My Emotionless Photos: The Masks That Some People Wear Because of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) by Mindy Hudon, M.S., CCC-SLP
This is me at 10 years old. I know you’re thinking to yourself, “Pretty snazzy.” I rocked the wavy turtleneck and red ball ponytail holders. I had every color and wore them proudly. I probably dressed myself that day and obviously did my own hair (notice the crooked part and uneven pony holders). The most remarkable thing to me about this photo is my flat facial affect. I wasn’t mad or scared. This is how I looked in every school photo up until my senior year in high school. I never smiled. That was the mask I wore!
My annual emotionless photo capture never really stood out to me until recently. My former principal asked our staff to read “Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom” by Kristin Souers. As an educator, I have worked closely with children who have experienced trauma and know all too well its impact on their learning. What I never realized was that I was a child who had experienced trauma.
In her book, Souers bulleted adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) that I identified with: substance abuse in the home, parental separation/divorce, witnessing domestic violence, poverty and the death of a parent.
I never knew that the mask I wore at school was the reflection of my life outside of the classroom. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that a beloved teacher saw through my mask. I thought I was hiding it well, but she saw behind the mask and looked deeper into my soul.
Since that time, I smile in every photo I take as a reflection of my amazing life. There are far too many childhood memories of me wearing my mask. Today I am happy to say that my smile represents me, not my trauma.
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