How to Heal Your High ACE Score

 

 

What are ACES?

Have you ever heard of ACES?  Aces are Adverse Childhood Experiences.  Meaning traumas that we've endured before the age of eighteen.  They are prolonged bouts of adrenaline or noadrenaline and other stress hormones our brain and body produces due to repeated trauma (such as abuse).  Experts have come up with a quick set of questions that gives you an ACE score (up to 10, though I'd argue there's more or maybe just more to add to each category, like being in foster care, as I was a child, which isn't included on the regular survey).   You can find out your ACE score here (taken from ACES Too High)

  1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  2. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  3. Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  4. Did you often or very often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  5. Did you often or very often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  6. Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  7. Was your mother or stepmother:
    Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  8. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  9. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?                        No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  10. Did a household member go to prison?
    No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Now add up your “Yes” answers: _ This is your ACE Score

 

Anything over the number of four means you are at risk for disease.


What does an ACE score do?

ACE scores help us understand why we are at risk for chronic disease and other diseases such as ADHD, fibromyalgia, cancer, diabetes, etc.  ACE scores tell us just how much chronic toxic stress we had children and boils it down in the simplest way so that we can see clearly just how much these issues have plagued our lives.  We normally wouldn't think that getting hypothyroidism or diabetes at at twenty-five could be caused by all the toxic stress we had as children, but what researchers and doctors are coming to learn is that toxic stress gets stored in our bodies and can eventually cause disease.   

But here's the thing: if, as a child, you had someone, at least one person, who helped you process your trauma in a healthy way and was there for you?  You could have an ACE score of 10 and still be healthy.   Why?  Because the processing of trauma stops the flood of stress hormones in your body and stops the damage.  That's why therapy is very important for children who've experienced trauma, and/or also having a parent or another adult be there to allow proper processing of said trauma.  

But most of us do not have that.  In fact, if we grow up with abuse, then most of the adults around us are either so codependent that they ignore it, or they are just as abusive, if not more than those abusing us.  So most of us end up try to deal with all of that alone, and grow up to have chronic disease (like back pain, thyroid issues, autoimmune disorders, etc.) as well as mental disorders such as anxiety and depression.  And we all wonder "Is it the food I eat?  Is it my depression causing this?  Is it just me being punished?"  And now we know that it's all due to unresolved trauma from childhood.  


Why do high ACE scores cause disease?

Have you heard of telomeres?  They are these little ends on our DNA that help protect it from damage.  When you have long telomeres, your DNA is good and can take years and years of things like trauma and stress before the DNA is ever affected.  But if they've been worn down by chronic toxic stress from childhood, or for some, completely eliminated, your DNA is no longer protected and then becomes damaged, which causes many diseases.  Some people are born with very short telomeres, due to hereditary issues from the mother whose ACE score is also high.  So in short, issues from chronic toxic stress can be passed in bloodlines.  The issue with telomeres, once they are shortened, you can't get them back (not yet, but there has been strides in reversing the aging process lately which just came out this month).  

Stress hormones are not meant to flood the body constantly.  Maybe for days on end, when a trauma happens, but when that trauma is repeated, as with abuse, then those hormones will be flooding your body for years on end.   And that's not how our bodies are meant to function.  

Our trauma literally makes us sick.  

And every single book dedicated to this subject is all about how to help children from having this reaction to a high ACE score, but it seems as though for adults, we're just sitting ducks, waiting for what's to come through no fault of our own.  Our abusers give us the gift that keeps on giving.  Not only do we get shitty childhoods, but now we have to have shitty adult years too, being in pain and being sick, all due to unresolved trauma.  

And according to some doctors, you can talk about your trauma until the cows come home and mentally heal (which is amazing thing--something I did myself back in 2012, when I mentally healed from my father's abuse), but it still stays in the body.  

Great.  Right?  

But to find out, there is hope for us.  There is a way we can stop this damage and even heal from these past traumas and protect ourselves for the future.   


So how do we heal from all of this?

So you'd think then "Well, if I can't get them back, then how can I heal?  How is it even possible?"  Barring the idea of hanging out in a hyperbaric chamber sipping on 100% oxygen (though it does say that they reversed to the length of twenty-five years prior when doing so, which is some amazing news but also comes with great risks), know that there are some things you can do to help stop the future shortening of these chromosome caps such as meditation, therapy (to help you deal with stress more efficiently), exercise regularly, taking vitamins (getting tested to find out what you're low in is key), and eating healthier (as it states in this article).  Also you should get off drugs, stop drinking, stop smoking, stop participating in damaging lifestyles (such as being sedentary, like I am), and anything else that can shorten your telomeres.  Stop the damage now, so you can better deal with what comes in the future.  

And despite the feeling of "What's the point, I've already been damaged so much", I'm here to tell you that not only is it feasible to stop the damage for your future you, but after you quit all of those damaging behaviors, you can literally heal some of that damage that's been done for more immediate results.  Like, you can ease your pain and disease now, so you can feel better now.  

How? 

Somatic experiencing.  

Somatic experiencing is a type of therapy that helps unlock trauma in the body.  It's a multi-disciplinary approach (meaning it combines many disciplines together).  Rather than working with the actual trauma itself (as therapy does), it works with the trapped traumatic stress that hasn't been released which wreaks havoc on our nervous system.  This can help you with old wounds, current wounds that you're still experiencing (like still living with abuse), or with single traumas (like car accidents, rape, etc.).  

The idea is that you need to release all that pent up stress, which can help both PTSD and CPTSD.

Complex PTSD (CPTSD) happens because during childhood, our brains are creating pathways and the ones we use the most become the strongest.  Well, if survival is thing we experience most due to being in an abusive home, then we grow up with a brain that's always stuck in survival mode.  Meaning, we're always stuck in flight or fight mode.  We also learn as children that feeling happy or joy isn't safe, so we learn to shy away from those feelings, which leaves us as adults, feeling depressed and angry.  And in turn, these feelings feel not only permanent, but since we've never felt much of anything else, we have no idea how to feel otherwise.  We have no idea how to "find ourselves" because we've never been ourselves to begin with.  We were never allowed to become who we were meant to be, because we were too busy protecting ourselves from them.  

If you can't afford or find a somatic therapist near you, there are lots of other ways  release all this stored negative energy and reset your nervous system to a more normal state.  One of the best ways is to seek out a wonderful therapist.  Remember, not all therapists are perfect for you, so do not stop until you find the one that is.  I know too many people that stay with a bad therapist because they feel "stuck" with them.  But it's easy to change, all you have to do is seek out another one, and when you find one, just call and cancel your appointments with your current one.  If you have issues with that, have a friend call or if all else fails, just ghost them (granted, not the best way to do it, but sometimes it's all we can do if we have issues with this type of thing--it's better than staying with a therapist that isn't working for you).  


While you are seeing a good therapist, or waiting to see one, you can also try other ways to help heal your high ACE score.  Here's how:  

 



You can also try some of the links below and search some of your own to find a healing plan that works for you.  One that I didn't write on the list is journaling.  Journaling is a GREAT way to come to some realizations that you've never thought of before, concerning your past.  Especially if you play "therapist" with yourself (write as the patient, you, and then respond as the "therapist" to yourself...it's quite therapeutic).  


My ACE score is a 9 (though a 10 if foster care was on there).  And I've been working diligently for years on healing the damaging effects of it.  I have fibromyalgia and possible M.E. (chronic fatigue, which can go hand in hand with fibro),  chronic migraines and cervicogenic headaches, hypothyroidism, arthritis, tons of sleep disorders, acid reflux, and severe anxiety (which is seeming to be getting worse the more I have to deal with my childhood abuser--also does not get better with meds).  I can't wear certain items of clothing because of the excruciating pain they cause from doing so (and haven't been able to wear them for many years), like high heeled shoes (they cause horrible lower back pain), a bra (causes horrible shoulder and neck pain), headbands (causes horrible head pain), earrings (pressure on my skin can cause swelling and severe pain--even with clip on earrings), and certain types of pants (esp. ones that are tight in the waist, that will cause severe pain my lower and middle back).  I also have year round allergies that never go away, even with medication.  

Nobody in my birthfamily has any of these issues, so none of it is inherited.  And most of it came on during my adult years, after a childhood filled with abuse (much of it which did not stop in my adult years, as well). 

If you're reading this, I bet your story is very similar to mine.  And if you're looking to heal your high ACE score, after years of wondering why you've had so many mental, emotional, and physical issues, I hope something in this post helps you out.  Because I feel you and I'm right there with you.  They (our abusers) may have created this inside of us to deal with, but now it's time for us to deal with it ourselves and heal from the inside out.  We deserve healing.  We deserve happiness.  And this is the first step towards it.

Good luck and if you've found something that's worked for you, please let me know below.   And check out these links for more steps toward healing:


Videos:

Healing the Nervous System From Trauma

Turn off Anxiety in our Nervous System 

How to Release Trauma Stored in the Body

 

Books: 

(affiliate links, that means if you purchase through my link I get a small amount of the sale which helps to put food on my table, at zero extra cost for you). 

Moving Beyond Trauma: The Roadmap to Healing from Your Past and Living with Ease and Vitality by Ilene Smith

Heal the Body, Heal the Mind by Susanne Babbel

The Body Keeps Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD

The Deepest Well by Nadine Burke Smith, MD

 

Articles & Websites

Aces Too High

How unprocessed trauma is stored in the body

How to Release Trauma Trapped in the Body

 How to Release Trauma-Tiny Buddha

 

 

 

 




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