Paula’s childhood experiences included five of the ACEs measured in the Wisconsin Behavioral Risk Factor Survey as well as the death of one parent. As a child, she tried to tell other people what she was experiencing, but she was told to stop being a baby, or not to talk about ‘that kind of thing.” She was held back in second grade for poor school performance, without anyone at the school looking into why she was struggling. She didn’t seek help until she was an adult beginning a teaching career herself. She continues to feel the effects of her childhood trauma in her mental health, physical health, and other areas of her life.
Paula is being treated for dissociative identity disorder, a mental health disorder associated with trauma. She also suffers from an eating disorder and has battled obesity. While she has stayed free from addictive drugs or alcohol, she has struggled with self-inflicted injury (cutting) which some consider an addictive behavior. At times, she has lost the will to love, and has attempted suicide in the past.
“I feel I’m still here for a reason – to help other people who have had the same kind of experiences that I have.”
In terms of physical health, Paula faces many challenges. She has been diagnosed with diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). She has had reproductive health problems, gall stones, and migraines. She has joint issues, including arthritis, and has had multiple surgeries to address joint problems.
One effect of Paula’s childhood abuse is that she struggles to trust men and does not feel safe with men. She has never dated, married, or had children.
Pauls is currently working on a Masters degree in social work, with a focus on trauma. She is dedicated to helping others heal from the kind of experiences she had. She is an advocate for trauma-informed care in Wisconsin.
Paula is a woman of strong faith. She feels that her resilience comes from God. Another source of Paula’s strength is her knowledge and belief that there are good people in the world who want to help others, including her. Growing up, she was close to her grandparents. They were not aware of everything that was going on in her home, and didn’t know how to help with the problems they knew about – but she always knew they loved and cared about her, and that gave her strength.