From Chaos to Healing: Stephanie Foo’s Experience with Complex PTSD

Sometimes, bad things happen (obvi, right?). Many times, we know what’s happening to us in the moment is awful and wrong. We know that it’s painful. But sometimes, we don’t know how bad those things were until that pain shows up again in our lives, maybe years later, in a completely different way. And when these seemingly bad things come up, our lives are thrown into a tailspin—creating chaos and unhappiness and we’re not even even sure why. So how do we begin to identify the source of the darkness? How do we walk toward healing when the muck of our trauma is so deep we feel like we can’t move forward? Our guest this week has navigated through this very thing (and is still navigating it). The chaotic parts, the hard parts, the painful parts. Author and This American Life producer Stephanie Foo had found success in her thirties–working at her dream job and in a loving relationship. But behind her office door she was having panic attacks daily and sobbing at her desk. After years of questioning what was wrong (and blaming herself), she was diagnosed with complex PTSD–a condition that happens when trauma occurs again and again over many years. She was determined to understand this diagnosis, and the result of her findings is a beautiful and powerful memoir called What My Bones Know.  Jen and Stephanie have an illuminating discussion around these topics: 

  • The difference between PTSD and complex PTSD and why that’s an important distinction when it comes to healing
  • How an unresolved mental health issue can impact our physical health, which can manifest (as it did for Stephanie) in panic attacks, joint issues, migraines, and endometriosis. 
  • How our traumas can be handed down through previous generations through our genes, but also through how we were (or weren’t) nurtured. 
  • What it feels like to pull back the curtain on our coping mechanisms to reveal why we react to things the way we do, or why we put up walls in safe places with safe people 

Join us for this very real, raw, but gentle conversation as Stephanie’s story sheds light on how to walk away from chaos into healing.