Do You Have To Tell Your Story to Heal PTSD?

December 12, 2012 Michele Rosenthal

When I first started my PTSD recovery I read a slew of books and articles about how trauma recovery is supposed to happen. Many of the theories, dating all the way back to the late 1800s (check out Charcot and Janet if you want to do some research), spoke about the need to 'integrate' the trauma by being able to tell your story.

Huge road block: I couldn't tell my story. Did that mean I wouldn't be able to heal?

Using Your Voice In Recovery

Because of the theories I read, and because I didn't have the benefit of a trauma trained professional who could have told me, "No, you don't have to be able to tell your whole story! Healing can happen without graphically detailing the events," I decided that in order to get better I'd better get busy at finding a way to narrate my past. I sat down and diligently began writing out what had happened to me, from the days leading up to my trauma, through the inescapable horror, and beyond.

Can you tell your story and heal from PTSD faster? Writing can be a great way to begin reclaiming a sense of self in PTSD recovery, but is it necessary?Almost immediately after I dove into this project my PTSD symptoms increased: more anxiety, more frequent crying, grief, nightmares and dissociation hounded me more and more. Still, I pressed on. Then, a funny thing happened: writing started to give me clarity. It helped me put the many disparate pieces of the puzzle together. I started to see myself and my trauma as they intertwined and also separately. I began to make connections and developed understandings that had eluded me. All of this gave me insights into what I needed to be free.

Once I got going I kept writing until my recovery was complete. The result became my published memoir, published earlier this year and recently announced as a finalist for the BOOKS FOR A BETTER LIFE award. What I love about this is how it proves that we can do things in recovery that help us develop as people in ways that allow us to achieve things later on in our lives after trauma.

Of course, writing my story in and of itself did not cure me of PTSD - there were many actions I took that lead me to where I am today: 100% PTSD-free. However, writing helped me reclaim control at a time I really, really needed to feel that. I chose the words. I chose how to tell the story. I chose the details.

While it isn't necessary to tell your story to heal, writing can be a great way to begin reclaiming a sense of yourself (you could write about a certain aspect of the trauma instead of the whole story if you wish). Control and choice are two things we don't feel much of in PTSD. Writing is one way you can gain it back.

Click here for more details about how to write about trauma and a writing prompt to get you started.

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APA Reference
Rosenthal, M. (2012, December 12). Do You Have To Tell Your Story to Heal PTSD?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Michele Rosenthal

July, 7 2013 at 9:22 pm

Can writing about your trauma cure someone completely from ptsd or other things too?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Michele Rosenthal
July, 8 2013 at 5:40 am

@Rep97 -- Writing is an incredibly powerful tool in the recovery process. However, it's not likely to cure PTSD all by itself. Because of how both the mind and body record traumatic memories healing PTSD often requires a more comprehensive approach than writing alone can provide. For an overview of treatment options that address both the mind and body see this page:

December, 13 2012 at 9:18 am

How can you claim to be 100% PTSD free? Curious!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Michele Rosenthal
December, 13 2012 at 9:30 am

@Susan -- Because I am 100% free! Meaning, I have zero symptoms, have been in triggering situations and remained symptom free, and have been this way for several years. PTSD is curable. Many survivors reach 100% PTSD-free status. Recent advances in the field of neuroplasticity prove how possible it is and how often the brain can and does change. This has terrific implications in the field of PTSD recovery.
Check out the great interview and vid here (scroll down) of another terrific success story:…

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Michele Rosenthal
December, 28 2012 at 1:09 pm

@Susan -- Great question! The answer: I have been 100% free of all PTSD symptoms for several years. You can read more about my journey here:

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