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!


“Mommy, Please Don’t Leave Me”

The other day, over the phone, I asked my mom if she remembers feeling any “motherly” feelings as the mother of this baby. She told me she knew how to put on a good show. 

But, then she said: 

“When you were born, I was awe-struck. I’d spend hours staring at you. God gave me this miracle of life that was part of me and part of my husband, your dad.
But the responsibility of trying to meet your needs when I was so inadequate was overwhelming. 
I had never done babysitting. I didn’t know how to nurture because I wasn’t nurtured. 
I didn’t think my mom loved me. I wasn’t bonded to my mom because of my 3 months in the incubator after I was born, untouched and alone. God showed me “You weren’t alone; I was there the whole time.” 

I’m still kind of detached emotionally from a lot of things. Growing up, we weren’t allowed to be real and to feel. Mom wasn’t real with her feelings either–she just hid in her books and her alcohol.

I wish I was free to be your mom in that moment. I wish I was free but I was in a CULT and had to serve the church first. Putting my family before the church was selfish. We weren’t taught that it was okay to put priority on our family. Our priority was to be on those above us, not on our family. Our family’s needs were irrelevant.” 

(Healing conversations with my mom 💌 05/06/2023)

If I have to guess, I’d say I was about nine months old in this photo. I look happy, looking deep into my mom’s eyes. She is captivating and beautiful as she’s smiling into my face, searching for me too. This photo got me misty-eyed, yet full-blown tears I feel coming on. My chest feels heavy. Tears are streaming into droplets on my keyboard. When did life steal the smile out of me and my mom? When did she stop looking at me like this? When did I stop being able to make eye contact with her? If I were anyone else, I’d think this little girl grew up to feel well-loved and nurtured.

Writing about this is much more difficult than I imagined. I thought I’d felt all the emotions thousands of times, but evidently, that’s not enough. My mom is smiling, holding me up like she is proud to show me off. She’s looking up at me like she’s joyful about my existence and communicating with me–just me and Mommy. I wonder if she held me close after this photo was taken if she gave me kisses or said I love you, and that rush of BIG LOVE forced itself through her chest and she felt an overwhelming sense of protection over me, her daughter. 

I wish I could teach this woman holding this precious baby how to love me well. I would bring myself closer to her. I’d never stop searching for my daughter. I would nurture and love her so deeply that she wouldn’t ever feel like she was alone. She would know a mother’s love. She would be surrounded by joy and depth. Her sensitivity would be valued for the gift that it is, that I am. Seeing myself in a frilly little dress, this may have been taken after a church service or event.

As this baby’s mom, I’d probably be really tired and go curl up on the couch to take a nap with my beautiful daughter. The immense feelings of sweet motherhood would sweep powerfully through me as I gently breathed in the top of her head for an afternoon nap. (The top of a baby’s head is the sweetest smell in the world.) These are the things I would do, that I did with my own babies. 

How is it that my mom didn’t get the trait of “mother”? Nightmares, demons, and darkness wouldn’t take over my girl’s little spirit, because I’m her mom. She wouldn’t be left to hide from the monsters alone. I would give her big hugs and kisses so often so she knows what sincere affection feels like. I’d encourage her to be exactly who she is, sensitive, tender-hearted, and brave. I’d learn how to nurture qualities that were different from mine, even when it scared me. I wouldn’t push her away. I would instill in her the knowledge that she was wonderfully made and never too much or not enough. 

What I think about a lot these days is how much I wish I could experience my childhood again with my mom, as she is now. Recently, we cried on the phone together as she told me that she wishes she could do it all over knowing what she knows now. I desperately needed to hear this from her. It was exactly what the little girl in me longed for more than anything else in the world. I didn’t think that day was ever going to come. To hear her say that, I knew she was speaking through her tears, was by all of the meaning, it was the most nurturing thing she could have said. It may have been the most nurturing thing she ever said to me. 

Red Beach Bike

March 18, 2023

The shiny red beach bike, a 2013 Christmas gift. After six months of homeless, hotel hopping, we were accepted into a women’s DV Shelter. The pastor of a small church we were attending, paired my kids and me with another family for “Adopt a Family Christmas”. I wished for a beach bike with a basket for many years, imagining myself riding everywhere, along the beach to be closer to God.

There was no beach, but I rode up and down the hill at the shelter, up in the Sylmar mountains. With a sense of freedom, I loved the wind against me. Staying below us, a tween boy helped me put all the pieces together from a huge box. After we left the shelter, I never rode the bike again. The chains were loose so the pedals were unstable. Life was so overwhelming that I didn’t have the capacity in me to fix it.

Two years later, renting a room in a two-bedroom apartment, the bike stayed on the patio. My ex (an aggressive alcoholic) showed up at the apartment angry, still wired and drunk from the night before. I can’t remember why she went out onto the patio, threw my bike over the balcony, and without missing a beat, threw my daughter’s bike on top of it. Now my bike had loose pedals and crooked handle bars.

Because I’m a sentimental collector of life’s material memories, I imagined that one day I’d fix it. It’s been nearly ten years, the pitiful red bike hangs in the furthest corner of my garage. It’s followed me through seven moves (that I remember), possibly more. 

Is it time to let this go? It doesn’t bring happy memories. Even the week that I enjoyed riding around the shelter, feeling free, is clouded by the dark events that followed: the way the Program Director, Carlos, looked my body up and down every day, saying, Damn, you look good today. The way we got kicked out of the shelter even after I appealed their decision–all because I let my kids go to Disneyland for a once-in-a-lifetime trip with their Grandpa, Aunt, and cousins during the last week of school. (Their teachers gave the okay, confirming that schoolwork was done for the year). We had been living a nightmare for two years, non-stop. As mother to my children (4 and 8 at the time), I made the informed decision that they deserved and needed to have fun at Disneyland. They needed time away from the trauma to just be kids.

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. 

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.

Moonshine 🌙

April 21, 2021 Someone dear to me has called me a sunshine person many times. But, come to think of it, I feel like I am definitely more of a moonshine person myself. I’m not a naturally bubbling over with sunshine and birds singing type, but more like a searching for rainbows and the promising glow of light at the end of the tunnel type.
I don’t see myself as the social 🦋, but I am the quiet nurturer of humans and animals. You won’t find me in large crowds or loud spaces, BUT YOU CAN always find me and my door is Always Open.

Multi-task or Hyper-Focus?

April 29, 2021 “You need to learn how to multi-task better.”
I heard this more times than I can count. At first, I would strive, strive, strive to do better, but I couldn’t ever fully measure up. The more I started to heal from my past, I realized that the concept of multi-tasking as we know it, was pushed by society and the culture of STAYING BUSY. It was not God who said that we need to be great at multi-tasking. I’m gonna ask Him when I see Him, but I’ve come to believe that It’s ok that I am not the best at multi-tasking. If you are like me, then you are probably great at the things that come with being someone who is able to hyperfocus. You give your whole attention to things that inspire you, your senses are heightened, you allow people to feel truly heard.
I’m not knocking all of the mult-taskers out there. I think your ability is a gift, just like the ability to hyperfocus is a gift. I think we need to allow each other to use our gifts, unashamed. Our differences are so beautiful.
-Emily’s Insights🌙

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.

Taking Up Space

August 28, 2020 Some of you may be wondering why I’m so transparent on social media. Some of you may feel slightly uncomfortable with my reallness. If so, then maybe it isn’t for you. For the first time in my life, I know in my heart that I don’t owe anybody an explanation, and that peace in my heart feels freaking amazing. But if you are still reading, than maybe this is for you too.

Up until only a few short weeks ago, I would have crumbled at backlash, especially after allowing myself to be so vulnerable. I would have gone silent and dark. But I am healing and for as long as I’ve been here in this earth, my purpose is to share my light with as many as I can. In order to do this, I believe it is important to share my story. If I don’t shy away from sharing the raw pain and my struggles, I am allowing someone to identify with me and am reaching out my hand to them to say “I know it hurts. I see you. Have some of my strength today. We can heal together.”

My story is not to make you feel sad for me any more, but to share in my joy and my freedom from all that had me feeling so confused and hopeless for so long. My story is not an excuse for myself to remain a victim. But I am willing to admit that I have been a victim of many painful things that weren’t my fault, I am finally allowing myself to really look at those things and feel compassion, empathy for that child, that girl, that young woman, that mother, that friend. For me, I needed to be allowed to admit my heart breaks, my traumas, in order to heal. I was not allowed to do that for a long time, and didn’t know how to do that because I got so good at stuffing it all down to “keep on truckin'”. Well, ” big girl panties” have never been my thing and I really wasn’t very good “sucking it up”. 😝 I was so damn sad and beat myself up constantly because I couldn’t seem to conform to the expectations that others had of me.

Many of my followers are my family, my dear friends throughout the years. Many of you have loved me, cried with me and for me, prayed with me and for me. Many of you have counseled me and worried about me and hoped and dreamed for me to find healing. This is for you.

My stories and testimony are for anyone who feels stuck, who feels hopeless, worthless, like they can’t hold on another day, like God doesn’t see them, that they will never be able to climb out of the darkness, that they are pathetic, too much, not enough, stupid, ugly, or any other heartbreaking message that we tell ourselves.

My story is for myself, to acknowledge my pain and share in my healing.

My story is for my precious children to know in their hearts just how deeply they are loved and how worthy they are of fighting for.

So much love to you all as we all do the very best we can at this crazy thing called life. ❤