What No One Tells You About Trauma

By Claire BiggsJune 25, 2015

These are the things no one tells you about trauma:

You become someone who has a before and after. You become someone who has been unmistakably altered.

You become fluent in a different kind of dead language, one that you picked up somewhere you didn’t mean to go. It replaces your mother tongue. It falls on deaf ears. The syllables collapse and die in your mouth, a beginning and an ending wrapped in one. You learn that words have a taste, and they taste like shame and regret and guilt and anger. All of them are bitter. I am lucky – yes, lucky – to have several friends who speak this same dead language. We found each other and now hold meetings where we utter truths that sound like curses.

You become a foreigner in your own body. A visitor. On your worst days, a hostage. And, of course, you’re always the one paying the ransom.

You become someone who believes healing is a word that doesn’t apply to you.

You become someone who makes 360-degree turns to ensure you’re not being followed or that the person behind you hasn’t closed the distance between the two of you since the last time you looked back.

You become someone who locks every door and checks that they’re locked every time you walk by.

You become someone who sits with your back against the wall in full view of the exit.

You become someone who panics at the loud noise or the familiar scent.

You become someone who worries when to be on guard. (But that’s an easy question when the answer is always.)

You become someone who leaves your back row of seats down so you’ll see if anyone is hiding in your car before you unlock it.

You become someone who makes jokes to excuse these behaviors.

You become someone who doesn’t find that stuff funny anymore.

These are the things no one understands about trauma:

It is not something you can just move past, but you try anyway. You try to get over and under and around and through. It seems to block your way forward at every turn. But you keep trying because there’s no such thing as going back.

It is not something that has a reset button. There is no do over. And, worst of all, there’s no off switch. It just settles in your chest and threatens to rise in your throat with every breath.

It is not something easily defeated. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re playing a game where the odds are stacked against you and where the rules were never explained.

It is not something that let’s you pretend you’re all better now.

These are the things I’ve learned about trauma:

You can build a new after, one you choose for yourself.

You can heal at your own pace, in your own time.

You can find people who will help you along the way.

You can choose what – and who – you become.

You can forgive without forgetting.

You can learn to laugh and love and live again.

You can make it through the unbearable nights and the muted days.

You can move forward even if you don’t like what you’re carrying with you.

You can move forward even if you don’t like what you’re leaving behind.

You can move forward.

If you are struggling with PTSD, please visit our FIND HELP page for helplines and resources near you. 

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Comments (56)

  1. Michelle

    Thank you so much for this. Speaking from experience I agree with all of it. I have been dealing with PTSD for for years now. It does get better but out of nowhere it can get bad again. It takes everything I have not to break down again. I just have to remember that I’m not alone and there is hope. I have friends who are there for me and friends that I would do anything for. So thanks again.

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    1. Claire Biggs

      Thank you for your kind comment, Michelle. You are definitely not alone in how you’re feeling, and I’m so glad you have friends who are able to support you on the bad days.

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  2. Karen

    Beautiful and inspiring. This helped me a ton just by reading it. Thank you.

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      You’re welcome, Karen! I’m so glad to hear that.

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  3. Maggie

    This brought tears to my eyes. I have ptsd for rape that occurred when I was a child. I am just now ten years later dealing with it. Thank you for this writing to show me I am not alone and that there’s hope. I have done all the things mentioned at the beginning and have felt so crazy and alone. Thank you thank you.

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  4. chloe

    Thank you for writing this. And for sharing it. I have lost count of the times I’ve been asked if I’m over my traumas yet. And how many times I’ve tried to do that before admitting that you can’t get over it but instead learn to live with it and all of the symptoms and behaviours that come from living with ptsd. I’m 8 and 3.5 years respectively post trauma and the most wonderful thing I’ve learned is that it is possible to survive despite many demons that try to convince me otherwise!

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  5. nkoyo

    Hi, i’m a Nigerian and i saw the movie TWLOHA. I fell in love with it and i want to do something to help people in Africa especially Nigeria, people who are suffering depression and addiction. I don’t know if you have a program in any African country. I will really love to hear from the team and help in any way i can……<3

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      Hi Nkoyo, Thanks for your comment! Please email us at [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you!

      Reply  |  
  6. Rachel

    I actually really needed to read this right now. Thank you!

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      You’re welcome!

      Reply  |  
  7. Thomas N. Dikel, Ph.D.

    Don’t know that I’ve ever seen it put better and I’ve been studying and treating it for over 20 years, and living with it for longer than that. Thanks.

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      That means a lot to me! Thank you so much for the comment.

      Reply  |  
  8. Tina-Marie

    I felt like myself was written on this post. It’s exactly how you feel when you have been abused, attacked etc. I suffer from abuse and addiction and it’s something I deal with everyday. I am coming up on 18 months clean. I still jump and my heart pounds when a man is walking towards me fast or seems suspicious. It will never go away, but I can’t let numbing myself with drugs tale over my life.. I just watched the movie and I cried because it’s all so true what we struggle with. Thank you for doing all you do.. ❤

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  9. Amanda

    Thank you. Your powerful words are so much more than just mere words. They are reassurance, they are honesty, they are truth, they are understanding, and they are hope. Thank you.

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  10. jason

    Everything I am you wrote ….p.t.s.d. From childhood rape….31 years later I’m still cursed. Moments like this keep my head above water. Thank you……Jason

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  11. Shannon

    Ive read almost every blog and I have to say this one was perfect. Its a struggle living every day with the anxiety and its true – most people dont understand. Thanks for this! xo

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  12. Anonymous

    It makes everyone hate you because you’re sad all the time, or you’re angry so you’re shitty to everyone, or you’re exhausted and don’t want to do anything with anyone because being in bed is all you have energy for, and then one day you look around and you’re totally and completely alone, and you want help but there isn’t help because you don’t have insurance and the crisis center has a 8 month waiting list, and you have no money to feed yourself let alone pay a sliding scale fee at a therapist because you can barely work because you’re so broken, and you’re trapped inside your head all the time and have no idea how to get out, and this hell has somehow become your life and there’s literally no way out.

    I think there’s some people who are broken beyond any help or repair and I think I’m one of those people.

    I wish I could believe in the last part of the blog, that there is healing. I wish I knew people like me. I wish so many things.

    Thank you for writing this. You’re very brave.

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    1. AmberEyedBella

      There is hope, I can tell you this myself. It forever changes you. I can tell you that as a mother, seeing my 10 and 7 year old sweet, innocent children go through hell day after day after sexual and physical abuse is just about the lowest I ever hit in my life, and I have had some hard blows. Do you have access to victims funding for what you are going through? I know what it feels like to be alone, I had to turn in a family member and lost almost everyone who had drilled it in my head my whole life that blood is what you stand by. My children and I have been shamed for the abuse they endured. I’m here if you need me. I might be able to direct you in the right direction.

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    2. anonymous

      I understand ♡

      Reply  |  
  13. G.

    This describes all of my thoughts and feelings that I can’t convey. As I write this comment I just jumped because the ice maker made a sound. I’ve been an insomniac for as long as I remember. No, melatonin is going to help me sleep when I’m still on guard waiting for a visitor I never asked for. No my children can’t go your sleepover invite because then I can’t make sure nothing happens to them while sleeping. Yes I double and triple check to make sure the doors are locked. Yes I taught my kids to know what private parts are and no one should ever ask to see theirs or want you show yours. Trauma brings a type of fear that you hope no one ever has to feel.

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  14. Carey

    This is the first thing I have read that makes sense to the way I feel. Thanks

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  15. Keith Clarke

    Hi Claire,

    Very vivid hard-hitting post, and not something everyone understands. There is such a pressure on people to get over something, rather than finding a way to help people through something. It takes a lot of strength to keep going and I admire those that do.

    Your opening line was great, it reminds me of a something Denzel Washington’s character says in the film Fallen:

    ” There are moments which mark your life. Moments when you realize nothing will ever be the same and time is divided into two parts, before this, and after this… Sometimes you can feel such a moment coming. That’s the test, or so I tell myself. I tell myself that at times like that, strong people keep moving forward anyway, no matter what they’re going to find.”

    Great posts. I’ll be sharing on Twitter 🙂

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      Thank you so much for your kind comment, Keith!

      Reply  |  
  16. Jenny

    This is one of the most comforting things I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s so wonderful to find that I’m not alone in the things that I’m feeling. Thank you

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  17. Amanda Marie

    This is hands down one of the best blogs ice read from twloha. It resonates with me in a deep, very real way. I grew up in an abuse household, suffered from anxiety from the time I was a child, depression and self harm at age 11, and nine of that touches the deep, almost insurmountable depression that hit me after my sexual assault as a Virginia at the age of 22. I attempted suicide and spent 10 days in the hospital. That was almost five years ago and it wasn’t until last year that I was able to find me new life, new world, new perspective on everything I went through. I was able to forgive those that hurt me in irreparable ways. Thank you for writing this.

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  18. Jes

    This is written perfectly. I’m 21 and I’ve been suffering from PTSD for 4 years and this has been what I’ve wanted to say and never could find the words! Eloquently written.

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  19. steve


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  20. wes

    As someone who is 5 years out from a critical injury, this article is still poignant and resonates deep within. I appreciate the insight and understanding that seems as such a rarity in most circles. I Concur that you must move forward and persistence and determination are the best Ethos post trauma.

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  21. Brittany Summers

    This really spoke to me and validated my feelings I’d experience whenever I think back (which is a lot). This is a wonderful piece of writing and it out into words things I couldn’t voice enforce. Thank you!

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      Thank you so much for your kind comment, Brittany!

      Reply  |  
  22. Carissa

    Thank you. I struggled from PTSD and had been having some major triggers in the last week. I came across this and it was a great grounding reminder. It reminded me that there are many people who struggle with anxiety. And that we are in this together….facing forward, holding hands, fighting for a calmer future for us all….eyes strained looking for the break of day….we will find it.

    Reply  |  
    1. Gina Escalera

      So true, I hate walking through the f;;;;; fog. there is no explanation you can be sure people accept.I hate the pretending ” I’m all better now “. I have no more pretending left…

      Reply  |  
  23. Megan

    “You become someone who believes healing is a word that doesn’t apply to you.”

    Me right now. I was raped 6 years ago. I’m not doing very well with dealing with it.

    Thank you for writing this. ❤️

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      Hi Megan,

      Thank you so much for your comment. I hope it goes without saying, but I’m so sorry to hear about what happened to you. I know it might seem, like I wrote, that recovery and healing are things that aren’t meant for you, but that’s not the case. If you need some encouragement, please email our team at [email protected]. We’d love to help reassure you that better days are ahead.

      Reply  |  
  24. Atheena

    Thus is so true and the anxiety you feel is real. It’s hard to explain to someone who had never walked a similar path

    Reply  |  
  25. Allison

    Thank you for this. It made me cry, bringing back memories of her suicide attempt and the coma and not sleeping or eating or being able to breathe. It brought back memories of the color of her eyes when she opened them for the first time. The hot tears that poured silently because she couldn’t make any noise past the tubes down her throat. It brought back memories of two months later when her throat closed from a complication of her life support and her lung collapsed and she had a panic attack and went into cardiac arrest. It brought back a painfully vivid image of the doctor’s horrified face when she walked in and saw her convulsing on the hospital bed. The screeching sounds of the vitals machines telling us she was dying. The countless hours in the ICU, the sleeplessness, the panic attacks.
    It has been almost seven months since the suicide attempt. She has a massive scar on her neck from the trach tube so she could breathe, and even more scars from the surgery. She is so beautiful. She is the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.
    I am trying to move forward but sometimes I still can’t breathe. I almost lost the love of my life twice, two months apart to the day.
    Thank you for reminding me that I’m not suffering alone.
    Sometimes it feels like I am. It always helps to be reminded that I’m not.

    Reply  |  
  26. Ashley

    I have always loved coming to twloha, everyone gets me, and I have learned I am not broken beyond repair. That I can get thru this because others are on the same path. This post answered a long “unanswered” prayer. I have seen the before and after and am learning to accept and move thru the trauma thinking it is like a broken bone, healed back to the state it was before where no one can tell it was broken. I am coming to understand and accept that this is different something you carry with you, a part of me I don’t want and try so hard to overcome and yet fail short of the mark. So thank you for putting is plainly for me to see it’s ok, healing will come and that even though it is a scar in my life I am more than that scar.

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  27. Samantha Goodman

    Hi, I’m Sam. A friend recently told me about TWLOHA while at a music festival. I stumbled across your blog while exploring the site and just wanted to comment. I was in a head on car accident weeks before graduating high school, and then another 6 months later. Both of which I was the driver. Neither of which were my fault. While I just graduated from college, I still struggle with these traumas and with finding others who understand, mainly because I hate talking about it. It hurts, and often comes in waves, but I just keep telling myself to move past it. Your post reminded me that there is no timeline to my processing. However I choice to process what I’ve been through is fine, and then I am not flawed by this. So, thank you.

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  28. amansa

    This was right on time for me this evening. I still don’t know where I will lie my head tonight but I kno that my saughters warm.
    God Bless us one & all

    Reply  |  
  29. Frank Larkin

    Thanks for this excellent post. It’s good to read such understanding and compassionate words.

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      Thanks for your kind words, Frank!

      Reply  |  
  30. Jessica

    These simple words have so much meaning to me and remind me of where I was and how far I have came. With tears in my eyes and that lump in my throat I thank you for writing these words, its so crazy to know that others do and feel the exact same way that I do. That I am not alone.

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      That’s so great to hear, Jessica! Thank you so much for reading it.

      Reply  |  
  31. Shawnie James

    I just happened across this & it stopped me dead when I started reading everything faster and faster – it was EVERYTHING I go thru everyday/night, right here, written by another.
    I sing a song I made up “360 degrees of Fear” all the time in my head, about always being aware of everything around me….I never knew I had PTSD..till this….I can’t believe I lived this long with feeling absolutely everything written & just was used to it as my new normal.
    I buried everything from the age of five till my dad died in 2011, then the nightmares started, except I was reliving every moment I had thought was in a vault forever, and I think that every time I’ve come thru and am over it, a trigger sets of another memory, like you said – certain smells, certain colors now for me, randomly come across and open the door to Hell. I throw more walls up but I’m pretty bad at building them now. I think it’s all because my Dad was the person I most wanted, Needed to Protect from the truth for many reasons because I loved him so much and the idea of causing him pain, or my fear too, he wouldn’t love me as much as before if he knew.
    That is why I think I’m going thru this now and since 2011 when he was gone. The reason to keep the walls perfectly in place was gone & in a horrible, painful, unbearable to watch ending for my best friend, my sweet Dad.
    I’m glad I know what I’m going thru, the way I’ve felt has a name, and I’m clearly not alone. I speak dead languages too.
    God Bless All of You,
    Shawnie James

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  32. Brianne

    Thank you for writing this, its beautiful!

    Reply  |  
  33. Gabby

    Very well said. What changed in me the most is having a great fear of being alone yet having a desperate need for solitude and the solitary experience I once had. It has become a daily tug of war for me.

    Reply  |  
  34. Tiffany

    I can definitely relate to this. Thank you for writing this! <3

    Reply  |  
  35. Noelle

    Thank you for writing this. Thank you for understanding what it’s like. It makes me sad that so many other people have gone through these things too, but it is a comfort to know I’m not alone.

    Reply  |  
  36. Patty

    There is no before PTSD for me. I grew up in a horribly abusive environment. But, I am hoping for the same things. ..for healing in my own time and for becoming the person I was meant to be.

    Reply  |  
    1. e

      I am the same…I did not know I had grown up with ptsd until my early 20’s, when I was finally away, safe, able to reflect and then had a nervous breakdown. I have lived with it for years since, struggling increasingly to manage to function at all. I tried to seek help but all waiting lists were full, and I was told my needs were too great to qualify for available services! a year ago I finally got some help – I was at breaking point. Please know there is hope… I still have a way to go, but if you told me about the positive changes I was slowly managing to make a year ago – I wouldn’t have believed you. I still can’t believe it, it still feels so shakey and fragile, but I am starting to re build me. To learn how to have self esteem and to have moments, where I don’t feel so damaged. I still do many of the things above – jump at noise, check locks,have Flash backs etc – but less frequently, and I can cope with them better now – and it takes less energy to try to keep them at bay. Please know there is a before and after…. Before when ptsd still rules, and after, which is the future, where with help it is still there, but life feels more doable, more hopeful, more relaxed. I’m sure I will have triggers which give me harder times again, but I am able to be kind to myself now, in a way I never thought possible.

      Reply  |  
  37. Cathryne Raffaele

    Thank you so much for this. This is the best thing I’ve ever read in my life. I want to was this over and over again to tell myself that I’m not alone and that I’m going to be okay. Thank you so much.

    Reply  |  
  38. Pingback: What No One Tells You About Trauma « TWLOHA | My Brain Hates Me

  39. Tovah Means

    Perfectly articulated, thank you Claire!

    Reply  |  
  40. beth Bluepaint

    This explanes just how I am feeling, after someone invaded my body. I can not even face the man I love with my whole heart. Not sure at times if I can live with myself….

    Reply  |  
  41. Norma Blondin

    Inspiring & uplifting! I need help!

    Reply  |  
  42. Danny Boy

    Severe Trauma is like an internal straitjacket (immobility) that leaves you ripe for more and more retraumatization every single day; and for decades. Towards the end (after multiple decades) it’s like being shocked to death in an electric chair with your insides melting like candlewax. The worst part is that no one knows and no one cares – you lose everybody. You can’t get better within our current framework, our collectivist paradigm. People attack you viciously if you try to *escape (*which means to live in alignment with reality). Trauma is actually kept in place by other dysfunctional people (most people). There’s virtually no escape in this artificial, fiat system (due to the mixed economy, or statism – all state involvement in the economy). My advice for people with severe trauma, get the book Waking the Tiger, understand that reality exists independent of your mind, and (if you still have energy left) be prepared to do whatever it takes to tow the line between the dysfunctional/cult-like masses and reality as-it-is. Create your own existence.

    Reply  |  
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