We still don’t know why EMDR works, really. There’s research going on, and a number of theories. What we do know is that it provides relief for those dealing with deep-seated trauma, so says my therapist, AN.
Heading to the session last Friday, I was nervous, as always. But perhaps because of everything else going on, I didn’t feel quite as sick to my stomach as usual.
Though, AN barely started talking and I was already in tears. Again.
I thought she might’ve wanted me to recount the whole story from start to finish. But she just let the parts of the story that needed to come out, appear of their own accord.
We talked through the process thoroughly, to make sure I understood what would happen.
Apparently it’s important while undergoing EMDR to try and say whatever comes up – be it an emotion, a thought, an image, etc. And regardless of whether it ‘seems’ relevant or not.
Sounds easy perhaps, but it was interesting to observe how many of my thoughts I dismiss out of hand. How many are just tiny faint little voices, despite having something important to say.
With EMDR, nothing is considered unimportant.
AN asked me to bring to mind a memory or feeling about the assault that still caused me a lot of discomfort.
Didn’t have to think long. It’s always been his eyes – how they looked just after he’d hit me.
Those eyes kept me awake the night of, and several days after the assault. It’s not that I couldn’t see them with my eyes open… just that they were less threatening that way. Closing my eyes made them glow iridescently. They’ve haunted me nearly every single day of my life since that time.
AN asked me to rate my level of discomfort out of ten (or seven?). We rated each ‘scene’ (her term) as they bubbled to the surface (not that I can recall the ratings I gave, nor for that matter, were they necessarily accurate).
What came up varied greatly.
There was a ‘stream of consciousness’ feel to the way each scene appeared. Sometimes related to a post I’d written about a specific aspect of that night. Then, I’d be talking about how I feel right now, admitting to myself and AN things I really haven’t spoken about before. Next thing I knew, I was back in the moments just after he’d gone, in shock, where… I couldn’t figure out what needed doing the most.
Each time a new topic came up, I’d rate it, talk about it for a while (amidst many tears) and then I was asked to look at the pen. That standard issue black pen.
AN waved it in front of my face, from side to side and my job was to follow it with my eyes. And focus on whatever specific emotion we’d just been discussing.
Some ‘scenes’ took multiple pen waving efforts. But eventually, this deceptively simple process seemed to… lessen the intensity of how I felt. Lessen the emotions attached to certain memories and experiences.
An early realisation in the session was how incredibly humiliated I felt, that this could happen to me. So much so, it’s been tough trying to look anyone in the eye.
Not to mention… I felt totally responsible for what happened. I blamed myself entirely for his actions and mine. As though I should’ve been able to control the situation. Which clearly doesn’t make sense.
And no matter how many people would say ‘it’s not your fault‘, it was never enough to convince my very own vicious inner Supreme Court Judge.
There’s also my extreme anger at both myself and Andre. And my latent desire for revenge (hampered by my inability to act on revenge fantasies coz I’m just not wired that way! Which kinda pisses me off!).
Don’t know how far along we were when grief surfaced. Deep-voiced and stricken… wordlessly expressing the loss I’ve felt… my zest for life… my bravery… part of my innocence… all gone. Three years in hiding from myself and other people, especially other people… uncontrollable sobbing gushing forth thickly, like syrupy slow moving old dark blood…
Sifting through the rubble, I almost tripped over what probably lies at the root of the ongoing trauma I’ve experienced:
What happened… it could happen again.
If it does happen again, it could be worse. Next time I could be killed.
And hence my terror, apparently.
Which makes sense, of course. Though, the fears are somewhat irrational. Most definitely. But not to the very scared and freaked out part of me that has never ever stopped living in fear since that night.
This led to a discussion around my trust issues, and a whole host of other things. Stuff I can’t fully recall. But I’ll attempt to write about soon.
By the end of the two hours, AN asked me to recall his eyes again.
Funny thing was… I couldn’t.
Not at all. I couldn’t believe it.
I just no longer had a faster-than-a-speeding-bullet recollection of his eyes. And a week later… still nothing.
Thinking about it, there’s a tiny bit of discomfort. A touch of anxiety. But nothing like the horrible sense of being drawn back into the never-ending nightmare of PTSD stuck on a loop…
‘Course, it’s way too early to say it’s all over with any kind of certainty. In fact, I’m heading back to see AN this afternoon. For a ‘mop-up’ session.
I’ve learned too, from experience, there’s many layers to something as complex as PTSD. So this time I’m saying, sure, I feel a heck of a lot better. But there could be more to come.
So let’s not get cocky here… instead, I’ll just focus on gratitude.
**UPDATE** Check out this video I found on EMDR!