What’s Your ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) Score?
Take the Quiz
- On a cool evening in March, did your father stumble across the foyer, grab your mother by her neck, spray her face with hot spit and laugh while she struggled to breathe? Yes/No
- Did you later find your mother in a dark closet, praying behind the laundry basket, and when you tried to touch her cheek, did she bite your hand with rage and leave a horseshoe-shaped scar, jagged with teeth marks, that you see now every time you reach for something: your car keys, a lover, the stars? Yes/No
- Did you dream one night that you were in stuck in a rain storm, a hot deluge of water bullets, sharp and pounding against your skin, only to realize that you weren’t dreaming at all, but that your drunk father had staggered into your bedroom and peed on you? Yes/No
- Did your older cousin pull you down the cement stairs into your uncle’s basement, slip his fingers into your panties and tell you that you liked it, you little whore? Yes/No
- Did your classmates crack jokes about your slimy hair, the stench of your clothes, the fact that your lunch box had only boiled eggs and Club crackers? Yes/No
- Did your father catch you stealing cigarettes from his suit pocket and decide you’d never amount to anything? Did he speak to you through the whip of his brass belt buckle, because that’s the only language you’ll ever understand? Yes/No
- Were you put on “bruise watch” at school? Yes/No
- Did your brother talk like a lover to his veins while he pumped them full of dragon rock? Did you find him sprawled out on the bathroom floor, blue as the sea, cold as arctic wind? Yes/No
- Did your mother wake you before dawn, press her pale finger to your lips, slip you into the backseat of a car, drive for miles with the headlights off, dye your hair in a gas station bathroom on the outskirts of Frisco, change your name to Lisa and tell you that Darleen, the girl you thought you were back in Dallas, is dead? Yes/No
- Did you often wonder what it felt like to be loved? Yes/No
Results: Give yourself one point for every “Yes.”
Your ACE score is 10.
Toxic stress from your childhood has altered your brain development, hindered your ability to focus, make decisions, learn. Your relationships are not healthy or stable; you struggle with finances, job stability, substance abuse. The likelihood that you will develop chronic pulmonary lung disease is 390 percent higher than your counterparts with ACE scores below 4; hepatitis, 240 percent; depression, 460 percent; alcoholism, 700 percent; attempted suicide, 1220 percent.
What’s Your PCE (Positive Childhood Experience) Score?
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- Were you left at your grandmother’s house for weeks? Did she pull you into her arms, sing silver-spun lullabies and softly kiss your cheeks? Yes/No If yes, deduct 1
- On sun-soaked summer afternoons, did you and your best friend, Jade, canoe across the glassy waters of Aquia Creek, finger the yellow lily pads pushing above the mud-brown surface, watch the sky until darkness fell and a white moon hung bright? When Jade said, “once upon a time…” did you fill in the blank with stories full of hope and triumph, sparkle and bliss? Yes/No If yes, deduct 1
- Did your 8th grade teacher hand you a copy of Catcher in the Rye one day, Lord of the Flies the next? Did you stay up reading night after night, and writing furiously in your rainbow journal with the matching unicorn pen? Yes/No If yes, deduct 1
- Did you bravely take a creative writing elective? Did the teacher pull you aside, the crisp pages of your short story in hand, and describe your extraordinary lyricism, your powerful voice, the way you make words sing? Yes/No If yes, deduct 1
- Did you visit a famous tattoo artist in Miami and did she turn that scar on your hand, the one with the jagged teeth marks, into a double-sided helix? Do you see it now in everything: galaxies and weather patterns, seahorses and sunflowers, the horns of antelopes and sheep, your own finger prints, the DNA of every living thing? Yes/No If yes, deduct 1
- Do you often visit Gravelly Point Park, lay on the grass and look up at the roaring sky where jetliners fly so low you think you can touch them? Yes/No If yes, deduct 1
- Have you always felt a kinship with trees, the language of their sway, the sound that bird wings make when they launch from blooming branches in spring? Yes/No If yes, deduct 1
- Is your lover standing beside you right now, warm fingers laced with yours, watching the green tentacles of the Northern Lights whip and whirl across an Alaskan sky? Have you decided that beauty, alone, is a reason to live? Yes/No If yes, deduct 1
Results: Your ACE score is now 2.
Trauma changes the brain; healing changes it too.
Jamy Bond’s stories and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Barren Magazine, The Forge, Janus Literary, Wigleaf, XRAY, The Sun and The Rumpus. Her work has been awarded a Fulbright grant and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She earned an MFA from George Mason University where she co-founded the literary journal, So To Speak. She lives in Washington, DC and is working on a novel about intergenerational trauma and aging.