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Where Trauma Sits – In the Bends | S.D. Henke

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Recently, I had the privilege of listening to Kristen Tippett’s interview ‘On Being’ with Bessel van der Kolk- How Trauma Lodges Itself in the Body.

It struck me as a momentous call to action and an opportunity to share more about storytelling through this lens and to provide more rationale for my own writing.

Story Bends, at its core, is a Literary conciliation with healing, body, mind, and soul. My hopes and vision for this project were to invite the themes that meet readers on a grander scale. I aimed to explore the mythos of trauma toward healing. I’ve come to realize over the last five years while closing in on publication with my Literary Fantasy exploring these themes, that it was through my own experience with trauma and the observation of other’s experiences that I could see through new realms of compassion. Where the main character explores the ‘thin places’ and comes to discover how his trauma has its foundation in the story arc of his change. This is truly one of the most universal concepts within the human experience that I’ve discovered, thus far.

We so often ignore our ‘selves’ in the rancor of our everyday lives. We ignore the signals our body is sending. We hold it down, pressing our feet and anchor to the ground when we are legitimately being swept off our feet. This dislodging is a painful act, but sometimes, it’s less painful than facing the fall. Yet, I’ve come to understand that in the fall, we as humans are uniquely poised at the center of our being. We become an existential expression of the dramatization of ‘self’. As a writer and reader, I’ve discovered how we are naturally wired for this kind of movement throughout our lives. As Bessel describes the disturbance of trauma and how it rests in memory—both a conscious and an unconscious process I imagine how it moves in and out of us. These are moments of real divergence from the everyday person we were before and it always brings me back to what could be crafted through story.

For the majority of us, by the time we reach our thirties and forties there’s a certain amount of interference we experience from moments in our everyday lives. And, for others, who sit in the trench of early-onset trauma it is a path they must walk their entire lives. In truth, we often withhold key messages from our core reactive centers just as Edward does on his journey into the Bends while the pages in his journal take on literary and revelatory meaning. The pages speak to him in the survivor’s voice, without judgment as he learns to decipher its encoded meaning much the same way our bodies speak to us.

As Bessel spoke with Kristen Tippett of the ‘Lodging itself in’, his explanation does not aim to strip the bandaid forcefully away, exposing the raw wound, but he speaks to how our bodies and our souls can travel with a gentler release. This offers hope that we can learn to embrace and evolve while we become more conscious of our body’s responses and how it changes us. One layer of skin at a time, the sloughing off helps us see the old skin anew. Into the body and out of the body, I see now that trauma is an authentic human plague. It manipulates us, reshapes, and molds us into our true being. It places spiritual markers, scars of a journey that is a life lived and each movement through the peril leaves behind its own tidemark on a path toward what I envision as an element of enlightenment.

I find and accept that trauma is universal. It takes on many forms and each person has the will to let it lead them on a unique and telling journey. As we move away from the ‘mine is bigger than yours’ proclamations, perhaps we can also move toward a greater sense of empathy. And in turn, we’ll begin to see perspectives encased in a new light where our preconceived judgments become open forums a change, discourse, and articulation.

If someone was to ask me today what I thought I was doing in writing this strange and cryptic tale, Story Bends, I would tell them that I was trying to tap into that space where we all sit as equals with our own suffering. But I would add that it is a place where we can move into new growth and build a foundation to walk through, within and without our body. A movement of tectonic resilience in the mighty vessel we’ve been given while our traveling souls walk with us to remind us that this is our journey to take as we each move on our own path toward healing and grace.

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