Day 2: Teens with Trauma

We’re not really sure what all happened with “Dtang”, 18. She is the oldest of four, but with a different father from her younger three siblings. Her mom was at The Well a couple of times over a few years, and did fairly well, always hard-working and teachable. For a while Dtang’s stepfather lived with the family, and although alcoholic and edgy–often sporting a Che Guevara t-shirt, sometimes showed willingness to change. At one point Dtang made an accusation against him, but she later changed her story.

All we knew was that as a young teen Dtang was wild and disobedient, and exasperated her mother, who would sometimes hit her, even in the presence of other adults.

We tried sending Dtang to the Breakthrough ministry that Cori and Jub were doing in the Northeast, but she failed to thrive there as well, getting into fights and sneaking off at night. Finally her mom split from her stepdad, and returned with all four children to their home town. At 15, Dtang “married” another teen boy, and they have been mostly together since, living in her home town.

The biggest problem with childhood trauma is its compounding effect. Trauma makes a child feel unsafe, and without ability to understand or explain herself, she switches priority from attachment to survival. Her behavior then fustrates caregivers, creating additional trauma. The brain’s fear center overdevelops and interferes with rational learning, so school performance is poor. She also then has little if any ability to articulate past harmful events, so getting clear history, especially during the pubescent years when Dtang was with us, can be difficult. Elevated adrenaline and cortisol attack the immune system, causing health problems, and in many cases, eventual autoimmune disease.  Dtang has lupus. The body’s attempts to compensate the overbalance of stress hormones by drug and sexual addiction. It’s not good.

I keep in touch with Dtang on a regular basis, just to keep letting her know I consider her precious.  Sometimes she asks for money, which I limit to putting a couple dollars on her prepaid phone. A couple years ago we made an emergency trip to pray for her when her autoimmune disease was acute, and she has been doing better since, although still very much affected. At 18 Dtang is still extremely underdeveloped emotionally and at high risk for additional trauma. Currently she is with her husband on a construction crew in Pattaya., a place where a lot of bad things happen.

No happy ending yet for this one. While we would love to have interventions that can help turn these precious prodigals around, there seems to be no real cure at that age. We just pray, send our love when we can, and wait.