Yesterday, while I was reading an article about trying out a new form of solving disciplinary issues in school which involved getting to the root of why children were responding negatively and violently, I came across a new phrase: “Toxic Stress Response”. This quote about its impact stood out to me, made me pause, made me think:
Severe and chronic trauma (such as living with an alcoholic parent, or watching in terror as your mom gets beat up) causes toxic stress in kids. Toxic stress damages kid’s brains. When trauma launches kids into flight, fight or fright mode, they cannot learn. It is physiologically impossible.
When I read that, I wanted to cry. It was my life as a teenager, explained in a single paragraph. I finished the article, passed it on, and then googled “toxic stress”, to see what else I could learn about this phenomenon. This was the first result. The key to managing toxic stress in children, apparently, is to have one supportive parent/guardian figure who can help them through stressful situations. But, what do you do when the source of toxic stress in your life is your parents/guardians/authority figures and the ways that they behave towards you?
I have a lot to think about now that I have a name for what goes on in my mind. It explains so much about why I respond to stressful situations the way I do now as an adult, and I feel a great sense of relief. It has a name, and I’m not alone. That’s a start.