• Karen Law

This is me!

Updated: Oct 9, 2019


This is a long blog post. You might want to grab a cuppa and settle down in a comfy chair.

Recently I went to see a film. Actually, I saw two films within a week. Both of them hugely engaging and thought provoking. And they brought up a couple of important themes I'd like to highlight.

The first film was The Greatest Showman, which was only chosen because I felt I should wait to see Star Wars when my partner would be able to join us. The reviews for the Greatest Showman looked positive and my daughter was also keen after seeing the trailer. I didn't know what to expect really. I had not been privy to any media frenzy about it.

Well... As we sat and watched the credits rolling (yes, I always sit and acknowledge all those who contribute to the making of films) my daughter advised me that she now had a newly increased love of music. As we drove home she was already downloading the soundtrack on to her phone and I was wondering how soon would be too soon to go back to the cinema to see it again. All thoughts of Star Wars are gone. After such an uplifting, empowering, visually vibrant, musically joyful and goosebump inducing wonder I don't feel particularly keen on anything with war, danger, fear, explosions and death. Just yet. I am sure that with time I will want to see it, particularly the late Carrie Fisher.

So, the Greatest Showman is enthralling people world wide. There's no denying it. Even though the Oscars have mostly ignored it I see so many people on social media raving about it. Why? Well, as long as you can completely divorce the film from any historical accuracy you should find nothing to dislike. There is some loose reference to the real P T Barnum and his circus which I am aware entails exploitation and animal cruelty. If you were worried about that and haven't gone to see The Greatest Showman I can assure you that you will see none of that. Instead, the film focuses on the drive and commitment of a man who follows his dreams and who gives others a chance to use their disadvantages to their benefit. And woven through the film are no less than three love stories, some ending well, one not so much. And there's singing.

I've not mentioned the singing yet, have I? The songs and the vocalists are A-MAZE-ING! Although my daughter downloaded the soundtrack immediately I have also bought the CD so I can listen to it wherever I wish to. Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Zendaya, and Keala Settle all acted and sang effortlessly and passionately. Rebecca Ferguson acted so well I didn't know at first that Loren Allred actually sang 'Never Enough' for her. All of the songs are just incredible. So well written and sung like their lives depended on it. It is really hard to choose a favourite among them. True, one or two are really only relevant to the story but many of them are so powerful people are really taking them to their hearts.

In fact 'This is Me' is taking the world by storm!

"But I won't let them break me down to dust​​

I know that there's a place for us

For we are glorious...

....

I am brave, I am bruised

I am who I'm meant to be, this is me

Look out 'cause here I come

And I'm marching on to the beat I drum

I'm not scared to be seen

I make no apologies, this is me"

You see, P T Barnum assembled a circus of characters who would otherwise be ostracised from society because of their looks or their disabilities. The film glosses over the exploitation and focuses on the fact that they were given a chance to earn a living. I have no idea if they truly did in the real story but what we can take from the film is a sense of acceptance, positive body image and empowerment.

This is what is inspiring people across the world and resonates so powerfully in a current global culture where the media has been telling us how we should look and what we should aspire to. This is completely unrealistic as it is an airbrushed, Photoshopped creation. All over the globe I see efforts against this popping up. One of them is Body Image Movement created by Taryn Brumfit who made the film, Embrace, a social impact documentary. I have been so inspired by this that I have become a Body Image Movement Global Ambassador in an effort to do my little bit to make a difference. People are suffering because they are holding themselves up to the concocted notion of perfection and beauty which is completely unattainable. Many are finding themselves facing mental health challenges as a result.

Which brings me to the second film I watched.

Through the women I've met over the last 13 years I have come to understand the devastation that birth trauma can bring to their lives, their families and subsequent births. Through CPD courses I have come to understand how previous trauma can impact on the childbearing year. I have learned about the statistics. That 1 in 4 women, globally, are thought to be survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I have discovered how trauma during childhood rewires the brain and has the potential to cause huge numbers of health issues into adulthood. So, whenever the trauma happened, childhood or adulthood, it can be seen that huge numbers of people are being affected by trauma. I have personally seen this in people close to me.

But the thing is.... if a person feels traumatised in adulthood they at least have the potential to heal relatively easily, either though processing the events themselves or with help though therapists. However, when a child feels trauma it will affect their brain development. Until about 20 years ago this was not fully recognised.

So when the opportunity came up to go and see 'Resilience, the Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope', a film made by James Redford to highlight the effects that Adverse Childhood Experiences have on children's brains and how those children will be affected in to adulthood, I made sure that I went. There are considered to be 10 core ACEs that are the most common found in people who find life as an adult to be challenging. However there are questionnaires used by psychologists which will have many more detailed questions. Many of us might have experienced one or two and we can largely carry on with life but for those who have experienced 4 or more life can be extremely challenging. They will be more likely to be involved in crime, violence, substance misuse, teenage pregnancies and many will be diagnosed with personality disorders. Because of the changes to the developing brain their education is effected too, with poor literacy and numeracy. But as the number of ACEs increase so do the rates of physical health issues in adulthood, such as ischaemic heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

Dr Karen Treisman held a TedX talk to explain why 'Good relationships are the key to healing trauma'. A very powerful presentation! Please watch it:

Thankfully Dr Treisman, and others such as Dr Nadine Burke Harris and Dr Suzanne Zeedyk, are doing incredible work to support people who are being recognised as having high ACE scores and raise awareness of this issue. There is a lot of work being done now to identify and offer treatment to children to repair their brain injuries so that they don't take them into adulthood.

Most of us can't comprehend how someone can 'choose' to be a drug addict, or criminal, or sleep around from a young age, or we don't know why someone would develop an eating disorder... so we might say angrily "what is wrong with you?"

But we have been asking the wrong question! We should be asking:

"What happened to you?"

It should, therefore, be considered that "Adverse Childhood Experiences are the single greatest unaddressed public health threat... ...today" - Dr. Robert Block, the former President of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

A very sobering thought.....

Are you finding any of this resonating with you? Both films, very different films, bring up extremely important topics about health and wellbeing. Health and wellbeing being more important than literacy and numeracy even!

Maybe you can finally understand why you struggle with aspects of your life and relationships because you realise you can tick yes to some ACEs? Or you finally understand a friend or loved one a little better because you can recognise their early history is impacting on their behaviour and life choices? Or maybe you just realise that you can be much more gentle with others instead of reacting angrily, because you simply don't know what their journey has been?

I am really pleased that the UK is becoming much more ACE-aware as a lot of work is being done to inform the Scottish Government, police, educators, carers, health care providers, social workers etc. It's not too late to see Resilience, check out Connected Baby for more information. Maybe you can organise a screening in your area?

Going back to the first part of this blog maybe you are one of the many people who feel uncomfortable with their body? Have you been beating yourself up for not being 'perfect', for not conforming to the media ideal? If you feel you would like to do some work on accepting your body as it is, the Body Image Movement has devised 'EMBRACE You' which is a 4-week online course that will help you learn to love and embrace your body.

If you have experienced a traumatic birth contact me to discuss how I can help you release that trauma.

Additional reading:

#ACE #AdverseChildhoodExperiences #Resilience #healthandwellbeing

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