I've been helping an aspiring writer with her book for the last few months. We've done a fair bit of tweaking and were several chapters into it when I realized something: The beginning would be much stronger if it opened with the 3rd chapter and the first two unfolded afterwards as a flashback.
I hesitated to tell her what I thought because she'd done so much work to this point and in a way, it meant (almost) starting over. I did though, and she agreed, and trooper that she is, she rewrote it.
Now the story opens with the protagonist, a 15-year-old girl, treading water in the Atlantic ocean during a raging thunderstorm. When I read the new opening, I felt the writer needed to communicate the girl's emotions more vividly. I used a phrase she's probably sick of hearing by now: We need to get inside the character's head.
It can be a tough thing to do when you put your character into a position you've not experienced yourself. If the experience is traumatic, it can be a tough thing to do if you have experienced it.
I had a near-drowning incident when I was about 10 or 11. It indisputably was the most defining moment of my life. (But that's a topic for another day.) I vividly recall, even four+ decades later, the whooshing sounds and the frustrating sight of blessed, air-containing sky through the window of water above me. (Another aside. It just now struck me that that may very well be part of the reason I selected the cover I did for my book. The perspective is very much like the one I experienced while drowning. You can see my cover here.)
Anyway. There's times when writers are forced to either exercise their imagination to the utmost or plumb the depths of their psyche in order to accurately convey an emotion. And, depending on your subject matter, it can be a very unpleasant, even painful exercise.
But if you want your words to wrap your reader in the experience, there's no getting around it. You have to boldly go where you might not want to go.