The wound is the place where the light enters you.
How profound. Of course, I did not always see it that way. My early years did not seem to be filled with much light or hope at all. I was abused, abandoned and neglected as a child by people who were supposed to care about me. I am not going to go into all my early trauma, but there was a lot. Although in a very paradoxical kind of way, I am grateful. I am grateful because of the profound meaning of Rumi’s quote above. Only in darkness do we find the brightest lights. For me there is a deep comfort in knowing there was a reason for my trauma and mistreatment. Today I work as a Peer Support Worker, helping people with mental health and addiction issues. Every single ounce of pain I went through is a tool I use to help others. That is my reason!
I wanted to talk about trauma in my first blog because I feel it is such uncharted territory in mental health. We talk about diagnoses and symptoms, medication and support, but in my work as a peer worker, one theme seems to prevail – trauma. But why aren’t we talking about it? Is it because it is too sensitive a subject and as a society we don’t want to “go there?” Is it because we don’t know enough about it? I do not have that answer, but it is clear to me that trauma is the hidden epidemic in our society.
Among 18 to 24 year-olds who reported a traumatic childhood experience, 19% had talked with a professional, and 40% with an informal source, about mental health problems; this compared with 9% and 21%, respectively, of those who had not had a traumatic childhood experience.
What does that tell us? I think, quite clearly, it tells us that mental health and trauma are very closely linked. If we want to help the youth (and everybody else) in our society we need to start talking about trauma.
Trauma does not just affect our mental health, it increases our chances of death and sickness as a whole. The ACEs study, also known as the Adverse Childhood Experiences study, was a study of how traumatic events in our early life affects the quality and longevity of our lives.
Adverse Childhood Experiences have been linked to
- risky health behaviors,
- chronic health conditions,
- low life potential, and
- early death.
As the number of ACEs increases, so does the risk for these outcomes.
In other words, the more trauma you experience, the higher the chance for these issues to occur. This does not bode well for me as I have almost all of them. On the other hand, if we can heal these traumas, as I feel I have partly done, the risk reduces. We are less likely to engage in risky behaviour and are less likely to be affected by the physical stress trauma puts on our body.
So, where do we go from here? If we want to talk about mental health, we need also to talk about trauma. It’s uncomfortable, unpleasant and disturbing, but if we don’t acknowledge it, how do we heal it? My hope is that there will be further research, services and knowledge of the link between trauma and mental health available, and that we as a society can start to face the pain. I know for myself that facing my trauma, and showing it that it does not control me or my life has catalyzed a profound healing that reaches the depths of my soul. My only hope is that others will get to experience that too.
Please leave a comment below and let me know if you have any questions on this blog or ideas for future blogs.
There is hope and you are not alone! Let’s start the conversation! I wish you well in your journey!
About Mark Hall
Mark is a Peer Support Worker for a mental health agency in Welland, Ontario. He also runs peer groups on Depression and Anxiety and Anger Management and works part-time at a homeless drop-in center. He is also on the board of directors for a new agency that works as ambassadors for people with mental health issues. He is diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder, borderline personality disorder and chronic depression and has suffered with alcohol and drug addiction in the past. He grew up in foster homes in the U.K and his childhood was fraught with abuse, neglect and abandonment. He has been hospitalized multiple times for suicide attempts and was a self-harmer in his youth. He was diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder after a psychosis in 2001. His work as a Peer Support Worker has impacted him profoundly and he is able to use his experience and pain to help others. His plan for the future is to progress in his career as a Peer Worker and to also spread the word on the stigma of mental health and addiction. He believes that just because we have an illness or an addiction, or both, does not mean we cannot overcome and inspire others. He is appreciative to be a part of Healthy Minds Canada and is happy to answer any questions you may have!