Saturday, April 29, 2017

Survivor Resource: Intro to THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.

THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE: BRAIN, MIND, AND BODY IN THE HEALING OF TRAUMA by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. is a seminal work in the study of trauma and its grueling, relentless effects upon the body. Having just reviewed the preface, I am already hooked and cannot wait to read and post about my findings for the survivor community. If you have experienced any kind of trauma, you know it does havoc on multiple areas of your body. As the title suggests, these areas include:
  • The Brain: trauma does not store itself in Long Term Memory (begins in the hippocampus and stores in various places in the cortex), instead it bangs around inside the brain as it pleases. Engagement in activity that is similar to the trauma can elicit unwanted flashbacks which feel like it is happening right now.
  • The Mind: can be impacted by the intrusion effects of trauma which include: spontaneous or cued distressing memories of the traumatic event, recurrent distressing dreams in which the content or emotions are related to the event, dissociative reactions in which the individual feels or acts as if the traumatic event(s) are happening again, psychological distress when confronted with internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble the traumatic event, or marked psychological reactions to reminders of the traumatic event(s) (Barlow, Clinical Handbook of Psychological Disorders, 5th Edition). The Dual-Representation Theory proposed by Brewin, Dalgleish, and Joseph (1996), suggests memories are made up of Verbally Accessible Memories (VAMs), which "contain some sensory information about emotional and physical reactions, and the personal meaning of the event," while "Situationally Accessed Memories (SAMs), "cannot be accessed deliberately and is not easily altered or edited as more explicitly accessed VAMs," but "SAMs compromise sensory (e.g. auditory, visual, tactile), physiological, and motoric information that may be accessed automatically when a person is exposed to a stimulus situation similar in some fashion to the trauma, or when that person consciously thinks about the trauma, which are experienced as intrusive sensory images or flashbacks accompanied by physiological arousal" (Barlow, Clinical Handbook of Psychological Disorders, 5th Edition).
  • The Body: "We can now develop methods and experiences that utilize the brain's own neuroplasticity to help survivors feel fully alive in the present and move on with their lives." The three avenues are: 1. top down, by talking, (re-) connecting with others, and allowing ourselves to know and understand what is going on with us, while processing the memories of the trauma; 2. by taking medicines that shut down inappropriate alarm reactions, or by utilizing other technologies that change the way the brain organizes information, and 3. bottom up: by allowing the body to have experiences tha deeply and viscerally contradict the helplessness, rage, or collapse tha result from trauma." (Bessel Van Der Kolk)

Prologue: Facing Trauma

The following are some of the more profound quotes I found while reading through the prologue of THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE:

"Traumatic experiences do leave traces, whether on a large scare (on our histories and cultures) or close to home, on our families, with dark secrets being imperceptibly passed down through generations." (Bessel Van Der Kolk)

"It takes tremendous energy to keep functioning while carrying the memory of terror, and the shame of utter weakness and vulnerability." (Bessel Van Der Kolk)

"Feeling out of control, survivors of trauma often begin to fear that they are damaged to the core and beyond redemption." (Bessel Van Der Kolk)

"The key to healing was understanding how the human organism works." (Bessel Van Der Kolk)

"Research from these disciplines (neuroscience, developmental psychopathology, and interpersonal neurobiology) has revealed that trauma produces actual physiological changes, including a recalibration of the brain's alarm system, an increase in stress hormone activity, and alterations in the system that filters relevant information from irrelevant. We now know that trauma compromises the brain area that communicates the physical, embodied feeling of being alive." (Bessel Van Der Kolk)

Preview of upcoming review for the remainder of THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE:
The following are a series of slides which enumerate the main themes explored in THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE.





Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study:
Much of trauma can be attributed to three main areas of exposure: abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction, as explored in the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study.
To take the quiz yourself, click here.
While you're at it, check out this powerful TedTalk on the ACEs Study:
*Please note: Your score does not define you or your ability to recover or exhibit resilience. I should know. I scored a 10/10 on the ACEs. Yet, I have somehow survived those traumas. The following are the common risk factors and areas where survivors may struggle to manage their traumas:
I welcome your comments below. What has your experience been like? How is it similar or different than what has been described here? Now what? Now that you have read this post, what is your next step?


Sunday, January 1, 2017



THE PACKING HOUSE is an uppper YA contemporary complete at 83,000 words, which took five years to get just right before its brief publication to the now closed publisher, Booktrope (1/18/16 to 5/31/16). Rights have reverted back to me as of 6/1/16. This is book one of a planned duology. I believe lightning can strike twice and I ask for your consideration of a novel IndieReader gave 4 stars, describing it as: "an enthralling and important piece of fiction that tastefully and honestly addresses the topic of sexual abuse of minors."
The book is also still listed on Amazon (out of print) and GoodReads with many 5 star and 4 star reviews. One of my favorite reviews is from NYTimes Bestselling author, Brendan Kiely, who gave The Packing House a 5 star review:
"In his debut novel, G. Donald Cribbs has written an emotional wallop about the courage and bravery of a young survivor. The Packing House is a tapestry of nightmares--the images that haunt Joel in his dreams and memories woven together with the painful experiences of a frayed and fractured family life, the take-no-prisoner bullying of adolescence, and the agony of loving and not knowing if it will ever be returned. And yet, Joel's story is one of strength and resilience as he hunts down the source of all this pain--a story Cribbs captures with sharp-eyed and utterly clear veracity. Three cheers to G. Donald Cribbs for endeavoring to tell this tough story and doing it so well."
--Brendan Kiely, author of The Gospel of Winter, and co-author of All American Boys (with Jason Reynolds), winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, and now a NYTimes Bestseller.
Intended Market:
THE PACKING HOUSE is suitable for upper YA readers, particularly those who read books similar to FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK, THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, THE GOSPEL OF WINTER, and SCARS. Topically, this book addresses important social issues teens and their families face in today's world such as child sexual abuse (CSA), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), surviving trauma, questioning sexual identity, and sleep paralysis. As regularly as these social concerns are highlighted in the news and media indicate a greater need to have books and resources available for these readers.
When The Packing House was given a pre-order status on Amazon, I commissioned a poetry chapbook, Fish Out of Water, with gorgeous 2 page spreads for each poem to be given (either in ebook or print format to match the purchase format) as a thank you to my readers and to boost sales. The 12 total poems are spread throughout the novel, between the chapters. They tell a sublevel story of their own, parallel with the main storyline.
When sixteen-year-old Joel Scrivener has a raging nightmare in study hall and someone records it on their phone, he awakens to a living nightmare where everyone knows he's been sexually assaulted, a fact he's not ready to face. This is a secret he's avoided for ten years, mainly through dissociation and suppression. Reeling from a series of bullying incidents posted on YouTube and an ill-timed mid-year move, Joel takes to the woods, leaving the bullies and his broken home behind.

However, life as a runaway isn’t easy. Joel finds it difficult to navigate break-ins, wrestle hallucinations, and elude capture. He races to figure out who his dream-world attacker could be, piecing clues together with flashes of remembered images that play endlessly inside his head. Besides these images, the one constant thought occupying Joel’s mind is Amber Walker, the girl he’s been in love with for years. Amber sees little beyond the broken boy Joel has become, despite the letters they’ve written back and forth to each other. But Joel is stronger and more resilient than he looks, and it’s time he convinces Amber of this fact, before he runs out of chances with her for good.


The Packing House is about a teen who must choose between protecting his dignity and exposing the person responsible for his debilitating nightmares.



Read an excerpt of the first chapter HERE.

Read a prelude to THE PACKING HOUSE HERE.

Contact me at:

In the comments below, please let me know your thoughts. Would you open to the first page and start reading, or put the book down?