The Past Still Haunts Me

Here’s a background link for context: Emotional and Psychological Trauma

More context: I was never sexually abused as a child. Wait, does my best friend’s dad’s French kiss count at age 10? Or that man in the library I saw at age 8? Well, that was about it.

The first four years of my life are described by my mother as “living in the hospital”. I was a very sick little kid. It started with a Rh incompatibility at birth that resulted in a massive blood changing-over the first day? days? week? of birth. Back then they didn’t check those things, and my life is proof why it should.

Then, it was all super-bad, almost-killing-me, chronic asthma until 4 years old. Some people have mild asthma. I had the Ebola-in-Africa type asthma. Infections, intubations, antibiotics, lung suctioning, broncoscopies, the whole home-hospital-home-hospital thing for “more than 50 times” according to mother. There were no play dates unless it was in a controlled environment with other very sick kids. We wore out easily, if you can believe it. I met a little girl who had cystic fibrosis. When my playmate left my room, my mother whispered to me, “She won’t live to be 20.”

I remember one time someone’s glass IV bottle dropped from the pole and smashed liquid medicine everywhere. Cue screaming, crying, glass, chaos, wheezing. The nurses hustled us all out of the play room, cleaned it up. I was a toddler who woke up in a strange place and strangers trying to poke needles into me. I remember a nurse picking me up because I started screaming, asthma be-damned. Later on, as an older child in the hospital, I couldn’t sleep because of all the screaming toddlers.

After turning 4, in September, it was kindergarten time. I started early. And I had a handicap: I knew NO English whatsoever. My home language was of my emigrated parents who found citizenship in a new country. It was my only language, till kindergarten. My first day, I stormed home in a rage. Mom laughed. I remember people just babbling at me in gibberish for the longest time, pointing, babble, pointing, angry babble. For some reason, I played by myself all of the time. And I molded shapes out of glue, which pissed off the kindergarten teacher. By first grade, I was fluent in English. Languages are not my disability. (In high school and college, I took Latin, Spanish, Chinese, and Italian. I went to Austria for 9 months and can read a little German, enough to go grocery shopping).

I still was hospitalized off and on up until I was 26. Most times it was pneumonia and asthma. The time between hospitalizations got longer and longer each visit. From 18 to 26 it was worse: my lungs collapsed, often. Eventually the surgeons cut out the bad parts and glued the rest of my lungs to the inside of my chest cavity. If a normal person has 100% lung, I have 88% — according to some random pulmonologist saw me post-op.

That said, my therapist and this new person I met at work to deal with my frustrating inability to perform my work, a Disability Compliance person, suggested that such “childhood trauma” negatively influenced my brain development. I couldn’t disagree. Despite my disabilities, I’m logical, practical, and I can see this particular big picture. I’ve never thought anything from my childhood was influencing me now. It’s like “that’s so long ago, I’m several times a different person!”

So, it’s super important I get tested for brain development issues. Brain development is developmental neurobiology. Development of the brain informs how a person grows, matures, learns in concurrent with environmental cues. (Neuroscience was my major, but now it’s more of a “hobby”). Add to that — I received genes for anxiety, depression, possibly OCD, ADHD, maybe other things, from my family tree. A neuropyschiatric test would tease out the details, shed some light, give me more answers than I do guessing in the dark.

As a last “Fuck you” to all the psychiatrists and neurologists who could test me but refuse to, here are some words for you:

At the level of the brain, evidence is accumulating that early trauma may inflict its damage in childhood by adversely affecting the size and functionality of brain structures such as the hippocampus and the corpus callosum, as well as altering neurobiological mechanisms involved in mediating the stress response. These early changes constitute structural vulnerabilities for developing psychological disorders and physical health problems in adulthood. from Dealing with Childhood Trauma

Deprivation of developmentally appropriate experience may reduce neuronal activity, resulting in a generalized decrease in neurotrophin production, synaptic connectivity, and neuronal survival (Gould and Tanapat 1999; Nibuya 1995; Duman 1997; Gould 1997) resulting in profound abnormalities in brain organization and structure (Perry 2002; Read 2001). from The enduring effects of abuse and related adverse experiences in childhood

In addition to short-term changes in observable behavior, toxic stress in young children can lead to less outwardly visible yet permanent changes in brain structure and function.39,46 The plasticity of the fetal, infant, and early childhood brain makes it particularly sensitive to chemical influences, and there is growing evidence from both animal and human studies that persistently elevated levels of stress hormones can disrupt its developing architecture.45 For example, abundant glucocorticoid receptors are found in the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex (PFC), and exposure to stressful experiences has been shown to alter the size and neuronal architecture of these areas as well as lead to functional differences in architecture of these areas as well as lead to functional differences in learning, memory, and aspects of executive functioning. from The Lifelong Effects of Early Childhood Adversity and Toxic Stress

Note: Don’t worry, I’m going to boo-hoo-hoo my entire childhood trauma-woes on here. I do feel bitter about how things were handled three decades ago in hospitals, I do feel how unfair that I got the short, shit-covered end of the medical/psych stick, but three decades is long enough for me to, at least on the surface, “get over it”. I’ll tell childhood stories though.


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