When hard things are hard

In the three months we have been in our new home, the hubby and I (and sometimes other helping hands) have worked hard to put a minute dent in a stack of to-dos.

We’ve finished a bedroom and are close to finishing the hallway, all complete with do-it-yourself hardwood floors, scraped ceilings, new paint on ceilings and walls, and do-it-yourself trim, also painted. Phew. These projects have been time-consuming, and we’ve been busy.

But one quick thing we have done to make our home inviting was to hang some plants on our front porch. While I adored the porch on my old house, it lacked sunlight for plants. The level of sunshine on my new porch is much more attuned to plant growth, so this spring I was excited to add two ferns and a hot-pink geranium to my porch.

I have tended these plants in such a way as to inspire and encourage growth, and from a tight angle, they all look wonderful. But when you widen the view, things are off-balance. The geranium and one fern are thriving. The remaining fern? Not so much. Its stunted growth is throwing off my porch symmetry.

But, not to fear! In my extremely novice plant understanding, I found the culprit.

For weeks, a little mama or papa bird—I know less about birds than plants—was in and out of the fern preparing for babies. You wouldn’t think that something as natural as a nest with eggs could be so destructive. The bird wasn’t even big! But the activity happening inside it was more than the fern could take.

Sure, the fern is alive, but it definitely isn’t thriving.

As I pondered this, I realized it is the perfect illustration of childhood trauma. It’s easy to look at instances of trauma in children and think, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a small problem.” But that “small” problem starts taking over.

That small problem starts making a nest. That small problem lays eggs. That small problem manifests into something larger, until one day you realize the trauma was a BIG deal.

Like my fern, many trauma kids stay alive. They may not be easy to spot from various angles. I guarantee most of my teachers would not have guessed my inner turmoil. I was an excellent student with good grades and good classroom behavior. My nest was well-hidden.

But there were many places where my growth was stunted.

It’s difficult to be a trauma kid, and it’s difficult to parent a trauma kid. I am well-attuned to both. You never know how a trigger will make yourself or your child respond. You never know if rage will surface, or fear, or sadness, or a combination. And there is also a certain amount of fear that your rough road as a trauma victim or secondary PTSD as a parent (yes, that is a thing!) will be recognized among family, friends and peers as a burden worth helping to bear.

Without raising awareness, the public—our communities, schools, churches, organizations—will continue to view trauma from a normalized angle.

The statistics are astounding. Accord­ing to the Centers for Disease Control, 64 percent of the U.S. population experienced at least one childhood trauma before age 18. 64 percent!

That’s a huge number of our population, and not without impact. It’s time to widen our lens and meet this health need head-on. I’m proof—as is my fern—that healing is possible.

In the weeks following my discovery of the nest, the bird family vacated the property. We have removed the nest. And my stunted fern has finally started to grow.

Trauma experiences are real. Let’s stop pretending hard things aren’t hard. It’s then that healing and growth can happen.

For more information on the CDC study, visit https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/index.html. For more of my personal story, visit my blog justswritehere.blogspot.com.