How to Create a New Story After Trauma

Gillian May

Photo by Denise Jans on Unsplash

The story began when I was in the fourth grade.

I had moved to a new school which meant the beginning of that insecure and tenuous adventure of making new friends. I pushed through my discomfort of talking to new people by making a comment to a new friend.

My motivation was to encourage and “be nice” as all little girls are taught to do, especially with little boys.

But somehow, he didn’t like my comment. I still don’t remember what I said. What I do remember was the sound of a screeching chair and his hands around my throat. The room went dark, and there was a searing pain up my back as he had bent me over; my throat against the floor, and my butt still in the chair.

Somewhere between the teacher pulling him off of me and my escape through the side door of the school, I had lost my innocence first, then I lost all faith in the world.

I suppose my innocence was always meant to be lost at some point, and I’d like to think I recovered from its violent departure. But my faith in the world? I’m not sure I ever got that back.

So began the story that still weaves itself into almost every dark moment and depression I’ve had since those tender years.

“I am alone.”

“Nothing matters.”

“No one will ever really care.”

How do you start telling yourself a new story once the old ‘you’ gets kidnapped by trauma? How do you rewire your neurons that instantly fire in the direction of “unsafe” with every new or uncertain situation?

Once a story is written on your cells and your bones, it creates a scaffolding with which everything else gets built. All new accounts are influenced and molded accordingly.

The story becomes who you are, and you learn to rely on it like an old blanket. You wrap it around you whenever you need the security of remembering yourself.

But you are not that story either, and as the years go by, you see how it begins to corrode your life and confuse your motivations. You begin to see that the ancient story you relied on, no longer applies.

Instead of providing safety, it keeps you stagnant and dormant. So then, a new story begins to poke at your consciousness and it raises a new question.

“Who are you, really?”

When I began asking this of myself, it marked the beginning of the longest creative journey I’ve ever taken — that is, going inwards to rewrite the script cast upon my nervous system, my muscles, my ligaments, and organs.

“You are not this story,” I’d say to myself over and over in hopes to spark the neuroplasticity I so desperately needed to find myself underneath the rubble.

Was there a “me” I should return to or do I begin anew?

Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay

This is always a debate we’re faced with — whether to stay in our story and risk growth, or go barrelling ahead while we cut ourselves off from the valuable, yet painful, history that remains.

Hence the popular stories I hear from others:

“I prefer to leave the past in the past.”


“You may be done with the past, but the past is not done with you.”

But then, does there have to be a duality? Do we really need to find a tidy story with all the bad parts edited out? And also, who says we need to keep revisiting the same plot lines over and over in order to call ourselves healed?

Our history is what makes us who we are, but it’s not the only thing we have. We are tapestries dripping with unique marks made by our past, present, and future. Perhaps this is all we can do — we take what we have in the present moment, and we begin again.

This is where we take stock of our scars and false selves, but also know that we have a true beating heart that wants to live in fullness, and it has never abandoned us.

Maybe the part of me that lacks faith in the world can be carried along by the part that knows this isn’t true. And perhaps they’ll be long-time partners in each unfamiliar beginning. One can warn me of the dangers while the other sparks movement through the same creative desire that starts life in the first place.

Life doesn’t begin in duality, it begins first with a joining of love. And that joining is an acceptance of everything that is. We are creative beings, always remolding ourselves as our story gets told. With this, there is always a new beginning.

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I'm a former nurse turned freelance writer. I have extensive experience in administration, frontline care, and education in mental health, public health, and geriatrics. However, after 20 years, I needed a change and always wanted to write. I have personal and family experience in mental health and addictions, so I'm passionate about advocacy and education in those areas. I'm also a traveler, photographer, and artist. I funnel all my various expertise into my writing and hope to provide valuable content that is entertaining and educational. Join my email list if you want to read more of my work - I also have a book on Alcoholic Liver Disease coming out in 2021.


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