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Learning About Trauma

Today's post is from Susan Maydwell, a Cooper's Crossroad Board Member. Back in the spring of 2018 Christina Major, founder of Cooper’s Crossroad, a non-profit organization, invited me to participate in a panel discussion surrounding ACE awareness and trauma being held at Dusty Dog Farm on June 6, 2018. Cooper's Crossroad mission statement reads “ Cooper's Crossroad mission is to raise awareness of the profound, insidious effects of trauma and adverse childhood experiences by providing programs and educational resources for our community”. At the time the acronym ACE meant nothing to me (ACE – Adverse Childhood Experience). Christina recommended I read the book “The Deepest Well” by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, M.D. to help prepare myself for the panel discussion. Little did I know how much this book would trigger me in the most profound way both personally and professionally, resulting in continuing to research the topic through reading books and articles, and viewing documentaries. I joined the board of Cooper’s Crossroad, and feel honored to be a part of this steadfast - “grassroots” and “boots to the ground” non-profit organization.

In 1998 Dr. Felitti and Dr. Anda published a land-mark study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine that linked adverse childhood experiences to adult health outcomes. This study has helped to carve the pathway that is leading to modification and reform on support systems spanning early childhood development programs, education platforms, social support programs, and judicial programs to name a few. The acronym ACE's usually accompanies the word “trauma” in most readings I have come across. The dictionary states trauma as “a. a body injury produced by violence or any thermal, chemical, etc...extrinsic agent. b. psychiatry. a startling experience which has a lasting effect on mental life; a shock. “I recently read an article that states “Trauma is broadly defined as experiences that produce intense emotional pain, fear, or distress, often resulting in long-term physiological and psychological consequences.” (Bowen, E.A., Murshid, N.S., AJPH, Feb 2016) I have to admit that the word “trauma” has taken on a dimension for me while studying about adverse childhood experiences and trauma, and am pleased there are incredible resources available to educate people regarding the impact of trauma in our lives. One thing we all are guaranteed in life is death. From birth to death we all will experience some form of trauma, and from birth to death adverse childhood experience will touch us, some more profoundly than others. Christina coined the phrase “Melting the Myth of Trauma” which is a cornerstone to building a healthier and more productive community. In public speaking engagements Christina gives trauma and adversity a voice in a supportive platform to educate people through sharing her own story. This helps to wipe away the stigma of trauma and adversity, and provides an opportunity for our community to be trauma educated by shedding light on darkness, fostering awareness, and creating opportunity for change. So the stage is set for Cooper's Crossroad, three years into existence. Our welcoming statement reads “At the heart of this organization is a deep faith in the power of healing. Surrounding that core value is integrity in everything we do. We hold compassion for those around us. We support continuing education, and want to inspire transformation through shared stories of trauma and healing.” One of Cooper's Crossroad stepping stones within our community is our “Farming for Resilience Program” which takes place on 100 acres at Dusty Dog Horse Farm. This program is at the heart of the organization in its potential to change the trajectory of individuals or students by building life skills to promote resilience and wellbeing through outdoor experience, artistic expression, classroom exercises, and equine facilitated activities. Cooper’s Crossroad has taken measures to ensure the safety of staff and participants in the Farming for Resilience program by following the guidelines of the state and CDC as a result of CoVid-19 pandemic. We look forward to continuing to offer this program to individuals and students. These unprecedented times have impacted our world – often intensifying underlying disparities which have the potential to increase domestic unrest and adversity. Our community – Cheshire County and its people are not immune to this unrest, and I hope individuals and families affected are reaching out to community and state programs for support. Now more than ever, I see the Farming for Resilience program as a community resource that offers individuals the opportunity for social and emotional learning, personal growth, and resilience. During these unsettling times, two angels acted in kindness and have offered two scholarships to individuals who participated in the Farming for Resilience program to attend daytime summer camp at Dusty Dog Farm this summer. What a great gift and opportunity for the recipients! Today is a beautiful day, humanity in action served up locally. In closing – The Deepest Well opened my eyes as a daughter, sister, animal lover, and provider to the language of ACE and trauma, and set me on a pathway to see people's lives through a different lens, starting first with my own family of origin. I have much work to do to melt my own “frozen”, and am mindfully thankful for support from friends, trained professionals, and my animals. Other books that were informative to me include: The Trauma of Everyday Life by Mark Epstein, M.D., The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D., Childhood Disrupted by Donna Jackson Nakazawa, and The Transformation by James Gordan, M.D.

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