Adverse Childhood Experiences and the path towards healing. You are not alone.
I share my trials, my victories, and my stories with you in hopes that if any of you were ever touched by childhood abuse or neglect, as I was, you will see yourselves in my experiences and feel strengthened to voice what you had not been able to before. I hope we can learn together why we respond to life through a particular lens, and that there are ways to climb out of this prison of pain, silence, and shame.
My name is Bess Hilpert


There is Healing in the Sharing of Your Story….

They say there is healing in the sharing of your story. We all have a choice in whether to brave breaking the chains of silence or holding on to the protection those prison bars that have become familiar provide us.

The high prevalence of ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) is well documented with 45% of children in the United States experiencing a minimum of one out of ten ACEs before they are eighteen. These can take the form of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, physical or emotional neglect, domestic violence, drug or alcohol misuse, divorce or separation, mental illness, or an incarcerated family member, even bullying or poverty. Adverse Childhood Experiences have many faces and long-term trans-generational effects.

ACEs cause repeated activation of our stress response, and with minimal interventions from trusted caregivers, a high ACE score (mine is eight out of ten) can have consequences lasting well beyond childhood. These can include changes in brain development, immune responses, metabolic responses and how DNA is read and transcribed within the body. Adverse Childhood Experiences are associated with health conditions including mental and behavioral health issues, decreased life expectancy, increased risk of viral infections, increased risk of asthma, increased risk of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, and increased risk of substance misuse in both children and adults, among other health related conditions.

So, if they say there is healing in telling your ACEs story, what does healing look like?

I have been pondering this question this past week, friends. As I have shared, I started writing “finding I” (coming in the next few months) in 2019 following an urging from a voice deep inside daring me to be brave. “finding I” is a journey of repair. It is the story of the profound and lifelong effects of growing up in a household filled with abuse and neglect and silence and secrecy. It explains what happens to those touched by adversity and how we carry it forward unknowingly. The current science meets the life of a child lost long ago.

On this journey of repair, the hope is in the discovery of the lost “I” stolen with every hit, verbal denigration, and inappropriate touch. The journey brought me face to face with the underlying spirit of me that was never touched by those cruel hands of adversity. It brought me face to face with the love living deep within me that is always holding me. The love that is calling all of us to be what Father Richard Rohr calls “wholemakers.” We are being called to unite what is scattered in us and creating a deeper unity in love.

And, thus, my healing journey began.

These weekly newsletters, and invitation to knowing we are not alone, are in actuality my real-time feelings and emotions during the unfolding “Life After finding I.” They are my explorations into living life knowing my neurobiology has been changed. Knowing I do not respond to situations the way one who has been fortunate enough not to have been touched by adversity does. They paint the landscape of my daily struggles, thought processes, and efforts to make it from one moment to the next. It is a lens into why it is difficult to be me on some days and tools to lift me, and hopefully you, out of the rubble left by ACE.

What has unfolded for me over the last few months of publicly sharing to a small but growing following has been an overwhelming feeling that I’m not alone. Very much not alone.

It is being asked if I had anxiety driving downtown this morning. It is being whispered not to stress, just be. It is my saying that I cannot do this alone and not having to, no questions asked. It is feeling the safety of someone’s hand in mine when my heart is pounding. It is being asked how I am and knowing I do not have to say fine. It is being held in someone’s embrace and not shying away or tensing. It is being able to say that I am afraid and instantly being understood. It is saying that I feel anxious and the other saying I got you. It is in the tiny moments. Those moments we normally would pass by, but do not need to anymore. It is the silent deepening of relationship. It is connection. It is belonging. It is in the saving of my life, one seemingly insignificant act at a time.

I am learning and living what it means to accept the grace and love of understanding and supporting people, who would never have known what storms lie just below the surface of my being had I not braved rejection and ridicule to tell my story.

Dr. Brene Brown says “vulnerability is courage.” Courage brings hope. A hope for a new tomorrow. A new NOW.

Hope makes room for love. Hope makes room for common ground. Hope can liberate us, freeing us from our fear of other. It opens our eyes to see the love all around us. It unites us, breaking our isolation. When we decide to embrace hope, we release a flow of energy that cannot be overcome. Hope is a light that darkness can never contain.

Friends, it is hard to heal what you will not reveal. It doesn’t have to be blurted out to the whole world (even though that is my choice), though you might want to ask permission of a trusted friend before taking your first tentative steps. I encourage you to consider what it might mean to tell your truth to someone and open yourself up to hope, community, and love.

Let us be “wholemakers.” Lift those scattered parts and unite them in the love that is always there waiting for you.

Let us add telling our truth (one tiny bite at a time) to our ever-growing vibrant green toolbox.

Until next time, friends.

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