The brain is physical organ too...
Every day, I seem to be reminded more and more of the similarities between mental and physical illnesses or traumas. One day, I stood in the courtyard at work, discussing the difficulties a child is struggling with during the medical / physical issues he has been facing and how badly this child just wants to feel “normal” and simply be a “normal” kid. Shortly thereafter, I recall a conversation I had recently had with a trauma victim, about how much she was struggling with simply wanting to feel “normal” and have the ability to be a “normal” kid. Later that same day, I attended a meeting where I listened to a trauma therapist explain the impact that a life-altering traumatic experience has on the different components of the brain and how that trauma directly affects a person’s physiological abilities to make good healthy choices.
As my day goes on, I ponder this information. I think of how my training in law enforcement teaches us about the impact that “flight or fight” situations have on our brain and body. Understanding how significantly these types of situations negatively affect an adult brain, brings my awareness to how much greater the impact is on a child’s underdeveloped brain. It is so clear to me, how living in situations like experiencing violence or physical, sexual or emotional abuse, witnessing violence in the home or community, having a family member attempt to commit suicide or die by suicide and/or being exposed to substance misuse, mental health problems or instability due to parental separation or household members being in jail or prison, physiologically affects a child’s abilities to make healthy choices.
Again, I am brought back to the correlation between physical health and mental health. If a child were to have an experience in which their leg was received a severe brake, everyone would understand that they are going to need to go to the doctor as quickly as possible. They possibly may need to under go physical therapy and they probably won’t be able to walk the way a physically healthy child would walk until the child received the proper care and the proper amount of healing time. If for some reason that child never received the proper medical care for that physical injury, they may not ever be able to walk in a healthy way again. We would never watch a child go through something like that and wonder why they weren’t able to walk the way a healthy child does, and we would never expect them to just walk better simply because we said they should. We would understand that their ability to walk in a healthy way had been altered by the experience they had faced, and they need specialized care for them to have the ability to walk in a healthy way.
So, why is it that we look at a child that has lived through or is living in continuously traumatic circumstances and simply expect them to behave in a healthy way? It seems quite often so much of our focus is on obvious physical threats or dangers, that we miss the impacts events are having on the most vital part of the physical self: the brain. Why is it seemingly difficult to understand that the brain is just as much a part of our physical self as every other part of our body? I am not saying that childhood traumas excuse unhealthy behaviors, but it does explain why it affects a child’s ability to exhibit healthy behaviors. When we become aware of the existence of childhood traumas, it does give us the benefit of knowing where the healing process needs to begin. Just like the rest of our body, with the right care and treatment, our brain is resilient and so often, when given proper care, the brain has the ability to heal.
I believe strongly that being aware of a child’s physical dangers and/or physical safety is only a small piece of the humongous mosaic that creates a person. More importantly, unhealthy behaviors are only a symptom of an underlying problem signifying traumatic circumstances, telling us that the child needs proper care to remedy the situation, ultimately leading to the child’s ability to make better decisions.
I am excited to share that The Mustard Seed Ranch of Florida program is scheduled to begin in June 2020. Please stay tuned for opportunities to be a part of helping to unlock the potential in the hearts of children.