A searing memoir of reckoning and healing which investigates the little-understood science behind complex PTSD.
Every cell in my body is filled with the code of generations of trauma, of death, of birth, of migration, of history that I cannot understand. . . . I want to have words for what my bones know.
By age thirty, Stephanie Foo was successful on paper: She had her dream job as an award-winning radio producer at This American Life and a loving boyfriend. But behind her office door, she was having panic attacks and sobbing at her desk every morning. After years of questioning what was wrong with herself, she was diagnosed with complex PTSD - a condition that occurs when trauma happens continuously, over the course of years.
Both of Foo's parents abandoned her when she was a teenager, after years of physical and verbal abuse and neglect. She thought she'd moved on, but her new diagnosis illuminated the way her past continued to threaten her health, relationships, and career. She found limited resources to help her, so Foo set out to heal herself, and to map her experiences onto the scarce literature about C-PTSD.
In this deeply personal and thoroughly researched account, Foo interviews scientists and psychologists and tries a variety of innovative therapies. She returns to her hometown in California to investigate the effects of immigrant trauma on the community, and she uncovers family secrets in the country of her birth, Malaysia, to learn how trauma can be inherited through generations. Ultimately, she discovers that you don't move on from trauma - but you can learn to move with it.
Powerful, enlightening and hopeful, What My Bones Know is a brave narrative that reckons with the hold of the past over the present, the mind over the body - and examines one woman's ability to reclaim agency from her trauma.
Stephanie Foo is a writer and radio producer, most recently for This American Life. Her work has aired on Snap Judgment, Reply All, 99% Invisible and Radiolab. A noted speaker and instructor, she has taught at Columbia University and has spoken at venues from Sundance Film Festival to the Missouri Department of Mental Health. She lives in New York City with her husband.