This post is written in partnership with Stress Health,an initiative of the Center for Youth Wellness, but opinions are my own.
When we are children, the homes we grow up in can have a major impact on how we deal with stress and what type of stress we are exposed to. These stressors can push us forward to become functioning adults, or they can stay with us in negative ways years down the road. Each experience we have as children lingers as we move on to our adult lives, even if we don’t remember all of them. If we don’t have the love and support needed to combat the stress, it can take a toll on our bodies and our mind in years to come.
I grew up in a loving home, but still dealt with some challenges through my childhood. My deployment to Afghanistan brought many of the issues I had ignored most of my life to the surface. While deployed, I was in survival mode. The daily stressors were something I told myself I could handle, and it wasn’t until I came home that I realized how deeply affected I was. I started to see how harmful stressors caused me to overreact in normal situations. And becoming a mom added many unexpected challenges that made me seek help to change my negative behavior.
Since then I have learned a lot about mental health. Most recently, I’ve learned about how stress during childhood (or any life-altering event) needs to be dealt with. If you don’t, it will leak into other parts of your life. To break the cycle, you need to recognize you need help and then work to get better.
Exposure to rage
Overall, my childhood felt normal. I think to some extent everyone feels this way because it is what you experience. You don’t know anything else. But I knew what it felt like to be exposed to rage and the fear it caused. I swore I would never do it. But as I became a mom and dealt with life’s challenges, I slipped into a role I had hoped never to see again. I knew my moments of rage over small things were not helpful for anyone. And I wanted to change so that I could be the mom I wanted to be.
I started getting help by attending weekly Celebrate Recovery meetings. Talking to others about my experience helped me not to feel so alone. It gave me a safe place to share my struggle. And once I brought the struggle to the light, I was able to let it go and see real change.
Paying attention to feelings
I began to pay attention to the way I felt. Instead of reacting, I was taking a step back and realizing what was actually wrong. Two things that are common for adults who deal with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) is losing their temper in normal circumstances and being too flooded with stress hormones to think logically.
When you stop and pay attention to your emotions, you may realize that your mind jumps past logic, causing you to tailspin out of control. You may find yourself yelling about things that don’t make sense. Learning this can change everything about how you parent.
Parenting with ACEs
Parenting is still challenging for me. But life is completely different. I am able to stop myself when I start to feel the sensation of being taken over. I’ve created new pathways to deal with anger. I also have been able to talk to my son about how my actions sometimes are wrong and ask for forgiveness. I know that he sees the improvement in my behavior and knows that I am working toward healing.