Why and how I wrote my book

Why did I write my book, 20 Ways to Break Free from Trauma?

In the first lockdown in 2020, life was scary. We had an invisible virus without a cure and a rising daily death count. Our different human responses to crisis and enforced seclusion became a fascination of mine.

Some people became ultra careful, washing lemons and being frightened of their own shadows. Others kept the rules for a while, then became law-breakers, angry and distrustful of authority. Some suffered more acutely than others from not being able to see, touch and spend normal time with loved ones. Others found not having to deal with people a relief. Cracks in relationships sometimes developed into chasms in these strange times, leading to crises and break-downs.

It felt appropriate to make a study of the human repertoire of our trauma responses. I wrote an article called: ‘Mental and Physical Health in a time of Covid-19’. The article appeared on a couple of websites and seemed to be appreciated. These are the first paragraphs:

If you, or someone you know is struggling at this time, there may some ideas and tools here to help. This article explains how the threat of Covid-19 might affect us mentally and physically through our inevitable stress reactions.

Covid 19 is not experienced by most in a dramatic way like a terrorist attack or a fire. But it has slow dawning reality of a crisis that builds a bit more each day, like a slow tightening vice. The virus takes away things that we are used to, things that we need like contact with loved ones, activities and our communities that we have built up, believe in and need.

Our security has been cut across through this trauma. We can no longer be sure of our fundamental security at the most basic of levels. We can no longer be sure that we will survive this or, as importantly, whether our loved ones will.

Like dominoes stacked up on end, trauma touches trauma. How one person negotiates and responds to this situation is entirely dependent on their previous experience, particularly, their previous trauma history. if we have a trauma history, we will have a double whammy at a time like this and as a result inner worlds can feel highly stressed. It may feel like all our safety doors in the citadel of us are suddenly on high alert, fire alarms are going off all over the place and anything can happen. When triggered by trauma, that is all that happens. There is no argument and it is not a choice. There will only be this triggering, this powerful, visceral response of the mind and the nervous system.

How did this article develop into a book?

As I re-read these words written in 2020, I am reminded of why I felt compelled to write about responses to fear. I felt the feelings viscerally, for myself and those I worked with. Developing my thoughts into a book wasn’t a choice, it happened organically but not quickly.

It takes a village to write a book!  I had faithful readers and editors who constantly believed in the project and I feel eternally indebted to them. I felt like a sculptor, chiselling away at a piece of rock that slowly took form and shape. Chip chip chip, I dispensed with the superfluous and pruned the multiple metaphors. Chip chip, I learned the pain of a writer is in editing what you love. But edit I did. Each chapter had approaching 30 different edits over the three years. It has been a marathon task.

Eventually, I completed the manuscript and had it accepted by a publisher. In 20 chapters I delved into trauma symptoms in depth with real life stories. I incorporated poetry, exercises, questions for reflection. I wanted to give concrete ideas about what to do about trauma. I wanted to write a book of hope.

What did writing it feel like?

Sometimes it felt obsessive. I would regularly wake in the night and write for a few hours. It felt like I had been taken over by a muse,  I couldn’t do anything but keep going. My head was constantly working on the book.

What was the hardest bit?

Waiting for publishers to read it and respond – a long summer’s silence in 2023. To believe in something but not to know whether anyone else will believe in it is hard.


What has been the best bit so far?

Going to visit the offices of Jessica Kingsley Publishers on the Embankment in London and meeting the lovely people who nurture manuscripts along their steady journey towards publication was a thrill. They have been inspiring, enthusiastic and encouraging. I have enjoyed the book’s transition to being looked after by a team and look forward to following its journey from here.