This paper serves to apply the knowledge learned throughout the course, COUN 502, to the development and growth in my lifespan. I will aim to demonstrate a working knowledge of the theories, terminology, and concepts of human growth and development. I will show how these disciplines apply to my own life experiences and how I did throughout my key life events, through the use of empirical studies.
Although I would like to believe I have led a fairly normal life, perfectly meeting each and every milestone or challenge without hitting any speed bumps. Deep down I know, that I there are various aspects of my life that have caused struggles in my development. Particularly in my early childhood and adolescent years, my struggles went from cognitive and developmental, onto psychological and spiritual. While I will touch on where my life has led me to this point, I will focus on a troubled middle childhood dealing with Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder & compulsive lying. I will follow with my adolescence where I dealt huge spiritual and psychological blows that together with my spirituality shaped who I am today. Middle Childhood
Now knowing that I had Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as a child, I can make much more sense of the different ways I acted out in my elementary years, and why I was constantly viewed negatively by my peers and teachers. Although there has been much study to the connection between drug and alcohol use in pregnancy being a cause of ADHD in children, my mother never had a history of using either. However, there is also ongoing research in regards to ADHD as a result of high prenatal stress. Prior to my conception, my parents had tried unsuccessfully for 10 years to have children. Fortunately, once I was born, my parents gave birth to my sisters very soon after. However, my mother recalls how stressed she was throughout my pregnancy, as she and my father constantly worried about miscarrying and premature delivery. Meanwhile, my mother also worked a full time job she hated, up until the week I was born. Both of these factors contributed to a high stress level that may have led to my ADHD.
“Exposure to prenatal maternal stress is often regarded an important factor underlying several forms of psychopathology, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (Mulder et al., 2002). I was constantly in trouble, for not following in-class reading, because I was typically busy cutting out pictures I liked from my textbooks. Whenever a teacher asked the class a question, I would raise my hand and interrupt with a completely unrelated story about whatever was on my mind. My mother struggled with her grasp of English and came from an under developed country that had a very little understanding of ADHD. She felt hurt and insulted, during parent teacher conferences, by the accusations of my condition and went into denial from what she considered an attack on me. Also, “there is no simple test to identify whether a child has ADHD… Only a trained clinician can make an accurate diagnosis following an extensive evaluation of the child and interviews with parents and teachers” (Feldman, 2014, 285).
So even with her reluctance to have me examined, she was worried that either a doctor could say there was nothing wrong with me, and I was just a weird child, or perhaps worse; I really did have a disorder. It took me until high school years to learn what ADHD was, and that I had gone through a childhood unintentionally alienating myself from many people who did not wish to deal with my lack of focus and my inability to appropriately direct my energy. While I never went through medication or therapy for my ADHD, I often met with school counselors in order to help make my school experiences move more swiftly. Athletically, I was excelling, and as far as school work, I did very well in keeping up. However, my social interactions were hindered by the way I communicated with others. Consequently, in order to preserve fragile peer relationships I often found myself lying about my life in order to fit in, and often times I found myself unable to distinguish some of my own lies.
Due to their executive functioning and processing challenges, people with ADHD can be prone to problematic processing and communication. This often leaves them having questionable authenticity in the eyes of others, and at times, even in how they view themselves. (Bernstein, 2010) As Bernstein (2010) points out, often times people with ADHD “zone out” and miss valuable parts of conversations. This results in them bouncing back, often with a quick lie in order to continue the flow of conversation. These lies occur so quickly in order to fill voids of conversation, and so often, that they can sadly become a habit. Adolescence
Understanding that lying is a sin, I found myself very conflicted moving into my adolescent years. When it seemed that lying to keep up normal appearances seemed to help how others perceived me, and made it very difficult to want to stop myself. My parents always seemed to find a perfect balance in how demanding and responsive they were to me as a child, so I grew up very close to them. Into my teenage years, I grew more and more independent, and rebellious to their words. I reach puberty just as I entered adolescence, at the age of 12, and physical maturation quickly followed behind. Coupled with my few found want of independence, I always found myself hanging out with older boys. As much as I would like to believe I was ready for what I was getting myself into, I was not “socially ready to participate in the kind of –one-on-one dating situations that most girls deal with at a later age” (Feldman, 2014, 354). I did not begin having sex throughout high school.
However, I gave off a very promiscuous appearance, in order to make myself seem more attractive to boys older than me. When I first entered college, just barely 18 years old, my appearance of promiscuity finally got me in trouble. Still, battling a habit of lying resulting from ADHD, I constantly worked to make myself seem more appealing, in order to get attention I thought I did not receive from my peers. “In the medical and scientific literature early sexual development is described as a problem for girls and as a frightening prospect for parents. News media and popular environmentalist accounts amplify these figurations, raising powerful concerns about the sexual predation of early developing girls by men and boys and the loss of childhood innocence” (Roberts, 2013, 134). Neither my parents nor I could have foreseen the problems I would have faced entering college. After gaining many male friends in two months at college, I was sexually attacked. At 18 years old, I became a rape victim. From there, I spun out of control psychologically, and within 3 days I had attempted suicide.
While my world had crumbled down around me, I later came to learn of the staggering statistics surrounding rape: When asked if they ever thought seriously about committing suicide: One-third (33%) of the rape victims and 8% of the non-victims of crime said yes. Rape victims were 4.1 times more likely than non-crime victims to have contemplated suicide. Rape victims were 13 times more likely than non-crime victims to have attempted suicide (13% Vs 1%). (Kilpatrick, 2000) Victims of Rape often turn heavily to substance abuse, a statistic which I had fallen into in the three days leading up to my suicide attempt. According to Kilpatrick (2000), “there was substantial evidence that rape victims had higher rates than non-victims of drug and alcohol consumption and a greater likelihood of having drug and alcohol-related problems.”
Prior to the incident, I had been recovering from bronchial pneumonia, and had used my residual medications in an attempt to overdose. My lack of success, although now a blessing, led to various other side effects and consequences. Paired with the fear of telling people what I had gone through, I was sent home college, only allowed to return if I underwent a year of counseling. Coming home so unexpectedly and soon after matriculation, many rumors spread as to why I came home. Unwilling to respond to the whispers and assumptions, I let people think whatever they’d like, rather than confess what I had undergone. Going through counseling would have required me to tell my parents what had caused my suicide attempt; a secret that to this day, only my husband and closest friends know. Denying therapy, I went through many years of anxiety, PTSD, and depression, as I fell away from what I learned in my Christian upbringing.
Yuan, Koss, & O’Brien (2009) explain that: Rape initiates or exacerbates many other forms of psychological distress, including low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, disordered-eating behaviors, physical symptoms in the absence of existing medical conditions, and severe preoccupations with physical appearances. Lack of treatment contributes to increased risk of suicide attempts. (702) While I only ever faced one suicide attempt, I did develop a low self-esteem, after spending many years trying to build myself up. This was partially due to blaming myself for what had happened to me. I felt that, had I not worked so hard for attention, I never would have been chosen as a victim. And while I had grown up in a Christian home, I never felt so far apart from God. Roelhkepartian, King, Wagener, and Benson (2005) state that for many victims “abuse experiences may lead to despair and anger towards God: ‘What kind of God would let this happen?’” I had grown up understanding the role of pain and suffering as attributed to the Fall of man and human sin, but it had never seemed to apply to me, until this moment. Applying it to my own situation simply left me feeling guilty and deserving of what had happened to me.
I had been sinful with my promiscuity and vanity, and as a consequence, I believed God was punishing me. I never stopped believing in God and Christ as the savior, however, I misunderstood what had happened to me, and felt attack was God showing me I had fallen out of his grace. I had tried to turn towards reading the Bible for some sort of comfort, but in my despair, I was only able to read a condemning message, reminding me of my sins. McMinn (2011) warns many counselors that there is a danger in integrating scripture as a discipline in sessions, because unfortunately the message may be taken out of context, and for patients who are dealing with guilt, scripture may seem condemning. In hind sight, I know what I was going through, but in the moment, I felt all I could do was pray, and hope for relief.
I wish I had had a stronger spiritual development as a child, however, my parents were not necessarily to blame. While I grew up with a father who is not a practicing Christian, my mother was very devout and made sure I grew up going to church at least once a week. The issues was that English is not my mother’s first language. While she had a good enough grasp to get her through nearly all social situations, she felt a closer connection to God in a Spanish speaking church, where she could fully understand God’s message. While I grew up speaking Spanish as a child, Christian concepts were never a part of my Spanish speaking education. While many around me could understand and interpret God’s messages that were being taught and preached, the language barrier, coupled with ADHD, made my comprehension very minimal. This was one of the reasons I feel I never felt as close to God as those around me. While many of my friends felt God’s loving grace and a healing relationship early on, mine came much later, in my early adulthood.
I always knew God’s message, however, I never felt the connection of his word as it applied to my life. To me, it seemed like a great story, with applicable practice, but I felt unable to relate. After the rape, I tried desperately to feel the closeness my mother and other Christian friends talked about. Try as I might, I still felt judged and underserving of God’s love. “Studies show that the various forms of personal and social violence -or ‘intimate violence- – women encounter on a daily basis exert their most profound effects on a woman’s inner life or spirit” (Lanzetta, 2010). I was feeling the effects of the rape in the spiritual and psychological aspects of my life. I often wish over and over that I had never gone through the experience of being raped, but I know that it helped shape how I was finally able to come to the Lord. McMinn (2011) states that Christian counseling is reflective of our relationship with Christ. In both, people must go through a phase of self-sufficiency, where we rely on ourselves to handle the difficult situations in our lives.
Only through self-sufficiency can we come to the understanding of how we fall short and of our own brokenness. In our brokenness we can finally turn to God for confession, forgiveness, and redemption (McMinn, 2011). Two years after the rape, I matriculated into the Virginia Military Institute. I loved the rigid structure VMI offered, and knew that with such strong demands, I could fall right into line and finish my undergraduate education. While VMI offered little time to try to build up a social life, I was able to throw myself back into sports. Through the rugby team I became close with my training coach, an understanding Christian officer, who was studying seminary at Liberty University. Through him, I was able to find someone to turn to for guidance and whenever I needed to speak with someone about the doubts I had in my relationship with Christ. Simultaneously I met my husband, who grew up with Christian parents, and together we were both able to build a loving relationship that brought us both closer to Christ. While my husband Matt had been born again and baptized at an early age, he never judged what I went through, and helped lead me to the decision to give my life up to the Lord. Current Lifestyle Behaviors
Today I am proud to say that I have rededicated my life to Christ and have built a healthy healing relationship with the Lord. I know I have been redeemed and have a new life in my healing relationship with Christ. Although I am now nearly 26 years old, I will always be shaped by my past experiences that have affected my growth and development., Living with ADHD, and having been through the various psychological and spiritual side effects of rape, are huge factors that have led me to pursue a career and calling in Christian counseling. I work every day to grow and develop to make myself better in various aspects. Spiritually, I have tried to focus on remembering God’s grace and love, so I know that even in my errors, God’s forgiveness continues to apply to my life as I try to serve him and his will. I try to integrate God’s message into all aspects of my life because “we argue that those aspects of personality most relevant to spiritual development constantly evolve to incorporate new life experiences” (Roehlkepartion, King, Wagener, Benson, 2011)
I find that the self-determination theory (SDT), applies to my current life. “Self-determination theory, a theory of motivation and personality, proposes that people strive toward structure and coherency between one’s self and one’s experiences” (Roehlkepartion, King, Wagener, Benson, 2011). I continuously aim to balancing my needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence to continue developing myself. I do not currently drink or smoke, as I had dabbled with in my struggles after being raped. I focus on strengthening my body, physically, knowing that my body is a temple of God. I have always been an active participant in sports, but now I work out for my health, focusing on weight training and long distance running. Exercise increases cardiovascular fitness, meaning that the heart and circulatory system operate more efficiently. Furthermore, lung capacity increases, raising endurance… Exercise may also decrease stress and anxiety and reduce depression. It can provide people with a sense of control over their bodies. (Feldman, 2014, 420)
Cardiovascular health is important for me to monitor, with a family history of heart disease; the benefits of exercise as valuable in this aspect. In regards to the psychological effects exercise can have, I know that despite my relationship with Christ I still have harsh memories about the rape experience that sometimes leave me with anxiety. Exercises, specifically cardio, help alleviate a lot of the stress and anxiety that surfaces with those painful memories. I believe nutrition goes side by side with the importance of exercise. I constantly monitor my red meat intake to control my iron deficiency, and I work taking in as much calcium as possible, as it can help prevent osteoporosis (Feldman, 2014). Exercise and nutrition, coupled with continuous spiritual growth, are the greatest behavioral trends I focus on in helping create a great aging process for myself. Conclusion
My life is reflective of many developmental, social, spiritual and psychological issues that many people deal with every day. ADHD is often indistinguishable from high levels of activity in children and creates difficulty in finishing tasks, following instructions and organizing work (Feldman, 2014). There is also an unfortunate connection between ADHD and lying in childhood. An unhealthy pattern of lying led to a slow separation from Christ, and brought promiscuity into my life. Although I am not to blame, promiscuous behavior may have played a role in what led to my rape experience. The rape resulted in my search for self-sufficiency, and led to my discovery of my brokenness and turn towards Christ for forgiveness and redemption. Today I work towards creating a physically healthy life that can be reflective of my spiritual and psychological growth. Together, these developments can help lead to a better aging process in my future.
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McMinn, M. R. (2011). Psychology, theology, and spirituality in Christian counseling (Rev. ed.). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House. ISBN: 9780842352529. Mulder, E.J., Robles de Medina, P.G., Huizink, A.C., Van den Bergh, B.R., Buitelaar, J.K., Visser, A.H. (2002). “Prenatal maternal stress: effects of pregnancy and the (unborn) child”. Early Human