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Telling the Whole Truth in "After Trauma"

Personal Perspective: For me, "After Trauma" was a coming home.

Key points

  • Trauma separates by design.
  • The place of trauma can be where we come back to our past self and re-emerge.
  • Sometimes the truth is hard to hear and hard to say.

About a month ago, my second book, After Trauma, made its way into the world. It had been 17 months since I signed the ever-improbable book deal, 12 years since I self-published my first book, and 17 years since my first day as a 16-year-old volunteer firefighter.

My first book, Where Hope Lives, was a book I wrote so I could find some finality to the events inside of it. I believed then, and believe even more so now, that the truth matters, and I hadn’t been able to tell mine for so long. I needed to tell it in a way that was permanent. Where Hope Lives brought me so much freedom.

After it was published, some people saw that book and the truth I told inside of it as an act of antagonism, when in reality it was an act of survival. Self-publishing it was what I needed to do for that story. I needed to see it through with my own two hands from beginning to end to new beginning. I was just 21 years old when Where Hope Lives came into the world, and while that wrapped up one part of the story, I was not quite into my “after” yet. When I published that book I didn’t know that my time with the trauma was not over. I did not know that I had an injury in my brain called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and I had no idea how much work was ahead of me.

After Where Hope Lives was published, I spent some time wishing I could exist in a world separate from my story. I spent time trying to temper people’s responses to it. I spent a lot of time finding the words I wanted to use moving forward, and after a decade of that practice, I don’t know how to not tell the full truth. It took me 12 years between the books to find the words to tell more of my story and be brave enough to put those into print. After Trauma is that documented evolution. I made my truth visible so, hopefully, you can see some of yourself in it.

“Trauma separates by design," I wrote in After Trauma. "It leaves us divided into our before and after—a split that demands to be noticed…I also learned that the place of trauma, the literal or figurative place of that disconnection, can be the place where we come back to our past selves and re-emerge. It can be the new foundation we stand on. A reconciliation. A rebirth. We can come home to ourselves and find our Afters. I did, eventually.” For me, After Trauma was a coming home. The book contains my truth as well as the stories of other survivors I interviewed. It is my deepest hope that this story will keep you company as you walk to your own “after.”