Last Saturday I had EMDR. I’d never had it before, but it has been on my radar for the past year, I just have been too nervous to give it a go. Somehow I had created it into being this clinical and scary thing, when actually it is just about one of the most alternative therapies you can do – apparently the creator designed the method to reenact (if that’s the word) the healing processes that she believed taking Acid (yep, LSD) can have. And now it is a worldwide tool that works wonders with PTSD.
This EMDR last weekend all came about by confidence, as stuff in my life often does. The sweet air of synchronicity seems to consistently flutter about my days. A couple of weeks ago, in the midst of trigger hell due to my Somatic Experiencing Therapy (sometimes I feel like I should be sponsored to do therapy, the amount of stuff I have going on) I went to a an EFT workshop to try and soften things. EFT works wonders, in a softer gentler way to EMDR. All these acronyms leave me dizzy. The lady running the workshop chatted with me afterwards because I had some queries, as I always do. It turned out she happened to do EMDR as well. I was so overcome with relief that I cried! I had found the lass that I was going to give this a go with. And she said she’d give me a discount because I’d come to the workshop – double bonus. The only glitch that she doesn’t have the full accreditation for EMDR – only a weekend course – and so I was worried, but figured I’d give it a go. This is essentially what it does: gets the two sides of the brain talking to each other and enabling it to heal like it naturally can, trauma’s hefty punch can just leave the brain stuck and needing a helping hand to get things back in the groove again.
We met on Saturday and I was half expecting to just do EFT but nope, we dived right into EMDR. Of all the trauma therapies it’s the one that you have most control over, which for me is/was so freakin’ important. And I wonder too, whether it’s why it hasn’t happened for me yet. It has only been this last month, literally, that I have felt ANY sense of control over my emotional and physical experience. Fuck it’s sucked. This newfound control is 100% down to the wonders of somatic experiencing therapy. I’ve only had four sessions so far but it’s changed so much already. It’s enabled me to rebalance and stabilise my own physical sensations – the element of PTSD which can knock you sideways the most and leave solid ground seemingly impossible to find. It teaches you to tune into your nervous system and get things into balance by noticing tiny sensations. And then you begin to release the trauma physically, not through words or the hand-eye dance of EMDR.
This week I have felt like I have been hit by a bus. I literally have been so whacked I have found it hard to function like a normal human being. Instead I have been more like a sloth. A sloth that’s been on a bender the week before. I have so dizzy, so exhausted beyond words, so spaced, so hit by blood sugar wobbles I have been eating every ten minutes because if I don’t the crash is ugly and painful. I have been really concerned as my body and brain hasn’t felt like mine. It’s felt like a sloth sneaked in and stole it. Doing anything physical – ie. anything that isn’t LYING DOWN – I become overwhelmed with weakness and fatigue within about fifteen minutes. This would have proved funny, if I had the beans to laugh. Instead I’ve felt on planet No Go. Wherever that is.
All my old memories of the severe bout of Chronic Fatigue I had a few years ago, were back and flooding me. It felt like I was back in time. All my old feelings about how I was feeling were back up. I had gone from finally getting to grips with mindfulness, quietening my inner critic, and feeling like me for the first time in…forever…to a sloth like self-critical and spaced out mess. It’s weird how a physical state can trigger such heavy memories and emotions, but in a way it just makes sense. I’ve fought the need to rest out of fear I’ll undo the good that the EMDR brought. Yet everything I have done has been at a pace that I may as well have been walking backwards, or I have been sitting down every five minutes. So, I should have just been sleeping. But, that inner critic has been kicking up a FRENZY and so I have fought this too.
Another thing that’s weird is the fact that I have been reluctant to share about the EMDR or the way that I am feeling because I hold this deep rooted fear and mistrust of ‘quick therapies’, or anything that takes that disguise. This all comes from just spending money and time and those years with chronic fatigue, deep in the world of things like NLP, etc. I came out with no trust whatsoever for that kind of thing as it had no long term benefit. Only more shit to come. And so I blamed this on those therapies. When actually, it could have just been ‘life’. Anyway, so this EMDR brought up all that shitty stuff and so I have lived this week feeling like I’ve been stuffing my experience and determined not to feel what I’m feeling…instead, I took on my sloth disguise.
Turns out, all this fatigue is the EMDR. It’s what it does. It is big stuff that’s happening and it is still very much working through for the week/s to come. Talking with my american therapist last night, she told me this. It felt like the entire week I’d been living in a dream and I could finally wake up and trust what was happening. And maybe now trust that it’s safe to talk about the changes that have happened too.
What EMDR did for me
Immediately after the EMDR I noticed my hypervigilance around the overdose trauma literally disappeared…I came out of the session and sobbed. Partly because I had just done something that I had been terrified of this entire year and it turned out to be really amazing stuff, but because I realised that I have literally been living the past year stuck in the past. That’s the definition of PTSD. This felt too good to be true. I walked home in this battle of doubt and disbelief and fear, versus sheer joy and relief and freedom. This is basically how the next 24 hours went – literally physical and emotional battle to stay in the present and the positive (out of fear of undoing the work!) – until the Sloth was the feature of my days.
I had been increasingly stressed (physically), increasingly noticing memories and feelings around/about last years overdose becoming more and more present, and such strong anxiety, fear and dread around the year mark coming up this month. I was feeling overwhelmed. Trauma is so physical that no matter the self-talk or the focusing on the now, it didn’t soften the surfacing of all these memories and the stress. EMDR has given me a ‘healthy concern’ – something that until now I have never had. It’s obvious I am going to be nervous of the overdose mark coming up – it was a mega bucks big deal, and a painful and traumatic one too, so it is natural to be aware of it. But EMDR has enabled me to now relax and know it will be okay. I have not spent one minute in the stress-head state that I was before. This is mega. I have been freaked out by this sense of calm…it’s the most bizarre feeling ever. And whilst the EMDR was happening it was bizarre too – these waves of such strong emotions, washed over me as I thought back to that day and the nitty gritty ugly painful details…I felt intense waves of anger, sorrow, grief, let-down, and then a giant sense of calm.
These changes have freaked me out. They’ve made me feel like a stranger to myself. But I think this is the beginning of living with a bit more norm, and in not such a heightened sketched out on-alert state. Rather than managing my symptoms, like I was doing so freakin’ well, I think this is the beginning of living with no symptoms at all. The therapist today used the analogy of the back of your hand. When you think of it, it feels calm and nothing, but if you pinch it, when you think of your hand it is much louder because it hurts. This is like what trauma does: everything in your brain just gets so bloody loud. The good and the bad. It becomes a constant balancing act, managing act and comedy act.
This week we met again. I turned up one hour early I was so keen…or just confused with my start time. We worked over and over with this fear that all this EMDR has brought up. The fear of being well. The fear of getting rid of all this leftover shit, and healing. The fear of no longer being like my mom. The undeserving sense I deeply have. The stubbornness of my inner critic in desperately trying not to let this (the letting go, freedom and healing) happen. We worked with the fear I have of the fact I feel so spaced and exhausted…I come to the conclusion I’m losing it/going mad/destined to be like this forever…blah blah blah.
There is a niggle about this EMDR and the lady that I was trying to work out what it was. It wasn’t the qualifications issue anymore because she reassured me that she had done all the preparation in her other work, that those doing the appropriate accreditation for EMDR would do. I realised it is the fact that this is the most vulnerable I have ever been with anyone. I sit there in front of her – someone who I would not choose ideally as my person to be vulnerable in front – and I deeply feel the rawest emotions, right there in her face. I can only giggle a little bit, I can’t distract, I can’t talk about the weather…I am there. I am there to be seen and that is the point. But fuck it’s scary. On a level that therapy has never got to before.
Maybe I’ll just keep listening to Brene Brown, my vulnerability rad role model, to remind me that this is safe and this is okay. This is essential in fact. Even if it does hurt like a bitch or feel as uncomfortable as a bath with a Boa Constrictor.