Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE): Your guide to this discovery as a Believer.

I am a helpless fan of medical series and nope I no longer wish I went to med school because each episode further highlights the reasons why I made the right choice, but watching medical series ignited a fire in me. Okay I am starting to sound like I want to shoot my shot on twitter but on a more serious note, seeing some health conditions unconsciously made me someone who searches for solutions and scientific answers.

Not like anything is involved, I simply like to know more about stuff.

Around November last year I joined the Children’s department at my church. It has been a deeply purposeful and defining time of my life and I love children with all my heart. I will dabble into other details later.

Every Sunday, interacting with the kids especially the children of this generation that are exposed to so much at such a young age, made me go in search of ways to help them and be a better teacher to them. I like to read and I consider my brain one of my most attractive features, hehe not to brag. I figured it was easier to get book knowledge than squander so much on seminars from people who still had questionable explanations to what the kids are going through. I browsed out books that could help me infiltrate the mind of the kids and unravel their psychology. I was almost done with my search and boom! The title of the book at the bottom of the website I was on, captured my attention immediately.

“Childhood Disrupted: How your Biography becomes your Biology and how you can heal” by Donna Jackson Nakazawa

Hmmmmm! I had never seen or heard anything like it. I tried to read a bit on what the book was about and from the results, little or no review has been done on this great body of work. However, one summary said the book seeks to establish the relationship between childhood trauma and adulthood sicknesses; it seemed enough and whether or not I was going to use the information gotten for my church kids, I was convinced it’ll be worth my read so I put down the other book I was reading and dived in.

Pages in and I began to question everything I know about trauma.

Dear reader,

I want to tell you first of all that trauma is so undefined; we all have portions of it lingering in our lives. Worse still if you are Nigerian. By default you should test yourself to know the degree of trauma your brain has suffered because only bike riders are enough to run you mad in minutes. Let’s not head to the traumatizing educational system, unhealthy higher institutional pressure, overlooked depressants in society and lots more. Keeping yourself abreast with the daily occurrences in Nigeria is all the trauma you need that can last your generation and 50 others. I am not talking about that, I just need you to know why you should take this article more seriously and give it your attention.

I’ll start by debunking the saying “what does not kill you makes you stronger”. What doesn’t kill you does not always make you stronger. It stores up in your body, your brain interprets it badly later on and what didn’t kill you years back eventually kills you in the future.

Donna, the author of this massive research work, tells a personal story of herself and how she came to know about Adverse Childhood Experiences (for the rest of this article I will refer to it as ACE). Finding out what ACE is and its hefty contribution to her ailing health, was the beginning of freedom not just for her but for many others. This work is a product of extensive and ongoing research because as you know science changes every day.

We fail to understand the undeniable role our childhood plays in who we are today. I often see posts on Twitter talking about “If you know about a person’s childhood it makes all the difference” yet I can bet you that people who have been married for over 5 years get to find out seemingly insignificant but serious details about their spouses life. No one talks about their childhood. Everybody just wants to sound old, experienced, mature, free, list the things they feel like sharing and not talk about the impact those experiences made on them.

ACE will damage you, make you damage your children, affect every relationship you will ever have in life, and ultimately kill you.

Now disclaimer!!!!

This does not mean that trials do not birth resilience and purpose in life as people rise above all the troubles tossed at them by life and forge ahead. It does not also excuse poor behavior and blame parents. Parents are a product of their own childhoods as well. The essence of this is to help everyone heal from the things they don’t speak about, don’t even know is affecting them, and so society can do better in raising good children.

Childhood is 0-12 according to this research. It could be extended to 15 but by that time the worst is usually over and everything else happening after that feels like a rehash or modification of all the traumatic events the child has experienced. Reading this book made me understand why so many things in my life were the way they were. Fun fact, ACE even affected my perception of God and my devotion to his ways.

I’ll state a few points from the book, then attach a link for you to download the book at the end, and read it yourself.

Point one:

Women suffer from more depression than men.

I have no time to argue so it’ll be best you approach scientists with years of research to back their claims but society has only made certain conditions women face seem normal hence their outbursts or mannerism of expression is interpreted from the general nature of women as highly emotional beings.

The truth is, women suffer a lot of things no one gets to hear about. While taking the ACE test or handling females, be sure to remember this and help them move past it.

Point two:

Early stress in the brain shrinks the size of the brains hippocampus, altering the brains ability to control or manage stress and process emotions.

That is to say, responding to anger with tears or responding to pain with laughter has not always been some peoples default brain setting, the trauma did that. Now you can understand why some people act the way they do.

Point three:

Once the microglia attacks neurons in the brain, it affects reasoning abilities which is why it seems like the reasoning faculties of some adults are so low.

Now you understand why that traumatized/abused person keeps making one poor choice after the other. Not their fault dear, the childhood trauma did that, so their brains have been conditioned to consequential choose badly.

Point four:

If new neurons don’t grow as expected even in an adult brain, depression could set it and extreme conditions like schizophrenia may arise.


Good news!!! A person can immune-rehabilitate the brain to recover from the severity of trauma.

The Theory of Good Wobble:

As earlier mentioned, not every uncomfortable situation was designed to break you and not everyone is broken by adverse trauma. Some people have what psychologists call a wobble─ the ability to waiver at life’s challenges and trauma but not fall down. Hence loss or defeat could be an impetus for their grit and self-reliance. In the exact words form the book,

“The adverse events of their past have helped them transition into having more resilience to deal with future events. Their experiences have given them optimal resiliency and wellbeing so they wobble at challenges but do not fall down”

I’d like to mention at this point that many Nigerian have the good wobble. Persistence is smeared in our character by the kind of things we go through at various levels. Hence, why we believe people, must go through pain to succeed (also an erroneous belief by the way).

Quickly I will highlight two types of stress; know this and know peace.

Normative stress: maybe the calmer type of stress that places good demands on the brain maybe to facilitate achievements or finishing tasks and so on. It helps kids learn to seek out helpful strategies, self-soothe, recover and build the biological capabilities for resilience as Donna mentions.

Toxic stress: simply put stress associated with chronic activation of systems that disrupt brain circuits as they are developing and wear the body down.

Back again…

Point five:

Some people are sensitive than others by genetic design. This explains why things like suicide, anxiety and depression seems to run in certain families. Ancient Nigerian tradition felt those families were cursed or something, now I am here to inform you that their genetic makeup designed them to be more emotion and sensitive than others so things that could make others wobble a bit, have the potential to break them beyond repair.

Point six:

Some people are more sensitive than others and people absorb shock and sudden emotions differently from others.

Point seven:

The brain rehearses events differently which explains why no two people can narrate an event they witnessed together at exactly the same time, the same way. They might have the same angle but narration and recollection differs. Some are designed to recall from an overreacting perspective, others from a downplaying perspective.

Take for example you have two boys. One comes to tell you how a certain aunty was playing with him and you find it exaggerating; you find his version of events too suggestive and shut him down. Another boy tells you something actually drastic and suggestive of abuse, but you are appalled by his manner of narration. Africans will then proceed to say insensitive and baseless things like “if so so happened, why didn’t you talk? Why are you saying it small small? Or did you enjoy it?”

Get off that insensitive horse you are riding and realize that it is natural for certain people to downplay things.

I am sure you have also noticed this even among your friends. Two people travelled yet one of them seems to have the juicy gist with all the exact details and more. The other person approaches the narration by saying “It wasn’t all that, we just… and goes ahead to bullet point the story then abruptly end it”. Yes! This is the scientific explanation for that.

Point eight:

Mimicking kids which is something we all do, affects children differently. For some especially when you mimic complains that are genuine concerns to them, it could lead to withdrawal, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), chronic stress and lots more.

Solution: do not taunt people with their complains, do not address them by their problems, do not allow your siblings/kids to taunts each other with any condition at all.

Women, you are special! And this next section is for you.

Donna is a woman which explains why she did more research on how this affects women and after looking at the brain components, make up and everything between males and females, I am convinced that women experience more adversity all their life than men. This does not in any way at all downplay what a lot of males have gone and go through. This is a sign that we should not dismiss women as being too emotional but we should look inwards into how they are faring.

I advise that if you want to unravel female psychology and understand women better, read this book.

For the Feminists or rather those with the ideology that complete equality with men is an attainable feat, this book is the reason why I have cause to disembark from feminist ideologies. I’d instead advocate for equity for women because life can never be equal for everybody. Someone will always be richer, stronger, prettier, more handsome, more intelligent, taller, shorter, and it will have nothing to do with gender. Women are marginalized but the world is packed with issues that constantly place individuals at the side of the divide where they feel cheated. We have racism, marginalization, nepotism, tribalism, misogyny, misandry and lots more.

While we fight every day for the world to be a better place for women and we struggle to establish ourselves in society and be taken seriously, science and the anatomy of the brain does not show that there is any hope for women to be to men.

Here is something I wrote down after the scientific insight I got as to why gender equality is not attainable.

“Feminism has the best of intentions, sadly it has become a blanket for misandrists to take cover. Fighting all the men in the world is fighting the wrong enemy. Our attack should be focused on a system that does not appreciate us enough; men provide and they are loved. Women give birth, raise kids, cook, clean, do everything possible and are still never enough, neither can they get the bare minimum in some cases and this is what we wish to attack. Our attack is targeted at a system that undermines successful women as harlots, corporate prostitutes, lazy bones, aggressive and strident, painting them to be contentious and insubordinate. One that belittles stay-at-home mums and treats women only on the excellence they believe she has achieved. This is the system we are warring against. You and I know even fellow women are part of those propagating such agendas so how then can we go all out and declare gender wars constantly and put unstable individuals with insufficient knowledge on these things to make reasonable decisions in the crossfire?”

Girls who reported adversity were more likely to experience decreases in gray matter volume in brain regions associated with regulating emotions and depression.

Like every other research on human psychology and health, Donna’s work and the numerous scientists who have labored on this research have been greatly criticized. Their research is said by some to blame parents, others say it makes women look too feeble, and a really laughable take is one critic who claimed that ACE is just another fancy diagnosis added to the mental health issues list. ACE is real, and it can happen to anybody. Sudden cancer, paralysis and other illnesses that overtake adults later in life have been traced down to have originated from their childhood trauma. The book details many real cases of adults who identified their ACE, found a solution and recovered or rather, started to lead better lives. Donna herself is an example.

Did I get to find knowledge helpful to kids? Yes I did. Now I have worked on myself (still working because everyone is a work in progress) and I will not bleed on the people who did not cut me. Instead I will treat my wounds, tell the stories of my scars with victory, and live this life of Christ that I have been called to live.

Jesus died for us to have victory over not just sin but life. He wants us to have the good wobble and like he said in John 16:33, be of good cheer dearie, your Lord has overcome this world and you will too!

Watch out for other blog posts on ACE, and from time to time, I will be sharing findings like this here on my blog. If you have a particular issue you’d want me to research on and write a piece about, send an email to besides that, I am glad you were patient to read till the very end.

Download the book here “CHILDHOOD DISRUPTED

Blessings, Love and Light,

Crystabel Nnamdi,

For Lumiere de Dieu

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