Jeannie’s Brave Childhood – The Author’s Story
Jeannie’s Brave Childhood – The Author’s Story

Jeannie’s Brave Childhood – The Author’s Story

Having read and thoroughly enjoyed ATN board member Janyne McConnaughey’s first book, Brave, A Personal Story of Healing Childhood Trauma, reviewed here in June 2018, I had looked forward to immersing myself in her second, Jeannie’s Brave Childhood: Behavior and Healing Through the Lens of Attachment and Trauma. It was worth the wait. As a voracious and omnivorous reader, I believe we read non-fiction for two main reasons:
  1. to immerse ourselves in the author’s story
and
  1. to gain insight into our own
Jeannie’s Brave Childhood allowed me to do both of these.

The author’s story

As she first recounted in Brave, Janyne is the adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, accompanied by maternal neglect . . . and worse. She successfully repressed all this for literally decades, until one day in therapy, she surfaced from an EMDR session to the realization that she had three adult selves. As therapy progressed, a host of child selves made themselves known as well. In fact, separate selves existed for every childhood age, and they typically came in pairs. As McConnaughey’s therapist, Dr. Susan Kwiecien explains, this is because one child self would hold the trauma, while the other would “rise above” and go on living. You might be wondering whether the reader gets to meet all these selves as distinct individuals. The answer is a bewildering and beautiful yes. Over the course of Jeannie’s Brave Childhood, we become deeply acquainted with all of them. Their story at once fascinates and breaks your heart. McConnaughey’s purpose in writing it, however, lies deeper. As a lifelong educator and teacher trainer, she identified four concrete objectives for the book that merit paraphrasing here.

Objectives (with many thanks to Non Janyne)

  1. use her personal story as an illustration of the immediate and long-term effects of disrupted attachment and childhood trauma
  2. reframe misunderstood childhood behaviors by viewing them through the lens of trauma and attachment
  3. explain the role of healing in creating compassion for oneself and others
  4. illustrate the role various therapeutic interventions can play in healing, including but not limited to EMDR, self-talk, reframing, storytelling, reading literature, and play
McConnaughey meets these objectives and then some. Although the presence of so many separate selves may sometimes disconcert the reader, this confusion serves at least two important functions:
  1. It puts the reader in the shoes of a person who has experienced, survived, and is currently processing childhood trauma. If you think it’s confusing to read about, imagine how it must have felt to live it!
  2. It shows that the effects of childhood trauma continue to impact the survivor, often in unexpected ways, long after the initial trauma occurred. A mantra of writing says that it is better to show than it is to tell. McConnaughey shows that is possible to be 57 and 7 at the exact same time.

Why you should read Jeannie’s Brave Childhood (if you’re not convinced yet)

If you are a parent or teacher of a child who has been diagnosed with Developmental Trauma Disorder, PTSD, or RAD, if a child you’re caring for has no diagnosis but has a high ACE score, or if a child just challenges you in any number of ways, then you need to read this book. It will give you empathy and insight that will change you, and the child, for the better. Besides, you may even recognize yourself in these pages–I know I did (and not just because the author mentions me by name). Stay tuned next week for more.

I am a solo mother of three, all adopted as older children from India, all of whom have been affected by early childhood trauma, particularly my youngest, who was diagnosed at age six with RAD, ADHD, and ODD. We had struggled along as best we could for more than two years before that, whereupon I started learning all I could about trauma and attachment. It has changed our lives for the better. Not only has it set my son on a path that could –maybe– lead to eventual healing, it taught me the type of help my eldest would need as she dealt with her own past en route to young adulthood. Perhaps best of all, it led me to ATN, who not only helped our family, but also gave me the chance to pay it forward by helping families like ours find the support they need. In my “real” job, I am a World Languages professor and department chair at a private liberal arts college in the Appalachian mountains. I have found a way to merge my passions by researching the depiction of intercountry adoption in world literature and film and guest-lecturing for education classes about diversity, inclusion, and trauma-informed instruction. In what passes for my free time, I enjoy long walks, reading, writing, playing piano, and caring for our dog and cats.

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