Amanda’s Story

Before reading this story, we want to warn you that there will be mention of potentially triggering mental health subjects including trauma reenactment and substance abuse. Also, Amanda is speaking from her personal experience and this is not written from a doctor’s perspective. If you or someone you know may be living with mental illness, please get help. Talk to a licensed and qualified mental health professional and search the list of resources on our website.

When I was 13, I was going through a lot of change. My family had just moved into a brand new house and my grandma had recently been diagnosed with cancer and was told she had four years to live. So my mom was dealing with her mom dying, and my father was drinking a ton. There was a lot of tumult and I dealt with some emotional neglect. 

I had to be my own support.

Around that same time, I started re-experiencing my childhood trauma. The first time it happened I thought I was putting things in my head. Like, “Why am I feeling this way? What’s going on with me?”


At a certain point, new little bits of trauma memories were coming up a few times a week. And it would be like I was fully, viscerally, physically re-experiencing the trauma. Like I was transported back to the experience. I could see the tile floor. I could smell everything that was in the room. I could feel what was happening. 


For a very long time, Irish Spring soap, really cheap men’s cologne, or specific cleaning products were really, really hard for me. Those smells would just send me right back into the memory. I could just be walking down the hallway at school, and I would feel hands down my back. Or I would have an emotional flashback like, “What’s going on? I need to escape. Get me out of here. This is not okay,” kind of feeling. 


Learn more about how trauma gets stored in the brain:


It was really difficult for me to stomach as a 13 year old girl. I didn’t realize that repression was a thing that happened, and there was a lot of guilt and shame in that. I was in a constant state of fight or flight, of survival, of panic and I didn’t want to tell anybody because I didn’t know if it was real or not. 


I grew up in a very conservative, suburban, white area where there were so many microaggressions against mental health being thrown around. Like, “What do you have to be sad about? I put food on your table and a roof over your head.” That’s the language that I heard growing up. 


So I was holding onto this big secret. 


There were times when I could shake myself out of it and there were times when I couldn’t, and I had to just work through the trigger. I started to go weeks without showering because I wouldn’t want to go through the idea of being vulnerable. I didn’t feel like I deserved to be clean. 


I felt really alone.

It was actually one blog post that changed the trajectory of my life. The blogger was discussing repression and what she had experienced and how she got through it. It was just so overwhelming for me because I finally felt seen, knowing that, “Oh wow, I’m not crazy.”


It wasn’t until I was like 16 that I finally disclosed it to my mother. I just broke down one day because I was in so much pain. Eventually I got more comfortable with the idea of what I was going through and I was able to disclose it with my friends and really lean on people. 

Around the same time I was having stomach issues and just not feeling well all the time. I wound up having multiple invasive medical procedures to try to figure out what was wrong with me. Going to these doctor’s appointments was my way of controlling the situation and taking charge of my health. 


They were also a way for me to feel seen and heard.

But back then I didn’t make the connection that these medical experiences were also retraumatizing me, which led to substance abuse. I started taking pills to numb the pain, trying to run away and not re-experience at all costs. Then the pills ran out, so I started using alcohol as a coping mechanism. 


I struggled with that for a long time. 


After I graduated high school, me and my friend Drew started our open mic night called Uncensored Society that ran for 5 years. It was all about curating a safe space and giving youth the opportunity to speak their truth. High schoolers would come in and bear their souls on the stage, talking about depression and suicidal ideation and self-harm and feeling alone and trapped. People would cry and hug at the end of shows. It was just such a beautiful, healing experience. 


While I loved this time of holding space for others, I personally was still struggling with anxiety and alcohol abuse. At a certain point, I decided I can’t do this all by myself. 

If there’s something I’d want others to know it’s that sometimes it takes a few therapists before you find the right one. 


And sometimes you find the right one and then one day you need to move on. And that’s okay. 


My first therapist shoved an assessment in front of me and incorrectly diagnosed me with ADHD, so I kept searching. I started to really throw myself into researching trauma and discovering why I am the way that I am, and found there’s actually science behind it. I didn’t have to just put the blame on myself or other people. 


That’s when I found a trauma-informed therapist. She was the one who sat me down and said, “Look, I don’t think you’re bipolar. Have you ever heard of CPTSD?” She explained to me what Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was, and it was like a weight had been lifted off of my body. It was a huge turning point in my healing process that really led me to where I am now.  


Around the same time that I got my official diagnosis, I finally got sober. 


I realized I needed to use this experience as fuel.


I looked at myself in the mirror and was like, “I’m not gonna let these people who hurt me win. I am going to use this experience to help other people who have felt like me before, so that nobody else has to feel this alone.”


What I learned from doing Uncentered Society throughout my early 20s is that kids want to talk, they want to be heard and more importantly, to know that they’re not alone. I found myself in that space — and realized that this is the change I want to continue to make: to allow people to feel heard in whatever way I can, especially those youth whose adults in their life aren’t hearing them.


That’s really what’s been driving me ever since.


I don’t want anybody to feel the way I felt. If I could be the one person who they could find that connection with through sharing my story, that’s what I want. 


Through therapy and my own research I learned a lot of coping mechanisms and I’m learning new stuff every day. It was a really awesome discovery for me that I can literally train my brain to calm down in the moment.  Moments of re-experiencing became less and less visceral, diluting the intensity. Now I know that there is healing beyond my experiences. I know if I just keep working towards my healing, I will build a life that I want for myself. It’s hard work. But it’s worth it.


You can find Amanda at:  

Amanda Stoddard is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati. Currently, she is the Director of Communications at the Recovery Center of Hamilton County and has spearheaded an after-hours event series for transitional aged youth called RC After Dark. Amanda is a Certified Peer Recovery Supporter for both the adult and youth model. Also Certified in Trauma Responsive Care and Mental Health First Aid, she is a change maker in ensuring trauma-informed practices are implemented in the peer world. In 2021 she won The Neighborhood Summit’s Rookie of the year award for all she does for the community and within her organization.


Connect with my by following @RCAfterDark on Facebook & Instagram (:

Read More about the neuroscience of trauma:

Learn about healing our nervous system after trauma:

Here are some resources that helped me along the way:

Book recommendations:

Childhood Disrupted
The Deepest Well

The Body Keeps the Score 

If you or anyone you know needs help (24/7):

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