5 Books I’ve Recently Bought to Work Through Years of Trauma, Silenced Emotions, and Living in “Survival Mode”

At first glance, you will see a 5’7 curvy brunette with olive skin and an inviting face. I frequently hear, “you look just like ____” or “I feel like I’ve met you before”.

Background on why I bought the books:

At first glance, you will see a 5’7 curvy brunette with olive skin and an inviting face. I frequently hear, “you look just like ____” or “I feel like I’ve met you before”. But what few people get to see are the years of trauma that I experienced as a child into my early twenties. They will never see the deeply disturbing events that occurred frequently then after they subsided were never talked about collectively as a family. These events just happened and then we moved onto the next bout of chaos without talking through the feelings involved in the prior event. We’d have a happy moment in between the tornados plus lots of laughs, but something was bound to happen soon. Christmas wasn’t met without chaos. Family dinners withered away. Trust was indefinitely lost amongst the six of us. Life as we knew it was a constant whirlwind of chaos, sadness, anger, and neglect.

Maybe that’s why countless unknown faces feel like “They’ve met me before”. Because 6% of children experience the loss of a sibling. 40% of adults in America are experiencing anxiety right now. 50% of kids come from divorced families. And 70% of adults in America have experienced some type of traumatic event. Even though people can’t see the turmoil and loss I’m actively working through, maybe people going through something similar can somehow feel it or sense the likeness.

So, this is where the books come into play. When I dive into dissecting my childhood with the help of my therapist, it begins to make sense why the most familiar feeling to me is confusion. Is that even a feeling? Probably not, but that’s what I am able to identify with. “How does that make you feel“, my therapist asks to no end so I can work on identifying real feelings. I respond with, “I don’t know. Confused”. Over and over and over again. This is because I don’t remember anyone ever asking me how I felt. Instead of feeling I problem solved. I quickly learned that solving problems kept me and my family somewhat safe. So that’s exactly what I tried to do all through out high school, college, and into my first year living in NYC.

This is why I’ve been pinned by my family as “The Strong One”. I was strong because I had to be. I was strong at times, but I was weak at others. I’m human. I learned that my parents didn’t have enough time while raising three other kids to understand that when I was confused and sad, it showed up as anger. Anger came out when I couldn’t problem solve or rationalize what was going on around me. Anger showed when I felt weak. Anger came alive when I felt out of control. These were the critical moments when I desperately needed someone to truly care for me by acknowledging my feelings. Someone to help me put my feelings into words so I wouldn’t have pent up anger that led to outbursts. I needed help understanding as a child that my feelings were valid.

You are so much more than the first part of your story. There is so much more to discover about yourself.

If you are working on overcoming your childhood trauma, moving away from “Survival Mode”, and learning how to feel, here are some great books to help you with the journey.

5 books I recommend:

Attached – The New science of adult attachment and how it can help you find – and keep – love.

Finding Meaning – The sixth stage of grief by David Kessler

Permission to Feel by Marc Brackett

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown

Running on Empty by Janice Webb

Don’t give up on finding a therapist. Here’s how I found one

You will hit roadblocks along the way in this process. But you will find a therapist that will help you improve your self-esteem. You will find a therapist that will teach you techniques to overcome an unanticipated loss. You will find a therapist that you can work through your anger with.

If you’ve ever began the process of trying to find a therapist, then you know first-hand how truly difficult it can be. You’ve experienced starting and stopping around 50-100 times because each time you get a little closer to finding a potential match, there’s another roadblock. You think to yourself, “Okay, this lady looks great. She specializes in eating disorders and anxiety”. You start to look for her contact information and ROADBLOCK— She doesn’t accept your insurance.
So then you wait a few days and after your afternoon run the adrenaline and endorphins are flowing so you think to yourself, “Okay, let’s give this another try, there has to be someone out there”. So you type in a variety of search terms of what you’re looking for:

Female, PTSD, Aetna, within 5 miles, and stress.

Next, you click on a licensed professional counselor (LPC) that matches all 5 criteria objectives you typed in. You email her along with two others that could potentially work. ROADBLOCK— None of the three potential therapists are accepting new patients right now.

So you try again in a week. More and more roadblocks continue to pop-up and you’ve pretty much lost all hope in finding a therapist at this point.

There are an innumerable amount of barriers when it comes to finding a professional to talk to. It’s easy to find a dentist or a nail salon, but it can feel like it’s close to impossible to find a licensed therapist that’s right for you. What was specifically challenging for me is when I was finally ready to look into options, I quickly became defeated. Each time I tried searching on a variety of websites I hit a new roadblock– Not accepting new patients, too far from my house, hours that weren’t compatible with my work schedule, out of network providers, etc. After my brother died, I searched for someone to work through my trauma with on and off for over a year. You’d think that in NYC you’d be able to find what you’re looking for in 10 minutes, but that’s just not the case. Eventually I moved to Denver and after living here for two months I started the search again. With persistence and commitment to figuring this out, I finally had a great phone consultation that led to an appointment that was booked for the following week. These are the steps I took:

7 Steps to Finding a Therapist

  1. I used Psychology Today
    • I applied the following filters:
      • Zip code
      • Widened the search to 5 miles
      • Clicked “Cigna” as my insurance
      • “Show Only Women”
      • Selected Grief, Trauma & PTSD, & Anxiety

  2. Next, I opened a few profiles that looked interesting to me

  3. Then, I emailed them directly through psychologytoday.com
    • Here you provide basic information: Why you’re reaching out, your phone #, email, and name. I also wrote the name of my insurance provider in the message as well

  4. Now the ball is in the therapists court and you wait to hear back. I also recommend giving them a call at the number listed on their profile

  5. When your potential therapist gets back to you, set up a 15-30 minute initial phone consultation
    • The free consultation is very important.I cannot stress this enough. During this call, the therapist will ask you questions and you can ask them questions. Be transparent and open about why you’re looking for a therapist. This will give you a good gauge if this could be a good fit for you.
    • Examples of questions to ask:
      • Do you specialize in ___(anxiety, trauma, self esteem, relationship issues, bipolar)__
      • What does your availability and hours look like?
      • Do you accept my insurance? **This is very important because out-of-network costs can be through the roof. If the provider you’re looking at setting up an appointment with is in-network for you, then you will pay a co-pay (mine is $40 per session). You and the therapist should both call your insurance provider to confirm your benefits.
      • How long are your sessions?
      • How do we set up counseling goals specific to me?
    • I’m very sensitive to people’s voices and tone, which is another reason why an initial call is extremely beneficial.

  6. If the initial consultation goes well and you’re interested in setting up the first appointment, the therapist will likely have you send over three things via email:
    1. A picture of your insurance card (front + back)
    2. Your date of birth
    3. Your current address

  7. Lastly, confirm your appointment time and go.
    I highlight go because setting up an appointment can seem like a good idea now, but then the day comes and we make excuses for why we can’t go. Excuses like, “I haven’t seen this friend in a year and we should get dinner”. Response: You’ll be a better friend if you prioritize your health and wellbeing. Or this excuse: “I have to work late”. Response: Keep your commitments, you’ll be better at work if you prioritize your health and wellbeing.

    If this first appointment goes well, set-up a second appointment while you are in the office. If you’re on the fence as to whether this is the therapist for you, go to 1-3 more sessions and then make a decision to start looking again.

You may have to repeat this process several times until you find the therapist that fits your needs and wants. I did. You will hit roadblocks along the way. But you will find a therapist that will help you improve your self-esteem. You will find a therapist that will teach you techniques to overcome an unanticipated loss. You will find a therapist that you can work through your anger with. You will find a therapist that uses EMDR as a therapy method. You will find a therapist that is in-network that you can afford. You will find a therapist for you. Start by taking the first step. You’ll be even stronger than you already are afterwards.

When we talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.

-Fred Rogers