
have to do with trauma and our response to it?
Research supports the argument that ACEs can have lasting, negative effects on health, well- being, as well as life opportunities such as education and job potential.

In addition, ACEs and associated social determinants of health, such as living in under-resourced neighborhoods, frequently moving, and experiencing food insecurity, can cause toxic stress.

Children growing up with toxic stress may have difficulty forming healthy and stable relationships. They may also have unstable work histories as adults and struggle with finances, jobs, and depression throughout life. These effects can also be passed on to their own children.

Perhaps one of the questions on your mind at this point is; what can I as an individual do to ensure that I heal from these ACEs and cope with life stressors?

There is an old saying; knowledge is power. ACEs can last a lifetime but they don’t have to. We can reboot our brains. By understanding that your body and brain have been harmed by the biological impact of early emotional trauma, you can begin to take the necessary, science-based steps to your journey to healing.
Sometimes, the long-lasting effects of childhood trauma are just too much to handle on our own.

One way of tackling these issues could be in a therapeutic relationship where you get to unpack the past in a safe space, without fear of judgement. When we partner with a skilled therapist to address the adversity we may have faced, those negative memories become paired with the positive experience of being seen by someone who accepts us as we are and a new window to healing opens.

Catherine Ng’ang’a,
Chiromo Hospital Group.

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