Wednesday, 12 November 2014

'Exploring the impact of a difficult childhood on how we relate today' - at Recovery College

Whilst I was in the specialist hospital,  a psych hospital nearer home began the 'Recovery College' in one of their departments. This College is for service users, which has meant that I had more confidence going into such an environment than I did going to a 'normal' college, where I'd be constantly worrying about whether my scars were showing.
They run a number of different courses and the impact of a difficult childhood is the first course I've done with them, it was ran over a full day (9:30am - 3:30pm).
We began by learning about the brain's development and how babies are only born with only survival instincts and no emotion regulation; they rely on their carers for this. In a child's brain, the connexions between their thoughts and behaviours etc, form rapidly through interactions so that if a child isn't experiencing kindness then they will forget what it is, whilst interactions that are occurring, strengthen the relevant connections. Many of the service users there had experienced difficult childhoods at the hands of their parents so a lot resonated with a lack of love making it difficult for them to love others. I, however, had the most loving childhood with my Mum and family so I offered a different perspective on things. I told them how it wasn't just about not having love; there was the other side: not experiencing hurt, let down, betrayal... I had none of that growing up; which is largely a good thing but then when I was hurt by someone, it came as a massive shock because I didn't know people like that even existed!
We learnt how children learn particular things, such as how to talk, how to care for others, the difference between right and wrong, how to handle upset and develop skills. Then we talked about how important love and attachment is, as it teaches emotion regulation, helps to develop self-esteem, provides expectation and develops trust and safety. This, helped us in understanding the devastating impact abuse and neglect can have on a person. Neglect can impact self-esteem, communication, problem solving and self-soothing skills as well as relationships. Whilst, abuse can leave physical affects such as scarring, physiological such as insomnia and disassociation and psychological. We then discussed how the reactions you receive regarding your abuse or neglect will often shape your own thoughts on it and also, the affects it has on you. For example, if you were to report abuse and the person you told branded you a liar, then you'd perhaps retreat and keep the abuse a secret from then on. However, if you told a family member what was happening to you and they validated your feelings and supported you in telling the police then the affects might be more short-term.

'From every wound there is a scar, and every scar tells a story. A story that says "I have survived." Turn your wounds into wisdom'
 
We were taught the five ways in which you can overcome a difficult childhood. Firstly, by acknowledging what has happened which, I thought, was also influenced by the reaction when you first tell someone.  Then, you must let go of the shame which (in my personal opinion) is an emotion which is enough to make you suicidal as it causes you to feel utterly worthless. You must then, recognise your strengths. At this point, we all had to list our greatest strength and I said my writing and told them about my blog. They were all amazed and impressed; a reaction which never gets old for me. You must then, develop new skills which is difficult as it is hard to shake off old, destructive coping mechanisms and skills.
Finally, most importantly, you must love yourself.