Complex PTSD Series: Act III (of III)

I thought of this letter over the years, wondering if I’d see it again to remember its message. One day, I went through boxes upon boxes of paperwork, page by page. My garage is an overwhelming disarray of various-sized boxes stacked against walls, random unused furniture that should be tossed (but even that costs a lot), a scary amount of bedding and clothing (mine–the thrift store connoisseur, at an all-time low, I became practically immobilized and the task of laundry was unbearable; my daughter’s–the stylist and fashionista; and my son’s–with the highest score for rapid growth spurts), everything that I could get away with holding on to through many moves, two kids, and forty-two years. I’m a collector of material items that elicit memories and a collector of material items that I hold onto by an overwhelmed default, thus to be thrown into random bags and boxes at impulsive moments of “get this out of my sight or I will scream!” Okay, enough about my garage. It is the last place you want to see, so you’ll have to trust me.

I found the letter in a giant, heavy box of at least a decade of paperwork. Now that it’s scanned safely into the cloud, I want to share it with all of you because I know I am not the only one needing to grab ahold of its truths. My friend was given this message on my behalf, which is one of the wondrous ways God communicates with us. Now I know, with a given urgency in my heart, this is God’s message for you too:

Dear Emily,
If this letter can even vaguely convey what my hopes and dreams are for you, then I will feel a great sense of accomplishment. Like I said to you on Tuesday, I believe NOW is the time that the Lord has appointed great things for you. Much will be required, you will have to dig, you will have to grieve, but like all things that are worthwhile, it will be life changing.
Tuesday, in the middle of the night, I awoke to use the bathroom. I was half asleep, half awake, but you came to mind. Now before I go on, I have come to learn that there have been some unmistakable times in my life when God has spoken to me through dreams. I have recently come to learn that whenever God speaks in a dream. He always gives the dreamer the interpretation. With that said. Your face came to my mind. He showed me a diamond that filled my hands when they were cupped together. The diamond was cut out from the rock so it maintained the shape of a giant diamond. The diamond, however, was not polished so it looked more like frosted glass than a brilliant, shiny diamond.
Immediately following, God showed me a gate. I knew at once that through this gate those “unclean” with leprosy would walk through to live outside of the camp away from those that were “clean.”
I believe the interpretation for both these dreams is this: You ARE a diamond, you ARE precious, you POSSESS the shape, you POSSESS the value. There is nothing that you must DO to become a priceless diamond. You must, however, allow yourself to be polished. All the raw materials are right there. Continue to submit to the process of sanctification and you will shine brilliantly, beautifully Likewise. Like all other believers you were unclean. You ARE now clean. Enter through the gate back into the camp. Christ Himself invites you in. Live as though you belong IN the camp.
This morning, again, walking to the bathroom, you came to mind. The diamond and the gate flashed in my mind with these thoughts. The two items are linked in this way. You must learn to believe these words and more importantly, you must live them out. It begins in the mind and heart. I know it is difficult to change the lies, memories, evil that was said and done, but, therein lies the freedom.
It was for freedom that Christ set us free, therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
If you see anything in me that remotely resembles Christ then you can know that God can do the same in and through you. It begins with counteracting the lies, believing that truth and walking in it. You are lovely, beautiful, graceful, intelligent, resilient, and have just the right amount of fight left in you to fight the good fight. Do not hold back. You have all the raw materials, now let yourself shine.

(AM, 2009)

I wish I could say that immediately following this letter, I walked right into the camp and lived knowing that I belonged there because God said so. I did not. It took many more years of being broken down, stretching, learning, trusting, and failing, in order to build the woman I am today. One who is thrilled by long-awaited moments of clarity when life begins to make sense. Like the ocean, sometimes still, dark, and deep, while other times big rolling waves throw themselves into each other in constant movement, bringing the treasures to shore.

The first time I read this letter from my dear friend and mentor, I was so lost, hanging on to every word she said, searching for answers to the questions which plagued my mind, seeeking validation for my brokenness. Once, I heard that upon meeting a person that you admire, identify with, and want to be like, you study the way they live their life. These are the things that drew me to her. I had never met anyone who moved with such grace through incredible responsibility and still held space for a stray like me. If I say more, I might give away her identity <3. I remember it vividly, seeing in my mind’s eye, the images she speaks of and knowing they were for ME. A fleeting moment of peaceful ease to just “own it,” but then I’d swirl right back into the confusion, unrest, and committed striving.

Every single week I walked into church as an outsider who didn’t belong. I went anyway because I was desperate to go wherever God was most active. During song and worship, I was filled with an overwhelming ache in my chest, a longing that never seemed would come. Big, rolling tears would fall, and I’d raise my hands to the sky, stretching, pressing as far up as they’d go. I’d imagine God would see that I was reaching to touch Him, weeping. Sunday after Sunday was exhausting. This pattern wiped me out for the rest of the day and most often I had no more peace than when the week began, only growing resentment for most Christians and a staggering tally of all the times God didn’t come through.

The number of times I stayed after service to pray with someone, anyone, looking for a person who knew how to save me from myself. I figured a Spirit-filled person like that must spend most of their days within the walls of a church building. All-consuming heaviness and fear were suffocating. It was humiliating. People tried to help me with human comfort and answers, but I could turn the most well-intentioned of them into a lunatic with my rebuttal or reason why all the things they believed of God weren’t the answer for me. I had actual evidence that “this” didn’t work for me or “that” obviously wasn’t it. I believe some were bewildered and I may have caused them to question some God-in-a-Box beliefs. 

“The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.”

Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis

Do you remember the elementary cult-school kid I mentioned a couple posts back? That was me the whole time. I felt BIG feelings that were usually too heavy for any audience I was grasping for. It was a curse I couldn’t escape, yet I despised myself for it. And I held a grudge against God for “just watching” me flounder so excruciatingly in it. Why didn’t He pluck me up out of that hell?

From cult-kid to excommunicated cult-kid, to the Emily I was a decade ago, I was a regular church-goer. In the recent ten years, I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve sat through a church service. The reason isn’t because I stopped needing God, but because God started meeting me right where I need Him. That’s not to say He doesn’t regularly come to us, but there was some work I needed to do before I was able to see Him. 

Everything about my current life would be laughable by society’s standards, by most opinionated humans. God knows our struggles. He knew I had too many voices talking over Him with their opinions and ideas constantly swirling around in my head. He wanted me to get in a still and quiet space where His voice could be the only one I heard.

I used to be on a regular cycle:

God ➡️ my intuition➡️ outside opinions ➡️ shame/striving


shame/striving ➡️ outside opinions ➡️ my intuition ➡️ God

I was on constant repeat because I didn’t trust my God-given intuition. That skill was broken in childhood. The thing about that is I’ve been led by the spirit since childhood, so how does that add up? –a child programmed from a young age to agree with their only caregivers (no outside “rescuers”) that the child is incapable of reality-based thinking, therefore the child internalizes this and begins to believe their perception on all platforms is unreliable. 

Let me close this by saying that God will move the mountains that stand between me and Him. I’ve seen tremendous castle walls fall. He has climbed the highest tower for me. My fear of heights looking all the way down from the top of the tower is terrifying. He reaches His hand to me. Will I grab ahold of it? You bet your sweet bippy I will!


Call Me Courageous

March 27, 2023

Today, I am courageous. The usual fears that hold me aren’t gripping me as tight. The skies are blue, the rolling hills are green from unusual recent months of heavy rainfall. Tree branches are blowing in the wind. In the middle of the valley, here I sit in a parking lot, to the left are Target shoppers, and to my right is a white stucco wall, stone-colored brick edging along the length of the parking lot, at least 100 feet, and 3-story townhomes tower along the other side. Starbucks, with the trail of drive-thru customers, is behind me. All windows down on my two-toned white Jeep Compass with black accents, I’m in the front driver’s seat, writing on my laptop with Ralph Keyes, The Courage to Write on the seat next to me, and my cold brew within reach. This is my favorite place to do my writing. But it may just be that after I get my coffee, I am so ready and eager for my “writer’s time”, that I’m not patient enough to drive anywhere else. 

Fear is the emotion that has most single-handedly stolen my life from me. It’s kept me good, quiet, and tormented for as long as I can remember. As a chronic occurrence upon thinking of how stuck I was, I felt hopeless helplessness. To know that life was passing me by as I couldn’t get myself together enough to function like half of a human, persistently trying hard to fight the voice inside telling me, “I will never figure it out. Give it up already.” 

In adolescence, I was taught the importance of using my gifts. I learned every person has gifts they were born with, that it pleases God when we use them for His glory, and that if we don’t use them, we lose them. In my 40s, I labeled myself with “failure to launch.” Every dream I’ve had has been crushed or has felt too far out of reach to even get my hopes up. If failure is the thing I’m most afraid of, I’ve failed a million times and can survive the pain. But even then, I can get back up and try again. This isn’t a once and for all situation. If I never use my gift or do the things my heart aches for, I am not actually protecting myself from anything; I am only preventing myself from EVERYTHING.

I’m afraid, but the way to change my story is by being brave in the face of my fear and stepping into God’s plan for me—like the scripture I memorized and recited to myself at least five-thousand times through my life. Remember the one? “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to Prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.”

If success is what scares me the most, which is more likely, the moments leading up to that success will prepare me. The image in my mind of a shock to my system or a loss of my entire identity is not realistic. I can do it one day at a time. In actuality, I could be a spokesperson for my motto that “God gives just enough light for the step I’m on.” I don’t need to know what will happen tomorrow. I don’t need to make big decisions, but I can make small ones and let go of the rest. All I need to do is ask God to guide me with the important tasks each day and for the strength to carry them out. 

I’m capable of doing very hard things. I’ve squeezed myself into tiny boxes to not take up too much space. I taught myself crazy survival skills like a magician to abracadabra my way through impossible situations. I’ve survived by the strength within me, and ultimately, I’ve won, because I am still here and still sane–mostly. And particularly, because my God doesn’t lose. 

The monsters can’t get me. The demons can never touch me.

What do I need in order to be unwavering toward myself, with the same persistence I have for others? I see the goodness in people. I am good too. I believe God wants to give them the desires of their hearts. God wants to give me the desires of my heart too. I can create to-do lists and write goals for myself for just the next step. I can trust God and the people who are moved by my writing. As an act of love, I’ll trust them. I can do that, I’m quite good at love. I can stop pretending that I don’t know what the hell to do all the time. I’ll stop asking for advice and start doing what I know. 

Today, March 27, 2023, I know I AM A WRITER. Whether I spend the next half of my life as a fearful shadow writer or as a courageous writer with a divine purpose is up to me. Having broken this down into the simplest of terms, I know without a doubt that this exact moment on this exact path is precisely where I am supposed to be. Every day I must only choose to believe—again, and again, and again. There will be no more “playing it small”. Yes, world, I’m going to be taking up space now. 

False Clichés

God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. If you sat in one of my therapy sessions, you’d know this cliche has a way of clawing under my skin. Every time someone says this to me, I want to crawl into my shell to never come out again. I want to share war stories as my ego gets ignited by the need to over-explain. It drives me crazy. If you ask my therapist, its one of those things he listens to me rant about, nodding and half-smiling at me as though he has a secret he’s waiting for me to discover. What could be more annoying than that? 😂 He graciously manages to annoy me and endear himself to me at the same time. 

He is so patient with me. I am no further along than Episode 2 of the running list of arduous events that God has omnipotently overseen [insert sarcasm here], probably explaining how I felt being painfully aware of the  worsening symptoms that afflicted me, ultimately leading to the moment I felt my brain break. Before I get completely carried away, he says his famous line, Let’s break that down into its simplest form. Did I mention he makes me laugh?

1 Corinthians 10:13, No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. Does this sound familiar? What I’m coming to accept is the crucial difference between the words handle and endure or bear. God doesn’t give me more than I can bear means something different to me.

When I think of endurance, the power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way, perseverance comes to mind. The scripture doesn’t clarify whether it’s explicitly referring to worldly temptations, or if trials are included. It doesn’t explain whether beyond what you can bear means something different from merely staying alive. But then again, people die every day from things that their bodies cannot endure. Just ask the young man, newly married to the love of his life who, in one short year, is now a widower and single father. I realize this is morbid, but please bear with me because it gets better.

God didn’t say that life is going to be without troubles. He didn’t tell us, for reasons bigger than ourselves, that some of us would face hardships others only see in movies or read in books. The way I’m seeing it now is that God says He’s with me and He’s faithful no matter what I’m facing. [I] can rejoice, too, when [I] run into problems and trials, for [I] know that they help [me] develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens [my] confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For [I] know how dearly God loves [me], because He has given [me] the Holy Spirit to fill [my] heart with His love. (Romans 5:3-5)

Life has been full of traumatic events that have forever changed me. I have a slew of PTSD symptoms I face daily. My brain has changed. My nervous system is deeply dysregulated. [In enters faith.] I can’t possibly have all the answers. Perhaps, the greatest thing my mom taught me as a child is that our human brains can’t ever thoroughly comprehend God. Not even close. I imagine we’d explode into a million particles of dust if we somehow had that knowledge. Our brains aren’t made to hold it all, so He gives us bite-size pieces, a little at a time. I like the quote “He gives me just enough light for the step I’m on.”

Sometimes, in a bittersweet, emotionally polar-opposite way that only happens after the trial is over [insert laughter here], I’m thankful for who I’ve become. It means everything for me to be someone people feel safe with. I won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s alright. I’m learning to be okay with that because the ones who need me to exist are the same ones that my heart is drawn to anyway, the often overlooked ones. We understand each other and I hope by this common thread, that my faith might inspire a tiny seed to grow.

On the days when I wake up to a world that seems to have lost all of its color, or the sky could fall at any moment, or a crisis lurks behind the door I need to open, I hope I’ll remember that God is right there with me, loving me dearly. He is faithfully giving me the tools to heal. In the quiet moments, He shows me what He sees in me. Its in these spaces that the noise of the world doesn’t sound so loud and I rejoice in these gifts of sweet, sweet clarity.

The Unrecognized Diagnosis

This morning, in my Healing from CPTSD group, someone posted this question. This is probably the #1 hardest thing for me to accept and it comes in waves. It is a decision that I have to keep on making. This was my response:

YES BIG TIME!! Thank you for opening the conversation about this. When I had my daughter 20 years ago, through a torturous postpartum when all of my trauma made it’s grand entrance all at once, I was desperate to find healing. It was the thing I obsessed over the most in my life, to heal all my stuff so my kids would grow up with “the amazing healed version of me.” That healing never even started until about 2 years ago, but by then I was 18 years more traumatized, and add the trauma of spinning around in circles between therapists for 20 years with this CPTSD (the diagnosis with no name that caused people to look at me like a deer in headlights). I had beaten myself up incessantly and had zero confidence in my own motherly abilities and intuitions. I became mentally/ emotionally paralyzed and physically disabled from the stress.
I am just now, like 1 week ago, having healing revelations that I literally did the best I can with the crap tools I had. It wasn’t fair that I didn’t find the help I needed, but I can make the intentional choice to finally accept that this happened rather than spend the next 20 years sabotaging my healing. I apologize to my kids for the ways that I wasn’t better and I am here for them to work through things anytime they need me. We are making history and writing the books on CPTSD that will change the course of lives to come. It sucks that we (and our kids) didn’t get all of the benefits of that; we were/are the foragers. Basically, I’m having to choose every day whether I will stay stuck in how unfair life is, or I will embrace my path here and let the healing come.
♥️ It’s really freaking hard.

Little Girl with Big Dreams

May 13, 2021 Since I was 12, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to change the world. 😆 Big dreams for a kid. God could have said, “You sure about that, little girl?” I had no idea what I had gotten myself into, what I signed up for when I made that pact with Him that He could ” do with me as He pleased, IF….” All I knew was that my heart ached to be for someone else who I always needed for myself. The hands and feet of Jesus.
I can’t take credit for this person you see today. Seriously, not for any of it. I would have wallowed in my sadness and the darkness could have consumed me so so many times. The only thing I did was keep getting up. But even that seems insignificant, when He was the one who kept waking me up.
I am so glad He kept waking me up, especially when I didn’t care if He did or not.
If you reading this, are still in the dark place, please keep getting up.
If you reading this, are cringing at my mention of God, I feel you, I get this soo much. I hope that you will hear me when I say: God isn’t the One who fails us, people do. If you ever want to talk with someone from a place of empathy and not judgment, I’m here.
-Emily’s Insights 🌙

Shut down the Inner Critic

June 7, 2021 I’ve been at war with myself over continuing to be transparent on social media. I made a list of the taunting messages that keep repeating themselves in my own mind, trying to silence my voice, my joy, and suck me back down into the pit. I have to face each fearful message of self-doubt, “supposed to” theories, and labels. I am owning & processing these messages to take back my power.
My page has grown into a blog of sorts. This is my intention. My hope has been to use it as a platform to share my healing journey and discoveries in an authentic way. Keeping it REAL and brave is my heart’s song. It is part therapy, part humor, part strength, part terrifying, part faith & hope & freedom. It gives me purpose and has brought me joy that I can’t define. This. This is my lifelong dream.
This is your opportunity to really speak your mind to me. LOVINGLY. I need to hear it. I want nothing more than to do this in the most effective, encompassing of all, so loving way. If I’m doing it all wrong and you know a better way, please message me.

If you see my vulnerability as a twisted ploy of a damsel in distress, I give you all my blessings to unfollow me and go in peace. I don’t have the energy. Love to all.

Heart to Heart

June 14, 2021 I need to have a heart-to-heart with you all. Recently I was befriended by a stranger, a mental health professional who was drawn to my page. He was new to the area in which I lived, and soon after, began following several of my friends. At 1st, I saw red flags and I was hesitant to interact with him, but he patiently planted little seeds. When he explained that he was a safe person, I believed him, which made way for some deeper conversations. He showed concern over my healing journey. Because of his patience, the seeds he planted, and his damn credentials, I was too trusting. It felt like the moment I let my guard down, he began to break me apart and break me down from all the work that I put in this past year. He criticised my entire essence and integrity and calling. In the meantime, he was also getting close with a long time dear friend of mine. ‘Dear friend’ hardly does justice to how much she has meant to me over the years. In order to protect my friend, I was not going to share this story, but since both she and he have unfriended me, here it is. It is no longer my responsibility to protect those who do not protect me.
The ‘mental health professional’ began to have such a huge, unknown, personal issue with me that he turned ‘my friend’ against me and I didn’t/don’t have a voice to ask “why?” or to defend myself. I have been a hot mess. My number one trigger in life is to not have a voice. What makes it even worse is that he calls himself a “voice for the voiceless.” He stole my line, he lied, and stole my friend. No explanation from either.
I felt like I couldn’t begin to process if I wanted to because I don’t understand what happened. Excuse my language here but as I told my therapist, this was the ultimate cluster-mind-*#@*. It was the perfect storm to derail me and end my beautiful, productive, transparent, healing reign of personal testimony.
Mental illness, trauma, etc., can happen to any one of us at any time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been overlooked, brushed off, ignored, picked apart, bullied, and let’s face it, unloved, simply because I struggle with symptoms of complex trauma. I believe that my saving grace is Jesus, but many would correct me to say that had I been fearless enough to dabble in drugs, even Jesus may not have been in a place to stop me. I know I would be dead. I wouldn’t be here to write this and plead with you all to be kinder, be gentler to others, ESPECIALLY those who you don’t understand. My kids would be without a mom. With all my heart, I’m writing this.
I am sensitive to the fact that my personal blog of sorts here on social media is going to make some people uncomfortable. My hope is that we, you and me, push through that discomfort and listen. “When a survivor speaks up, they are speaking from a place that has altered their nervous system. They are speaking from a place that has changed the lens on how they see the world and those in it. They are speaking from a place of extreme vulnerability and pain. Believe them. ” -Nate Postlethwait
If the conversation is awkward for you, ask God to help make it less awkward. If you have stigma, do the research, sit with the feelings that come up, and fight back against that conditioning. Just because I have Jesus and I’ve said many times that I will keep fighting for my own life, does not mean that I’m always OK, that I’m not terrified. When someone is actively suicidal, they usually have the dark thought patterns and a method in mind. The crisis is that most of these people have already gone through all of the pain and the shame and are now disassociated by numbness. Do you honestly think that they skipped 2 steps and the ending action was for lack of searching for a way out? I assure you, it was not.
To be honest with you, I don’t know all of the things that have kept me alive. But I do know that the pain, the shame I carry over the stigma and judgement from people like everyone here, is enough to drown me into a passively suicidal state at times (no plan of action, but same feelings and same darkness.) I am putting in the work to overcome all of the trauma that others did to me. This may just be the hardest thing for people to hear, I am responsible for my healing, but in no way was I responsible for the things I am forced to heal from. IT IS ROYALLY SCREWED UP THAT I SHOULD FEEL SO ASHAMED TO REACH OUT FOR HELP.
I am begging you, please do not hear all of this as a cry to feel sorry for me. I am just one out of the 5 people you know. This crisis is hurting most of us here. Our hearts break each time we lose someone we love to this horrific disease. We can prevent that tragedy, but only if we put in the effort to break the cycle.
Since I began my healing journey last year, I can testify that VALIDATION of my pain and suffering, and being “allowed” to sit in that with my therapist, which I had never before in 40 years felt safe to do, was the 1st step in being able to heal anything! I am asking you personally to stop shushing, judging, rolling eyes, avoiding the conversations, gossiping about the people you care about.
Not one of us has walked in anyone else’s shoes, but our own. I just need us, me and all of my people, to do better. Please do better. 💓🙏
P.S. please feel free to comment with the name of someone you love and lost to mental illness. Say their name.

P.S. Feel free to share all or part of this message

Never Forgotten

September 29, 2022 To me, little kids are the closest beings to God. 💓💓 He even says, “Let the children come to me.” They are so precious. I’ve always believed that even babies can speak the language of angels. (You know how they will just babble and smile while seemingly looking into the air?)
This brings me a lot of joy and comfort. I only wish little children could keep themselves clean like kittens do. 😹
My intuition about babies and little children, although beautiful enough to make my heart swell, also makes me feel a sense of great sadness that, as a child, I wasn’t thought of in this way. I am so grateful that I knew God’s comfort though. As long as i can remember, I had safe places to go to in my mind, in my heart. My sensitivity, my strength gave me the ability to tap into that. He was right there the whole time and there isn’t a doubt in my mind of that. I was so loved.

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!

-Isaiah 49:15-16