When medical providers care for patients with a history of childhood trauma, they see hypertension, obesity, heart disease, or drug addiction. In the college classroom, that same trauma looks like hypervigilance, panic, and an inability to find purpose or meaning. Students as young as twenty have confided that they provide the only income in a family with an addicted parent or sibling. Or that they now realize they are better off because a toxic parent walked away or was thrown out. Or that sexual abuse left them angry and fearful of intimacy. As pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris points out, the fight-or-flight response is adaptive when you’re confronted by a bear in the woods, but what happens when the bear lives in your house? And, later, inside your head?
Babies do not get to choose their parents. Those of us who won the lottery of childbirth through no merit of our own have a sacred responsibility to care for those who lost through no fault of their own. I am indebted to Wyatt and others who have lifted their bandages to reveal the lifelong pain of child abuse and neglect.
Mary Kay Jordan Fleming
Crescent Springs, Kentucky