Question About Schooling

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Kat

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Question About Schooling
« on: January 19, 2020, 11:03:12 PM »
Hi all!

It's been a while since I've been here.  As some of you may recall, I started a master's in education program with a concentration in trauma and resilience in the educational setting.  It is heartening to know that more and more schools are becoming trauma-informed and changing practices.

Through my studies, I am learning about all the ways trauma can affect the developing brain and how this affects learning and behavior.  There is a lot of focus on cognitive deficiencies and acting out behaviors.

While I suffer from complex-ptsd and a dissociative disorder, I do not fit the descriptions of the trauma-affected students I am studying.  I was a very good student academically and behaviorally. I was social and somewhat popular, so I wasn't necessarily struggling with social skills.  I do recall having trouble regulating my emotions.

I am curious to know of others' experiences in school.  Were you the student who was withdrawn and disengaged?  Did you have poor attendance?  Drop out?  Were you the student who acted out, disrupting class and getting into trouble?  Did you struggle with your studies or excel or were you an average student? 

So far, there has been no mention of trauma-affected students who excel in school.  I suspect many of you did well in school and would not have been suspected of suffering trauma.  Just curious.

Be well,
Kat

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Three Roses

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Re: Question About Schooling
« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2020, 11:39:58 PM »
I did not do well in school. I didn't trust the teachers, or any adult. Although I had an above average iq my grades were abysmal. I did not participate in school activities. Although I had friends, we were the ones hanging out in the park getting high. I did not attend school regularly.

In my senior year I found subjects that I was interested in and took my GPA from below 1.5 to 3.4.

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notalone

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Re: Question About Schooling
« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2020, 11:46:53 PM »
First and second grade I was withdrawn. I remember in second grade looking at the other kids and telling myself that I needed to act like them. A part of me broke off to "act normal." From third grade on I was social, not the most popular, but had friends. My grades were average to above average. I will note that all that was the outside. On the inside I still felt like the child standing against the wall at recess and I felt stupid. Being social was just another way that I tried to survive.

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woodsgnome

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Re: Question About Schooling
« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2020, 12:19:20 AM »
This topic greatly intrigues me but I'm having difficulty building a coherent explanation without dragging everyone into an open-ended confused description of my wanderings in schools. All I can do is give an bird's-eye emotionally difficult scenario of how the cptsd parts crossed with the schooling part.

Regarding the schools, I had a high natural learning instinct that never got traction within the route the religious schools I was at wanted me to fit -- obey or else, etc., mixed in with some very horrible abuses of all sorts. Just surviving that was remarkable, looking back. Albeit I also have the sad realization that so much of the abuse parts never stop affecting parts of my current relatively 'safe' life.

And yes, I did 'act up' as it were, in a unique way -- by allowing my academic prowess to outdo theirs, especially in the final 2 years of high school. This followed what I can only describe as a mystical moment when I was directed to run away. I did, but they actually didn't care and/or were too scared of me on the one hand, and notably incapable of dealing with the inside stuff that drove me away -- one would think they'd be upset or expel me but it was like by that time they'd given up on me; as I apparently had on them ever being anything besides absurd bullies in holy drag.

Okay -- from being a social outcast I attracted a group of what the school considered ne'er-do-wells but who found my willingness to have literally run away (just for a day, mind you) appealing. I added another twist to my revolt, though, which surprised all -- I aced every academic subject possible while deliberately failing the religious propaganda courses. There's more to that (like changing denominational affiliation)  but that was the gist through the high school travails.

I started off at a decent college I liked academically, but socially I was extremely awkward and nearly destroyed; I couldn't fit in with a very appealing social side to this place because of my overall people fears that had settled in long before from FOO and even worse earlier school abuses.

I ended up at a public university which I loved primarily because they had a huge library in which to hide (literally) most days.

Through it all I ended up in very non-traditional lines of work. Basically, no matter what I did an important part of each leg in life has been to NEVER EVER be like the people I was around in the early years -- had some neat experiences later but as mentioned my social skill set never caught up. On the other hand, yes I'm a 'freeze' sort which has its downside, but as Walker points out also can veer towards discernment and more mindfulness, a kind of backwards upside to the otherwise trauma-strewn developmental years.

Hope this covers a bit of what my own journey within and after the slog out of the life I was trapped in as a kid. I'm still at work trying to shed the baggage weighing me down, but parts of it are also hopeless. Thinking back, though, my form of 'rebellion' at least aided that journey to find anything worthwhile on which to build a life that seems more heart-driven, and not just reactionary. In the words of a great author I discovered recently (Carolyn Spring) -- my best revenge is recovery.
 

Nice to see you back on here again, Kat.

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Kizzie

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Re: Question About Schooling
« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2020, 06:55:24 PM »
Absolutely Kat.  I often point out on Twitter that many kids experiencing trauma do not get poor grades, act out, etc. They fly under the radar by "acting normal" as Notalone suggested, masking their pain by being overly responsible, doing well if not excelling in school.  I was that kid.

It's just another way of coping with/surviving trauma that is much less visible but just as damaging. I've noticed here that things tend to unravel for us in mid-life when life stress peaks, when we can't maintain the facade any more because there are just too many demands on our internal resources. I was that adult.

Anyway, I think you're spot on in this - sounds like a great thesis topic  :yes:

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saylor

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Re: Question About Schooling
« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2020, 07:34:44 PM »
This is a very interesting topic

I suspect I was regularly dissociating in elementary school (when my abuse was at its worst). In the early grades, I recall being considered “slow”. I was the last kid to be able to memorize the alphabet and my address and left vs. right, etc. I recall a teacher got angry with me a lot, but I don’t remember what exactly I had been doing to set her off, or whether I even understood what was the matter, as I was in a near-constant fog (plus I was used to adults yelling at me)

It turns out I was quite bright and ended up excelling in middle school and beyond, and even got a graduate degree and fancy jobs in my profession. The one time I took an IQ test, the score was well above average. This seems at odds with my inauspicious beginnings, but I was terrified from a very young age of not being able to make a living and thus being vulnerable (like when I was a child) and potentially dependent upon someone who might, again, end up abusing me. So basically, I attribute my later-school and career success to terror (rather than passion, of which I had none) as the driving force (...yay?)

But even when I was doing well in later secondary school and college it was a real battle, as I had tremendous difficulty with focus and attention, and to this day it really dogs me. I suspect it’s one of the reasons I ended up dropping out of the workforce prematurely. It just got to be too much.

FWIW, on that final note, at least based on my own experience, I think Kizzie’s right about the middle age thing... It wasn’t until I was pushing 50 that my functionality really began to decline, following several decades of productivity. It’s like I finally broke under the weight of all the effort it took for me to act normal and accomplish things despite all the turmoil going on inside

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Kat

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Re: Question About Schooling
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2020, 02:49:08 AM »
Thank you all for your responses.  I am taking it all in right now.  I will respond more thoughtfully later, but I wanted to let you all know how much I appreciate you! 

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bluepalm

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Re: Question About Schooling
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2020, 10:35:21 AM »
Kat, I find this a painful topic. It's been my paradoxical experience that although I was able to perform well academically throughout my education, no achievement was ever sufficient to banish a debilitating level of self doubt. So, while on the surface I was resilient, in that I kept on jumping hurdles, inside me I was never able to grab hold of my abilities and own them with confidence.

My experiences from infancy onwards so eroded my sense of self that external validation such as excellent academic results seemed flimsy to me. I held them at arms' length. It was as if they'd happened to someone else. They couldn't undo the damage done to me at some fundamental level. And it didn't help that my parents (and later my husband) angrily refused to acknowledge what the outside world recognised as achievements and abilities, because they flew in the face of my designated role in life as a subservient household drudge.

My lack of self-confidence has been painfully visible to others throughout my life - exploited by many, ridiculed by some. I've been openly derided as 'weak' both in social contexts and in the workplace because of it, and the shame and humiliation that entailed has been difficult to bear.

So yes, trauma broke me at a fundamental level that has left me 'weak' in the world. Weak and isolated. But it did not destroy my inborn, robust cognitive abilities and a strong energetic spirit that has rebelled, albeit with many setbacks, against the confinements and erasure that I faced.

I'm sure that without my academic and creative gifts I would have long ago been crushed by life so, although I'm sad that I've not been able to enjoy them as I could have done, some at least of my inborn abilities survived the trauma and have been crucial to keeping me alive into old age.

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Kizzie

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Re: Question About Schooling
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2020, 05:16:00 PM »
Quote
It's been my paradoxical experience that although I was able to perform well academically throughout my education, no achievement was ever sufficient to banish a debilitating level of self doubt. So, while on the surface I was resilient, in that I kept on jumping hurdles, inside me I was never able to grab hold of my abilities and own them with confidence.

This totally resonates with me bluepalm  :yes:  I am so sorry for the pain you went through and are left with to this day.  I am trying to substitute "injured" for "weak" these days to hopefully raise awareness that we are battling through life with debilitating layers of trauma that would exhaust anyone, and that we succeed at all is nothing short of a miracle.  You will NOT be erased here ever  :grouphug:

Kat one thing I would add is that in my case my parents loved when I succeeded, it was about the attention they got from it. No recognition of the hard work I put in or real pride, just an N response which left me feeling yet again like an object, something that was only valuable if it brought attention to the family.  I did not feel like I owned my successes.  My son is doing really well academically and I see the same thing - my M loves it for the attention it nets her. He knows she has NPD and has our real love and pride so he's not wounded by it like I was.  Anyway, not to hijack this thread but just wanted to shed some more light on how children of trauma do have a variety of responses.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2020, 05:23:05 PM by Kizzie »

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Elphanigh

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Re: Question About Schooling
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2020, 02:42:41 AM »
Thank you for asking about this topic. It has been a source of guilt for me at times. I was the kid that excelled in school and still does. I have a high IQ and had a very high intellectual ability. For me, school was my escape and a coping mechanism. It was something I was good at naturally. I was a 4.0 high school valedictorian who gained access to some elite colleges, but I was always told I was never enough. My academic performance was natural and at the same time was a coping mechanism meant to please my abusers into being kinder. It has created a really bittersweet relationship with my own intelligence and talents.

I guess all that to say, you are not alone in excelling in school. It is a really under-explored area and one that allows too many kids to fly under the radar because we look normal or even above normal sometimes.

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arale

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Re: Question About Schooling
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2020, 09:57:19 AM »
Elphanigh's description captured very much my experience too. So, Kat, you are not alone in being the highly functioning student at school. In Pete Walker's book, he talked about how much safer he felt in the army than with his family. In the army, there were clear rules. You follow them, you get rewarded. You transgress them, you get punished, while at home, there are hidden landmines everywhere. That really describes very well what I felt at school. I was a good student, followed the rules, kind to my fellow students, did real well in exams and extra-curricular activities. I was loved by my teachers and fellow students. I had much happier school memories than many of my friends who had more loving families than mine.

Also, the idea to become the best and get into the best college became a hope for me during those late teenage years. I chose to believe that once I've given my mum what she wanted from me - best of the best - then we are even and I would be free to live my life. Problems started when I actually did get into the best college, and they continued when I tried to get a job and enter into the "real world". There, it's no longer enough to obey rules, listen to the teacher, know how to study for exams. People want boldness, creativity and confidence from their top students or candidates for their competitive jobs. Well, after spending years developing skills to be very sensitive to what other people what from me, and being polite and obedient, I had no idea what I would want to create nor did I have a single shred of true confidence left.

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Heart

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Re: Question About Schooling
« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2020, 04:53:12 PM »
This topic made many thoughts and feelings stirring up.  Thank you all for sharing as it helps to see myself better and thus being able to heal better.  :cheer:

My school years were chaotic. Having no aid in getting my things together for bathing or sports.  Having clothes for the right seasons summer (hot) winter (snow and ice). My clothes were in a disrepair. Started to use socks when I married LH. Not having breakfast before. Not sleeping in peace at night.  It was difficult to concentrate on the lessons.  Feelings of being a ugly duckling, shame for not having been able to get my things in order...  :whistling:
Hungry. (Not a word thought of in this socially "safe" country.  Someone here had a start of introduction post that spoke of third world countries.  Well this is not.  But that gives a whole set of other issues. ) When I was in fifth grade a girl from my first class met me and she told me that I had In middle of class all of a sudden gotten up on my desk stating; " No! I don't want to!!".

Nosebleeds and stomach aches. Was normal life.
But I was also the one that protected others from bullying.  I was a sports player.  I sang before the class.
So I was able to do things that were innate to me.

Stopped going to school at seventh ( 14 years old)grade.  Then I would have still been mandated to go on for two more years.
No adult spoke up. :fallingbricks:

Luckily for me I love reading. So could read a book a day! I taught myself to read at six. English I started to learn by reading the translation and pairing the words together!(?)!!
And so forth.
But no I have never been able to get any degree of any kind.
Made a IQ test that said that I had a degree worthy of a university degree in my head. But unfortunately not on paper.

Pete Walker's book, he talked about how much safer he felt in the army than with his family. In the army, there were clear rules. You follow them, you get rewarded. You transgress them, you get punished, while at home, there are hidden landmines everywhere  - thank you for adding this Arale!
My friends became the underdogs and criminals and people using drugs.  The people who others were afraid of  - they showed respect and with them I was safe.
The world was a very confusing place.
I can not for my life understand why teachers, doctors and other adults never spoke up in order to help me? Why? There were laws that should have been followed... :Idunno:
I was not popular in school except looked for when somebody needed help.  And that is still true in my life. To be a fellow human a degree is not necessary..  :grouphug:
« Last Edit: January 23, 2020, 05:12:47 PM by Heart »

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Phoebes

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Re: Question About Schooling
« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2020, 08:10:46 PM »
I started writing about this, and it got long, so I posted a different thread. But, I just wanted to say that the studies that say kids act out and make bad grades- that might be true for some, but my experience was totally different. I was not allowed to make bad grades, AND, I was smart and enjoyed learning on my own. I loved learning, but came home to threats and put-downs. It was a mess, but I had a lot of trauma at home and made almost straight A's, so I was completely off of the radar, I think.

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Kat

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Re: Question About Schooling
« Reply #13 on: February 13, 2020, 06:21:25 AM »
You all got me re-thinking my own experiences in school.  Although I have three older sisters, I was terrified of going to kindergarten.  I held onto the chain-link fence that encircled the kindergarten room and would not let go.  My mother ended up dragging me home muttering about what a stubborn brat I was.  I also cried all through grade school.  EVERYTHING made me cry. Teachers had me pegged as “sensitive.”  My therapist has suggested I finally felt safe enough to cry when I was at school. 

Because my father was a teacher, it was understood we would do well in school and go on to college.  I can also see though that I have always attempted to be perfect because I believed it would make my borderline mother ok.  She told us that if only we weren’t such irresponsible little brats, things would be better and I believed her.  On the other hand, she would accuse us of having “swollen heads” or of being “too big for our breeches” if we did too well at anything.  My sister told me that she threw a race in track in high school because she didn’t think she was supposed to win. 

I think teachers should have been a bit suspicious of all my crying.  They might have been.  My first-grade teacher used to stop by our house to chat with my mother.  I just figured it was because she had taught a couple of my other sisters as well.  Now I wonder if she was checking up on things.  I was clothed in hand-me-downs in elementary, but so were the rest of the kids.  But in high school, I think someone should have maybe noticed that I wore the same white shorts and purple sweater and a pair of sneakers with holes worn in the soles all winter.  I did ask my high school English teacher years after I graduated if she had suspected anything amiss.  She said no and she had trained as a social worker, so…
Anyhow, thank you all so much. Your responses have been so helpful to me. 



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Kizzie

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Re: Question About Schooling
« Reply #14 on: February 13, 2020, 09:24:23 PM »
Thankfully there seems to be growing interest in childhood trauma and developing programs to foster understanding, awareness and build in protective factors in education.  I truly hope this means fewer children will fall through the cracks like you Kat.   :hug:
« Last Edit: February 13, 2020, 09:26:16 PM by Kizzie »