I tried to write about my therapy books here because writing about the books was a way for me to process what I was learning without just vomiting navel gazing. It also helped to keep me on a task by thinking (or maybe fantasizing) that my book reviews would help others. I have an easier time spending energy on helping others than helping myself. I was also also starting to get mixed up about what was actually in each book because I was reading them so fast that the contents started blending together and I wanted to be able to go back and reference or reread or make reading recommendations based on content.
In October of 2019, I read Educated. In February 2020 I read Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents. Educated was the first time I looked at my CPTSD and thought it could be more than just the trauma from my adult life. Adult Children was a revelation. I don’t know how much more I would have done, though, if not for COVID. I spent years avoiding dealing with it. My method of avoidance was the pursuit of happiness, adventure, and meaning. Objectively better than drugs or alcohol, but no less an addiction (see In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts). Like a leaky roof, I only thought about my damage it when it rained. COVID was a monsoon season that lasted for 2 years.
I wrote as much as I could until I got to Gretchen Schmelzer’s book, A Journey Through Trauma, and I broke. It’s an amazing book. I just broke because it finally scraped through a wall of resistance I had inside and let a lot of scary goop come oozing out. I remember sitting in my room in the dark searching for my core (pre-traumatized) self and realizing it was just cracked up shards the whole way back. That book also made me believe that there was no way to heal without a trained and qualified guide (therapist, social worker, counsellor, group leader, etc), and I had to cope with the grief of the total unfairness of paywall blocking my mental health before I decided that it just wasn’t true.
I found two more book reviews in my drafts folder when I came back to the blog after my long break. I plan to publish them as soon as I get them cleaned up, but I don’t think I’m going to write any more of the book reviews after that. I’m still reading new and helpful trauma recovery books to this day, and hope to continue, but he process of writing out my thoughts and reactions to the books isn’t as helpful to me as it was when I started, and there’s plenty of online reviews out there.
Educated, Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents & Complex PTSD: from Surviving to Thriving are in A Trip Inside: Where I Went in 2020 (and was meant to be the first of a series).
The Tao of Fully Feeling & The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog are in Head Trip: (Therapy Books Cont. 2021)
Gretchen Schmelzer’s book A Journey Through Trauma got it’s own post: Book & Author Review.
Trauma & Recovery by Judith Lewis Herman & The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van der Kolk are coming soon.
MY READING LIST:
Below is a full list of ALL the books I’ve read and think may be helpful if you or a loved one is trying to heal from trauma. Although I have no plans to write any further reviews, I’m happy to talk about the books if anyone has any questions.
TOP 5 (no particular order):
The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel van der Kolk
CPTSD Thriving to Surviving, Pete Walker
Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents, Lindsay C. Gibson
Journey Through Trauma, Gretchen L. Schmelzer
What My Bones Know, Stephanie Foo
The only one of my top 5 that I haven’t written about is Stephanie Foo’s What My Bones Know. I just recently finished my first reading of that book, but the reason it made my top 5 is because she is a regular person (not a doctor or therapist) who started her journey of understanding and healing from her own CPTSD about 1 year before me and just published. Neither of is done with the journey, we’re just at a similar point. We are two people with very different backgrounds and life experiences. Foo is the daughter of Asian immigrants, and is a very successful reporter. Her trauma was not the same as mine, but I’ve learned a lot about not playing the Pain Olympics (don’t minimize your experiences by comparing your pain/trauma to anyone else; don’t make anyone compete to be “traumatized enough”). The part of the book that shot it straight to my top 5 was the process of revelation and recovery. The way in which even though our lived experiences of being traumatized were so very different, our experiences along the path to recovery were stunningly similar. It may not be a good book to start your own healing journey with, but I think it’s essential to anyone who’s been trying for a while and is feeling rough.
Family & Generational Trauma:
Mothers Who Can’t Love, Susan Forward
Toxic Parents, Craig Buck & Susan Forward
Recovering from Emotionally Immature Parents, Lindsay C. Gibson
Emotional Inheritance, Galit Atlas
General Trauma & Healing:
Trauma and Recovery, Judith Lewis Herman
The Tao of Fully Feeling, Pete Walker
The Drama of the Gifted Child, Alice Miller
Healing Trauma, Peter A. Levine
How to Do the Work, Dr. Nicole LePera
The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, Bruce Duncan Perry (child abuse)
For Your Own Good, Alice Miller (the pedagogy of child rearing examined as traumatic abuse)
See What You Made Me Do, Jess Hill (domestic violence & coercive control)
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Gabor Maté (addiction as connected to trauma)
Conflict Is Not Abuse, Sarah Schulman (trauma responses)
Greater Than the Sum of Our Parts, Richard C. Schwartz (founder of IFS therapy method)
What Happened to You? Oprah Winfrey (pop psych – learning to become trauma informed)
Educated, Tara Westover (personal narrative of escape and recovery)
Borderlands La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Gloria Anzaldúa (personal narrative of discovery and healing)
Bonus Video Materials!
I know reading isn’t for everyone (most of these books are available in audiobook format for those who prefer), considering my current audience, I may be speaking to a higher percentage of readers, but maybe you want to loop in a non-reader or take a reading break. I also have a small list of videos that I found helpful.
The Crappy Childhood Fairy: also on Youtube, she is a person who is in recovery for CPTSD and has a lot of good stuff to share. Her insights into the problems with finding a good therapist were especially validating.
Patrick Tehan is a licensed therapist who specializes in family systems. He uses his knowledge mixed with his own experiences healing from childhood trauma to explain various trauma symptoms, coping mechanisms, and deeper paths to healing.
Dr. Ramani is a clinical psychologist whose videos target narcissism, narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse.
Psych2go is a really calming and adorable animated info source about mental health. Sometimes, I just watch it when I’m not sure what advice I’m looking for.
Any of Richard Schwartz’s videos on Internal Family Systems. I watched several and a lot of them are repeats, but the practical demonstrations and guided meditations are the best.
Jane McGonigal’s TedTalk tells the story of how her app Superbetter helps people gamify healing.
Sometimes artists turn their healing journey into tv shows? I’ve talked before about Adventure Time & Steven Universe because I think they are very good shows for dealing with complex and nuanced emotions in a fun and often silly way. Very especially, the follow up, sequel mini series of Distant Lands and Steven Universe Future took off the pretense of being “just a cartoon” and dove into the serious work of trauma identification.
I also found Centaur World on Netflix to be a psychonautic musical journey into someone’s own Internal Family System’s therapy. The characters are fairly obviously exaggerated aspects of various trauma responses, and the bad guy, well… it inspires some deep thoughts for sure. And it has catchy tunes!
Is it all cartoons? Maybe… I do watch other shows, but for some reason cartoons lend themselves toward the balance of goofy and surreal that is needed to address trauma without drowning in it. The last one is animation, but not really a cartoon: Undone, on Amazon Prime. It’s about a mestiza woman who goes back in time to try and undo her generational trauma. It’s also pretty psychonautical, and was instrumental in my one of my own ah-ha breakthroughs about my family’s generational trauma.