HARLINGEN — What happened wasn’t your fault.
ACE Overcomers assures people who take their course they didn’t deserve the trauma dealt them when they were children. Through no fault of their own, they must also deal with the effects of that trauma on their adult lives.
People who’ve survived childhood trauma are often prone to sudden outbursts of rage or crying, and they can’t figure out how to stop it. Jamie Graham teaches an ACE Overcomers class each Thursday to show adults how to “regulate” their behavior.
It’s a long process, not something to be achieved overnight.
“We focus on the here and now, not in the past,” said Graham, who teaches the 12-session course, a faith-based approach combining science with biblical principles.
“It’s more about, ‘I don’t know why I feel this way,’ or ‘Why did I act that way?’” said Graham, herself a victor over childhood trauma.
ACE, Adverse Childhood Experiences, refers to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study explored the long-term effects of childhood trauma, ranging from verbal abuse to sexual abuse. These adverse experiences have been linked to poor health, reduced potential and early death.
It also carries over into people’s behavior. Survivors may be prone to sudden outbursts of anger, wreaking havoc on their social lives, their personal lives and their professions. Others may experience sudden fits of crying.
ACE Overcomers is a national organization. Locally, the class is part of the Blue Sunday Wings Program which is an outreach to adults who suffered childhood trauma.
Janet Magee, founder of Blue Sunday Child Abuse Prevention, said most people who attend ACE classes are young men and women. Many have been in detention facilities or juvenile boot camp.
“Now we know why,” she said with a frustrated chuckle.
The free class, which Graham teaches each Thursday at the Friendly Neighborhood Health Clinic at 617 E. Loop 499, uses a workbook and video. Attendees learn how trauma from their past causes them to erupt in fits of anger or crying.
ACE Overcomers shows people that, as victors, they can control their reactions. There are tools they can use to dispose of the switches which set off those reactions.
Still, the damage could be so deep it requires more than replacing the switches. The whole house must be rewired. The inhabitants can’t fix it themselves. They have to call an electrician to rewire the whole electrical system so the lights will come on when they’re supposed to and, just as important, not turn on unless you deliberately hit the switch.
This extensive rewiring traces back to the lousy job someone did on the house as it was being built. Either the electrician was on drugs, or he’d fallen on his head, or maybe he wasn’t even certified at all. He just decided to do the wiring himself because he knew a little about it.
ACE Overcomers tells adult survivors the adults of their childhood had no right to beat them, to get right in their faces and scream obscenities, or touch them without permission.
Nor do those same abusers have the right to follow them into their adulthood and be the trigger-happy demons flipping their switches, sending them into fits of rage. They don’t have the right to take that kind of power and jeopardize jobs and relationships. ACE Overcomers shows survivors how to short out that ticking bomb and defuse it — permanently.
The program has touched the lives of about 300 people since it began about a year ago.
There’s one statement that nearly every person attending the class has been told.
“Just get over it.”
Thrown against a wall, screamed at, someone coming into your room at night.
“Just get over it.”
Such a dismissive statement in itself might be considered a trigger, setting off memories of adults who had given no consideration to a child’s plight. The victim may find himself repeatedly invalidated by statements which make no reference to such a conclusion. In his troubled mind, he loads seemingly innocent comments with a tangled thread of imaginary accusations which alienate those around him.
Meets on Thursdays for the next 8 weeks
6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
We are meeting at the Friendly Neighborhood Health Clinic
617 E. Loop 499
Harlingen, TX 78550
To find out more about the program itself visit www.aceovercomers.com
Contact Jamie Graham