My Why: Healing from Trauma

My introduction to ATN was not as an educator, but as a survivor of childhood trauma. I had recently retired from a 40-year career in education and was searching for answers. 

The previous year, I had found myself on a therapist’s couch where a tsunami of repressed memories buried under layers of dissociative coping skills and false internalized messages broke through my protective controls. I slowly began to understand that my lifelong –carefully concealed– mental health issues were not my fault. They were the result of early childhood developmental trauma. 

I devoted the next three years of my life to intensive trauma-informed therapy. With the help of a skilled therapist, I began to understand how my insecure attachment to my mother caused me to be vulnerable to predators. I also recognized how my father provided the necessary caring adult relationship that helped me to navigate life. Yet, the pressure to control my behaviors caused by the trauma drove the pain underground. My body did not forget.

As I emerged from the painful process of healing and began to search for information that explained the interconnection between trauma and attachment, ATN showed up in a Google search. Everything I read described me as a child. I marveled that there was an organization that wanted to help children like me! 

I wanted to learn all I could, so I asked to volunteer. After mentioning that I was an educator and writer, I was put in contact with Laura Dennis, who was ATN’s Blog Lady at the time. The blog I wrote was shared over 400 times, and I realized my voice could help others. This realization became a turning point in my life.

ATN has become my community. They accepted all of me—not just the stellar things like a career and a Ph.D., but also the messy me I desperately tried to hide for a lifetime. As a child and as an adult, I probably worked twice as hard as anyone in the room simply to appear “normal” –whatever that is!  

I love ATN because we understand that children with traumatic backgrounds do hard things every day. Many teachers cared about me, but they didn’t understand my inconsistent, often inexplicable behaviors and odd learning challenges. These are the kids I was drawn to as a teacher. I wanted to figure them out and know how to help them. ATN has helped me to understand how to do this.

As a teacher educator, I realize now that I taught hundreds of teachers how to “manage” classrooms without ever mentioning the word trauma—that no one mentioned it. To my credit, I did say, “If you truly understand a child, their behavior will make sense.” I said this not understanding why; ATN has given me the why! To serve as Board President for ATN is a great honor. I believe that healing from trauma is possible for our most vulnerable children. This is my why!

I LOVE ATN because we understand that children with traumatic backgrounds do hard things every day!
Janyne McConnaughey
ATN Board President

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