Books That Matter In Trauma Recovery
Last week I received some exciting news: my trauma memoir, BEFORE THE WORLD INTRUDED, has been chosen as a finalist for the prestigious BOOKS FOR A BETTER LIFE award!
The really cool thing is that I wrote this book while I was enormously emotionally distressed by the effects of trauma, which means that my memoir is being considered for an award because of its honesty and its genuine look at trauma from the inside out — just what we need to educate the world about our struggle, what we need, and what helps us move forward.
I often receive mail from readers and get really excited when they share their opinions of the book after reading it. Recently a reader posted this great review on my Amazon page (if you’ve read the book and want to weigh, please, feel free!):
Very well written and extremely inspiring. Has lots of information and steps used to come up ahead. I feel I am changing my life after reading her book.
All of this has got me thinking about books that mattered to me in my trauma recovery. Last week on air in my discussion with survivor, author and filmmaker, Angela Shelton, I shared about my reading habits during my trauma recovery: I read as many memoirs as possible about people who had overcome trauma. I had an insatiable need to see how they did it and find things I could try that might work for me.
Someone said to me once, “When you don’t have hope you can borrow it from those who do.” I did that often in my recovery and it really helped. Hearing and seeing how others overcame awful challenges helped open my mind to both the possibility that I could do it, and also to ideas about how.
Two of the books that had a huge impact on me – ones that I still today can remember exactly how I felt during and after reading them them were:
THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING, by Joan Didion – Essentially this book is about how to handle grief, which I carried a lot of in the first two and a half decades after my trauma. Didion’s book examines how to deal with grief, from both the research and the personal perspectives. Didion unexpectedly lost her husband when he died as they sat down to dinner in their apartment, at the same time that her daughter was fighting for her life in the ICU. The clarity and bravery of how Didion approached dealing with loss is inspiring, educational and also enlightening. While it’s her personal story the book shares many universally applicable ideas.
MORE, NOW, AGAIN: A Memoir of Addiction, by Elizabeth Wurtzel – At first this may seem like an odd choice for someone who has never done any drugs. (Seriously, I mean, never even took a toke!) I picked up the book just because it was in the memoir section of the library. I didn’t expect to resonate with it, just thought I’d read for the sake of reading. And then I was flattened by the rawness of the writing, the immediacy of the tone and the fact that Wurtzel and I really understood something about life: we both lived for the next five minutes. She was out of control and so was I. While we responded differently to that feeling the anxiety, erratic mood swings and loss of self were incredibly similar. From reading this book I understood that while I wasn’t a drug addict I was a trauma addict. This changed everything about how I approached recovery.
Over and over I see evidence of the truth of my belief, “We don’t heal in isolation; we heal in community.” At a time that you may not feel like personally reaching out books are a terrific way to make a personal connection with someone who understands and experiences things similar to you. Hope is flowing all around you. All you have to do is choose to let it in.
What books have made a difference in your life after trauma?