The Many Faces Of Trauma

Kelley Calkins
The Establishment
Published in
9 min readJun 27, 2016

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James Cridland

PTSD is a natural response to trauma, and yet it remains profoundly stigmatized in our society—to the detriment of the millions of us dealing with the disorder.

Most days, I still don’t think that I look much like someone with PTSD. This is an odd thought whenever I interrogate it: I look like myself, my self has PTSD — ipso facto, if A=B, B=C, then A=C — I look like someone with PTSD. But it’s still hard for me to see.

Before the acronym was assigned to me, and sometimes even now, after a few years of conceiving of it as an intrinsic part of me — the P-T-S and Ds coiling around the G-C-T and As of my DNA strands, I’ve imagined — my predominant association was with combat, with Saving Private Ryan. I would think of the scene in The Hurt Locker where the soldier-protagonist stands in a grocery store staring at an endless row of cereal boxes under fluorescent lights, shellshocked, unable to function in a civilian context. I’d think of generic images of withdrawn men, whose rage bubbled under the surface, who lashed out violently at family members who just couldn’t understand them.

My perceptions of PTSD were as flawed as they were limited.

This remains the case for most of our society. “Post-traumatic stress” is a phrase…

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Kelley Calkins
The Establishment

Cofounder + News Director of The Establishment, lover of sea turtles.