You Are Not Alone: Invisible Pain and Universal Trauma

The truth is that trauma affects all of us to some extent or another. It can be sourced from a variety of places, including our upbringing and family environment, the experiences we’ve had in life, and even societal pressures and expectations.

Despite its prevalence in our lives, trauma often remains invisible. We keep it tucked away because, as people, we want to protect ourselves from hurtful memories and difficult emotions. It’s natural. The unfortunate result of this behavior is that when suffering from something so much bigger than ourselves, we become isolated; not knowing who to turn to for help. But never forget: you are not alone!

In this blog post, we will explore the universal aspects of trauma and how together we can make sense of the pain. This post will examine some common sources of trauma and the difficulties that arise in our minds.

What is Trauma? What are the Different Types of Trauma?

Trauma is an emotional response to a distressing event or experience. which can be either short-lived or long-lasting.

“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.” –

We all have normal levels of stress in our day-to-day lives, but trauma is different. Trauma is caused by an event or circumstance that produces extreme stress. It is a deeply personal experience and can affect people in varying ways. It goes beyond normal levels of stress to impact someone long-term.

While there are different types of trauma, two major categories include acute trauma and chronic trauma. Acute trauma is the response to a single distressing event, such as a car accident or a natural disaster, while chronic trauma involves ongoing or repetitive events, such as domestic abuse or chronic illness. Understanding the different types of trauma can help those who have experienced trauma or are supporting someone who has experienced trauma identify the best way to move forward in their healing process.

We usually think of trauma as a reaction to one explosive event, which is common. However, stress can wear on us over time and cause trauma differently. The accumulation of small traumas can be just as life-altering and difficult as one major traumatic event.

With this in mind, we can see that all of us have trauma. It may not rise to the level of witnessing a plane crash, but we all have exposure to traumatic events in life. By identifying these, we can help ourselves recognize and respond to trauma to aid the recovery process.


The effects of violence cannot be overstated. Witnessing or experiencing violence can leave a lasting trauma on an individual that may require therapy or counseling to overcome.

The unfortunate reality is that we’re exposed to violence daily. Some of us experience it directly. Some bear witness to terrible things. We all see it on social media and the news. In America in particular, we are inundated with reports of shootings, car accidents, and poverty every single day. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get used to.

Repeated exposure to violence numbs us to its effects in our conscious mind, but being surrounded by it wears us down and creates a psychological toll on our minds. Witnessing the suffering of others is difficult for us; we are social creatures, and our brains mirror the pain of others.

We feel compelled to help, yet often we can’t. So we have to bury it down and ignore it, which creates further problems and exacerbates our trauma.


In a fast-paced world, it’s difficult to take care of our health. Our health can be in a precarious position, though. A sudden injury or diagnosis can change one’s quality of life. Easy things become hard; things that seemed hopeful now feel less. Losing our health is losing a sense of security in our abilities.

It’s never easy to be sick, but there are also a lot of cultural influences that discourage us from prioritizing our health. People are praised for never taking a day off and working when they’re sick. Health issues are often perceived as a sign of weakness. These cultural influences often cause us to deprioritize our health and avoid thinking about it.

This problem is only exacerbated when health issues are chronic. Chronic health issues wear down your mental health and energy levels.

“Scholars have long known that people who live with chronic illness are at a greater risk of experiencing PTSD-like symptoms. However, the trigger for these symptoms is not a one-time event that occurred in the past; rather, chronic disease is an ongoing threat to safety.” –Katie Willard Virant for Psychology Today

Chronic health issues can have a lasting impact on an individual’s quality of life, ranging from physical complications to emotional distress. This level of stress creates trauma that’s not one dramatic event, but an unending chain of smaller traumas. Recognizing that trauma takes multiple forms is key to understanding it.


Death is undoubtedly one of the most difficult things that humans have to deal with. We all lose people we care about, and it’s always difficult. There’s no way around that. Every death of a loved one is traumatic, and it’s always going to take time to heal.

Death is a natural and inevitable part of life, but that doesn’t make it easy to accept. Love makes the loss that much greater. Dealing with death can take a toll on our mental and physical health, as well as create feelings of guilt or regret.

Grief has its timeline; some people may grieve for months while others never fully overcome their loss. No two experiences are the same, but understanding the stages of grief can help us navigate through the pain and find peace.

Unfortunately, like with violence, we are also exposed to death frequently through social media and the news. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated how quickly we could all get used to death being all around us while living our normal lives.

This doesn’t mean these deaths don’t weigh on us; quite the opposite. We as a society have not found the space to grieve or reflect on this, because of our emphasis on moving on and continuing to be productive. There’s no shame in not being okay with this. It’s okay to have a hard time with the death around us. It’s human.


Accidents are sudden, unexpected, and potentially disastrous. Millions of Americans drive every day as their primary form of transportation, and as such, car accidents are common. These might not seem as dramatic as death or violence, but trauma isn’t just about the severity of the event.

“When asked if trauma has ever been experienced, many don’t consider the car accident they were in 5 years ago to be traumatic. This is because people occasionally assume trauma has to be something as significant as a death of a loved one or a natural disaster, but trauma is anything that is “deeply distressing or disturbing,” and that looks different for each individual.” –Dominique Apollon for The Anxiety and Depression Association of America

A car accident, even if minor, brings up a lot of traumatic ideas. It brings up the threat of violence and death, injury, or health crisis. It feels like a loss of control. It can be difficult to get back in a car again afterward. Just because an event isn’t earth-shattering doesn’t mean that it can’t be traumatic. Even witnessing an accident can be traumatic.

Trauma is about disruption; a car crash or workplace accident may be small in the grand scheme of things but also represent a major life disruption that will take time to work through and recover from. We all have trauma, and it’s important to recognize that the world around us can have traumatic effects because of the way it’s structured. Be kind to yourself.

Major Disasters

Major disasters leave behind a trail of immense trauma and life-altering consequences. All of the above categories can be found within this. This is an event that is so traumatic that it affects an entire population. Earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, and other natural disasters are one category. These all produce a great deal of destruction that we cannot control. This loss of control itself is very traumatic, even before the rest of the complications from our emotional response.

We’re unfortunately at a time in history when these things are more common than they have been before. Large-scale weather events are becoming more common, a global pandemic has emerged, and we’re constantly exposed to the entire world’s suffering through media. News and social media drag us through these events repeatedly, re-exposing and reifying the trauma in our minds.

Major disasters can even rewrite social behavior and boundaries, which requires even more adjustment on our part. The COVID-19 pandemic radically changed how we interacted with each other, emphasizing online interaction when possible and preventing many of us from accessing our traditional support networks. This makes the effects of disaster even more pronounced. Navigating a new social landscape is, itself, very stressful, compounding the effects of trauma.

When dealing with large-scale collective trauma, it’s okay not to be okay. There’s a pressure that exists to feel okay, to go to work or school and live like nothing is wrong. Covering up our trauma only builds up its power. Sharing that trauma with others helps lessen the burden, but it requires us to be vulnerable.

Trauma can come in many forms and from many sources. There is no one-size-fits-all definition of what trauma is or what it looks like. It could come from a minor event that shakes up your life or an earth-shattering natural disaster.

Trauma manifests as physical, mental, and emotional responses that are hard to process and understand. Trauma affects all of us differently, but it affects us all. We all have different degrees of trauma, from unpleasant memories that keep us up at night to life-altering disorders like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

No matter where or why the trauma comes from, it’s important to show compassion for ourselves and others, especially those with physical or mental health conditions that may exacerbate trauma. Whether it’s violence, health issues, death, accidents, major disasters, or something else entirely, we should strive to understand our emotions so we can work towards healing.

We all have different stories which will have shaped us differently; but if we can help each other find a way forward after the pain of trauma, it could make all the difference in our world today. In our next post, we’ll look at some strategies for coping with trauma.

To delve more into trauma, check out Wesley’s own story in his monologue episode on overcoming trauma.

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