How Childhood Trauma Affected My Brain Development
Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with Dr. Daniel Emina at Amen Clinics in Orange County. As a motivational keynote speaker on childhood trauma, foster care and child abuse, I am an open book about my early life and the adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) I endured and survived. This appointment is next-level vulnerable for me to share. During this appointment, I underwent a brain scan. Dr. Emina then walked me through the damage that exists in my temporal lobe and cerebellum. If you’d like to watch the full video, please visit What Does Childhood Trauma Look Like in the Brain? I’ve written a summary of what I learned during the appointment below.
My Early Life and Trauma
To give you a sense of my background, I experienced childhood abuse and trauma since birth. I came into the world with my dad stomping on my pregnant mother’s stomach because she didn’t get an abortion. Due to this, labor was induced shortly thereafter, and I was a forceps delivery.
Following 5 years of childhood abuse, I was abandoned at a psychiatric facility and diagnosed with countless emotional and behavioral issues, including learning disabilities and a low IQ. I was then sent to a shelter for unadoptable kids and placed in foster care for 13 years until I was of age.
I spent years in “survival mode” dealing with rejection and abandonment as a child. I knew there was something wrong and that it would drastically impact the rest of my life as an adult if I didn’t do something about it. The good news is that your brain CAN adapt. As you’ll see in the video above, you have the power to rewire your brain and allow yourself to heal from your past. Never give up on yourself!
The Role of the Temporal Lobe and the Cerebellum
In this study, we primarily looked at damage in the temporal lobe and the cerebellum. Before discussing those in-depth, let’s look at what each of these sections of the brain does for our daily function.
The Temporal Lobe
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the temporal lobes are involved in short-term memory, speech, musical rhythm, and some small degree of smell recognition. These lobes sit right behind the ears and are most associated with processing auditory information and encoding memory. They also have a great deal to do with emotion.
The cerebellum is known as the “little brain.” It’s a fist-sized portion of the brain located at the back of the head. Its function is to coordinate voluntary muscle movements as well as to maintain posture, balance, and equilibrium. Hopkins Medicine has also cited that there are studies are currently exploring the cerebellum’s role in thoughts, emotions, and social behavior.
How My “Emotional Brain” Became My Superpower
During my discussion with Dr. Emina, we established that my first five years of life were my “original wound.” Just like 47% of the country, I experienced trauma that my brain has had to recover from. If your brain is healthy, then you’re more likely to function well in your life. However, if your brain is unhealthy (and you’re in an unhealthy environment), then you’re likely to be exposed to toxicity and stress.
We compared my SPECT scan to a healthy brain SPECT scan. My scan showed some different textures and coloring on the temporal lobe. Remember, the temporal lobe impacts language, listening, reading, and writing skills as well as social interactions. As I had some pretty significant decreases in those realms according to the brain scan, it indicates that my brain would’ve had to work overtime to gain skills in those areas.
But I’ve worked hard and done this.
Today, I work with people around the world through motivational speaking and keynote presentations. Plasticity allows the brain to recover and reorganize its structure and function even after damage. Even with damage, I’ve rebuilt those skills and spent time rewiring those injury areas.
One particularly interesting part of our discussion was the focus on my “emotional” brain. Dr. Emina highlighted the fact that the more activity in your emotional brain, the more you feel (both good and bad). If there’s good stuff, the richer/deeper you feel it. If there’s bad stuff, the richer/deeper you feel it.
If you have a busy emotional brain, you may have been born with that genetically. However, in my case, I also went through trauma. So, at points, I’ve also been feeling all that pain, anger, frustration, etc. Over time, however, if you work at it, you should be able to use your emotional brain for good, and that’s what I’ve been able to do. While there’s been quite a bit of fighting to get where I am today, I feel proud that I’ve made progress with my brain health and that I’m making an impact on the world around me.
Overall, Dr. Emina says it’s “all about learning to work with your brain.” He recommends a treatment plan based on your SPECT scan that optimized how your brain is operating. Through different types of therapies such as neurofeedback and hyperbaric oxygen therapy, supplements, exercise, and diets, there are things you can do to help your brain heal even further.
Your childhood abuse doesn’t have to be the end of your life…you just have to work on rewiring your brain and gaining skills in areas that your brain is currently struggling. If I can do it, you can do it!
My goal is to be your “hope” dealer. My emotional brain has become my superpower, and it can be yours too. You’ve got this!
If you are looking for an inspiring childhood trauma motivational speaker for your next conference or organization’s event, contact Derek here to book him as your next keynote speaker or training event.
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