Journal Date: Wednesday, December 16, 2020

I’m reading a bit in my book on CPTSD before I get started on my work today.

“Confronting denial is no small task. Children so need to believe that their parents love and care for them, that they will deny and minimize away evidence of the most egregious neglect and abuse.

De-minimization is a crucial aspect of confronting denial. It is the process by which a person deconstructs the defense of ‘making light’ of his childhood trauma.” –Pete Walker

This is part of the process I’ve been in for the past nine months.

First, I had to realize that what I experienced was in fact abuse.

And that no amount of rationalization or complaints about how I was just “too sensitive” would ever change that.

This in itself was a big deal. I’m not sure if I realized the magnitude of it at the time, but this realization was the turning point that would change everything.

Ever since then, it’s been a process of de-minimization, just as Walker speaks of in the quote above.

It’s coming to terms with the fact that it really was as bad as I remembered it (and honestly, maybe even a little worse than that).

One thing that I’ve been trying to wrap my head around recently is the possibility that my mom actually didn’t ever love me at all.

I always felt like (and half-seriously told my friends) that my mom hated me.

Now I think that was probably true.

Everything she said and did made it seem that way.

The only thing that kept me from fully believing it was my dad (and to a lesser extent, some of the other members of my family). 

The narrative I was always forced to buy into by my dad was, “she does love you, but she’s ‘incapable’ of treating you better. She’s incompetent, it’s just her nature. You need to understand that” (and accept that and act like it’s all okay).

Hm… I just had a little flash of insight: it seems likely that my dad so insistently demanded I believe this lie, because it was probably the same exact lie he was telling himself. “Your ex-wife really loved you, she’s just incapable…etc.” (And I’m sure that wasn’t true either).

The narrative from my aunts was always: “She does love you, but you’re just too sensitive/emotional/bad/etc…”

I don’t think any of that is true anymore.

I don’t think my mom ever loved me.

(Maybe as a baby, but surely not much longer after that).

I think she did hate me, whether she was willing to admit that or not.

I’ve been thinking more about my mom’s relationship with her own mother.

And I don’t think Abuelita loves my mom, either. Regardless of how many excuses my mom makes for her.

My mom is completely controlled and dominated by her mother. She always was, and she still is today, at 64. 

I don’t know what happened when my mom was growing up, but it seems my grandmother selected her to be her servant, her puppet, and bullied her into never having enough initiative or self-esteem to escape.

My mom is completely submissive to her. She complies with any of her mother’s whims and demands, and then makes excuses for her. 

Her own father was never around, so there was no one around to intervene or be another source of support or care.

When I was born, things were very different.

My dad was much more invested in the family and in being a father to me.

As a baby and younger child, my dad gave a lot of attention to both me and my brother.

And I think there may have been an element of jealousy with my mother, because she had never experienced that as a daughter to either of her parents.

It was expected that I would go to school, finish my education, and have success of my own in a way that was never considered for her. 

And it was assumed (by my dad and the larger American culture of which I was a part) that I would grow up and achieve independence from my family and have a life of my own.

These are all things that had been unthinkable as options for my mom.

And I believe that she really did resent me for that.

I’ve never wanted to believe this (even now, it still makes me feel bad to say it).

But the more I consider it, the more likely it seems that it’s true.

Maybe my mom really was determined to make sure that I never got what she never had.

It’s so hard to imagine that a mother could feel that way towards her child.

But there’s plenty of evidence, both from my life, as well as my mothers (with regard to Abuelita), to show that it’s very likely this was the case.

I can understand how she would feel upset about the loss of her own childhood and her own opportunities.

This was something that also came up for me when I was spending a lot of time with my younger cousin.

I remember seeing how well-loved she was, how cared for, nurtured and respected she was by both of her parents.

And I was sad. It put into stark contrast my own upbringing, and made very clear for me exactly what it was that I had lost.

But the last thing I would ever do is hurt my cousin.

It was just the opposite. I loved her so much (and I still do).

I put so much time and attention to being a good older cousin to her. We had pizza parties and sleepovers, we dressed up in silly costumes and wore animal face masks, and we had the best time together.

So yes, I can see how painful it is to confront what you never got, but no, I don’t make any excuses for it.

I know that it’s possible to act differently, because I did.

I loved my cousin, and while was sad, I wanted to make sure she had every opportunity to experience the things that had been missing for me.

The Progression of Recovering

Journal Date: Sunday, December 13th, 2020

I’m up, and still reading about Complex PTSD.

I’m on chapter 4, “The Progression of Recovering.”

I thought this was very relevant to the problem I’m facing now:

“It is important to understand that recovery is gradual and frequently a backwards and forwards process.

Effective recovery is often limited to only progressing in one or two areas at a time. Biting off more than we can chew and trying to accomplish too much too soon is often counterproductive. I spent years in mid-range recovery workaholically spinning my wheels trying to fix and change everything at once.

We often need to simplify our self-help efforts in early recovery.”

This definitely struck a chord with me. 

I really am trying to do a thousand different things at once.

So ultimately nothing gets done.

It’s frustrating and ineffective and I don’t want to do it anymore.

A big component of that has been with my books, and my compulsion to be studying a thousand things at once.

I seem to be incapable of discernment, and everything seems just as important as the next.

So I have a hundred books half-finished, and I feel like I’m “working” hard, but I’m just spinning my wheels and dissociating via text all day.

I’ve spent years like this.

It’s probably been around a decade now that I’ve had this habit.

I’ve always been a big reader, but it wasn’t until after college that this really became a problem.

That was when I got super depressed, I started seeing a psychiatrist, I got on all the pills, and then really went crazy…

For most of that time, I wasn’t working, just in school, reading all day.

I knew I was fucked up, and I hoped that I could read my way to being normal or okay.

I became obsessed with discovering The Answer™ to why I was so messed up and how I had to change to get better.

I read hundreds of books, and I avoided my own life very well with this excuse.

Although it wasn’t totally an excuse to dissociate and avoid reality.

Eventually, I did find myself on the right track, and I have read many things which have been useful and have helped me heal.

But I think I’m reaching the end of the road with this.

I spend all day reading and searching for the next best thing that will finally fix me, and in the process I neglect the actual business of my life.

Maybe it was important for me to do this at one time. It got me here.

But I don’t need any new theories.

I’ve decided I’m going to stop here, and sit with what I have now.

Honestly, I feel blessed to have found this CPTSD book. I know it’s going to be a game changer for me, and I’m ready to slow down and actually do the practices (instead of rushing to finish the book, then dropping it and running off to chase another theory, like I usually do).

So I’m committing to this now, to slowing down and doing it right.

Future Desires

Journal Date: Friday, December 11, 2020

I’m thinking about my desires for the next 1-2 years.

Every day I’m getting more clear about what I want to do and how I will use this time.

I’ve been trying to get rid of clutter and all the things I don’t need anymore, so I can focus on what I do want to grow.

And I can feel things shifting even more.

Every day, I feel just a little bit better.

I’m so happy and grateful to know that healing is happening.

It’s my mission to actively continue this healing process intensively for the next year and a half (or at least 16 months, which is what’s left of my graduate program).

It will also mark the end of a 2 year period of Uranus transits that have been quite revolutionary for me (Uranus opposite Pluto and Uranus conjunct Moon). 

It’ll also be when two other transits end (Saturn square Pluto and Saturn square Moon), which will be starting for me in 2-3 months.

And I also anticipate that it will be around then that this pandemic will finally reach its conclusion, and when I’ll be able to return to normal life.

I’m not going back to “normal,” though. 

I’ve changed so much already, even now, and I know that 16 months from now, the difference will be even more pronounced.

I also feel that at this point on my path, I have mostly found all of the resources (both internal and external) that I need to fully heal… I’m not rushing around anymore, reading a thousand different things that I haphazardly just stumbled upon. 

I’m not so confused now, and I know enough from the many years of reading and research to be able to evaluate what I need next.

Some of the most important keys I already have are: 

–continued therapy with Daren

–continued practice of Somatic Experiencing exercises

–the resources in Pete Walker’s CPTSD book


–my spiritual practice

I’m going to devote myself to this full time for the next 16 months (along with school and my writing).

I’m confident that I’ll be where I want to be by the end of that time period.

I’m looking forward to what the future will hold.

A Stranger to Herself

Journal Date: Wednesday, December 9th, 2020

Today I’m moving on to reading about the first group of exercises in the Somatic Experiencing program.

“When you have been traumatized, you’re often unable to feel your own physical boundaries, because of disconnection from your body. This can have an impact in other areas of your life, such as setting boundaries in relationships, because it’s impossible to set limits if you have no sense of your own boundaries. 

Rebuilding connection is really the key to all of these exercises, because trauma is about a loss of connection, first to the body and self, and second to others and the environment.”

I’ve never heard trauma defined that way before, but I like this definition, and I agree.

There are many other trauma symptoms I’ve suffered from (not to mention all the diagnoses I’ve accumulated over the years), but I think that this disconnection is what is at the root of all of them.

There is nothing like being disconnected from your own self. 

It is the strangest pain; a blunt force that destroys without direction; a vast field of emptiness; an abyss where a soul should be.

To feel “lonely” or “alone” does not even begin to describe it.

Alone implies one— a unity which stands apart. 

I was less than one—a nothing, a void whose only meaning was in what was missing.

Sometimes, when I imagined my own death, I would picture my grave, and the epitaph which would read: 

Here lies
—was never loved
and died
a stranger to herself.
1988 — 20xx

The Little Match Girl

A sad little girl with black hair holding matches out in the snow

Journal Date: November 28, 2020

This morning, I was trying to keep reading. I didn’t know what else to do.

So I picked up Women who Run with the Wolves again, and opened it where I’d left off at Chapter 10.

This turned out to be a chapter that had more than one story in it.

So I finished the first part, with the story of “La Llorona,” and kept reading into the next one.

This one was called “The Little Match Girl.”

It was not what I expected it would be.

I’d heard of it, and even read it once before (as part of an assignment Mama Gena had included as part of our homework in GPS).

But this time, it shocked me. Because I saw that this story was about me.

It told of a poor little girl who lived alone in a dark forest. She had no mother and no father. She had no money or possessions, either, except for a few matches that she bought for half a penny and sold for one.

Winter came, and the cold weather, and she tried to go sell the matches in the nearby town. 

“She wandered the streets and begged strangers, would they please buy matches from her? But no one stopped and paid her any attention.”

One night, suffering from the cold, she decided to light her matches to warm herself, though she had no wood and no kindling.

Every time she lit a match, she found herself immersed in some fantasy, only to awaken again colder than ever.

She struck the third and final match, and in her fantasy her grandmother appeared, “so warm and so kind, and the child felt so happy to see her…” But then the grandmother began to fade, as the little match girl felt herself rise up into heaven.

The story ends sadly, with the little match girl found cold and dead between the houses the next morning.

It wasn’t this telling of the story that resonated with me so much as the commentary that followed.

Here is the first paragraph of interpretation after the story:

“This chid lives in an environ where people do not care. If you are in one of these, get out.”

Hm. Well, that was pretty direct. 

She continues: “This child is in a milieu where what she has, little fires on sticks–the beginnings of all creative possibilities–are not valued. If you are in this predicament, turn your back and walk away.”

Estes seems to feel pretty strongly about this. She goes on to say, “This child is in a psychic situation in which there are few options. She has resigned herself to her ‘place’ in life. If this has happened to you, unresign yourself and come out kicking ass.”

I feel that this has been where I have been most of my life. I had resigned myself to place for so long. I had come to believe that there was no other way for me.

“She cannot awaken to a life with a future because her wretched life is like a hook upon which she hangs daily. In initiations, spending a significant amount of time under difficult conditions is part of a dismemberment that severs one from ease and complacency. As an initiatory passage, it will come to a conclusion, and the newly ‘sanded down’ woman will commence a refreshed and enwisened spiritual and creative life. 

However, women in the Match Girl condition could be said to be involved in an initiation that has gone awry. The hostile conditions do not serve to deepen, only to decimate. Another venue, another environ, with different supports and guides, must be chosen.”

I think this is why I have been so focused on wanting to move to Mexico City. I have intuited the fact that this is not an environment where I will ever be able to grow. I’m 32, and it still seems impossible. I don’t think the conditions around me will ever change. So I’ve decided I must go somewhere else.

“The Match Girl wanders the streets and she begs strangers to buy matches from her. This scene shows one of the most disconcerting things about injured instinct in women, the giving of light for little price… Bad lovers, rotten bosses, exploitative situations, wily complexes of all sorts tempt a woman to these choices.”

This has been true about me. It has been the saddest thing about me, about my life: my willingness to lower the price, to just give myself away to anyone, to beg them to accept me. 

But how was I supposed to know better? I was always taught (by words and by force) that this was the only way.

“The Match Girl lights more matches. Each fantasy burns out, and again the child is in the snow and freezing. When the psyche freezes, a woman is turned toward herself and no one else.”

And it was all for no use. Every shitty boss, emotionally abusive partner, it all ended the same. With me left even more out in the cold, again. Everything I did to hold on to the fantasy ensured my own future end.

“It is a psychic fact that when libido or energy wanes to the point where its breath no longer shows on the mirror, some representation of the Life/Death/Life nature shows up, here portrayed by the grandmother. It is her work to arrive at the death of something, to incubate the soul that has left its husk behind, and to care for the soul till it can be born anew.”

I’m at that point now. I’ve spent this past year in surrender, dying to everything I’ve ever known or believed to be true. 

I’m ready to move forward. I’m dying to be reborn.

A sad little girl with black hair out in the snow

“And that is the blessedness of everyone’s psyche. Even in the event of such a painful ending as the Match Girl’s, there is a ray of light. When enough time, discontent, and pressure have been brought to bear, the Wild Woman of the psyche will hurl new life into a woman’s mind, giving her opportunity to act in her own behalf once more. As we can see from the suffering involved, it is far better to heal one’s addiction to fantasy than wait around wishing and hoping to be raised from the dead.”

The Compulsion to Repeat

Journal Date: Saturday, November 7th, 2020

It’s still hard for me know what’s real. I’m always too quickly inclined to blame it on myself, or to assume that I’m just overreacting.

I don’t think that’s actually the case in this situation right now.

And now that I’m looking back on my childhood with different eyes, I’m starting to think I wasn’t actually overreacting then, either.

I was having all of these intensely negative emotional reactions to intensely negative life experiences. Things really were that bad. I wasn’t wrong to be deeply upset by what was happening to me. My feelings were perfectly appropriate to the difficult and extremely painful situation I was in.

I only learned to distrust and deny myself because of what the rest of my family demanded I accept. The gaslighting that went on cut me off from any sense of knowing what was right or wrong.

I had no clue how to feel or react; no matter what I did, I somehow found that I was always wrong, again.

And it wasn’t just what I did that was wrong—it was me, I was wrong.

Fundamental bad, fucked up, broken, unworthy and unloveable, or as my mom often told me then, “hopeless” and a “lost cause.”

This was probably the worst part of it all.

My distrust, denial, and even disgust with myself.

It got me into so many stupid situations that I had no place being in, that were re-traumatizing and perpetuated the same despair I’d always felt.

“Here’s one of the more unusual and problem-creating symptoms that can be developed from unresolved trauma: the compulsion to repeat the actions that caused the problem in the first place. We are inextricably drawn into situations that replicate the original trauma in both obvious and less obvious ways.” —from Healing Trauma by Peter Levine

a page from my journal — 11/7/2020

How can I liberate myself from this now?

How can I call this part of my soul back from where I lost it so long ago?

I don’t know how yet. But I know I’m willing to try.