Childhood experiences, intervening years, and all that jazz


The unbearable snazziness of one jazz hand being jazzy

Well, maybe not ALL that jazz.

I’ve been struggling a bit the past few days. After months of a tough-to-treat dip in mood that was the most serious depression I’ve had in a couple of years last year, 2013 has been decidedly better. But better isn’t always the same as great.

Work is super duper busy and hard. Fulfilling, and satisfying, but hard. I don’t have enough time to myself. My not-so-little-anymore girl is wanting more of my time lately, and I like that she wants it, and want to give it to her, but I’m torn. I’m also wanting, and needing, more physical activity than I’ve been getting. Add to that some challenges in my 20+ year marriage, and it’s a recipe for an unbalanced life.

I find myself noticing thoughts that had been happily absent lately, even during the lowest periods last year, about weight and appearance. I’m desiring reassurance of my innate adorableness*. I want to be reminded** that the people who I like find me delightful to be around, including as part of that being delightful, what I look like.

I’m also, frankly, struggling with using (larger-than-usual amounts of) food for comfort/analgesic purposes. For what may be the first time in my life, I don’t see this struggle about using food for comfort as a personal failing, or the answer to the question of “why am I fat?” I am feeling very connected to the universal challenge that people, when caged in by stress and demands and an inability to find relief in the moment, face — and the very strong desire for self-soothing. This isn’t as much about what I’m doing wrong, as it’s about finding ways to get my needs met that best fit into my life at the moment. And relying on food for self-soothing, at least in the way that I’ve been doing it, isn’t the best way for me in the moment.

Which brings me to what I really wanted to write about, which is this:

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and their impacts on health in adulthood.

Here’s a link to an infographic about the study of the impacts of these traumatic events:

The relationship between having experienced these types of events as a child (and the cumulative effect of them) and health of the grown child isn’t spread evenly across conditions. For example, lack of physical activity, “severe obesity,” and diabetes don’t appear to be as closely associated with ACEs as alcoholism, drug use, depression, and suicide attempts, which are much more prevalent in people with four or more ACEs compared to zero ACEs.

Which brings me back to how I’m doing, and how I cope with feeling overwhelmed, tired, and stressed. Based on my early experiences and younger years, alcohol and/or drug use could have been a potential route to self-soothing. Depression is certainly something I struggle to manage. Perhaps, even though it’s not the best way to deal with challenges, turning to food for self-soothing rather than drugs or alcohol was the best I could do when I was younger, and remains a pattern that I still cling to. My desire to identify other self-soothing measures isn’t driven by a desire to lose weight, it’s driven by a desire to feel “healed” to the greatest extent possible. It’s possible that had I chosen drugs, alcohol and/or cigarettes as my preferred self-soothing go-to-mode(s),*** I would be less fat, and possibly even not have developed type 2 diabetes at age 25 (I’m now 44). However, my risk of early death, and the risk of not having the stable, solid, fulfilling life I have now, would be much greater. I think my personal suffering would have been worse had another coping path been the one I found myself on. And, quite possibly, greater suffering of the people I love, and who love me.

So, with gratitude, I look at where I am, and where I want to be, and I’m open to finding better ways to manage my stress. I’m already doing some of these — laughing, sleeping****, being social, trying to keep things in perspective, etc. I also know that doing a better job of feeding myself throughout the day, rather than relying on what food and drink I can scrounge up and then finding myself extremely hungry when I get home after work, will help with balancing out my overall intake throughout the day. And, now that I’m over the cold I had last week, looking for ways to get more active again.

Wishing you love, peace, and jazz hands,

Your faithful***** blogger, AcceptanceWoman

* I wonder — am I entitled to be reassured about the adorableness that I possess, not uniquely, but the universal adorableness that all (most?) of us have within?

** I’m not asking to be reminded here in this blog — I’m stating this because I’m noticing the desire for it.

*** To the extent that any of us “choose” these self-soothing modalities. Or any combination thereof.

**** Not at this very exact moment.

***** Faithful in spirit, if not in practice.


1 Comment

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One response to “Childhood experiences, intervening years, and all that jazz

  1. Chutti

    Thanks for sharing this. I always appreciate your voice, and am sorry to hear you’ve had some struggles. I can absolutely relate to your feelings about food and self-care around this.

    I can claim 3 or4 of those ACEs myself, and hubs has 6! Neither of us dwells on having had a less than perfect childhood, but once in a while it comes up. We were at a party recently, and the very sweet teen of the house was asking hubs what he did at his age. Later hubs told teens dad in passing that he didn’t have a great childhood. Our friend’s response was a sort of brusque “Don’t sugar coat it, pal!” which really made us uncomfortable.
    I mentioned that it sometimes happens to me that folks assume I grew up in a nice shiny happy middle class family with lots of advantages since I am now a relatively healthy and happy middle class professional. And that is FINE. I don’t want to say that living well is the best revenge, BUT-it does make me feel proud that folks can’t tell this about me. I hope hubs feels the same.

    At the same time, I think there are some of us who quietly wear a secret badge in the ACE club. The other day, hubs asked me if I had any close (or even not so close) friends who had a healthy helpful present Dad. I realized not. My dad died when I was 6, and I made it a point never to make that event a big part of my identity. That said, I seem to get close to folks who are independent interesting self-motivated folks-who may have turned out that way for lack of fathering. And the funny thing is, we only find out later after we’ve connected in a deeper way.

    You’ve given me lots to think about. I too struggle with managing work-related stress and it’s impacts all around. Thanks again for being so articulate about this.
    I’ve missed your voice, and am sending you a virtual hug.

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