Exploring Trauma Brain, EMDR and Trauma

READERS: This is a transcript to a podcast and is not meant to present as a completed piece of written work. We provide these transcripts for our hard of hearing community and for those of you who prefer to listen inside the blog.

Jeremy Fox  0:00  
I care so much because I’ve known people have have gone through trauma. People ask how I don’t burn out doing this? And the answer is, I’ve seen how EMDR works. And when you take the emotional vividness out of someone’s negative memories, and when you take the negativity out of the memory, then the prognosis is so great. And you see such recovery. And so that’s what what fuels me.

Amy Watson  0:28  
Hey, everyone, and welcome to the donor supported Wednesdays with Watson podcast. Our mission here is simple. You guys know it by now. It is to educate and help people navigate trauma, as well as other mental health issues. We are doing that and have done that almost for two years now by providing help and hope through the stories of myself through the stories of others, and light today, bringing professionals on who are so kind to come on and help us. Finally, we have a mission to raise money for pro bono counseling for those who cannot afford it. If you want to be part of that mission, click on the Contact Me button in the show notes. Also, I would love it. If you would rate and review or share the podcast while you’re in the app. We will never ever stop fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves. You guys know this by now. So now that we got all of that out of the way, let’s walk into that healing zone. Today I’m excited to bring back to the microphone, licensed therapist and EMDR consultant Jeremy Fox. As a disclaimer, Jeremy is appearing on the podcast out of a desire to educate. He has been published in academic papers and enjoys imparting knowledge. His words here today are meant for entertainment purposes only and are not meant to be a substitute for therapy. Jeremy Fox, aka the trauma tamer also has a podcast you can listen to it on overtake. We’ll put that in the show notes. He is one of my favorite people in this space. I met him on the clubhouse app. He truly cares about people y’all see him and rooms all the time given up time to help people understand trauma and that is why he is here today. I want to pick Jeremy’s brain today as we’re in this series of of child abuse and trauma and the home. And I wanted to pick Jeremy’s brain about how trauma affects the developing brain of a child. More importantly, Jeremy will help us understand how early intervention can mitigate some of that damage. His treatment modalities EMDR, which you’ve heard me talk about is also my treatment modality that I’ve had much success with. And so you’re going to hear us talking about that a lot today. So here with me today is Jeremy Fox, aka the trauma teamer Welcome back to the Wednesday’s with Watson podcast. Jeremy.

Jeremy Fox  2:46  
Thank you so much, Amy. What’s going on? How are you doing?

Amy Watson  2:50  
I’m doing well, my friend. I sure appreciate you doing this on a Saturday we both are. We both have real jobs, as I call it. Uh, but I just you know, I’ve been excited about this. Because, you know, you’re just you just the real deal, Jeremy. And I wanted you to know that you just any anytime I see you, and I’m saying this to the listeners, too, if you’re on the clubhouse app, that app like anything else can be used for evil or it could be for good. But Jeremy is part of a group of professionals on clubhouse who get on there, and they will they hold space for people and provide educational resources like clubhouse, like this podcast is not therapy. But Jeremy gives up a lot of his time to help people understand trauma. And so I just wanted to publicly thank you for that, Jeremy.

Jeremy Fox  3:35  
Well, thank you, I appreciate that you are drawing attention to it to the importance of treating trauma with empirical methods. There’s just so much disinformation. So I’m really passionate. And I know you are too. And that’s where our mission really intersected. And we found each other is spreading the word that EMDR therapy works. And there is help there is hope.

Amy Watson  3:56  
Amen. Amen. Even if you’re not a Christian, and I tell people that all the time and my podcast tends to be well, not tends to be it is very faith focused. But I do want people out there to know that, hey, if you don’t share this, my faith, there is still a treatment modality out there that will help you. And so we are in the back half of our season where we are discussing trauma and adverse childhood experiences in the home. Our mission here today is not to scare people. And that’s funny because that was a quote that I took from when you when you were on the podcast before I’m not trying to scare people here. But you’re really good about giving us the real of what happens to the developing brain of of children when trauma is present. And then you’ll also bring hope as you as you just mentioned, so I just want to jump right in. I want to start simple for understanding we have two sides of our brain. One is our emotional side or some people may hear the word limbic limbic, and the other is responsible for the linear thinking. So the things that make sense to us the things that make two plus two always equal four. Can you expound just a little bit about the two sides of For our brain and their functions for our listeners, because not everybody has a pre med degree like I do.

Jeremy Fox  5:06  
Sure I can, I can go a little bit into that I mean, the left and right divide is a helpful heuristic meaning just like a memory device, it’s something people can kind of keep in mind that we have a cognitive side and emotional. If you really want to kind of do an easy but deep dive, you can look at it as you’ve got things like your prefrontal cortex, which I know we’re going to talk about, you have your limbic system, your hippocampus and your amygdala. And so a really helpful way that I learned we’re getting into, like the triune brain model here, which again, there’s some simplification there, the further out you go, in terms of like, the closer you get to the skull, the more things are on the surface of the brain. And that model, the more advanced the function. So if you get like the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for you’re really cognitive control, attention, impulse inhibition, prospective memory, cognitive flexibility, all those kinds of things, you know, it’s pre frontal cortex, kind of in the name there. And inside, inside here, you have your limbic system, so the amygdala, which, when active, causes you to focus on survival. And so, and left and right hemisphere stuff, there’s there’s little overlap and both, but generally, what we’re talking about is this idea that we can put things in time with left brain and say, Okay, this is linear versus right brain, which the the time less quality of memories, creativity, linkages, that are very kind of spaghetti. But generally, yeah, we’re talking about hemispheric differences. Maybe we’re talking about frontal lobe versus limbic system, kind of things as well, when we talk about logic versus emotion.

Amy Watson  6:52  
Yeah, and that was very, very, I love the way you brought that down to the level. And so yes, both sides of the brain, each responsible for different things, the emotion obviously in the right, and that is where, what I call the trauma loop. And this is where EMDR comes in. And we’ll talk about more about that a little bit more. But you mentioned the, the prefrontal cortex. And again, as a fancy word, it just means it’s responsible for a whole lot of the things that you do. And you just told us that, why does the the PFC go offline when we experience trauma or when that amygdala is activated? Why Why does the PFC go offline?

Jeremy Fox  7:25  
So great question. And so I’ll give the boring part first, right? So research shows that high levels of catecholamine chemical release during stress impairs your top down cognitive functions of the PFC. My gosh, what does that mean? It means that when you’re stressed your prefrontal cortex goes on goes offline, right? When we say that we mean that there are some chemicals released. And then what’s interesting is the emotional and habitual responses of the amygdala. Okay, and the basal ganglia are strengthened by that chemical release. So now let’s put it in the fun blunt terms. Okay, when you are threatened in some way that puts your life at risk, you’re going to need to get out, you don’t have time to sit and reason with that. Now, normally, with something like a bear or a shark or car accident, something coming towards you quickly, you need to veer out of the way in your car. That’s helpful. You don’t sit and reason with a car accident, that would be absurd. But what happens is, if someone experiences something horrifying, and it’s imprinted in that flashbulb memory way, and they’re so immobilized, and helpless, combined together, in that way that we know that Peter Levine and Bessel Vander Kolk, would would describe trauma, then this, this feeling this sensation of whatever happened, the feelings and emotions, even the belief I’m not safe, can then cause that memory to activate the amygdala to to activate and your prefrontal cortex to not be functioning at times when it needs to. So when you’re nervous about a work staff meeting, when something happens, where you don’t need to have your prefrontal cortex cease working, that’s really the damaging element of trauma is the event itself happened and you survived it, your PFC is very is is implicated in a lot of higher order things like your motivation, your ability to maintain and sustain attention, you can’t do that your quality of life is severely diminished. And so that’s the real crime of trauma is continually diminishing your ability to function in the present in a way, that’s your authentic self.

Amy Watson  9:39  
And that’s why you and I are doing what we’re doing. Right. Because, you know, it’s so true. I mean, this affects us. And but it doesn’t have to be the end of the story. So no, not at all. And it’s not the end of the story because of people like you EMDR consultants across the country, that that are saying, Guys, it doesn’t have to be this way. And so we You know, we’re gonna use a fancy term called neuroplasticity. And it’s important when we when we talk about the confines of your modality and the treatment modality that’s worked for me and we are going to get back to the developing brain. But tell us a little bit about neuroplasticity. Because you know, you’ll hear anybody that’s, you know, out there trying to be their own psychologists or therapists, or whatever they’ll hear, they’ll hear the words that you’re probably going to say to, you know, neurons that wire together, fire together and all the things. But so we talked about that right side of the brain and the left side of the brain. Now we’re going to introduce this word, neuroplasticity. It belongs in that conversation. Could you explain to my listeners, again, who don’t have a pre med degree what neuroplasticity is?

Jeremy Fox  10:38  
Yeah, I mean, it simply put, if you want the definition, it’s in will talk about the ability of the brain, okay to form and reorganize, so reassemble synaptic connections. And so the synapses are little gaps between neurons that communicate via electrochemical means. Okay? And especially, neuroplasticity refers to response to learning, or experience, okay, or following injury. So the ability to reorganize your, your cognitive frameworks, your neural networks is what neuroplasticity refers to. So essentially, anything that’s a sustained learning pattern, so you’ve learned something new, and you do something new. Yeah. And so you can really judge how effective a therapy is, by the way, based on if you learn a different response to something that would normally have caused you to react with avoidance or an anxiety attack. And that gets into the window of tolerance, by the way from Dan Siegel. Because if you’ve learned something new,

Amy Watson  11:43  
then you expand that window of tolerance, right? Yes,

Jeremy Fox  11:46  
absolutely. These terms all go together, essentially. And by the way, you have more prefrontal cortical control. So they all go together in this toward the same end, we are

Amy Watson  11:56  
geeking out right now. This is why I love Jeremy Fox at the Thomas, the trauma trainer, because I on the podcast, and some people are listening to this episode may not have listened to other episodes, we’ve talked about the window of tolerance and why one person can experience one trauma, or basically two people can beat my friend and I were in a car accident right after Thanksgiving. And we’re both fine, and there was no trauma, but I could have walked away from that car accident traumatized and she would have been fine. And that is as a result of many, many psychologists will will will say trauma is anything that pushes your brain outside of this window of tolerance. Can you explain to us in your words, what a window of tolerance is because we can both when were pushed outside of that window of tolerance be hypo and hyper and our behaviors? Yeah, absolutely.

Jeremy Fox  12:41  
I use that term a lot. And again, it’s from Dan Siegel, who’s written amazing books like mind sight, he, he writes quite a bit about parenting, by the way, and how to do so in a trauma informed way. So his book, The developing mind is like a go to, for many people wanting to understand and that’s where this term came from wanting to understand the brain. So I kind of like to use a and maybe you can attach a graphic to the to the podcast or here or something like that. But one of the ideas it is that you, you have this window, okay? That is your optimal zone of functioning. And so by the way, your brain would be online with your prefrontal cortex, you would feel in some way capable of whatever’s going on. It’s your optimal stress level you stress which is EU stress, right, rather than dis stress, which is what you normally hear about. So your optimal level of functioning is this sort of calm focus, not a depressed lack of focus, which would be district which would be hypo arousal, by the way. And so, when you’re dealing with with trauma survivors, what often happens is that window is truncated, it’s it’s smaller, right? So it takes it takes less stimulation, to reach hyper arousal, which is your sympathetic nervous system fight or flight response. So racing thoughts, anxiety, impulsivity, rage, even feeling out of control, obsessions and compulsions, these kinds of things I have people imagine at the top end because that’s hyper arousal, it’s a lot of arousal, okay? And then the lower end the hypo arousal, that’s the freeze response. Now, anyone who listens to Amy and myself regularly will know that the freeze response is often Okay, a result of childhood trauma. Why is that because when someone experiences something threatening as a child, they’ll usually respond by freezing because they know they can’t fight or flee. There’s that childhood helplessness. And so then we carry that again, neuroplasticity, we learned that and we carry that with us unless we learn that we can fight, flee, socially engage, and that’s where if you’ve learned that through EMDR, or other trauma informed therapies like somatic experiencing, then there’s the neuros Plus See if you’ve just learned that you don’t have to freeze. But the freeze response is what it sounds like you you zone out there’s memory loss.

Amy Watson  15:08  
Dissociation. Right? Yeah. And isolation

Jeremy Fox  15:12  
ISIL? Yeah, absolutely. So I love that Peter Levine calls the freeze response, a result of locked up tension that has to be released before you can re enter the zone. Because that gets into really geeky stuff of a paper I wrote about the Zeigarnik Effect and how actualizing, your interrupted impulse that you wish you had been able to express during trauma, if that’s fleeing this fighting whatever helps to actually put the trauma behind you. In other words, consolidate memory and be done with it. And EMDR helps with that

Amy Watson  15:38  
boy does it ever and you and I could geek out forever about that. And we’re going to continue to do work together both here and everywhere else. But I as my listeners now, I am an E m Dr. Patient, where I’ll try to say that fast 40 times and had basically brain scans that were improved from from trauma having done physical damage to parts of my brain. So speaking of that, one of the one of the very cool things about today that we’re doing this, I sent you a message I was like Jeremy, I just had the most amazing life altering EMDR experience. And and maybe one day, I’ll get behind this microphone and tell listeners about what actually happened. But I started doing some inner child work, mainly because I’m researching for the series. And, and I have, I have really avoided my inner child stuff. And so we started doing some inner child work. And I had a breakthrough. Like I can’t even explain it to you. I came home and I told my friend Chrissy that I feel free for the first time from from some from some childhood, particularly sexual abuse after having done the IE after having done an EMDR session. So I was a child, Jeremy, we know that the brain continues to develop, you know, it depends on who you ask. But most people say we’re completely developed at 25. But tell me and I think this is really important. And you’ve done a great job of understanding the focus of this podcast for parents who have children who have experienced trauma, or people like myself who have experienced trauma as a child to help us understand that we aren’t broken that that trauma actually does something to the developing brain. So one of the things that Jeremy, I wanted to ask you about the developing brain and neglect. All right, yes. Okay, because that’s my story. And that is the story of, of some listeners. And we can and really, we’re going to focus here on neglect, because I feel like that’s really important for this series that we’re working on. Like what is that? What is what is abandonment due to a developing brain? And so can you speak to that because abandonment, and I’ve experienced it is, it it has been the hardest thing for me to heal from? And so let’s Can you talk to us a little bit about what neglect does to the child. And and then we’re gonna we’re gonna back that up with how we can help people.

Jeremy Fox  17:55  
Sure, neglect, I mean, neglect is is something that causes the neurogenesis of the brain, it causes a lot less development, and causes some impoverished emotional functioning. There’s smaller amounts of gray and white matter in kids with childhood trauma in the prefrontal cortex compared with those who didn’t report I have. And we’re talking talking about ACEs. Now, we’re talking about adverse childhood experiences, which involve like active trauma, instability in the home, viewing your your mother being abused people doing drugs, and different things like that. The hippocampus is smaller, and people who report early exposure to trauma, and that’s associated with learning that structure. So that can cause deficits in being able to learn and so this is just sad stuff out, rattle off some more, I mean, the amygdala, which is the brains emotional reaction center, that’s, that correlates with survival instincts, inquiry has increased reactivity, okay, with higher reported exposure to trauma, during infancy and early childhood. And again, if you want to kind of discuss what that looks like, that involves some aces content there. There’s varying degrees of cognitive impairment and emotional dysregulation. That happens with kids depending on the degree of trauma because all trauma is not the same. And that includes that can cause things like attention focus issues, by the way that can mimic ADHD or exacerbate ADHD, learning disabilities, low self esteem, that’s a given and parent social skills and sleep disturbance caused by chronic arousal by feeling unsafe caused by a poverty, of experience of positive experience of indoors engagement with a caring adult figure. And it’s such a spectrum. That’s why people are proposing that CPTSD be on a Official code it is in the ICD, I believe the International Code of disease but not in the DSM, the diagnostic and stats manual. So, and that’s I mean, there’s there’s single episode PTSD, which you had brought up earlier as sort of the, the experience with Sandy Hook, Columbine, that would be a terrorizing events that could bring back flashbacks and cause a child to feel unsafe around loud noises around conned confined spaces. But if that child up to that point, let’s say they’re 11 or 12, or even in high school had a supportive environment, then it’s not likely to change their entire identity, if they have a healthy because you look at it as an immune system, you look at someone’s emotional well being and their their social network, their supportive family, they have a strong mental immune system. So if a traumatic event happens, that traumatic event will probably be confined to something that reminds them of that situation. So again, hallways, loud noises, they may go into that memory, but they may not have an entire paradigm change. If I’m a worthless person, I’m fundamentally unsafe in the world, it might not infiltrate that neural network, because they already know I matter. My grandma loved me, my parents loved me like they have a narrative in place. So if you have EMDR, right away for that event, that’s like triage care, where you’re pulling out a splinter, because you’re stopping that memory from becoming something that their brain can’t metabolize. They’re not rehearsing it over and over and over again, you’re stopping it from going into that state dependent form. And it’s going into a more, you know, semantic form of this happened, this was a thing that occurred. And I’m not experiencing it as an intrusive, timeless event. It was terrible, but it’s over. Whereas someone with neglect and trauma, and that way, they’re all identity is I don’t deserve someone talking to me. So you have to do a lot more rebuilding. But it all can be done, by the way.

Amy Watson  21:57  
Thank you. I think that that’s a beautiful segue. And I’m a great example of that, right. And so And Jeremy and I, we geek out on this stuff, because we love it. And it worked. So what Jeremy’s just beautifully outlined for us as again, the what trauma does to the developing brain, we don’t have all of our resources at our fingertips of seven as we do 26. And so he’s done two things here, he’s talked about something that’s very near and dear to my heart, is neglect. A lot of my listeners have adopted children from other countries, and they’ve they’ve experienced all kinds of trauma, they’ve been abandoned, neglected, abused, all of the things that that aren’t supposed to happen in our homes. And the place that we’re talking about in this part of the series is the home. And so I’ve read articles about babies not being picked up and loved and how you can have lower IQs and, and all the things right. And I often wonder, you know, I don’t know what it was like. And in my infancy, I know what it was like when I had my first memory and it was neglect. And so you’ve done a beautiful job of saying, Hey, if you’re out there, and you’ve been neglected, and you feel all of these things, or not feel all these things, this is your life, this is your reality, there is hope. And then conversely, we talked about a little bit trauma, when we experience in a different trauma like like Jeremy said, a single event trauma like Columbine or Sandy Hook, or you actually could name anything at this point, whereby even Sandy Hook was in elementary school, Columbine was a high school, if we can get there, and we can get to it quickly. As that’s a beautiful description. It’s like pulling a splinter out. And those memories never have the opportunity to take form. And then therefore we can reverse the effects of the smaller amygdala, the truncated window of tolerance. Hey, Jeremy just told us beautifully what trauma does on the brain of a developing child, it truncates that window of tolerance, it it makes the amygdala smaller it makes I love what he how you refer to the mental immune system. Basically, you don’t have one. So there’s so many of you out there, particularly if you are dealing with childhood trauma, that is neglect or walking around with these behaviors that you don’t understand. And there’s so much shame. And there’s behaviors. I know that because I lived that life, I didn’t understand why I needed so much attention and having been neglected. And I talked about the babies who were never hugged and things of that nature. And so I will always wonder, Jeremy about that. And, and we and again, these things neglected, especially due costs and scary things like lower IQs and lower ability to deal and definitely like we just talked about the truncated window of tolerance, meaning the slightest thing can set people off who have had childhood trauma, particularly that of neglect. And but there’s hope because you know that you’re on the Wednesdays with Watson podcast, and I’m not going to leave you without hope. And so as I mentioned, and then Jeremy and I as mentioned a couple times now, he has an EMDR consultant, and I am going to let him explain to you what EMDR is. is and why it works and why just like he said, it doesn’t have to be the story if you are neglected, or you know somebody was neglected, or you have some sort of childhood trauma, whether it be a single event like something as atrocious as Columbine and Sandy Hook, or neglect or anything in between there is hoping EMDR is one of those modalities. So Jeremy, can you explain to us what EMD e m d r is and why it works?

Jeremy Fox  25:29  
Yeah, absolutely. So it stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy. So that’s a mouthful, but it was a therapy discovered by Francine Shapiro in 1987, when she was walking around in a park, and she noticed her eyes rapidly moving between some trees while thinking of a negative memory, or a memory with some negative emotions attached. And she noticed a decline in the vividness of the emotion. So she began studying the eye movement component in her graduate program, studying to be a psychologist, and she titled The new method EMD, or eye movement desensitization. And then she eventually added the R on in 1991, because she noticed that the recognition of she noticed the cognitive reprocessing effect, she recognized that that often what would happen is that memory would link to others, people might think of an earlier instance, for example, where they felt powerless. So maybe it initially started with something like a car accident, and they felt powerless. And maybe they remember that there. They didn’t have any say in their home. And they felt frightened constantly in their home life. But she studied the eye movement effects. And more research has been done in recent years from 87 Onward. So that’s decades of research here. And what’s really important to keep in mind is that this is an interrupted exposure therapy. Okay, friends, same shift cause call that interrupted exposure, and a book that she wrote about EMDR protocol. So this is not prolonged exposure. For listeners, I don’t want them to think they’re going to have to sit and think and think and really experience the trauma. The beautiful thing about EMDR is the eye movement is offered, which provides a present focus, and it helps to connect memories, we know that eye movements are implicated in memory retrieval, right, fancy terminology for we often move our eyes when we’re trying to remember things. So it keeps you in the present. And it helps you to keep the memory train moving along, which is a big metaphor used in EMDR is where it’s a train moving through, we want that we want the client to notice the scenery outside while they’re moving their eyes outside the train. But we don’t get stuck in it, we keep it moving to the memory, we’re on the train together with the client. And they’re the guide and we’re there with them. And we’re experiencing this person, okay, don’t get stuck on the things outside of the window. So we believe that EMDR the eye movement tax is the working memory and it causes people to experience the memory less vividly because they’re distracted. One of the very interesting geeky things to keep in mind about EMDR is that there’s evidence that delta waves so slow waves in the brain activate during bilateral stimulation, which again that you know, the eye movement, we call it that it’s bilateral side to side, delta waves activate the brain, which is very light, much like the surf during slow wave sleep. So delta waves are active during slow wave sleep, which is a time of transfer of memories from hippocampus to the neocortex. So transforming the memory for episodic to semantic. So, again, a mouthful, so let’s boil it down. EMDR therapy takes traumatic memories and helps the client to sensitize to them by thinking of elements and then purge and desensitized with the eye movement and navigating the memory in a way that puts it in a past form. It binds that memory to the past instead of it coming up as present focused which we know people with PTSD and even subclinical trauma without PTSD, experience traumatic memories as present focused in the present, they feel like it’s happening now. EMDR stops that from happening. And again, there are many different hypotheses, we can go down that rabbit hole on if anybody wants further info. I wrote an article summarizing the science behind it. But we always prep people to a really want listeners to know you’re not thrown into your memories. You’re taught eject buttons, you’re taught how to imagine putting them into a container, how to imagine a calm place, using your eyes as well. What the goal of EMDR is reprocessing is dialing up the negative memories in session, navigating them taking the emotions out. You’re never going to approve of the memory. You’re not going to say I enjoyed this happening but you’re going to be able to say I don’t feel it in here anymore.

Amy Watson  29:59  
You Yeah, Jeremy. Yeah, and Jeremy’s pointing he’s in so am I now we’re on Zoom holding he’s pointing to I don’t feel it in the center of my chest. And I think that that I know, I know that I’ve experienced that myself. And so there is hope guys. And this This does tie into that neuroplasticity because you’re literally that train is going from, from the trapped Olympic system where the memory is stuck. And on a loop is what I call it. I call it a trauma loop. And that, yeah, that that train is moving through one of the things Jeremy that my counselor does, and I’m gonna go ahead and I wasn’t sure when I was going to do this. But one of the things that we do after we visited this memory and again, it is not fun, but there there is hope. And if you’re in a safe place like in Jeremy’s office, or if you’re in Florida, so we got Florida and Georgia covered for two EMDR therapists. I know I’m not sure where Nettie is, but we can provide resources for other states for you guys. But so when I did my last EMDR session, we visited the childhood trauma, but at the very end, my counselor likes to leave me with a truth and he likes to weave in those truths. And so we were talking about some childhood neglect and sexual abuse trauma that happened when I was seven years old. And he was riding on on a board and I got I have it in front of me. And we put a picture of seven year old Amy up on this board. And he asked me, we he helped me understand who I was at seven because my perception by my intrusive memories and all of those things. Now, we’re none of these words. And so I’m holding the paddles, we do the paddles, the bilateral stimulation, you can do the I’ve movement, we I hold the paddles, and he had me say we had written these things on the board. He had me write these things. And I speak this into the people that are listening to this podcast. If you have experienced childhood trauma, and you feel unworthy, if you’ve experienced sexual abuse and you feel unclean, especially in the Christian environment in the Christian world, we can go a whole nother podcast on that, with the sexual purity culture and childhood sexual abuse. It does a lot to our brains. And so in that EMDR session, this is what we were able to weave after we after we reprocessed after we got on that train and we plowed through from my emotional side to my to my to my left and linear and logical side. These this was the truth that he weaved into me as I’m holding the MDR paddles and he made me read them out loud. And listeners This is for you to I am hole worthy, innocent, pure, untouched, untainted, clean, free, carefree enough worthy. And so I’m holding the paddles and he makes me read those and now I believe that because I don’t want those memories. And I’ve got some very specific things that do pop up from PTSD a particular smell from Jeremy I don’t know much how much of my story you know, but I was babysat and abused by a well known car serial killer, whose name is Henry Lee Lucas. And there’s a certain smell that happens in our all of our homes at one point or another and it’s simply dirty dishes in the sink. And when that smell comes, that memory pops up and I feel like I’m seven years old again and that room being abused. And then all of the negative stuff that goes with it. I am dirty, I’m unclean. I deserved it. Why don’t I tell somebody because I am treating my seven year olds Amy like I am 58 as I am now. And so I bring that to the forefront because Jeremy is doing such good work in this EMDR. And so I’m just giving you my example. That happened on Thursday. Man I left there Jeremy and I was like I am free of that now. And when those and those and those intrusive memories might pop up again when I smelled dirty dishes, but I will be able to say I am clean. I was innocent. I was a child I am untainted. I am untouched. I am new. I am worthy. I am loved. And that is because of EMDR you do so much of this for free, frankly. Why do you care as we close out the podcast? Why? Why do you do what you do Jeremy because I I can’t overemphasize how much I appreciate the work you’re doing on on the clubhouse app and guys, all of his contact information is going to be there. He is paired up with some amazing professionals on there getting clubhouse does not equal therapy, but they they dispel mental health myths and all the things. Why do you care so much.

Jeremy Fox  34:31  
I care so much because I’ve known people who have have gone through trauma. I’ve seen an amazing mentor at my first clinical job who encouraged me to get trained in EMDR. And I worked with people who had gone through so much multiple episodes of abuse, trauma neglect, and I began using EMDR saw it it was effective and I’ve seen that it that trauma underlies addiction anxiety Eat personality disorders, what we know is those traumas often responsible, or at least fueling it. And so, to me, it’s, I’m biased. It’s one of if not the most important mental health aspect. People ask how I don’t burn out doing this? And the answer is, I’ve seen how EMDR works. And when you take the emotional vividness out of someone’s negative memories, and when you take the negativity out of the memory, then there, the prognosis is so great. And you see such recovery. And so that’s what what fuels me, but I mean, people in my own life, I’ve seen them recover. Yeah, and it’s inspiring.

Amy Watson  35:42  
And frankly, that’s why I’m continuing to do what I do. I mean, I got, you know, I get messages from listeners who have listened to podcast, and particularly ones like this, where folks like you have come on and, and brought it down to the basic level, because what we’ve done here today through both academic and then I shared and I wasn’t sure when I was going to share if ever I was going to share that EMDR session. But I can tell you guys, you know, if you’ve been following my story at all, if this was the first time you’ve listened to one of my podcasts, just head back anywhere, there’s there’s several episodes, especially the first season where I talk about my trauma, because I do have si PTSD, even though it’s not in the very outdated DSM book that is around for mental health disorders. And so I am a survivor of neglect. I am a survivor of a lots of childhood trauma, my brain was affected. But here I am. And that is why I do what I do, too. And that is why we got on this podcast behind these microphones on a Saturday. So that we said that Jeremy could provide hope and help for those of you out there who either have experienced all of these things or who are parenting children who are experiencing or have experienced, particularly I’m thinking adoption, trauma and some of the things neglect is huge. It really is. And that’s something we could have a whole other podcast episode on. But the whole point here, Jeremy today was to provide hope for people and to help them understand the brain and help them understand that the developing brain, while trauma could really scar it, that boy, if we get in there early, it’s so malleable, we can make it it could be like it never happened if we get there early. And that guys is why I do this podcast. That is why we raise money for people who can afford counseling, including children and or adult survivors of neglect, abuse and all the things. So Jeremy, thank you for being here today. Any parting words for our listeners, and after that I will tell everybody where they can find you.

Jeremy Fox  37:39  
My parting words would be no matter what trauma you’ve been through and how bad it seems and how how low you feel about yourself, please realize that it can change that that’s your mind and your your cognitive framework. We talked about neuroplasticity today, and where it comes in is the ability to grow. So please recognize that EMDR therapy from someone who is certified, someone who’s approved consultant I’m using the two highest certifications there can very likely help you on your journey to developing better self esteem and functioning. And addictions OCD. We haven’t even talked about the fact that EMDR works for a multitude of conditions, just trial. So please don’t give out give up hope that would be the one thing I’m part with is there is hope. Believe me. I was a skeptic, initially of different therapy modalities. I’ve been I’ve seen what happened as a practitioner. And so please recognize like I this is not Kool Aid. We’re not. Yeah,

Amy Watson  38:39  
yeah. And like you said, it’s been around since the 90s. Francine Shapiro, I’m going to put all of that in the show notes, including the article that Jeremy references that he wrote, Jeremy is in the state of Georgia, I’m going to put how you can find him. Basically, I’m going to put his link tree in the contact information so that you could get to him on Twitter clubhouse all the places. Like I said, he too has his own podcast that is on the overcast platform that will be in there. So if you’re in the state of Georgia, Jeremy has a possibility for a trusted EMDR therapists because of the pandemic, most therapists figured out how to still do the MDR remotely. And so if you’re in the state of Georgia, you will be able to reach out to Jeremy and then we’ll also be able to provide I don’t know where Nettie is Jeremy, where is Mandy?

Jeremy Fox  39:23  
She’s in Virginia. So and you can find her and maybe Tiwari. She’s awesome. So one thing you can think about here is that if you’re whatever state you’re in, you can put in your browser bar EMDR IA dot o RG emdria.org. And you can enter in their what your zip code you can enter your zip code in your city in your state. You can search for an EMDR therapist, that’s the easiest option for you to do that. People have found me on psychology today by the word trauma because I have that my profile But for EMDR, specifically, you can go to Andrew and you can sort by experience level basic trained, certified consultant. And everybody needs to start somewhere and has to.

Amy Watson  40:10  
Yeah, we’ll also provide that link in the show notes. Obviously, if you’re in Florida, my I’m not sure that my doctor has taken new patients, but reach out to me and I can help you if you’re in Florida. Well, Jeremy, thank you for being here today. I hope that you have a great rest of your day Saturday. And here is a great time for me to say that I’m not sure that you’re a Georgia Bulldog fan, but congratulations to the entire state of the national champion, University of Georgia. football champions. Thank you Go Dogs Go Dogs. I grew up in Jacksonville. And so we picked Florida or Georgia when we were kids and I picked the silver britches and said, There you go. All right. Well, thanks, Jeremy for being here today. I so appreciate it.

Jeremy Fox  40:48  
Thank you. It was great to be here. Okay. Bye

Amy Watson  40:50  
bye. Well, guys, I hope that you enjoyed that episode with my friend and EMDR therapist Jeremy Fox, I realized that it was more scientific in nature than perhaps we are used to on the Wednesdays with Watson podcasts. But I love how Jeremy also provided hope through the scientific facts of what trauma does to our brains as children, guys, we are never, it’s never ever too late to heal. And so as we step out of that healing zone, and as Phil Baker’s SONG PLAYS us all the podcasts, we will be back here in two weeks as we continue this series, trauma spaces, places and aces as we continue to dive into trauma and the home specifically to childhood trauma. So I hope to see you back here in two weeks. Again, we’d love to connect with you hit that contact me button I would love for you to follow on Instagram, particularly in the month of April as we will be doing some fun stuff on that platform. So I will say it like I always do. Because I mean you are seeing you’re known you’re heard you’re loved and you’ve worked out you see you guys in two weeks. You teach me to kiss you. I want to use my mind

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Tags: TraumaEMDRPTSDAbuseHopeJesusChristianityRRTTIHTherapyCounselingPsalm139

Social Anxiety vs Separation Anxiety In Children

Parents often find that they are their child’s only advocate when the ills of anxiety become reality. Its symptoms played out in behaviors, and to the unknowing parent can be frustrating, leading to “little t” trauma, and a harder road for their child. It is important for parents to educate themselves on the different types of anxiety. We covered Generalized Anxiety Disorder in the blog before this one.

Anxiety in general has similar symptoms, the real task is diagnosing the type of anxiety, while treatment is similar, the approach may be different. Many parents find themselves confused and frustrated with their clingy children, ofter ascribing their actions as difficult behaviors. Left untreated, anxiety in children has proven to morph into other disorders like major depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, Bi-Polar as well as other disorders than can be prevented with treatment in childhood. When considering the importance of this, remember the importance of caring for a developing brain. Your decisions as a parent will affect their mental health, so educating yourself is vital.

So, which type does your child have? The huge difference between these two type are simple, because as you will see, these two look a lot like each other.

A social anxiety diagnosis requires symptoms to present themselves among peers, not just adults.

Let’s consider social anxiety disorder first.

“Social anxiety disorder is a kind of anxiety that can cause children extreme worry about being rejected or judged negatively by other people. Children with social anxiety disorder aren’t just shy. They are so scared of being embarrassed that they avoid doing things they want or need to do. For example, they might refuse to go to birthday parties or speak in class or eat at a restaurant because they are afraid of what others might think of them.” [1]

Children with social anxiety disorder will most likely struggle in school. Children with this type of anxiety disorder often will refuse to go to school, often frustrating parents who unknowingly punish their children because their intense fear will present as undesirable behavior. Other children will attempt to hide their fear and parents may observe the following behaviors:

  • Physical symptoms, like shaking, sweating and shortness of breath 
  • Lots of anxious questions: “What if I say something dumb?” “What if everyone thinks I’m a loser?” 
  • Tantrums and crying, especially in younger children 
  • Getting upset long before they have to be in the situation they’re afraid of  [1]

Social anxiety must be treated regardless of age. In addition to medication, parents are encouraged to find a good therapist who specializes in children. Left untreated, other disorders will follow. However, treatment is effective and children can and do live normal lives. Awareness and treatment are essential.

Separation anxiety is the same in that left untreated this disorder can morph into Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Most the time, with separation anxiety symptoms are only exhibit themselves when they are around adults, particularly their primary caretaker, most notable their mother.

According the Mayo Clinic, here are the symptoms of separation anxiety:

  • Recurrent and excessive distress about anticipating or being away from home or loved ones
  • Constant, excessive worry about losing a parent or other loved one to an illness or a disaster
  • Constant worry that something bad will happen, such as being lost or kidnapped, causing separation from parents or other loved ones
  • Refusing to be away from home because of fear of separation
  • Not wanting to be home alone and without a parent or other loved one in the house
  • Reluctance or refusing to sleep away from home without a parent or other loved one nearby
  • Repeated nightmares about separation
  • Frequent complaints of headaches, stomachaches or other symptoms when separation from a parent or other loved one is anticipated

Unlike Social Anxiety, there are some identifiable risk factors:

  • Life stresses or loss that result in separation, such as the illness or death of a loved one, loss of a beloved pet, divorce of parents, or moving or going away to school
  • Certain temperaments, which are more prone to anxiety disorders than others are
  • Family history, including blood relatives who have problems with anxiety or an anxiety disorder, indicating that those traits could be inherited
  • Environmental issues, such as experiencing some type of disaster that involves separation
  • Seek professional advice as soon as possible if you’re concerned that your child’s anxiety is much worse than a normal developmental stage. Early diagnosis and treatment can help reduce symptoms and prevent the disorder from getting worse.
  • Stick with the treatment plan to help prevent relapses or worsening of symptoms.
  • Seek professional treatment if you have anxiety, depression or other mental health concerns, so that you can model healthy coping skills for your child.

Just as with Separation Anxiety, left untreated, Separation Anxiety will lead to more severe diagnoses like Bi-Polar, Borderline Personality Disorder, and many others. Treatment is Behavioral therapy as well as effective medications will help parents navigate the waters of anxiety. There is hope and there is help! There is hope. Keep it here for more content on anxiety in children.

Shattering Paradigms: Trauma Within Intact Families w Amber Cullum

READERS: This is a transcript of a podcast and is not meant to present as a complete, grammatically correct piece of written work. We provide these transcripts for our hard of hearing community and for those of you who prefer to listen inside this blog.

Amber Cullum 0:00 On this Saturday morning, there was a large explosion I was laying like I said on the couch, and I heard this really large boom, our garage door flew open. And I remember running around and looking out into the garage and seeing the whole side of our garage wall on fire. Amy Watson 0:19 Hey, everyone, and welcome back to the Wednesdays with Watson podcast, we are so proud to tell you that this is a 100% Completely donor supported podcast. Our mission here is simple it is to educate and help people navigate trauma and other mental health issues. We do that by providing hope and help through story through professionals through education. Finally, we have a mission to fund pro bono counseling for those who cannot afford it. If you want to be part of that mission, right there. When you’re in your app, just click the Contact Amy button in the show notes. I would also love it if you would consider rating and reviewing or sharing the podcast while you’re on your app. I will never ever stop fighting for those that can’t fight for themselves. And a simple gesture like sharing or subscribing will help us get this mission out to the people that need to get it. Now that we got all that out of the way. I would love to introduce you today to my guest, Amber kolam. Let’s drop into this conversation with Amber. Hey, Amber, welcome to the Wednesday’s with Watson podcasts. Amber Cullum 1:30 Hey, Amy, thank you for having me on today. Amy Watson 1:33 It’s always so much fun to interview other podcasters and that is secondary. You are a dear friend of mine. And I am so grateful for the you’re doing this today. So thank you so much for being here. I know that you understand it. I’m not quite as nervous as I normally would be just because I know you understand the technology issues. Amber Cullum 1:52 Absolutely, girl I mean it. Is it true struggle at times, that’s for sure. I’m so glad that it’s even an option. Amy Watson 1:59 Yeah, that is the truth. That is the truth. Well, guys, we are in the second half of season three of the Wednesday’s with Watson podcast that we’re calling trauma spaces, places and aces, we are focusing on trauma and mental health inside the home, and how it affects children and adulthood. Today we bring my friend at like I said another fellow podcaster Amber kolam. She is the curator of the amazing and this link will be in the show notes probably above my name, Grace anough podcast, Amber came to me with a message that she wants you to hear today. And I can’t wait for you to hear it. So as we have already welcomed and Amber to the podcast, I just would like to really invite you to sit back and listen to what she has to say to us today. And so Amber, one of the things that we’re doing in this season, and this has been a really interesting question that we’ve been asking people and it’s a bit of an icebreaker because, you know, it’s sometimes hard to say tell me about you know, people start well, I was born in 1932. And so we like this this question because we feel like it disarms the guest and it really makes us think and and it’s just kind of part of what’s important to us here the Wednesdays with Watson podcast. And so you do not get released from this season three question. So here it is, what is your favorite part about how God made you? Amber Cullum 3:32 It’s funny when you sent me this question, I was like, Oh, my goodness, I can’t believe how hard this is for me to answer. And then I thought, you know, she just finished a season with you know, focusing on the Enneagram. And I’m an Enneagram one, which means I have a strong inner critic. So it’s very, very hard for me to think about things that I really, really like about myself, but that’ll actually come out a little bit more in our conversation today. But what I did come down to is, I do love that God made me someone who I cannot just sit back and not stand up for what I believe in. And I’m not just talking about faith. I’m talking about if I’m really passionate about something, if I see someone being wronged, I just have it in me to want to stand up defend, be courageous, sometimes my own demise but that’s probably what I appreciate most about the way that God has made me Amy Watson 4:38 Oh, I love it. And you know, I appreciate that about you too as your friend right? I just I love it when you get a bee in your bonnet and so to speak especially. And guys if you’re not following Amber’s on Instagram, you got to do that right. And that’s also that also will be in the show notes. But yeah, when you particularly as as it pertains to things of the gospel, right, and these things that we have out there, these thought processes that we have out there that that aren’t right or whatever, I just love that sense of justice you have, we digress, definitely go to her Instagram page. Well, I am going to jump right in here. Because as we were prepping for this interview, you landed Amber on something that was on your heart. And I think it is so so important, as we talk about trauma and mental issues in the home that the message that you wanted to bring to us today because of your lived experiences is so, so important. And because you’re a podcaster and able to speak for yourself, what is that message? What is the overarching message, and we’ll get into the story, obviously, but you said something to me on Voxer, which is the way we prepped and it sent chills down my spine that you really felt like this was the message that our listeners needed to hear what is that message? Amber Cullum 6:00 I mean, I don’t know that I can make it super concise. But if I can try to pare it down as much as possible, it’s that just because you grew up in an intact family that was seemingly very put together and healthy, does not mean that there wasn’t trauma in the home. And that there aren’t ramifications as an adult. In response to that trauma, and that trauma doesn’t always have to be the Amy Watson story, it can be very much dialed down yet still have a significant amount of impact in how you parent or how you’re a spouse or how you’re a friend, or how you’re a co worker as an adult. Yeah, the biggest thing I want people to understand it doesn’t have to look like total abandonment. Amy Watson 6:59 And unfortunately, it often doesn’t, right. So the Amy Watson story are these these these big traumas, and you know, and so for listeners, let’s go back and review quickly what trauma is, is anytime that your safety has been compromised, we all will go through trauma at times in our lives. But to Amber’s point we get we like to get stuck on these sensationalized stories, one on ones like mine, and we forget that they are inside the four walls of people’s homes, things are happening that we don’t know about. We all put our best foot forward and the social media version of the 1990s and 80s. Right, Amber, we go to church, everybody looks fine. We’re all good here. Right. And so So Amber’s message is, trauma doesn’t always look like you think it looks. And so when we talk about a family like Amber’s, who grew up in a Christian home with two parents, but Amber, there were two events that happened in your home that are trauma. What were those events? Because I think it’s important that we set it for the listeners as we as we talk about how this affected you in childhood and the message that you just talked about? What were those two events that happened that absolutely qualify as trauma? Amber Cullum 8:18 Yeah, I mean, the first, let me say this first. I mean, I grew up in what I would consider a culturally Christian home, which is a little bit different than growing up in a home where you’re like in the Word of God, where you’re praying a lot at night and things like that. So culturally, Christian, maybe not as familiar now that people who are listening, if you’re in the south, you kind of get that like we just kind of do church sometimes. But it may not be like your true identity. And so that’s, that’s where I would start but the first thing when I was in fifth grade, my house actually burned to the ground. And so we I was a young girl laying on the couch on a Saturday morning, my sister had slept over at a friend’s house. And now let me also say that I grew up in a fantastic neighborhood where my dad built his home, my dad’s brothers or my neighbors, so all of my cousins lived around me, and lots of other children and extended family were around me and so on this Saturday morning, there was a large explosion. I was laying like I said on the couch and I heard this really large boom, our garage door flew open and I remember running around and looking out into the garage and seeing the whole side of our garage wall on fire. And so I yelled and told my dad, you know, obviously at this point a ton of commotion is going on. My mom runs down the stairs. My dad’s like get out of the house. We both run to two different houses across the street knocking on the door trying to get help, while my dad was trying to put out this fire. And so long story short, the house ended up burning completely to the ground. And so praise God, we had family and support around that we were able to go and stay with. But that was a huge traumatic event in my life, but certainly in the lives of my parents, which I still can’t even, I can’t even fathom the impact it had on them even now as an adult myself. And so that was the first thing. And then the other really big trauma is that when I was a sophomore in high school, we were living in a rental house. And this had been the story of our family. since fifth grade, we had only lived in a couple of rental houses, but we were kind of in the process all of those years trying to figure out my parents, where are we going to build again, do we want to buy and where I grew up, like I said, a small town so it wasn’t as easy just to go out and find a home that you wanted to buy. And so, especially when you’re you know, you’re a family of four, you’re not just looking for something super tiny. But anyways, it was a night of a Christmas concert. I was in the honor choir at my school, we had a very large Christmas concert. My sister was a freshman in college. She was an alumni of this choir. So she was at home singing this night as well. I got super irritated that my sister was running late. And finally my dad just said, Okay, I’ll just take you and then I’ll come back and get your mom and your sister can just go and she’s ready. And I was like, awesome. And so we get in the car, it was really, really cold December night, raining really hard. He takes me. I’m glad my sister shows up, you know, about 15 minutes after I do. And because at this point, I couldn’t drive. And not so much later, as we were preparing for the concert to begin, we were warming up. My mom comes in and says, We’ve got to go your dad’s been in an accident. And so at that point, it was like, what what? And so it was a near fatal accident. He broke both of his legs, He crushed his ankle, he had to be intubated. He you know, one of his lungs collapsed, there were a lot more breaks beyond what I just mentioned. So he was life flighted to a hospital that was much larger. And there were several days where we did not know if he was going to survive this event. And even if he did survive it, what was you know, what was the man going to look like coming out on the other side, praise God, I can sit on this side of it and say, My dad did return to walking again, my dad did survive. But it was a trauma. You know, to me personally, because it was my dad. But again, as for my parents, it’s trauma that I can’t even begin to fathom, because now as an adult, I can think about finances and, you know, your, your parenting your I mean, gosh, the list is so long once you’re an adult of what that impacts. So those are the two big traumatic events in my childhood, Amy Watson 13:18 who and they are big, right? So because when we think again, of the definition of trauma, with your safety being compromised, your house burning down, and one of your parents almost dying. Wow, I can’t even imagine even and you keep referencing as an adult. And we are moving in a little bit of a different direction. We’re not necessarily talking about how this affected you. But as your friend, I actually wrote down a question to ask you later about this, because I knew about the accident, but I’m not quite sure that I knew that he was taking you to a concert that that you really wanted to go to. And so I can imagine some stuff that you went through, but we do want to stay and we’re your heart’s desire. And I think this is really important. But just so you know, my friend, those two things are considered by experts adverse childhood experiences, where you have a life threatening event of a parent or yourself and and then basically your your roof, you don’t have anywhere to live. Those are two, what we call adverse childhood experiences. If you get three of those, then we began to talk about where you’re where you Amber can be affected by what we call toxic stress. And I would imagine that if we talk longer, we probably could get to three or four adverse childhood experience score for you. And so just that that’s just a side note as your friend but but here’s what I want to know because because I can’t imagine now as an adult, either what your parents must have gone through, both with the house burning down and with your dad almost dying and the car accident. And I realize that podcasting is going to be out there forever and ever. Amen. And that we need to be careful here but as comfortable as you are i I am going to I want to hand the mic to you. And can you remember how one or both of your parents responded to both of those? Or either one of those events? And how, how does that How did the way they respond affect you now? Amber Cullum 15:19 Yeah, I mean, when I was in fifth grade and our house burned down, I don’t have a lot of memories of how my parents handled it in the end. And I think one of the biggest reasons why is because I was young. And also because we immediately moved in with my grandparents. And one side of my grandpa, one set of my grandparents home, and things didn’t go so great there. So after like a week, we transitioned into my other set of grandparents home. And that was very much a safe place for me, like I used to sleep in the back of my granny, meaning when I was younger, I would like snuggle up in her back and just sleep there all night long. And I did that before my house burned. So it was a very safe place for us, or for me and my whole family, as we were homeless. And so I don’t recall how that was dealt with as much. And I really do believe that’s because I did have a safe place. So I didn’t notice if my parents were arguing or how they were communicating with one another because I had these two loving individuals who were taking care of me at the time. Now with that said, I do remember, after my dad’s accident, their transition for us anyways, in that time, you know, we live with my grandparents, then we moved into a rental house. And we lived in that rental house for I think, like two or three years. And it was really a fantastic two or three years. And we were trying to decide if we were going to buy that house, my parents decided not to when we had to move to a really small home because it was hard to find another house to rent. And that is where we lived when my dad had his accident. And I feel like at that moment, that is when my mom in particular, the stress of just caring for our family and working, in addition to things that had happened in her past really began to play out. So it seemed like my mom was beginning to resort, or I don’t know if that’s the word that I want to use, she wouldn’t begin to avoid more and more conflict. I mean, my mom was always explosive. When she got angry, I can be very explosive when I get angry. But what ended up happening were things like, Okay, I’m upset with you. And so I’m going to kind of be right you or be little you, and then I’m going to disappear into my room for weeks at a time until I feel like I’m over it. And then I’ll come out and act like nothing ever happens. And so I don’t know that that’s just a direct result of my dad’s accident as much as it was stress over time piling up on her. And the way that she dealt with that stress was through avoidance and some manipulative type words. And then of course, my dad is the type of I’m just going to take care of the problem by do do doing and people pleasing. And very much is just like, we got to keep the peace at all cost. So those could be two very polar opposite responses that when meshed together is fairly toxic. Amy Watson 19:08 Yeah. Well, you know, it’s funny that you mentioned that Enneagram series of sounds like maybe your dad as a solid nine. Just like let’s just keep keep it copacetic here, but but I can imagine and this is this is for the listeners and for you, Amber, these are the implicit messages that we are not hearing. And again, we referenced the enneagram series, which is the beginning of the season if you guys want to go back and hit some of those Enneagram one is Amber’s type but my point being there, though, is that you don’t really know what you what you don’t know until you don’t know it and so so you kind of went on through life and I got married and had children. But when you and I were talking about this episode, this idea of Listen guys, we need to make sure that People out there understand that inside the home, even though it looks like an intact family and your family was intact, it sounds like you were loved well done sound like you missed a meal or any of the things. But we take our cues, we take our social cues, and we particularly take our coping mechanisms, we take those play sheets, all the playbooks have our parents, for a parent to isolate away from you does even more harm to you as a child and your brain. Now, the sophomore in college might not as much but the younger one, all of those things get laid down in your memory, Amber, and you look at a parent, and you model that and it’s like, Well, this must be the way we deal with hard things. And it sounds like you kind of landed on that. And so you’re on the other side of it. Clearly you are married with three beautiful children. But this is what you wanted to talk about on my podcast, because you recognize Look, just like you just said, I blow up sometimes you recognize you know what, maybe I didn’t get a lot of modeled for me of how to handle trauma. And so that’s my message to the listeners out there is think about the kids in your lives, teachers, youth, pastors, any anybody that has purview over young people think about what you don’t see. And in this case, no one saw Amber’s mom in her room, they just maybe didn’t see her out in the community. And so I think that that’s really important to point out, they’re clearly you somehow through counseling, or because you’re just super smarter, because the Lord really impressed this upon you is like, you know what, that’s not a great way to deal with trauma and to deal with issues. I don’t want to do that. And so my listeners are going to want to be the same, they’re not going to want to do that they’re going to want a model for their children of how to handle these traumatic events that come into our lives. Can you share with our listeners, what you’ve learned on your journey? And how maybe you really stay away from this particular unhealthy coping mechanism, isolation blowing up? That kind of thing? Yeah, Amber Cullum 22:04 I mean, let me share this really quick too, as we go into that when I was a senior in high school, and really, this is a very much a traumatic event. And I shared this with you, Amy. And I think it’s important because of the way that it shaped my young adult life, my I said some really hurtful things. And my mother chose not to speak to me for five months. And you know, we lived in the same house. So my mom, my dad, my sister and me, my senior year, we went five months because I really hurt her, where we just were like, you know, passing in the wind, I found myself as a college student with my roommates, when I would get irritated with one of them or angry with one of them or not see eye to eye with one of them, I would just do that, like, I would just totally avoid them. And for weeks or months, just not talked to them. And then I was a young married woman, like, I guess I was 28 or 29. I got in an argument with Sam. And I just went away, like not away for days or anything. But for like the afternoon, I think that I went to some restaurant and just that and blew off steam and probably wrote and read. And when I came home, he was like, You can’t do that. Like you can’t just get mad and then disappear. And no one knows where you are. And I remember at that moment, something clicking in me and thinking, Okay, this is not okay. This is like, totally, it’s just not okay. But I also knew there had to be some way to find space to process through things. But you know, it was like, What do I do here? And so through lots of and we’ll talk about this later counseling and working through different books, and you know, support groups and all these different things. Because at that during that time, I mean, I was a follower of Jesus, I was a follower of Jesus in college, like, I was so grateful to God for the things that he had done in my life like he had changed me. But there were still these horrible habits that we’re just hanging on, right like, and they’re still being sanctified out of me. Yeah, that’s, that’s something I want people to hear is, yes, you are a new creation in Christ when He saved you. But his work is not completely new until the day of Christ Jesus. And so don’t think new creation means that all of the impacts of trauma in your life just get up and walk out the door. Amy Watson 24:48 Thank you for saying that. Because I think that I think that especially Gen Xers, that’s what got preached to us, right? And I wanted you to to share that story about your mom not speaking to you and She still does that to you. Right? Okay. And so obviously you you recognize Sam, who is your husband said, Look, you can’t do this. And so I’m so glad to hear you say that. Because as you create a normalization of mental health in your own home, right, where you have three precious children who you want to grow up and, and not have wounding messages from an parents do it, but this that you’ve hit on is so important, because they’re going to model what they see. And so these things that you learned as a coping mechanism, and I got my coping mechanism of substance abuse from from my mom as well, I’m convinced we all have it. Yeah. 100% of parents out there, don’t think, Oh, I gotta be perfect. That’s my concern with this series is that parents, like Amber loving parents are gonna be like, Oh, my gosh, I’m gonna screw my kid up. No, but we want to normalize mental health in the home, we want to say, It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be mad. It’s okay to be confused. But let’s talk about it. We don’t leave. And so is that something that you’ve established in your home with your kids? Amber Cullum 26:11 Yeah. So and that was the thing, where that’s why I wanted to tell you about how I just got in this habit of like, Fine, I’m just shutting you down and not talking to you. Because it still is my default position. Yeah, like, there is still this thing in me. And some of that can be blamed on my mother. And some of that can simply be blamed on that may be the bit of my personality is to just push it out and just be like, well, I’ll just close you off. And what I came to realize, and this actually just happened in the last two years, that one of my biggest fears is that I’m going to lose your love. And that is something that came from my mom, where, okay, I can if I mess up enough, there is a chance that I can lose, lose your love. And I’ve ascribed that to God at times, too. And so that’s where you’re at identifying and learning and digging deep and figuring out what are the lies that you believe are important. And so the very first thing with my kids, is that I have talked about with them is forgiveness, and admitting when you’re wrong. Me first, me first, I did not grow up in a home where I heard, I’m sorry for doing that I was wrong. Now with that said, that is a very common thing and family. And so it is vital to look at your kids. And I will never forget when Sam I was when I asked him, I said what do you think is different? Like you grew up in a family where your parents were together, but it’s not like they were perfect. I mean, you have family members who were explosive and angry, just like I did. And he said, you know, the biggest thing, the biggest difference that I see is that when one of my parents screwed up, or you know, just flew off the handle, I remember them saying, I’m sorry, I it’s not okay for me to treat you that way. Amy Watson 28:16 Let’s let that breathe for a second. Because when you said that it actually gave me chills. Yeah, right. Because you say when a child sees that, you’re beginning to create important neural pathways in their minds where they don’t grow up being that adult. So I just wanted that to breathe. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt you. But I think it’s really, really important. That delineation there between two homes, two intact homes between yours and Sam’s right. And what an astute question for you to ask him is, what do you think is different? And the thing that he could come up with is, my parents would say, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that. That was wrong. And Amber, what that is, is nothing more than laying down pride and emotionally healthy people can do that. Right? And so the only thing I would say here, and this is a bit of an outlier as we continue the interview is we always wonder, like with my mom, I will spend the rest of my life wondering what happened to you is that I am now now I got your blood on me because you blood on me and I didn’t cut you. And so we don’t know that about your mom and my prayer moving forward is that that somehow this could be Redeemed and Restored and if it’s not, then we know it will inside of heaven. But I love what you just said though about just because we are Christians and new creations. I don’t know that you realize a parent locking themselves in the room is what we call Big T trauma, especially as a girl, right? And so and I know you’re sitting with a lot of that and as we’ve processed this a There’s been tears and for me anyway. But you what you’ve done though, is my favorite thing. And I would doubt if there’s a podcast without me referencing this Bible verse, But Joel 2:25, you are reduced, you’re allowing the Lord to redeem those years that the locusts have stolen, it’s very hard for me not to get preachy on my podcast, particularly to my friends, to particularly to my friends, and so. So I love that I love that your kids are seeing you and Sam, I am sure saying I’m sorry, a bunch. I have seen you and on a public forum say I am sorry. And so I think that I love that those years are definitely being restored. Now as your friend, I want to ask you some questions as we continue to lead into how childhood trauma affects us and adulthood is the importance of taking care of your mental health. And in this part of the series, Amber, we’re going to have Erica Cooney on and she dubs results as the burnout professor. And she she deals a lot with adults who are burned out because they have not dealt with trauma as a child. And so that is my question to you, on a personal level, so not related to your kids not related to your family. But how are you taking care of yourself because I with my little biology degree identified something when you were talking, and I’ll just say it right here on this podcast, the perhaps guilt that you have over your dad in a car accident, because you push to go to that, that concert. And so I want to know how you’re taking care of yourself, because Erica is going to come on and say, if you don’t pay attention to trauma, she’s gonna be saying what she’s gonna say what I’ve been saying for three seasons, now it will, it will pay attention to you, and you end up being a burned out adult, you’re the mom of three a wife, you’re a podcaster, you are going to be a speaker, I got to make sure you’re taking care of yourself, this stuff isn’t going away these effects on you from childhood, this is the point the podcasts are going to stick around. Because again, to your point, just because all things are new doesn’t mean that it’s new and perfect on this planet. So these things are still going to affect you today. Me and my doctor Watson degree, I want to know how you’re taking care of yourself. Amber Cullum 32:24 Well, counseling. So I originally back in, oh goodness, right after grad school went to counseling for the first time because I knew I had a lot of things that I needed to work through. And so that was the very first step I felt like I took to really begin sorting through some things that I knew weren’t right. Now with that said, I have gone back to counseling two times, and recently just started back again, because I just started feeling like, I’m not okay, like, I’m doing all of the things that I have been able to do in the past that usually kind of flip that switch of struggle, and it’s not working. And so counselling provides a place where you can really talk things through, and someone can almost voice that back to you. And it helps you to actually hear someone else voice back to you what you’re saying and what you perceive to be going on in order for you to kind of release it and begin to process it even with the Lord. So for me, you know, prayer is a huge tool. daily gratitude is a tool that really, really changed my life. I mean, talk about neuro pathways, if you start practicing gratitude, your life’s gonna change. But when I realized like, Okay, I’m still spending time in the Word. I’m still meeting with friends. I’m still asking for prayer support from people. I’m praying myself, and I’m still kind of in this really big funk. Yeah, our burnout, for lack of better words. Yep. I realized like, Okay, it’s time for me to return to counseling. And sometimes it may not be counseling, sometimes it’s, you know, I had read through Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by which is a phenomenal book that I would recommend anyone read. Amy Watson 34:36 We’ll put that in the show notes Amber Cullum 34:36 notes. Yeah, I mean, it’s such a great book, but there’s also a course that goes along with it. So during a time when I was struggling somewhat, I wasn’t in counseling, but my husband and I did decide to go through Emotionally Healthy Spirituality with a group. And that was incredibly helpful because it has questions at the end and you’re discussing those questions. And you’re thinking through, you know, how have I put some of my childhood experiences? How have I applied that to the way that I view golf? So those are the things that I’m, you know, I do to take care of myself currently, I text people like you just say, man today is just, like bad. Yeah. So if you can just hold me up. Yeah. Amy Watson 35:25 And that’s the way Yeah. And so you just hit on two of the C’s of if anybody that listens to the Wednesday’s of Watson podcast, we talk about, really, I just got behind this microphone. When the pandemic started and said, This is what worked for me. And I’m a writer. So I love alliteration, counseling. You already talked about that community. You talked about that as a family. And even now you do community so amazingly, and reaching out to people like me, this is why I love podcasting. Guys, I’ve met amber in person twice, but consider her a prayer partner and a prayer warrior. And I too, will text her and go, Dude, it’s just a bad day, would you please pray for me. And so I am so glad to hear that you are taking care of yourself. Because one of the things that people don’t understand about the kind of ministry that you and I both have, and podcasting is you don’t just get behind a microphone and say some words and hit a green button and call it a day. We care. And this is an opportunity for me to let you tell my listeners before we wrap up here because I want them to know your heart for the grace enough podcast, particularly you you have late have really felt like the Lord leading you in a little bit of a different direction. The podcast is phenomenal. It is in the top 2% globally ranked, you have gotten some you’re gonna have John Eldridge, which I’m still praying over the bitterness of that I’m not gonna lie. But But the Lord has given you such wisdom, as my listeners have heard here today. Because you should not have been able to identify, I need to learn to cope better, because I didn’t have it modeled for me. And I do think, to your point, Amber, that some of it is the way we’re wired. So it’s not all because your mom didn’t necessarily go get help when she needed help. It is some some of it is the way we were wired. We keep referencing the Enneagram series, and I and I will talk to anybody who will talk to me about it. But I have to go into friend mode and preacher mode really quickly here too, is that I believe you probably wing into that Enneagram, two, which is me. The fear of being unwanted and unloved. And then yeah, assigning that also to God, that there’s something that I can do that would make me unwanted or unloved I am I turned 50 years old in December, my mom is not on this planet. But I will never get the resolution and the peace to your point earlier in the podcast that I need from that, like, she didn’t want me and she didn’t love me. And so I spent my life performing so that I would get those things which turns into what’s turns into burnout. So you mentioned counseling, you mentioned you mentioned community, you also have a heart as I mentioned. And so here’s where I want you to talk to us about the direction you hope to go in the near future for the grace enough podcast, because you are looking to minister to young, young women out there, particularly with stories of hope and help. And you are so well versed on the gospel and the word. And it’s important. And all of this has culminated into this big giant heart that you have on the grace enough podcast. Tell us tell us what you’re what you’re headed for there because we share a similar audience. Amber Cullum 38:39 Yeah, I mean, I think the great the thing that I love the most about podcasting, and you and I have talked about this is, um, it does give you an opportunity to really walk in someone else’s shoes, without judgment. And that is a rare opportunity, like Mary Moran was on my show a couple of weeks ago. And she talks about interviewing her mom and her mom, talk about trauma, like her mom left when she was nine, but then she was like, home, you know, once every two weeks, and then it was like once a month. And then it was like once every six months. And then it was like just on holidays. So she was kind of there but not there. And she said, You know, I sat behind the microphone with my mom and I went into interviewer mode. So I could like, ask her these questions, and had the emotional trauma of my childhood removed because I was curious. Wow. And so when it comes to my show, I want to put a message out there of curiosity for people’s lived experiences. And that doesn’t always have to be right. You and I were talking about the huge oh my gosh, my parents abandoned me and didn’t love me. I mean, the reality is, is that when we we come to realize that Christ loves us and He died for us. But there is so much more to alive with Jesus than just that. Amen. And, and that sounds like it’s minimizing salvation. Oh, no, not at all. What’s minimizing salvation to me is when we just preach John 316 IT people, and then just kind of okay, that’s it? Yeah, no, I mean, Jesus is pursuing you, he wants to totally transform your life. But that does not happen overnight. That is a life long day today, walk until you leave this earth Amy Watson 40:37 Amen. And so that near future of the podcast is for you to get people on your show and to and to provide a product on the field that is going to be useful for all of us. Because when people began to talk about lived experiences, because here’s the thing, stories like mine, get the airtime. But stories like this don’t get airtime. And there are people sitting in their houses right now thinking, Well, I don’t have the Amy Watson story. I don’t have that this story. I don’t have that that story. And by the way, when you talk to people with lived experiences, we’re both in a season of life, where we are old enough to know better, but young enough to still do something about it. And so that wisdom that you’re going to bring with these lived experiences, whether it be trauma, whether it be how do I how do I live a real authentic life in front of people who don’t believe in God? Because the question we get the most is, how can a good God do this for me, and we throw John 316, or a Bibleat them versus episode of the grace enough podcast where they could say, you know, Amber and her guests talk through this. And they I can I can resonate with that they’re not throwing scripture at me, because I don’t even believe that. That’s the absolute authority. And so I’m excited for you as you move into this next season for the grace enough podcast. And again, I can’t say it enough times that link will be in the show notes. I want to end on 1. Other question, though. But I wanted to make sure we got that in there because I’m excited to see what’s coming to the grace enough podcast. If guys, you feel like you have a message to share. That meets Amber’s heart that meets my heart, which is this is the message that you can live an abundant, victorious, although not always good. As Amber mentioned, she is suffering with depression, she’s tried everything she can do to figure it out. But the fact of the matter is, is that we will not be perfect until that day when Jesus comes, or we die. And if you have accepted Jesus as your savior, then you also will find this complete healing. But we’re not going to find it here. And if you need to know how to know the star or the story and if you’ve listened to the Wednesday’s with Watson, podcast at all, you know, that is Jesus and the completed work that he did for you on the cross, please reach out to either one of us. If you have a story of lived experiences that you feel like would be beneficial to Amber’s listeners, please reach out to her just click the Contact amber in the show notes, because she really wants to highlight real stories. And I bet Amber, that you would even be willing to have an I know you have already have people who don’t believe what we believe. And you sit and have a conversation with these people and love on them. Because that’s the only way some people ever know our Jesus. Amber Cullum 43:34 Yeah, and I mean, it’s the only way that sometimes we can know why they feel the way that they feel we have to hold space for people who don’t believe like we do. Amy Watson 43:45 Yes. Let’s let that wreath. We have to hold space for the people that don’t believe like we do. Amber Cullum 43:53 Listen, that’s even in Christianity, too. Because the older I get, the more I realized. I don’t even have all that much in common except Amy Watson 44:02 Jesus Christ. Amber Cullum 44:05 Yeah. We have a lot of Christians Amy Watson 44:07 that especially right now, right. And 2022 Especially that is so true, especially right now, the last thing that I think that you really could add value here. I mean, we could talk for four hours and every hour kinds of value added but we talk about church a lot on my podcast, that is an important part of my story. While some of my abuse came at church churches still very, very, very pinnacle part of my story. But what would you say in the context of what we’ve talked about today, and tech families trauma, perhaps the trauma, not being dealt with in a healthy way by parents, it’s passed on to kids who could pass it on to their own kids. You’ve got this strong message that you shared with us today. But what would you say to teachers, youth pastors, volunteers and all anybody out there who have Amber’s and their area of responsibility they come dressed nice Nice to parents, we’re going to a restaurant after church, money’s not a problem, those kids tend tend to get ignored. What can church leaders and teachers and lay peoples do to help in situations like yours is? Should we just assume, hey, everybody in this room, every kid in this room needs us to invest in them in the most rudimentary, basic way? Amber Cullum 45:23 Well, I’ll say this, you know, it’s sad that if, if a child has at least one adult in their life, who really shows that they care, it can change that child’s life. And so it’s really easy. And mainly, I’m going to speak, I’m going to speak to us pastors here, since we’re talking about, and just children’s pastors in general first, and that is, it’s really easy to get caught up in what curriculum we’re using, what we get up on stage and say, and all of that matters, it does. But you are only as good as the team that you foster around you. Because it’s the it’s the lay leaders, it’s the volunteers who are meeting with these children, in their classes, Sunday school classes, you know, you don’t have that much time, there’s, I mean, you may spend one to three hours a week with these children in church, but it’s the ones who are serving in the small group that are getting the one on one time with children. And with us, oh, my goodness, and they need you, they need the one safe place where they feel like you’re listening. And that you’re just there for them. Because a lot of times a child will tell you, you know, let’s say their small group leader, they’ll tell you stuff, they will not tell their parents, even when their parents are safe places. So that is important. You’ve got to foster your volunteers, leadership in them, showing them how to come alongside kids, and just listen, be there yet still pour the Word of God in them without being all preachy? Well, there’s no way that volunteers can do that if they’re not in the word themselves, and if they’re coming from a place of judging. And so I think that’s my biggest thing for the church is just whoever’s in charge. Make sure you’re fostering community and your volunteers, because those are the people that people like me who are leading a middle school small group. That’s where the impact is. Kids want to know that there’s somebody willing to listen, when they get in above their heads. Amy Watson 47:57 Oh, it’s terribl. And I am a product of youth pastors doing exactly what you just said, maybe not quite as well, as you just said, they didn’t do it. Because you know, we learn. We’re human. Yeah, we’re humans. But But yeah, I think that that’s such a great, great parting words, because in our church, we tend to not pay attention to the to the families with two parents, even absent of trauma, let’s just say Johnny experiments with pot, and he’s scared to tell his mom or dad but his conscience tone tell somebody if there’s a safe place in the church, because we are talking about children, if there’s a safe place, and I just use that example. But if there’s a safe place for them to go, then that early intervention that we talked about, in the first episode of this series of helping the minds, the the physical brains of children heal, will will go far and they won’t have to end up in a psych ward like I did, or or many things that that so many times happens when there is unresolved or unmet trauma or unmet needs, which is to be wanted and loved and seen and heard and known. Well Amber, thank you for being here today. I know that this is might be the first place that you’ve discussed some of this and so I’m incredibly incredibly grateful listeners. I can’t say it enough, please head to the grace enough podcast and listen to Amber’s now she’s got a lot of episodes on there. Probably my favorite one is the one that she does with sacred rest with Sandra Dawson, I believe Yeah, Dr. Sandra Dalton is one of my favorites, but Amber has got over 150 episodes top 2% globally. Please go check her out. Amber, the last words are yours my friend. What else do you have for our listeners? Amber Cullum 49:49 Oh my goodness, that puts me on the spot. Listen, as a person who loves Jesus and also is dealing with depression. Please remember that It doesn’t mean that you love Jesus any less, or that you want to walk with him any less, because you have a mental health disorder Amy Watson 50:08 amen and it’s okay to take medication. That’s the message for me not necessarily from Amber. But well thank you for being here I want to speak into your life Amber, you are just the precious daughter of the Most High God, and He loves you more than you can ever imagine. And I know that you know that. But I know that sometimes you forget. And those dark places remember that he is the God who sees you. I love, love, love that that name of God, He is the God who sees you. And I am so proud of you for the work that you’re doing. In counseling. I know it’s not easy. But if you’re going to walk this world and raise little kids like you are that are going to turn out to be just amazing adults. You got to do the thing. And so I want to say to you, Amber, I want to proclaim over you what I do, everyone, but pretend this is for you because it is and I first of all, I love you. I want to say that but you are seen. You are known. You’re heard, you’re loved, and you’re valued. And there’s a song that plays on the outro of my podcast. You are one of the people that I think of every time I hear it and it’s a song called mark by you by Phil Baker. And it talks about lives being marked by God you are fighting right now Amber, you’re in the ring with Jesus you’re fighting you’re fighting for you you’re fighting for your family you’re fighting for for the kingdom of God and I just want to thank you for that and so thank you for being here today with us. Amber Cullum 51:39 Love you friend thank you so much Amy Watson 51:41 All right well I love you I know you need to go get those children as we speak and so I can’t wait for this episode to draw up and for folks to hear what you had to say. So thank you so much for being here. Love you to each mean to us Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Generalized Anxiety Disorder In Children (Mental Health Awareness)

Johnny peaked around the corner and listened intensely to the man on the news talking about war. His heart did that fast-thumping thing, he felt cold all of the sudden, a drop of cold sweat hit the ground. He was the only kid at home because he felt sick to his stomach, his mom thought it was something he ate, but he knew better. All of his friends were at a beach party. He worried about all the dangers of the ocean and had nightmares as he thought of undercurrents and rip tides. He is ten years old and most of his time is spent worrying about the man on the news, the dangers in the world, and other scenarios he plays out in his head. He is grounded most of the time because he throws tantrums when his mom drops him off at school. He feels like nobody understands, and he is correct, nobody has even taken the time to ask him if he is okay. He worries in silence.

Johnny’s mom finally asked his doctor for ideas to calm him as he was beginning to isolate and reported poor sleep habits. After a referral to a specialist, Johnny was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder. His clingy behaviors, concerning tantrums, and increased symptoms meant a change was necessary, as Johnny needed to learn to navigate his GAD over the course of his lifetime.

“Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by persistent and excessive worry about a number of different things. People with GAD may anticipate disaster and may be overly concerned about money, health, family, work, or other issues. Individuals with GAD find it difficult to control their worry. They may worry more than seems warranted about actual events or may expect the worst even when there is no apparent reason for concern.” [1]

GAD in children is more difficult to diagnose and its symptoms more diverse. Children’s brains are still developing and when hormones are introduced, their battle with GAD can become more intense. According to the Mayo clinic, symptoms of GAD include:

  • Feeling overly anxious to fit in, but also retreating from social events at the last minute.
  • Feeling overly critical, strives for perfection.
  • Feeling the need to repeat tasks because they aren’t perfect the first time.
  • Feeling the need to spend excessive time doing homework
  • Feeling an extreme lack confidence
  • Feeling the need for approval
  • Feeling the need for a lot of reassurance about performance
  • Feeling the need to remain at home because of frequent stomach aches or other physical complaints
  • Feeling the need to avoid social situations.

The Mayo clinic also reports physical symptoms of GAD in an attempt to help parents, as addressing early is an important component in treating and managing the disorder. If children are in a state of “fight or flight”—which is a term we use when a portion of the brain goes “off-line”—they can not rest or digest. Therefore, it is imperative for parents to listen to the silence, let their symptoms tell the story.

  • Digestive or bowel problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome or ulcers
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Chronic pain and illness
  • Sleep problems and insomnia
  • Heart-health issues

Chronically ill children, especially those that report stomach aches should be evaluated for GAD. GAD is often accompanied by other mental health issues including:

  • Phobias
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts or suicide
  • Substance abuse

All of these disorders need professional intervention.

The causes of GAD are not known, though a number of factors are in play, including genetics, familial status, trauma, and other factors outside of human control. While there is not a way to prevent your child from GAD, there is hope in treatment and educating the child on their diagnosis. It is important to verbalize thoughts and concerns to your child’s doctor. It is also important to ensure that your child does not feel broken. It is vital to remove shame and confusion by helping them accept their diagnosis just as they would accept a broken arm diagnosis. When we remove the stigma for them, we set them up to live a happy and productive life. It is important for us to teach them skills to live with GAD. There are tricks and tips to help children when they are in a hyper reactive state and when GAD has commandeered their brains.

When a child (or any person for that matter) is in a state of reactivity, the prefrontal cortex literally stops working. The PFC is where a lot of executive functions, impulse control, and short- term memory occurs. When the PFC is “offline”, the brain loops continuous and largely unhelpful thoughts. When this happens, there are some tricks to bring the PFC online, and thereby calming the nervous systems.

  • Body movement is an excellent way to “change the narrative”. I often encourage parents to ask their activated child to go complete a task that would require them to move their body. Parents can use this trick to instill self confidence and make them feel appreciated for helping. As children enter adolescence, organized sports or any activity that gets them socializing and physically moving their bodies (a part time job they enjoy is a great example) can diminish their GAD symptoms.
  • Physical touch is a proven way to help bring the pre-fontal cortex online. Though some children may not receive this from a parent, self- soothing techniques also work. These include washing hands with cold water or any other activity where there is a physical change or touch to the skin.
  • Memorizing a list, affirmation, or prayer and then reciting also brings the pre-frontal cortex online. Parents can use this technique using questions about something they love that would require them to recall a list or an event. This literally shifts the brain out of fight or flight, even if only for a short time.

GAD in children can also be treated with medication, but it is important to add counseling into the treatment arsenal. Unless their brain “grows out of it”, it is likely your child will need to navigate their diagnosis over the course of their entire lives. Educating yourself and your child will go a long way to making their diagnosis manageable. Since substance abuse is prominent in this subset of people, it’s important for parents to dialogue openly with their children from the beginning. Also, if trauma is present, other disorders like PTSD offer more symptoms and different treatment.

As with all mental illnesses, Generalized Anxiety Disorder in children must be top of mind, we must stay aware, we must remain proactive, and we must advocate for them. Awareness is everything and when coupled with Hope, children can live full lives with GAD.

Parents, it’s your job to get them to the promised land of hope and healing, and oftentimes that comes from merely paying attention and then using every tool at your disposal to help them

Because their mental health matters.

Celebrating Two Years, Because You Still Matter

READERS: This is a transcript of a podcast and it’s not meant to present as a completed grammatically correct piece of written work. We provide these transcripts for a hard of hearing community and for those of you who prefer to listen through the blog.

Serial Killers did not have to stop my heart to take my life. I wasn’t tall enough to see through the window of the prison room to watch my mom walk away. But just moments before, my older sister found me crouching in the corner, I refuse to lift my head to look at her. We were five and three respectfully and she was leaving me. There alone in the prison room. The day had finally come, my big sister. And I spent almost all of our time locked in that room in the musty apartment. I stayed in the corner when she left and I and I heard mom lock the door. And then I heard her in the kitchen making breakfast. I knew none of it was for me, and I was pretty sure that she wouldn’t even acknowledge my presence in that room. Lisa told me that she would only be gone a few hours but felt like an eternity to me. My mom ate her breakfast and went about her day, I stayed in that corner. And my tears kept mixing with a dirt on the floor. My stomach told the story of sadness, and I had no interest in food. I only wanted my sister back. I knew I was safest in that locked room. And I hoped against hope that mom wouldn’t decide to unlock that door and let her husband come into the room and unleash his anger on me. I’d certainly endure that quite a few times in my short life. But never without my sister. I had no concept of time. And so I didn’t know what a few hours meant. But I would wait out whatever happened in those hours and soon enough, I would have my soulmate back with me. My sister found me there where she left me. She had saved a part of her school lunch for me, she pulled a plum out of her bag and handed it to me and said Here, eat this. She was incredibly maternal at five years old. And I relish that plum because of the sweet taste and the feelings of being loved that it brought with it. It was more than a piece of fruit. It was indicative of life outside of that prison room. Even though the hand we were dealt had already given us plenty of reasons to doubt that we could ever have a good life. We were both determined to try. Mom use that padlock as a babysitter. It was her way of separating us and our needs from her and her desires. She never wanted us around. And so we locked in that room a lot. And that was okay. Because most of the alternatives weren’t safe or good. Soon enough, though, it was my turn to go to kindergarten and life clicked along in that room, which became more of a comfort room. Occasionally, mom would hire people to babysit us almost always at the demands of Frank or stepfather. I hated him. My dad was already deceased, so he wasn’t an option for the times when my mom was simply sick of us being around her. Lisa’s dad was also already deceased. And so my mom would let whoever babysit us wherever with zero investigation and to those charged on our care. We were growing up fast and for the most part understood how to stay safe. We were always together and as long as Lisa was with me, I knew everything would be okay. And then for some reason mom started to send us to separate places. And that is when I met the serial killers. Sometimes if there are dishes in the kitchen sink I am transported back to the kitchen and Henry Lee Lucas and artists tool. Mom hired them to babysit me and they hired me to clean their house. I wasn’t even tall enough to reach the sink and so I stood on a stool and clean their dishes and hope they stay asleep. The dishes have been in the sink for days and the entire kitchen smelled a crusty food and dirty dishwater. It is a smell that so absolutely sends my brain into trauma mode because of all of the recorded memories of that day. And subsequent night. As soon as I finished the dishes, I sneaked outside where I saw other kids playing. I’d gotten used to ignoring windows and the prison room because not being able to play outside with other kids made me sad. I spent that day playing the neighborhood kids and for a short time forgot about a mom who didn’t want me. I can hear Henry calling my name and I recognize a slurring of speech is alcohol induced. But that was normal for me. We were around intoxicated people all the time. I followed as of his voice and I obeyed it too. And so when he instructed me to sleep in his room, I obeyed. I was asleep in his room where he instructed several other kids to sleep too. We were all very used to sleeping in strange places. And in some ways I was comforted by the other kids that were there. Finally Henry came into the Romans surrounded himself by the kids, but I was the one he wanted. And so I listened when he beckoned me near him.

After that night, I was no longer an innocent seven year A little girl. Dark and hot rooms still send me reeling in flashbacks take me prisoner. It doesn’t take much to remember. Even though I have tried everything to forget that night is the first time I understood it was seemingly me against the world. When he was done with me, I never went to sleep and I never moved. I knew that my tears would serve no purpose, and that I had no fight. But I was a monster slayer I had to fight. The next morning, I brush my teeth so hard that I spit blood into the sink, as scrote within an intensity that I hope would erase the memory of the abuse filled night to I stepped out into the bright sunny day, about 20 years older than the day I was before. My body hurt and that confused me. I was seven years old. And then that night, everything changed. But hope was waiting for me. And it started with a knock on the door.

Hey, everybody, and welcome back to a very special episode of The Wednesday’s with Watson podcast. Guys, we are two years old. And oh, what a journey it’s been. I open today with part of my story that I’ve never published anywhere, but submitted it to an agent for my manuscript. I knew one day that writing a book is in my future. But for now, I’ve decided to continue to get behind this microphone until you have the hope that is available to you. Because you see, when I started this podcast two years ago, I wanted to help people understand from a raw and real and experience perspective, the ills of trauma, PTSD, and all of its friends and how to fix it. So we are in season three, and I can hardly believe how much God has decided to do with this podcast. But even more than that, I really can’t believe that I needed this podcast probably a little bit more than you do. Had you asked me two years ago, what the goal of this podcast would be it would have been to reach a massive amount of people all across the world. So the words that come out of my mouth, may be able to help them. And I hope that is still true as we are listened to on all seven continents and 1000s of cities in this world. The last few years, we have seen 1000s and 1000s of downloads. And I am so humbled. Because you see when I started this podcast, I was thinking that if I threw some science at you and a little bit of my story that maybe you would know that you could make it to somewhere along the way, though it became really important to me remind you that you matter. Because the reality is, so many of us with trauma have resigned ourselves to the fact that we don’t matter. And that is a message ingrained in our brains to the highest order. I was in a restaurant just the other day. I was there during the off hours. And so I was sitting in the bar having some barbecue and a couple came in and sat down beside me. If you know me, you know I’ll talk to anybody and so I began talking to them. The lady was standoff was standoffish, and her main accent helped me understand that a little bit more. Having spent 10 summers in the northeast, I quickly learned that North Eastern people were built with some serious strong stock. And not much fazes them. I’m not sure how it came up. But she and I began to have this conversation and realize that we are both part of a tribe of domestic violence survivors as well as child abuse survivors. She kept saying the same words over and over to me. I don’t matter. I’m not important. I’m not good enough. I tried to get them to love me, but nothing works. She told me how her mom use religious terms and legalistic wall to harm her more as a child. I sat and listened closely. And she asked me a little bit more about what this podcast was all about. And suddenly I needed an elevator pitch that would get her to listen to the hope that we provide in this podcast without being triggered by what she deems as religious. I was long past my time to leave the restaurant. But I knew that moment was such a time as this. This was not a time to put my head down. It was not a time to hold my tongue. It was time to put my arm around the stranger and tell her that she matters. We exchanged phone numbers and I encouraged her to listen to at least the first episode ever of the podcast where I talk about my own healing. That doesn’t make sense. And if you’re new to the podcast, I would encourage you to do the same. I’ll put it in the show notes. I got in my car and looked in the rearview mirror and I saw tears just streaming down my face. How many more people are sitting in restaurants talking to strangers telling their stories about how they don’t matter. How many more don’t understand what to do when they have a flashback. How many people out there think what happened to you is your fault. Because she told me that and to be honest with you I’m in a season of life that is difficult. The podcasts complicates that a little bit. It is not easy to to write, record, edit, promote all the things that we have to do to get the messages into the earbuds or the people that need it. But the this work coupled with life, and the struggles that the very true fact that I do have PTSD, and sometimes forget that this is a journey that is difficult enough to make somebody quit. And I’m pretty much there. But then I’m reminded of my one of my favorite verses. Psalm 45. One, my heart is stirred by a noble theme. As I recite verses for my king. My tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. I am reminded of the day that I started this podcast when we were all in our homes for 14 days. In the spring of 2020, I lay out my hammock woken up into that April sky fully thinking that I had lost my livelihood, and audibly said out loud to the Lord, to God, what now.

And he reminded me of my friend who had been harassing me to start a podcast. This is not the kind of friend that harasses. And I was equally as resistant to the podcast as she was pushing me on it. I had no interest. But on that day, in April, as I looked into the sky, I absolutely knew that I had to start this podcast. Some will say that I probably do this podcast to avoid writing. Because the rumor is that I’m writing a memoir, and have been working on it for over a decade, I began this podcast and the cold open with the first five pages that garnered me agent interest. But you see, what I understood when I began to write these things is that my manuscript needs to heal. And so do I still. And here’s where you come in faithful Wednesday with watts listeners, you have been part of my healing journey over the past two years. Because you see, like I said, I started this podcast for you. But what it led me to is the necessity of taking care of my own pain. stewarding that pain, well, given it respect, and then providing access to help for you. And so that’s where we are. Right now, in the middle of season three of the Wednesdays with Watson podcasts. It’s not time to quit, not yet. Because there’s still so much for us all to learn. There’s so much more to heal. There’s so much to this community of people that have banded together some through this podcast, and have made decisions to take steps towards healing. Because you see many of us are not unlike that little version of Amy who tiptoed to see through that dirty window to see me live outside of that prison room. We’re all standing on our tippy toes, looking through a window trying to figure out what God is up to and what we could do to alleviate some of this pain. As I’m recording this, I’m recording this on the day that Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, we celebrate that day that that tomb was empty that that gray was robbed of Death, death did not win. And that, my friends is what the Wednesday’s with Watson podcast is about death does not win.

death does not win in our trauma or pain. And it hurts. Because you see, all of that suffering one day will pale in comparison to the glory that will be revealed. And as we see that in Romans 858. And so we will continue with the Wednesdays with Watson podcast. I’ll write a book one day, but I’m still healing and leaning into that star of the story. I’m lean into my community that he gave me and of course, continuing trauma informed counseling. If you’ve landed on this podcast for the first time, I would love it. If you would go back and listen to that first episode that I talked about healing that doesn’t make sense. We focus that whole first season on my story. The second season we focus on the stories of others. And this season, we have spent a fair amount of time speaking about the Enneagram and how it can help us understand how to process trauma based on how God made us in the back half here we are talking about trauma in the home and childhood abuse, and providing interviews and hope and help for all of the things. This one this this episode. This birthday episode is the 59th episode of The Wednesday’s with Watson podcasts. And I simply wanted to say thank you for listening. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for reviewing. Thank you for all the things and the past two years, not only have we accomplished 1000s and 1000s of downloads, but I have people in my purview that I get to mentor and now and now we’ve established scholarship funds for those who cannot afford counseling. We just awarded our first one in the spring of 2022. If you go back and listen to those early episodes, particularly one called hospitals and courtrooms, you will hear about my friend Cheryl rice. Cheryl has been instrumental in my healing for over a decade. She has been there for some of the most difficult times of my life. And she just stepped into her role that God called her to be an My community. So we are awarded the first scholarship and Cheryl’s name, as I mentioned in the spring of 2021. Because you see, it’s not just my goal to get behind the microphone and have you guys listen to me, but it is my goal to help people have access to help, whatever that looks like. For those of you who have been along this journey, you may not notice some growth and some healing. And just that statement alone, two years ago, I would have said, I want to help you. And I do want to help you. But as I as I leaned into those Enneagram episodes, and as I leaned into how God made me and what my core fears are, and how I am motivated, I understand that I have the propensity to help you to continue to avoid continuing to heal myself. And so my goal now is for you to have access to healing. Of course, the best access comes through the only way to eternal victory. to that place where we will see clearly through a window, it won’t be dingy like that room was, we won’t have to stand on our tippy toes. But we will see the clear goal of the star of the story who gave us access to him, he tore that veil on that day when that tomb was empty, and that access to help that we can have through the star of the story. If you don’t know Jesus as your personal Savior, and I know many of you are listening to this are probably mad at God. Don’t understand him. And you know what, that’s okay. Because as we celebrate on this day, I’m always reminded of the night before they took my Jesus to the cross, and reminded that his disciples his community fell asleep. They couldn’t even hang with him during his darkest hour. Our community will fail us sometimes two guys, but Jesus in the garden, the night before he died, his humanity and his humanity, he asked three times that the cup be passed from him. And then he died a gruesome death on the cross with some of his final words, if not his final words, being My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? How many of you ask that question, because you see, on this day, the entire Earth got dark? Is it dark for you today? If it is dark for you today, my prayer for you is that you will find some hope and help in the star of the story. I would love to be part of that for you. And if you would like to be introduced to the star of the story, who is Jesus, all the ways to contact me or on that contact me link at the very top of the show notes. There is a song that I love so much called Stand by Cutlass and there is a lyric in that song. And this is my goal. I’m going to stand, I’m going to stand. Even if I have to stand alone. I’m going to carry the torch and this dark world, even if I have to stand alone.

Happy birthday to the Wednesday’s with Watson podcast. And all the praise and glory be to the only one who made it possible. Bless it be the name of the star of the story. Jesus the way the truth of life the same yesterday today forever. Thank you to my community out there. Thank you to those who support me. Thank you to those who support the podcast. Thank you for those who pray for me. Thank you. For those who realize what an emotional sacrifice this can be in and hold me up. Thank you to friends like my friends Joy Tiffany, who makes sure that my electronics aren’t attached to me and just encourages me in the best ways to take care of myself. Special shout out to my producer Amy Highland who is my podcast producer who does a great job. Tremendous friend. And who pays this podcast and prayer. As always a special thanks to my people thank you to Chrissy law through Jewish think quite a few times behind this microphone with me and for continuing to be my Memory Keeper. Thank you to Rebecca millet who does many if not all of the graphics you see as we promote each episode. Thank you, thank you to those who have donated to the podcast, who have made it possible for us to continue through 2022. And continue to award three more pro bono counseling scholarships. Thank you to Christian podcasters Association and Eric Nevins who had the vision for a Christian podcast was Association. Thank you for all of you who have pushed me and continue to push me even when I want to quit. Thank you to Phil Baker who has song marked by you plays this out of the podcast. Thank you to Calvary Baptist Church and its ministry and for those of you who listen there and pray for this podcast, thank you to my friend for over 30 years, Amy Reed who does so many things behind the scene that allows me to continue to get behind the microphone. Thank you to Karissa Harrison, who is my integration coach and whose obedience to the teaching of the completed work of Jesus on the cross has been a game changer for me. Thank you. Thank you to Dr. Thomas, Cadet my counselor for over 10 years for your obedience of the council the whole word of God while yet understanding trauma and making your passion to be the best at what you do. Thank you. Thank you Every guest that has been on this podcast and every guest that will be on this podcast. And thank you, Jesus, the star of the story. Thank you for the knock on the door. That changed everything. Thank you for that bus ride. Thank you, Jesus for the cross. So guys, I’m not gonna quit. There will be a 60th episode here on the healings and we’ll be back in two weeks. Until you know what I’m gonna say. You you’re seeing you’re known. You’re heard, you’re loved and you’re valued you to each mean to

Unknown Speaker  20:44  
you, to me more like us.

Transcribed by https://otter.a

Attachment Styles, pt 2

This week, we are addressing attachment styles and how they play a role in adulthood. If you missed the blog right before this one introducing attachment styles you may want to visit that so that you can better understand the series.

There are four different types of attachment styles, and we find that these styles are formed in childhood and are heavily connected to our interaction with our caregivers.

Secure Attachment

Secure attachment is the result of feeling secure with your caregivers from childhood and being able to ask for reassurance or validation without punishment.

Ultimately, you felt safe, understood, comforted, and valued during your early interactions.

Your caregivers were probably emotionally available and aware of their own emotions and behaviors.

“Hence, children model (imitate) secure attachment as well as receive it from their caregivers,” Peoples adds. [1]

Secure attachment is the goal and certainly provides fewer challenges in adulthood. If you have a secure attachment as you see above you probably had a safe environment and at least one caregiver demonstrated nurturing loving care towards you when you could not car for yourself. Those with secure attachments are better equipped in adulthood as it pertains to trauma. This is true because they experienced a safe environment from a very early age, particularly as the brain continue to grow. Secure attachment, obviously, is the goal.

It would be reasonable to assume that a person would secure attachment could demonstrate any of the following behaviors and or coping mechanisms.

Signs of a secure attachment style include: [1]

  • ability to regulate your emotions
  • ability to others
  • ability to communicate effectively
  • ability to seek emotional support
  • ability to be alone
  • ability to maintain close relationships
  • ability to self-reflect in partnerships
  • ability to manage conflict well
  • ability to understand self value.
  • ability to be emotionally available

Avoidant Attachment Style

“[It’s] defined by failures to build long-term relationships with others due to an inability to engage in physical and emotional intimacy,” says Peoples. [1]

  • avoid emotional or physical intimacy
  • avoid asking for help independence
  • avoid expressing emotions
  • avoids others

These are just a few behaviors demonstrated when we have an anxious attachment. This attachment style is usually formed when basic needs aren’t met by caregivers. Those with anxious attachments were made to feel like they were a burden and therefore become supremely independent, incredibly distrusting of others, and remarkably ill prepared for relationships. This causes issues in adulthood and ultimately any number of mental health issues as well as the perpetuation of generational trauma. It is important for us to recognize this so that we can heal and stop trauma in its tracks.

Anxious Attachment Style

“These children have difficulty understanding their caregivers and have no security for what to expect from them moving forward. [They’re] often confused within their parental relationships and feel unstable,” says Peoples.

“Children with this attachment style experience very high distress when their caregivers leave. Sometimes, the parents will be supportive and responsive to the child’s needs while at other times, they will not be attuned to their children,” [1]

Different from avoidant attachment, these children are left not knowing whether their caregiver will be there. Caregivers are inconsistent in the care of the child, creating this anxious attachment that plays out on the anxiety spectrum.

Adults with this attachment style may find:

  • A tendency to cling to people
  • A tendency to highly sensitive to criticism (real or perceived)
  • A tendency to seek and obtain approval from others.
  • A tendency to demonstrate jealousy
  • A tendency to stay busy and avoid solitude
  • A tendency towards low self esteem and unworthiness
  • A tendency to have a paralyzing fear of rejection and abandonment

Disorganized Attachment

The most common causes of a disorganized attachment style are childhood trauma, neglect, or abuse. Fear of their parents (their sense of safety) is also present.

Children with this attachment style may seem confused.

“Caregivers are inconsistent and are often seen as sources of comfort and fear by their children, which leads to their disorganized behaviors,” explains Peoples. [1]

These children not only have unmet needs, but their caregivers are more than neglectful, they are not safe for the child. This usually plays out in forms of abuse.

Adults with this style may find:

  • demonstrates fear of rejection
  • demonstrates an inability to regulate emotions
  • demonstrates contradictory behaviors
  • demonstrates high levels of anxiety
  • demonstrates difficulty trusting others
  • demonstrates signs of both avoidant and anxious attachment styles [1]

This attachment style is the most linked to PTSD and its friends. Next on the blog, we will bring resources to identify and treat the ills of trauma that created this attachment style. Follow the blog so you don’t miss this content, because we will never stop fighting for you!

There are interviews with therapist that addresses most of these issues, you can find those here.

Attachment Styles (Pt 1)

What are attachment styles?

This is a theory originated by British psychoanalyst John Bowlby. Simply put, attachment styles, according to Bowlby are developed in infancy and are dictated by our interaction with caregivers. Bowlby wanted to understand stressors to children who experience unhealthy (or no) interaction from their caregivers. He observed the behavior of infants who were separated from caregivers. He proposed that behaviors such as crying or frantically searching for caregivers were adaptive responses to unmet needs. He further hypothesized that the opposite was also true. Infants who were not separated or quickly reunited with caregivers also had adaptive responses by way of normal thriving.(1)

This is groundbreaking information inside the confines of healing trauma and understanding motivations behind behaviors as adults. The four identified attachment styles carry into adulthood and understanding each style (and what yours is) can help us flip the switch, change the narrative, and experience growth, perhaps even post traumatic growth.

The Wednesdays With Watson Podcast seeks to educate and provide access to help for those who have experienced trauma or those who love them. Currently, the podcast is covering childhood trauma, and providing hope, help, and resources to help mitigate the damages of trauma. This episode with Licensed Family and Marriage Therapist discusses attachment styles. Over the course of the next few blogs, we will continue to address attachment styles, including the four types. We will also address how understanding our attachment style also helps us heal and helps with interpersonal relationships. Follow the blog so you don’t miss this series.

We will simply never stop fighting for you. Because YOU MATTER.

Toxic Stress & ADHD, What Is The Correlation? (final pt, 3)

According to studies published and peer reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD, six million children have been diagnosed with ADHD in the United States alone. “Nearly two-thirds of those kids have another mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder as well. One of those conditions could be childhood traumatic stress.”

Doctors are beginning to pay attention to this connection, and a good doctor will dive deep into the case before labeling it ADHD because many of the symptoms of trauma and toxic stress (discussed in part 1 & 2) are the same as a true, clinical case of ADHD. These symptoms include:

Further explanation provided here, a study where children with trauma had an over-lapping diagnosis of ADHD:

Young children who experience trauma may have symptoms of hyperactivity and disruptive
behavior that resemble ADHD.
 Trauma can make children feel agitated, troubled, nervous, and on alert. These behaviors
can be mistaken for hyperactivity.
 What might seem like inattention in children who experience trauma might actually be
symptoms of dissociation (feelings of unreality or being outside of one’s body) or the result of
avoidance of trauma reminders.
 Among children who experience trauma, intrusive thoughts or memories of trauma (e.g.,
feeling like it is happening all over again) may lead to confused or agitated behavior which
can resemble the impulsivity of ADHD

The age old question can certainly be asked here, which came first, the chicken or the egg? There is a proven overlap of symptoms, see image below:

Trauma & ADHD overlap of symptoms.

The reality is we don’t know if trauma is the causation of ADHD, but we do know there is a correlation. The question becomes of advocates, parents, teachers, and other caretakers is this: can we alleviate some of the symptoms of trauma and toxic stress by treating trauma accordingly? Are we misdiagnosing children all together, treating their symptoms and ignoring a probable causation of behaviors?

We know trauma in children is the causation of slowed or reversed development. For example:

“Children who suffer from child traumatic stress develop reactions to trauma that linger and affect their daily lives long after the traumatic event has ended. Symptoms can vary according to developmental stage. For instance, an infant or toddler may lose previously acquired skills, such as toileting or language skills, while a teen might exhibit unusually reckless, aggressive or self destructive behavior. The figure below provides a list of some of the common symptoms of child traumatic stress and ADHD. The overlapping area shows some symptoms that are common to both.”

The tendency for pediatricians at these points is to medicate children, and at times that may be appropriate, but we are then opening them up for addiction problems later in life. We are certainly challenged in this arena as we seek the best treatment for children. There is, however, great wisdom in investigating and treating trauma and toxic stress before we immediately label a child with ADHD and medicate them. If ADHD is, in fact, present, treatment of trauma and toxic stress will only help with symptoms.

Finally, studies continue to demonstrate that children with toxic stress and trauma often present with co-occurring disorders such as Bi-Polar, Borderline Personality Disorder, body issues and a host of others including anxiety and depression.

EARLY intervention for childhood trauma gives them the best shot at a healthy, productive life. Treat the trauma and you are treating the whole child.

There is never an excuse to harm a child, but unfortunately, children are traumatized and they may or may not also live with ADHD, but the best news ever is there is hope in treatment. So, parents, don’t just accept an ADHD diagnosis, investigate.

Here is a podcast episode where we discuss co-occurring disorders in children. Special thanks to Dr. Patrice Berry for this episode!

Toxic Stress versus ADHD In Children, pt 2

What is toxic stress? How is it different from other types of stress? Welcome, as we continue to investigate the oft misdiagnosis of ADHD when trauma is the culprit of unwanted behaviors and subpar academic performance.

Types Of Stress

Positive Stress:

“A positive stress response is a normal stress response and is essential for the growth and development of a child. Positive stress responses are infrequent, short-lived, and mild. The child is supported through this stressful event with strong social and emotional buffers such as reassurance and parental protection. The child gains motivation and resilience from every positive stress response, and the biochemical reactions that occur with such a stressful event return to baseline [5]. Examples include meeting new people or learning a new task.” [1]

Tolerable Stress: “Tolerable stress responses are more severe, frequent or sustained. The body responds to a greater degree, and these biochemical responses have the potential to negatively affect brain architecture. Examples include divorce or the death of a loved one. In tolerable stress responses, once the adversity is removed, the brain and organs recover fully given the condition that the child is protected with responsive relationships and strong social and emotional support.” [2]

Toxic Stress: “Toxic stress results in prolonged activation of the stress response, with a failure of the body to recover fully. It differs from a normal stress response in that there is a lack of caregiver support, reassurance, or emotional attachments. The insufficient caretaker support prevents the buffering of the stress response or the return of the body to baseline function. Examples of toxic stress include abuse, neglect, extreme poverty, violence, household dysfunction, and food scarcity. Caretakers with substance abuse or mental health conditions also predispose a child to a toxic stress response. Exposure to less severe yet chronic, ongoing daily stressors can also be toxic to children [14]. Early life toxic stressors increase one’s vulnerability to maladaptive health outcomes such as an unhealthy lifestyle, socioeconomic inequity, and poor health; however, these stressors do not solely predict or determine an adult’s behavior or health [10,14].” [3]

This study by the National Institute of Health beautifully describes the different types of stress and the consequence of that stress. Often, resiliency is built with healthy stress, our bodies recover and our brains aren’t affected at all. Toxic stress is unattended, caretakers fail to protect, and there are long term consequences including lower IQ, failure to thrive, and a host of physical issues. Early intervention is crucial and recognizing unhealthy attachment styles can help mitigate damage to the developing brain. Toxic stress trauma mimics ADHD and therefore misdiagnosis lead to medicated but not treated children.

How does toxic stress mimic ADHD? We will explore further in tomorrow’s post.

As always, I will never stop fighting for those who can’t and therefore, I remain humbled for this platform, because I truly believe, when we know better, we do better.

Attachment Styles is an important concept to explore here, we covered those in this podcast episode with LMFT, Eric Cuni

Toxic Stress versus ADHD

She is the kid the teacher expels to the hallway, she sits in the hallway were everybody sees the disruptive kid, her head often down on the desk where she replays the night before, and feels intense sting of rejection from her teacher. She closes her eyes tightly, but the scenes still play out vividly. Dad hitting mom, and then mom finishing a bottle of wine alone as they both hid in her closet. She waited for the inevitable blackout that would result in temporary safety and maybe even some sleep. Once her intoxicated parents were both asleep, she climbed in her own bed, tears soaked her dingy pillow case. Her sobs were silent, but her pain intense, and her body stayed in full fight or flight mode, her brain unable to process any of it. She slept with trauma interrupting her brain development.

The man she called dad spent time in and out of jail, and when he wasn’t chasing the bottom of a bottle, she adored him; those times were rare. Her stomach ached because the night before was also absent of food and water. She had taken seven trips around the sun, and her lived experience affected every fiber of her being, including her ability to stay on task, refrain from outbursts, or to self regulate when she grasped an academic concept before the teacher completed instruction. No one at school intended to miss the obvious, daddy was good at covering the bruises, and mommy lied for him. Frustrated, her teacher ordered a battery of test–with confidence she had ADHD, but the results shocked everyone. She is a good academic student, and unanswered parental communication frustrated her teacher.

Test results demonstrated no indication of ADHD, and so the issue of toxic stress was considered. According to a Harvard University study, “childhood toxic stress is severe, prolonged, or repetitive adversity with a lack of the necessary nurturance or support of a caregiver to prevent an abnormal stress response.”  Suddenly, those entrusted with her academic care realized the effects of her environment mimicked ADHD in her developing brain.

The National Institute For Health published an article addressing this disturbing trend, and also delineating the difference between toxic stress and ADHD. Sadly, many children are given an ADHD diagnosis that follows them their entire lives, ensuring they are medicated improperly and the genesis of their behavioral issues are not addressed. The same study by the NIH draws a firm connection between toxic stress and lifelong physical issues. In order to help children, or surviving adults, we must dig deep into trauma work, healing toxic stress and giving the survivor the best possible outcome. A successful outcome is coupled with knowledge and understanding of children, trauma, and the developing brain. This series will address all of these things as we continue to highlight child abuse awareness month. There is no excuse for abuse, and we will never stop fighting to help survivors and those that love them heal, and live the life designed for them to live.

That little girl is here to help you understand all of it, because when you know better, you do better.

Keep it here on the blog all week as we attempt to help caregivers understand when there may be more at play than a brain that struggles to focus. We will help you understand, and pray you then either find some peace and compassion for yourself, or the much needed knowledge to help others.

In the meantime, here is a podcast episode where licensed EMDR consultants dives into brain science a little deeper.