Adverse Childhood Experiences and My Number Story

NumberStory.org was founded to help adults identify our Adverse Childhood Experiences, so we can begin healing from them.

alifornia Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris reached out to me last week, and asked if I’d be willing to talk a little bit about my Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) today, to coincide with the launch of NumberStory.org, a new nonprofit organization she founded to help support people like me who had ACEs, and live with the residual trauma as a result.

Before Dr. Burke-Harris reached out to me, I had never heard of ACE in this context before. If you’re in the same boat, here’s what I learned:

“The term ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences,’ or ‘ACEs,’ comes from the 1998 Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study). The study, a partnership between Kaiser Permanente and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is one of the largest investigations ever conducted to assess connections between chronic stress caused by early adversity and long-term health.

“The study examined exposure to childhood adversity, including abuse and neglect, and household dysfunction like domestic violence, parental mental illness, or parental substance abuse. Researchers assigned an ‘ACE score’ to each participant by adding up the number of adversities the participant reported.”

I didn’t have a father; I had a bully. I didn’t have a mother; I had a manager I couldn’t fire.

Most of you reading this already know my story. For those who don’t: For as long as I can remember, I was emotionally abused by the man who was my father on a daily basis. In fact, I didn’t have a father, I had a bully. Both my parents spanked me and my siblings all the time, but when I got into my teens, he hit me, he choked me, he shook me in anger, and he never showed any remorse for it. My mother was so obsessed with the attention got because of my work, she emotionally neglected me, used me to chase her dreams of fame and fortune in Hollywood, and protected her husband when he was cruel to me. She gaslighted me about his cruelty and bullying, and frequently made ME apologize to HIM when I got upset after he did something cruel to me. They never treated me like a special son who they loved. He treated me like I was an irritant who was unworthy of his love, and she treated me like a possession she could use for money and attention. I never felt unconditionally loved and supported in my home. After literally a lifetime of trying to make my mother happy and convince my father to love me, I accepted that they were too selfish, too narcissistic, too prideful, and too invested in the lie they told themselves and the world about our family, to see and hear me when I begged them to … well, to just love and accept me for who I was. I ended contact with them several years ago, and while it’s a relief they can’t hurt me any more, I’ll always have a painful, gaping hole in my life where the love and support of my parents should be.

They never treated me like a special son who they loved.

Every day, I struggle with the residual trauma from my childhood. Some days are tougher than others, and I am so grateful for the support network I have to help me on the really bad days.

But some people don’t have that support network, and don’t know where to look to build one. That’s where Dr. Burke-Harris and My Number Story come in. MyNumberStory was founded to help adults identify our Adverse Childhood Experiences, so we can begin healing from them.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) directly affect two out of three of us — and impact the rest of us as well. Learn more at https://NumberStory.org

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