What Is … Trauma?

(There are no teams for either host, as far as I know. Also, I feel like I should choose a Jewish woman versus a wealthy white guy but what can I say?)

Anyway, Jeopardy is my analogy for life today. I feel like my life has been a bit like Jeopardy for a while now. There are a lot of clever but vague hints floating around that contain the answers I so desperately want. If only I knew what questions to ask. But I don’t. And I feel stuck.

There are things we need to know and do to survive. (See Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.) And the simplest answer is usually the right one. (See Occam’s razor.) But thanks to my own mind, I keep coming up with my own hypotheses and, before I know it, I’m testing them in ways that are not good for me. Lately the results have — please forgive me — sucked rotten donkey balls. And I have no one to blame but me.

In this stuck state of mind, I do a lot of Googling, reading, listening, watching, taking notes. I’m hoping to see the fact, the data, the example, that explains *exactly* what’s happening and what I should do. If I can find that, then it’s just a matter of finding a remedy, a cure, a defense, some peace. Finally.

I read blog post, after memoir, after mental health article, after self help book. I read accounts of humans who, just like me, have a moment where things don’t seem right but we don’t really know why. So we start a journey to find out who we are and what we need.

But then something happens and the trail goes cold for me. This journey suddenly takes a sharp left to go through a door called “trauma.” As in “you suffered this traumatic event in the past that explains the struggle you’re facing now.” That’s not true for me. I don’t need to follow that journey. I was not abused, abandoned, driven to addiction, or undiagnosed for a mental illness. And for that I am grateful. Kind of.

Without “trauma,” there’s no “X” that marks the spot, explaining my suffering, my choices, my circumstances. There’s also no precedent, prescription, or prognosis. I’ve somehow circled back around to the beginning, starting over.

I can honestly say I know I am extremely fortunate not to have suffered a traumatic event. I am not saying I want a traumatic event to show up so I can blame all of my problems on it.

I’m saying I want an answer, too. I want to know what, if anything, explains who I am and the choices I make. But I suspect the answer is a trick question, to which I may look back on someday, finally understanding.



Writing about what happens when I face my fears. Mom, wife, meditator, therapy goer, sports player, dog lover. I only ever wanted to write.

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