For Those Who Have Lived Through Trauma:

Tell Your Story

Have you ever coped with severe trauma? Would you like to make your story public?

The procedure:

I, Cliff Williams, will record a conversation we have via Google Meet or by telephone. Then I will transcribe it and make it into a readable account, using your words. You will look at the account and approve it or suggest changes. I will not post your story online or include it in a book without your express consent.

Your story:

I want to hear about what led up to your experience of trauma and how you have dealt with life afterwards. You will need thirty or forty minutes to give a relatively full account.

What I will ask you

What led up to your traumatic experience or series of experiences?
How have you dealt with it?
What keeps you going now?

What’s in it for you:

You get the satisfaction of telling your story to someone who will listen attentively and empathetically. You also get the satisfaction of knowing that other people who have experienced severe trauma will know that they are not alone and that those who do not understand what it is like to cope with trauma will come to understand.


You may use your real name for the published story or you may use a pseudonym. If you use a pseudonym, I will not reveal your identity. Identifying information in your story will be left out or changed to protect your identity. You retain the right to approve your story before it is posted online or is published in a book.

What kind of trauma?

Two kinds: those due to a single event and those due to many events or a long-term condition. Here are some examples:

Due to a single event:

Catastrophe—house burned down, stolen identity
Death of a spouse, child, or other loved one
Natural disaster—tornado, hurricane, flood, fire
Physical attack
Sexual assault
Suicide of a parent, child, spouse, or other loved one
Victim of a crime
Victim or witness of a mass shooting
Victim or witness of terrorism
Witness of family or other violence


Becoming homeless
Childhood neglect or bullying
Childhood sexual molestation
Chronic physical sickness or disability
Constant belittlement from parents
COVID trauma
Emotional harm
Forced retirement
Gender-based trauma
In prison for a crime you did not commit
Incest and other sexual abuse
Knowing that one is dying
LGBTQ-based trauma
Life-threatening harm
Living or working in a high-stress environment
Living with a family member who has a mental health or substance abuse  disorder
Marriage or other family violence
Medical trauma
Moral injury
Personal conflict
Racial trauma
Recovering alcoholic or drug addict
Religious mistreatment
Strong, frequent, or prolonged adversity
Suicide attempt
Verbal or emotional abuse
Victim of betrayal
Wartime  trauma

What constitutes trauma?

Various definitions have been given. Here are several:

“Trauma is a term used to describe the challenging emotional consequences that living through a distressing event can have for an individual.”

“Trauma is the response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope, causes feelings of helplessness, diminishes their sense of self and their ability to feel the full range of emotions and experiences.”

“Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.”, page 7. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

“Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world.”

“Trauma results from exposure to an incident or series of events that are emotionally disturbing or life-threatening with lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, and/or spiritual well-being.

See also a summary of the DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria for PTSD at (The National Institute of Health’s and the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s summary of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder’s section on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The page is an official United States Government Web page.)


Write me, Cliff Williams, at, with a one or two-sentence description of the kind of the trauma you have experienced. I will write you back and we will set a time to talk via telephone or video chat.

About Cliff Williams:

I was a college professor for fifty years, 1968–2018. I have done two interview books, each containing autobiographical stories of the persons I interviewed, told in their own words: One More Train to Ride: The Underground World of Modern American Hoboes, published by Indiana University Press in 2003, and Choosing to Live: Stories of Those Who Stepped Away from Suicide, published by Charles C Thomas Publisher in 2017. (On amazon here and here.) These two books together contain close to fifty life stories. My Web page is at

See "The Ups and Downs of Human Experience" for a list of stories I have already posted.


I am also looking for people to interview who have done something unique and meaningful. For information about that, see Have You Done Something Unique and Meaningful?

About Cliff Williams

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