Comparing Trauma

“She was molested by her father,” I said. “And he would beat her. It was violent. Mine wasn’t that bad.”

“We don’t compare trauma,” my therapist said. “We each have our own valid experiences.”

I’ve used this refrain many times while women have disclosed their story of sexual violence to me and then follow it up with, “but it wasn’t as bad as others have had it.” Or, if I’ve shared my own experience of childhood sexual abuse they say, “oh wow mine was nothing compared to what you went through.”

On the other hand, Dr. Vincent Felitti, creator of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), survey does just that. A point is given for each traumatic category that has occurred before the age of 18, and one receives a score of 0 to 10. His research showed that individuals with a score of 6+ have a 20 year reduction in life expectancy compared with those who are zero.

So, do we compare trauma or not? The answer lies in what results from the comparison. If through comparing we minimize our own experience, or that of another, this can impede healing. If quantifying our trauma allows us to stand in the full truth of what we’ve experienced, including the negative impact on our biology and overall health outcomes, this can move healing forward.


The World Domination Summit: Fertile ground to get out of your own way and create

I am still processing all that was the World Domination Summit, a gathering of writers, creative and world changers over a warm summer weekend in Portland, Oregon. There are brilliant recaps of the speakers and events here and here. But what happened outside of the scheduled events were just as powerful for me. Continue reading “The World Domination Summit: Fertile ground to get out of your own way and create”

Run to empower women


“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?   -Mary Oliver

I’ve been throwing myself birthday parties since third grade. Birthdays were an excuse to gather the people I love, feed them and play.

This year, I have a different vision. Women in post-conflict Kamoniyi, Rwanda, gathering around a fresh new start. Clean water. Continue reading “Run to empower women”

5 Life lessons I learned from quitting my PhD program

Back Camera

Three years ago I was accepted into a fully funded doctoral program in my dream field. I quit my job, loaded up a UHaul and moved to sunny San Diego.

Then, my father was given months to live. Prostate cancer. And my mother, who had long suffered from bipolar disorder, stopped taking her medication. I flew to St. Louis, Missouri and drove hours until I reached a remote hospital near the Arkansas border. I scooped up my mother, like I had so many times growing up, and brought her home. Continue reading “5 Life lessons I learned from quitting my PhD program”