In “Childhood Disrupted”, Donna Jackson Nakazawa explains how your biography becomes your biology…and that you really can heal

“Children who’ve faced Adverse Childhood Experiences marinate in toxic and inflammatory chemicals, then it makes sense how those experiences are tied to depression, autoimmune disease, heart disease, and cancer during adulthood.”

ACEs Too High

childhood-disruptedcovIf you want to know why you’ve been married three – or more — times. Or why you just can’t stop smoking. Or why the ability to control your drinking is slipping away from you. Or why you have so many physical problems that doctors just can’t seem to help you with. Or why you feel as if there’s no joy in your life even though you’re “successful”, there’s a book that will show how the problems that you’ve been grappling with in your adult life have their roots in childhood events that you probably didn’t even consider had any bearing on what you’re dealing with now.

After hundreds of interviews and two years of writing, science journalist Donna Jackson Nakazawa’s long-awaited book, Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal, hits the bookstores (and e-bookstores) on Tuesday.

Besides being the first self-help book about…

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10 Ways to Cope when You are in Crisis

This blog doesn’t substitute for counseling or crisis management. Please take care of yourself.

If you are in crisis, call the Crisis Hotline.

Call 24/7


Spiraling down and crashing into rock bottom is a scary and intense place to be. It genuinely feels like it will never end and it physically hurts – draining you of everything you have. No matter what brings you to this state of crisis – you will get through this.

  • FUN FACT! If you are having panic or anxiety attacks – your body can only sustain that intensity for four minutes – time it if it helps you realize that it will be over. Anyone can do anything for four minutes. Hang in there. Your only job in this moment is to wait it out. You’re already doing it! 🙂

1. Tell someone – reach out and let someone know how sincerely shitty you are feeling. Seriously. It can be a friend, family friend; counselor; crisis hot line; anyone you trust.

There are free community counseling programs for people in crisis in most places. There are also several online resources and phone hotlines. I have used all of these resources and know plenty of other people do too. A really big part of feeling better is building yourself a rockstar support team. It takes time to weed out some people who will just never get it, but genuine people who care are out there.

  • Recognizing barriers: I felt bad and wouldn’t use these resources out of fear I was wasting their time. That is what they are there for! And they are always really nice and genuinely happy you reached out!

2. Put on clean underwear. Even if this means you have to purchase new underwear (#DoneIt).

  • Fresh clothes too (non-sweat pants variety if you are feeling crazy! Oops, er, #traumajoke)

2. Dry shampoo & baby wipes & mouthwash are your best friends!

Hygiene is the first thing to go (for me) when I am starting to spiral. Dry shampoo and baby wipes are an awesome shower replacement on days when you just can’t make it. And if brushing your teeth is a trigger – mouth wash is a good harm reduction step!

4. Order groceries online – Avoid the stress and noises and weird people!

If you are in charge of feeding yourself and buying toothpaste – google search online grocery shopping in your area. It is amazing!

  • AND! You can conveniently order dry shampoo, baby wipes and mouthwash as well as healthy food!

6. White noise app or a really loud old fan and ZzzQuil (or any sleep aid. I use melatonin on nights that my mind won’t shut up – but don’t use them every night if you can help it – becoming un-dependent on things later on is awful and usually not worth it).

ZzzQuil OTC Sleep-Aid | Relief from Occasional …

7. Every day schedule and 3 task to-do list (because really. you only have 24 hours)

Sometimes when you are spiraling the only way to make sense of life is to get something accomplished. Even if your to-do list includes brushing your teeth and calling a friend – those totally count! 🙂

8. Patience. Patience. Patience. Self-kindness, more patience. This is something I have to remind myself on a fairly regular basis. I get one good day in where I do everything I need to and I expect it to be smooth sailing from there on out.

Regardless of how you got to this point – you will get through this. But it will take time and hard work. No one ever said life was fair. And this isn’t fair. And if you need to have a frustrated rage-y period from how unfair it all is – have at it! There are several times a day I feel the need to just punch something. That’s okay too.

The truth is, no matter how you feel – this is going to take time. So be gracious with yourself and extraordinarily patient. It only hurts you when you get all worked up and rage-y. Feel your feelings – whatever they may be. Do art, sing in the shower, take kickboxing – anything that will take those Big Emotions away from you for a while.

9. Dance playlist – So important! whatever gets your groove going; I know the tendency is to want to play really sad music to match your mood (#Guilty) but the music that makes you want to get up and dance on a great day is what you need to be listening to. Some of my favs in no particular order:

  • Lovely Day – Billy Withers;
  • When the Night Feels My Song – Bedouin Soundclash;
  • Under Pressure – Queen and David Bowie (actually anything by Queen and/or David Bowie);
  • September – Earth, Wind, and Fire;
  • Celebration – Kool & the Gang;
  • Love Shack – B52s;
  • Sweet Caroline – Neil Dimond;
  • Rolling on a River – Tina Turner;
  • I love it – Icona Pop;
  • Oh Africa – Akon

10. Bare minimum – Take care of yourself and do what absolutely needs to get done and nothing more. Give yourself a break. Don’t do things because you’re obligated or feel bad. Put yourself first. Be your priority. The only thing you need to do is get through this moment. And the next. Take a small break from your worries – they will be there when you are all danced out. 😀

To summarize: When you don’t feel like you can get out of bed; eat; shower – do small things, tell someone, have extreme patience with yourself and go for the small wins. Make sure you do the bare minimum to get by. It will be the last thing you feel like doing, and you will hate it and resent the fact you have to do it, but these are the things that give you the space and time to put things back together. The act of doing is how you get better. Don’t ask me why, it just is. Eventually, these things will make you strong enough to get back to your former self but: better, faster, stronger. In the meantime, trust someone that’s been there and knows it works, eventually.


I really identify with the self loathing and negative affirmations. Positive self talk, and being able to recognize those conditioned negative thoughts are both so important for healthy living. Beautifully written post.



Negative thoughts turn into negative actions.

Ever since I was a little boy I can remember having negative thoughts about myself and my surroundings. Seeds of failure and low self worth were planted and took hold at a early age. As the years went by those seeds grew and flourished.

When drugs entered the picture I was locked and loaded. I lost the ability to see anything good about myself. I would say things like I will never amount to anything so why bother. I am just plain bad, stupid, ugly. So forth and so on. I’m sure you get the picture.

Those negative affirmations dictated my path and lead me to a life of self destruction, self hate and self harm. I didn’t see a way out and proceeded to live life according to my beliefs. I didn’t understand that the words that I spoke to myself, was the…

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How To Cope With Depression At Work

By Lisa Esposito for US News

Chances are, someone at your workplace has depression. It could be a co-worker; it could be you. Not just a case of the blues, not deadline burnout, but chronic, clinical depression that requires ongoing treatment. According to Mental Health America, one in 20 workers is experiencing depression at any given time. And you don’t just snap out of it with a little willpower. It’s a process that starts by getting the help you need. Here’s how people manage at work while dealing head-on with depression.

Recognize the signs.
You’re tired all the time. Cooperating with colleagues — even talking to them — takes an enormous effort. You keep your office door shut and interact with your computer. Or you visit the employee restroom for another crying jag. It’s hard to concentrate and impossible to summon up a positive attitude. Along with morale, your…

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Five Things to Keep in Mind the Next Time You Feel Suicidal

If you are in crisis: PLEASE call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) – no matter what problems you are dealing with, they want to help you find a reason to keep living. By calling you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7. Or visit

Trauma and Suicide

There are plenty of reasons for suicidal thoughts to pop into your head, but the highlights are: being completely overwhelmed with pain, feeling trapped, alone, like things will never change, etc.

Some days in this life, unfortunately, you are not going to want to live.

It happens.

In fact, its so common, that there is zero point in feeling bad about it.

This simplistic view is not to downplay the seriousness of what you are feeling. In fact, my hope is if I can convince you that it is okay to feel suicidal sometimes – that you will stop beating yourself up for feeling lousy and maybe you can start taking small steps to start feeling better.

You wouldn’t think that, as a society, we would kick a person when they are down. But considering the general attitude towards people struggling with their mental wellness – it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

When someone is depressed, suffering from anxiety, trauma or grief – suicidal ideation (thinking about killing yourself) is a pretty normal and somewhat regular thing. It is a perfectly understandable reaction to going through some dark stuff. Sometimes things can get really bad – really fast. Your body is in physical pain – it hurts to breath or just exist. The all encompassing overwhelming intensity makes it feel like it will never end.

Our brains are big fat liars. As real as these feelings, emotions and problems are – hurting yourself, or ending your life via suicide is never the answer. It is okay to feel beyond repair and hopeless. Trauma is a prevalent issue – plenty of people feel this way – regardless if you hear about it. You are not the first and you will certainly not be the last.

Trauma can blow your world wide open. It shatters your sense of security and stability. It erodes at your normalcy until you are left with tattered memories and a shadow of your former self. I don’t believe that trauma happens for a reason or there is some greater purpose molded from my pain.  What I do know is the world is an infinitely complicated place with not a lot of answers. At the end of the day, you are left alone to your own devices – expected to cope.

Self care and acceptance are the deceptively simple recommendations for healing from trauma. Entire books could be written on either subject. No matter if you are thriving post-trauma or struggling to get by on a daily basis (like me!) you need a tool kit full of coping strategies to get your through those tough moments.

Five Things to Keep in Mind the Next Time You Feel Suicidal

1. Life is a marathon. Realize that this isn’t about quick fixes. We live in an instant gratification world and expect fast results. I will be the first to admit I am impatient when I don’t “progress” as fast as I should or instantaneously feel better. Getting your brain to relearn how to react, how to take care of yourself, and have healthy boundaries is an education. It takes time, practice, and a lot of frustrated tears – but if I can do it – so can you.

2. Recovery is all about the small steps. You cannot recover overnight. And although I naively thought I could triumph over my abuse in six months (so cute right?) it is more like a life long process of tiny adjustments to make life a little easier and bearable. You are never going to “feel ready” to make changes – to walk out the door, start exercising, begin counseling, change yourself. It isn’t fun – but it is worth it. And you will feel better eventually.

3. Our brains lie to us The message that no one cares or wouldn’t notice if you were gone are bold faced lies. Your trauma is saying those things. And just like the internet – we can’t believe everything our brains tell us. My (mostly unqualified) solution is to start lying to your brain. Sometimes you need to “Fake-it-Till-You-Make-It” – every time your trauma tells you “I can’t do this” you tell it right back “Yes I can! I am strong and capable and will dominate this!”

4. Binge eat eight gallons of ice cream, go for a four hour jog, buy a place ticket to Tahiti – any type of harm reduction activity (that is slightly less severe than your original plan). Hurting yourself will not make you feel better or change your circumstances. The best we can hope for long term improvements. Don’t let today’s awfulness color the new possibilities of tomorrow.

5. You are worth the time, love and effort it takes to get better. Believe me. I know you are worth it. You are loved from a far by an overly friendly stranger named Stacie. If you can’t do it for yourself, then do it for the inevitable future kid that is struggling like yourself who is going to need someone who understands.

The very good news is the feelings don’t last. I have thought those ‘too dark to share’ thoughts – even acted on some of them – and it doesn’t solve anything. Pain doesn’t cancel out pain. The next time you find yourself in a scary vulnerable and lonely position, please wait it out. I know you feel alone and terrible and probably can’t breathe and are all snotty. Or worst, you feel dark and dead inside. I’ve been there and it is awful. But it does not last forever, no matter how it feels.

No one ever told me that what I was feeling was normal because we don’t talk about it. Suicide is akin to sexual abuse: taboo topics that people aren’t comfortable talking about – ever. And in turn, the people suffering don’t receive the acknowledgement, help or relief they need. They feel worst for having those taboo thoughts in the first place. It is a vicious cycle of shame and silence that must stop. Instead, why not ask the person what sparked that line of thinking? How serious they are (do they have a plan?) and how you could help them feel better in that moment?

There are a lot of reactions out there that are infinitely better than saying that suicide is “a coward’s way out.”  We need to understand that mental illness isn’t a choice. It isn’t an excuse for getting out of something. It isn’t for a lack of trying. A brain not properly functioning is no different than any other organ not working. No one is going to shame you for kidney failure or cancer – why shame you for something you have no control over?  The same needs to be said for mental wellness.

“Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps conservatism is great until you realise you haven’t got any boots nor have you inherited any.” – Sophia Cannon

We have this insane idea that if you try your hardest – you can solve all your problems by yourself. If you aren’t given a stable environment, nurturing parents, and examples of emotional regulation – then how are you supposed to emulate these things in your own life? In actuality no one pulls themselves up by the bootstraps. We all require help at one point or another. Every person on this earth started out as a vulnerable and incapable of taking care of themselves. We are not independent creatures – we require social interaction and dependency at sometime or another.

Sometimes the only way to feel better is in the act of asking for help. People who have never experienced trauma, abuse or poor mental health will never ever get it. That’s why they say really stupid and thoughtless things like “just snap out of it” or “try harder” – they lack empathy. The idiotic things that people say are not a reflection of your character – but of theirs. Sometimes people are just mean and we can’t take them too seriously. We can’t control what other people think or say about our brains. However, we can have the self-efficacy and confidence knowing that there are a lot of stupid people out there – and that certain individual is one of them.

Life is resilient. Even if you think there is no way out – there are people who have been in your shoes who are now successful and living the life they always wanted because they muddled through until they could get back on their feet. It doesn’t have to look pretty. You don’t have to be great at recovery (is there such a thing?). The important thing to remember is that no matter how bad, you have the ability, strength and courage to get through this moment. And the next.

Recovering from Childhood Trauma

Trauma is a relatively new field of research in the field of psychology. Research now shows that 70% of Americans will experience a traumatic event sometime in their lifetime. Regardless, people still tend to relate trauma to war and veterans with shell shocked expressions and violent dreams. Who society forgets is the more commonplace. The children in their own neighborhood, schools and churches. The children who don’t understand love or rational thought because their environment wasn’t stable enough for them to learn these essential lessons.

They are threatened or coursed into submission – their brains steeped in reactionary chemicals and fear. They learn a second set of skills – keen observation. diffusion of hostile family members, and peace keepers. Their attention is so wrapped up in pleasing and prevention of another assault that they effectively block out other lessons picked up in childhood: reading time on an analog clock; riding a bike, self esteem; confidence; emotional regulation; social skills.

I equate it to being a human version of the game of Jenga. You are a built tower – in standard size and form as everyone else. A normal looking tower from a far. But upon closer inspection you realize the tower is riddled with holes. It is moments away from toppling, but it is still managing to possess the qualities of a functioning tower – and is expected to remain standing despite its obvious structural damages.

Childhood trauma: the distinction being that you were formed and molded by trauma – never knowing a life free from abuse or pain. Normal is never going to be a part of your dictionary. It is survival tactics and coping skills – fleeing from pain and protecting yourself above all else while simultaneously making sure you fail.

Self sabotage is one of the least understandable parts of trauma (for me at least). But growing up in turmoil makes you feel comfortable in chaos – more so than the boring mundane quiet times in life. And there is a sense of control to it as well. Instead of waiting for the shoe to drop – we instigate that shoe – so we can at least know when and how its coming. It still hurts and is still usually painfully unnecessary – but the sense of controlling your own fate; your own pain is satisfying to someone who is expecting it constantly. The fact is there is no sure and fast way to recover from Trauma. It is a constant effort of micro changes in behavior; harm reduction and self reflection. There is no way to erase what’s happened. No pill to totally ease the pain and unrest you feel. What you need to aim for is managing your trauma in a way that you can live your life the way you choose – and not to be hampered by it.

I am still in the throes of recovery. I have my good days and my bad days. I still struggle to consistently accomplish the things I need to do. I have had to recreate the vision I had for myself and redefine what success means to me. If I can get out of bed, shower and eat, walk the dog, and clean the house – I have had a great day. This happens about 2/3 of the time. Last year it happened 5% of the time. Improvement looks different now too.

I still want normal things for myself. A career I can be proud of, being a (future) mom, and activities outside the house independent of my husband. I will get there one day. Every day I try to take stock of the amazing list of things I do have: a loving a supportive husband, our funny and cute dog, a homey and safe apartment and good food, a stable country to live in, a healthy body and my husband’s family and friends for support. I never imagined I would be unemployed and struggling to cope on a daily basis. But here I am. And I get a little better at it every day.

Recovery isn’t a quick fix. But it makes you stronger and more resilient. It isn’t perfect and often looks messy to the outsider, but it is long lasting change. As painful and life altering as its been, I am happy to know the truth and no longer live with secrets. After a lifetime of lying and constantly keeping track of who knows what – it is a beautiful feeling to live honestly, knowing yourself and your truth.

True happiness stems from the liberated self. You cannot out run your past. The best we can hope to do is embrace our broken selves – understand and accept the world as it is, treating your pain  with compassion – transform it into love and let it go. It is a conscious choice, decision and continual effort. No one can save you from your trauma but yourself. It isn’t easy. But it is worth it.

5 Ways to Support Your Partner Suffering from Trauma

Trauma recovery is a long and difficult journey. It can be extremely taxing on any relationship – but there are a few key things to ease the challenge of loving someone with trauma. So let’s break it down into five simple things to support your partner with trauma as much as possible:

 1. Find out your partners triggers and biggest hurdles & find solutions for managing them.

They might already know them – or are still in the process of figuring them out.

Triggers can be physical things (bed; belts; lightening; finances; etc); settings (bedroom; shower; basement; etc);
or actions (repetitive movement; touch; sex; being lied to, etc).

Hurdles might be: leaving the house; going new places; interacting with people, being a danger to themselves

  • Refill medicine weekly for them (holding a bottle of pills can be really triggering if your partner has ever );
  • Reminders – notes and check lists for the day (week; month; year)

2. Do your research – what are the causes; symptoms and treatment available for your partner?

What are the best coping strategies to use?

What are you supposed to do when a partner lashes out at you?

Not all trauma presents the same symptoms – and there are a lot of different theories on what works best.

3. Figure out how to return them to the present moment

  • Assuring your partner that you are there for them and helping them transition out of panic mode is critical

4. Monitoring self care

  • Are they showering? Brushing their teeth? Eating? Drinking water? Taking their medications? Exercising?
  • Encourage your partner to:
    • Wake up and go to sleep the same time every day.
    • Exercise daily.
    • Eat properly and drink lots of water
    • Take their medicine
    • Sleep
      • Encourage your partner to create a “shutdown period” – thirty minutes prior to sleeping: no tv; phone; computer; electronic devices – make tea and do a quiet activity (reading; journaling; knitting, etc).

These are the first things to slip before a big emotional crash, which leads me to my next and final point…

5. Prevent major lapses crashes by catching things early.

  • The longer traumatized  people have to stew on their thoughts the more out of control and anxious reasoning kicks in.
  • Schedules and daily routines are all incredibly important to the success and stability of people suffering from trauma
  • If memory is an issue – write everything down; and make to-do lists
  • Have a nightly check-in to go over the day (successes; challenges) and make an action plan for the next day together.
  • Create achievable goals and simple objectives – challenge your partner but don’t overwhelm them or put pressure on them in any way.

In Conclusion

There are many ways to help your partner learn to manage their symptoms of their trauma. A supportive partner can make all the difference in a recovery process. The most important thing is to find solutions to the hurdles and challenges that arise from dealing with trauma.

Ultimately you need to figure out what works best for you and your partner. Taking the time to invest in creating solutions for your partners struggles will benefit you both and improve your relationship, life and happiness overall.