- Did you often or very often feel that no one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
- Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
- Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?
These are 3 of the 10 questions that make up the ACE questionnaire. ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences. While the other questions point to experiences we more commonly think of as traumas e.g. physical or sexual abuse these questions point to experiences that you may or may not have considered to have an impact on your current experience of life.
However, if you experience chronic fatigue the foundation of this physical imbalance can usually be taken all the way back to childhood.
Adverse childhood experiences include neglect, trauma and household dysfunction. We are so used to noticing the “big T” traumas that we forget the “little t” traumas that have an impact on our bodies and nervous systems. We so often want to believe it was all well that we don’t realise that maybe it wasn’t. Or it was just how life was and we really didn’t have reason to question it until something or someone causes us explore it a bit.
That said, it is really not unusual to have had a parent who suffered from depression or anxiety (one of the ACE criteria) – this did not have to look like complete inability to function. Many of you reading this will currently be experiencing depression and anxiety and may not even realise it because it has been your default for so long. Yet, it will impact all areas of your life as it would have impacted your parents.
I’ve said this many times – our parents did the best they could with what they had but if there was depression or anxiety present that often results in conflict/divorce (an ACE criteria); substance use, including alcohol (an ACE criteria); and parents’ inability to be emotionally present and to tolerate emotions and/or a tendency to shut down emotional expression or inability to meet the emotional needs of the child. This lack of emotional support results in a feeling of not being important and often feeling unsupported or misunderstood (an ACE criteria). While the above experiences may be deeply unconscious or you may have disconnected from them, they profoundly impact how we show up in and experience life.
Our primary attachment and childhood experiences deeply shape our social, mental and physical health and can have an impact on future chronic fatigue. This happens in a number of ways:
- Even ongoing “small t” traumas, as above can set up the nervous system to be easily dysregulated and overwhelmed so that it is difficult to manage stress and emotions. Cumulative stress impacts multiple body systems and also affects our mitochondria – resulting in less vitality and energy being produced
- Adverse childhood experiences can result in us setting up coping mechanisms (behavioural and emotional) to help us feel safe and good enough and these are often exhausting – consider fawning (a nervous system response and coping mechanism whereby we try to keep people happy even if it means neglecting our own needs)
- Furthermore, there is a shutting down energetically as happens with the holding personality that many people with chronic fatigue experience. This prevents us from receiving vitality and energy.
I cannot tell you how many of my clients tell me they had a ‘happy childhood’ and then are really surprised when they get a lump in their throat or feel a tightness in their chest as they start talking to me about their childhood, realising that perhaps it wasn’t as rosy as they had wanted to believe.
As scary as it is, this process of exploration and consciousness is so empowering as it helps all those dark places to come out into the light so that they can’t control you from outside of your awareness – impacting your body and how you behave and respond in ways that make you so very, very tired.
This is why module 4 of my Fatigue to Flow coaching intensive is a focus on meeting your inner child. It is where you learn to connect to and re-parent the inner child as well as experience being re-parented through a sense of spirituality and a deeper feeling of being held, guided, seen, supported and safe, all of which calm the nervous system and balance physical and emotional well-being. This is how you re-claim your power.
I’d love to hear your comments, questions and feedback. This is a tricky topic as most people shy away from the past and have been taught to let the past stay in the past. But I can say with deep conviction that remaining disconnected from your inner child means you are never fully reclaiming your health and power.