You can learn a million and one things about trauma from a technical standpoint, either by listening to a psychologist discuss what causes trauma and how it presents in individuals or by hearing first or second hand accounts of what it's like to experience trauma either themselves or from seeing loved ones go through it, and by that point, you can maybe convince yourself that you understand it. But trauma doesn't even become close to being understood unless you face it yourself and experience it. Humans are empathetic creatures, and certainly empathy is a saving grace, though it is difficult to offer the same level of support if one has never gone through a similar experience that has caused them to endure a trauma.

You can learn all about the fact that trauma can be linked to PTSD, depression, anxiety, night terrors, (etc.), but they don't always tell you what it's like when those manifest. They don't always tell you about what it's like to lay in bed at night with your heart beating practically out of your chest, the sweat that beads at your forehead, the paralyzing feeling you get when a visceral memory brings you back to a certain moment and doesn't relent no matter how much you beg for just one good nights' sleep. They don't always tell you about how hearing a certain song, hearing a name or seeing an eerily similar face can send you into a deep and unrelenting panic without regard for where you are. They don't always tell you about having to pull over because a panic attack's left you breathless and exhausted.

They don't always tell you about the guilt you might feel about bringing it up to your friends and family, feeling like you're burdening them with the same issue over and over again because you just can't get away from it. They don't always tell you about bottling up your emotions because it feels just to suffer alone rather than to let someone else carry the load. They don't always tell you about the tears at night that shake your whole body because that's the only way to let anything out sometimes.

This isn't a one-size fits all manifestation of what it looks like. Each of us experiences and copes with trauma differently, even if there are similarities between some of us. The point, however, is that trauma is more than just a word. It's an experience that carries with it a larger, broader range of effects for days, months, and even years to those experiencing it. And as hard as it is to confront it, we must be willing to have conversations about trauma and how we can support those who are going through it the best we can. If we don't normalize conversations like these, we can't hope to make a difference in mental health advocacy. Stay informed, and find resources for coping or helping your loved ones to cope with the effects of their experiences and mental health whenever possible.