What are Adverse Childhood Experiences?
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are event or experiences where a child is powerless to respond to what is happening to them or around them.
Most people can understand the impact that big-T trauma like sexual abuse, emotional and physical abuse, war and tragic events can have. We are now begining to understand how devestating small-T trauma can be.
There is growing body of research that demonstrates how closely connected ACEs are to health and wellbeing in adulthood – if you want to learn more, I can recommend the acestoohigh.com website.
I am concerned specifically with the connection that ACEs have to chronic fatigue. Interestingly, it’s not so much the events themselves that are the issue, but rather the way that we feel at the time. The emotional element is the piece of information that gets stored within the reptillian part of our brain during childhood. This is because the more advance areas of the brain are still under development.
From a survival point of view, this makes perfect sense. Storing the “gut feeling” element of a situation is a way of coding that allows our brain to very quickly pattern match. Anytime we experience that similar feeling again, our subconscious recognises it as something that has already been responded to in the past. That recognitions then sets in motion a series of chemical reactions that prepare the body for action.
How are ACEs and Chronic Fatigue linked?
This is all fine and dandy if we are experiencing something happy and positive. It’s also brilliant for survival if we are in danger. The fight or flight mechanism is engaged and we are primed to do what we need to do to get out danger. In these circumstances, the burst of activity either resolves the dangerous situation, or it doesn’t. Either way, the impact of the fight or flight response is for a relatively short period of time. After which, the body either settles back to normality or it doesn’t need to (because we didn’t survive the danger!)
It’s not so great if our subconscious is constantly hitting the panic button. This could be happening because somewhere in the past our mind has stored an Adverse Childhood Experience or a series of ACEs. We could be in a situation where our brain is constantly pattern matching feelings of worry, anxiety, fear with memories from childhood and then triggering red alerts throughout the day.
From an internal body chemistry point of view, this is totally exhausting. Our fight ot flight mechanism is only supposed to be active for a short period of time. It should then switched off while normal rest and digest functioning manages our body in a “normal” state.
So, how does knowing this help beat chronic fatigue?!
Well, over the years, The Chryslais Effect have noticed that it is extremely common for people with chronic fatigue to describe many of the following in their past
difficult relationships within the family
controlling or critical parents/grandparents
bullying or teasing by parents, sibling, school mates or teachers
witnessing violence within the home
living with people who had alcohol or drug use issues
absence of parent(s) through divorce or prison
These are common examples of adverse childhood experiences.
Not everyone who experiences these situations will develop a chronic fatigue illness. Research has shown however that the likelihood of ill health is much higher than that of someone who did not experience any.
The “A” Type Personality
We find chronic fatigue conditions are much more common when the following traits are present, for example, if the person
has an “A” Type personality (high achievers, quite driven to succeed, perfectionists, like to be in control)
has high expectations of themself
is highly sensitive
lives in their heads a lot (to do lists, always thinking and planning)
has perhaps felt like a “fish out of water” when with family, school friends or work colleagues.
It can appear a bit baffling because, in and of themselves, the traits and the ACEs don’t seem like massive things. But together, they can combine to leave us totally exhausted i.e. chronically fatigued.
Let’s say, you agree with everything I have written above – where does it get you in terms of recoevry from M.E, Fibromyalgia or CFS?!
The path to recovery…
It gives us a starting point and a path to follow. If subconscious triggering of ACEs is part of the fatigue story, then we need to find ways of interupting the subconscious pattern. This starts with raising awareness of:
which feelings being experienced now, in the present
which feelings that are being triggered from childhood, and finally,
how to take conscious control of the impact on the body.
Over and above this, we have to understand how our A Type personality might be aggravating the situation. By pushing to achieve more, to do it to the very best of our abilities and to be perfect we take more our our bodies than they have left to give.
Reality is, there isn’t a quick fix here. Recovery from chronic fatigue requires some time to unpick and understand ourselves. It also requires us to make some changes, based on what we discover along the way. These changes allow us to live in a way that suits our body and our personality.
I am always happy to chat with anyone looking for a way to get their life back from chronic fatigue – contact me now to arrange a free 30 minute Health Profile Review – www.reconnectingyou.co.uk