The title is something I’d only heard in films or in TV, so part of me finds it mildly amusing that I do indeed have a therapist (and a very nice one at that!).
A few months ago as I stood in the playground surrounded by bumps and babies feeling the usual sense of dread in my stomach I realised that I needed to take charge of my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder triggers.
The bumps and babies will always be there – at school, at work, in our friendship circle, in our family, at Sainsbury’s, on days out, the list is endless. I can’t spend my life avoiding and ignoring the things that trigger me so it was time to do something about it.
In our area we have a self referral service, I called up and registered my details and within the week I had a telephone assessment. During the call I mentioned that I’d heard good things about EMDR therapy, told the lady I had no interest in more counselling or going back on medication. I said I was safe but my normal daily activities were becoming difficult and full of triggers. In short I needed help beyond that of my family and friends could offer. I’m rubbish at asking for help, so this was a big thing for me!
A few days later I had a call back to say that I was being treated as a priority and an appointment was booked with the peri-natal psychotherapist covering the area.
Two gruelling sessions later where I told my story from start to finish* I was deemed suitable for EMDR therapy.
*everything was in there my childhood, the hip operations, school, meeting Matt, work, our infertility, my fear of flying, Toby, Rory, Henry – EVERYTHING.
In the third session I was prepared for the treatment by trying out some things to calm me down and desensitise things when I was triggered outside of the sessions as well as helping me to leave a session in good mental shape – grounding, visualising a safe place, distraction techniques – all useful and weirdly counting things to distract me was my favourite! I also had to consider my first, worst and last traumatic memory (in my case twice over as there’s Rory trauma and Henry trauma).
So, what is EMDR therapy? Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing is a form of treatment for PTSD, I’m not a medical professional but the next couple of paragraphs hopefully explain things…
PTSD happens because of misfiled and uncategorised memories – imagine a desk covered in papers next to a filing cabinet with papers shoved in randomly and spilling out of the drawers – that ladies and gents is my brain. When Rory and Henry died there were too many traumatic memories to process so my brain dumped them wherever there was space, it is an untidy disorganised place at the moment!
PTSD can happen to anyone who has experienced some sort of trauma.
When I am triggered my poor brain rummages through the messy desk and filing cabinet and throws up the first traumatic memory it can find and off we go with the dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, zoning in on the thing causing the trigger and an overwhelming wish to run for the hills.
EMDR will help my brain to organise and file the memories – liken it to a good sort out, filing, and archiving session!
The process itself is interesting, the therapist (a lovely Swedish lady) moves two fingers from side to side really fast and I follow them with my eyes whilst reliving a traumatic memory (yes, I know it sounds ridiculous), EMDR mimics rapid eye movement in sleep which is the time when our brain categorises and processes information, the therapy essentially allows my brain to have a sort out.
I’ve had one full session of EMDR so far and it was exhausting. I had to relive the same memory over and over, I cried a lot, big fat snotty tears in fact. I remembered things I’d forgotten (this was good and bad). Sometimes I lost my train of thought completely just like she said I would. I had to think about my feelings at the time and talk through them. My brain hurt a lot.
I was told not to drink alcohol for two days so as not to interfere with the process (my little face fell a bit when she said that!) and the therapist said to note down anything that sprung to mind in the time before the next session.
The one thing I’ve noticed that I’m hyper sensitive to noise at the moment, everything seems too loud, too annoying. I have fairly low tolerance levels anyway and find lots of things annoying but this has increased tenfold at present. But I’m hopeful the negatives will be short term and I’ll start reaping the benefits over the next 16 sessions.
The therapist said I’d come to hate the sessions and love them all at the same time. I think she might be right!