Okay, so its a little bit of an ad for the guy’s practice, but this video is a nice explanation from the perspective of the therapist, on EMDR.
I found this because Google had listed my EMDR and me post as a related link from the video!
Tried to describe PTSD to a friend, recently. What it’s been like for me, and why my recent encounters with EMDR are so miraculous, given the world I’ve been inhabiting.
To illustrate, I spoke of the creations of Wes Craven’s classic schlock horror, Nightmare on Elm Street. Y’know, how those kids in the movie tried really, really hard to stay awake and out of that nightmare zone.
But inevitably they had to fall asleep. Though, they never saw sleep coming. Didn’t know they were in the dream until, well, they were in it. The slippery divide between those worlds was translucently thin, sliding over the boundaries without realising it.
And Freddie was always waiting for them. Scaring the crap out of them. In some cases, scaring them to death.
Throughout most of that movie, they didn’t feel like they were in control at all.
This is the insidiousness of PTSD. And I believe, it’s partly why it’s so traumatic.
It’s not just the memories being on repeat; it’s that you seemingly can’t control when they appear or how it impacts you. Triggers can be both known and unknown. The unknown ones are the real kickers.
And the trauma is caused by having life as you know it continuously swamped by this broken record, stuck on repeat at random intervals.
The memory itself, was terrifying in the first place. Of course. But repeated over and over… it can stop your heart. Makes dying feel like a much simpler solution. A rest. A break.
But then, it’s not just the flashbacks, though that’s a hefty chunk of the issue. When PTSD arrives, fear and anxiety are the bitter after-taste in your mouth you can’t quite identify. Always there, flaring up when it’s least welcome.
The trickiest thing to understand from the outside looking in… someone who looks perfectly ‘normal’, can, at a moment’s notice become a complete wreck. Can suddenly act like a different person. And mostly, they can’t possibly explain what’s happening to them.
I lost a friend that way, once. She wasn’t exactly a very good friend. But one of the few I did have here in Melbourne at the time.
We were walking to a cinema, and were suddenly walking in very crowded area. There was some sort of festival on, and it became a flesh press… to move from point A to point B, it was necessary to slowly force your way through the crowd physically.
Which completely freaked me out. From my friend’s perspective, I totally over-reacted to what was going on. I had what I can now recognise as classic panic attack symptoms.
But this was only months after I was assaulted, and I had no idea what was happening to me.
My stress levels didn’t evaporate, and when we finally got into the movie, once again I over-reacted to what was going on. Which was (one of my pet hates) people talking in the cinema. It was just previews, which I usually tolerate. But this time I was really angry and aggressive towards the young dorky boys in front of me. Completely out of character for me.
Apparently the combination of these two events was enough for my friend to decide she couldn’t cope with hanging out with me any longer. I was too ‘unpredictable’ for her.
No one likes rejection, and I tried to explain to her what happened (as best I could) but she wasn’t buying it. Which, actually, was kinda fine with me, given she was one of those people who would complain about her other friends to the person she was hanging out with.
But it’s tough… like those kids in Nightmare on Elm Street, it’s impossible to put a stop to PTSD while you’re enclosed in its iron grip. And really hard to properly communicate what’s going on to other people. Especially non-empathetic people.
And it’s a process, waking up to what’s happening to you… to know your triggers (if you ever can know them all), and then… to finally feel like you’ve got a shot at beating it.
PTSD is after all, a kind of warped safety mechanism of the mind, trying to protect the person who’s been traumatised. The twist is, it actually traps them inside a fragile ‘safe space’. Makes them feel like the ongoing trauma is being done to them by someone or something else. Mostly, because the trauma was inflicted by someone else/an external experience.
But its not. PTSD is a defective thought process. It’s broken. It’s stuck on repeat, and in fact, its your own mind torturing you. A tough one to accept, because the flashbacks are so all-encompassing and terrible. It doesn’t ever feel like its something your own mind is creating.
However, it is possible to recover from. That’s what I’m discovering.
For my next trick, I need to let go of the vestiges of this thing. Apparently, I can start getting used to living in a world that doesn’t suddenly shift into a nightmare any more.
I can’t tell you how amazing the idea of that seems to me right now. And I’m slowly trying to trust that it might actually be the truth…
P.S. Note: This is not what I’m experiencing right now. I’m not struggling with PTSD once again. I just felt moved to write this explanation because I realised… there’s a lot of people who really don’t get what’s going on for someone in the grip of this very tricky mind game…
Stumbling, crumbling pathos of my fears leads the way.
While my zombie-like physical personage cycles, walks and shops.
Trailing behind is my butt-naked Self.
Tenuous acknowledgement it all sorta belongs together is, I believe, what creates the coordinated forward momentum.
They’re only words, you know. Words I choke on, sure. But still just words and I’m the one who gives them meaning, and power.
Yet, what if that ‘meaning-making mechanism’ has fallen so deeply down the well, there’s nary a hope of recovery?
This is how it all becomes intrinsic… sandcastles of sadness, salty tears and the slow wearing down of safe ground… we’re accustomed to believe it’s all inter-related and meaningful.
Stepping off the balcony of that derelict world should be easy. Right?
Sometimes the simplest things are worst.
Imagine wrapping yourself in protection with whatever’s on hand? Mightn’t actually help you at all, but then… it was there at the time. When you needed something, anything, between you and what just happened.
All part of the shock and fright.
Should just be on the periphery but, instead, sheaths you with an invisible force field. Nothing enters or leaves. How else can you stay afloat? Survive?
But time comes, eventually, to dismantle such ramshackle efforts. Create proper foundations, ones that won’t tremble and shiver under the slightest of pressures, real or imagined.
No, it’s not easy. Insinuated as they are, amongst everyday things.
And when you try… when you do… that’s what the heavies are for. Big hitters, they don’t play nice and there’s tricks to be learnt, to slip past and out the door.
They’re just words and letters… three little letters, too…
And then, I get it.
Not saying, is much tougher than speaking freely. Really is. At least, in theory.
Finally, courage arises, and even then, those letters get stuck. They’re literally what I’ve been choking on, after all.
When, finally, they come… its ripping-off-the-band-aid-shock. But then it hurts more again, later. Much more. Time to rest and retreat and regroup.
Afterwards, standing up seems difficult. Sitting is easier, even in a very public place. Just sitting for a while. For as long as I need.
It’d help a lot if I could just puke, perhaps.
Once again, sleep has the answers for now. Just hopefully not crashing out on the couch!
There’s nothing easy about this, the deconstruction of fear. Fillet-o-fish gutted, it’s a clearer place to be, but rather hollow and sad, for now.
Way back in 1839, when playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote – the pen is mightier than the sword – I’m pretty darn sure he didn’t have EMDR in mind.
But it’s kind of appropriate, anyways…
Coz along with some very specific and pointed questions and what I’m guessing is a well laid out process… a significant part of my first encounter with EMDR included a standard issue black BIC pen.
The type where the colour of the lid matches the colour of the ink. Such an ordinary implement, and yet it participated in the deliverance of some much desired peace.
The tip of the lid looked ever so slightly nibbled at. The kind of encounter with human teeth that’s absent-minded, not the obsessive/compulsive chewing of plastic pen lids.
So what was its role, I hear you ask?
Well, part of EMDR is getting the person being EMDR-ed (in this case, me) to move their eyes back and forth… kinda like a tennis match ‘cept you’re meant to keep your head still… and the implement I watched was the aforementioned pen.
So humble, so commonplace and every-day. Though, of course, the pen itself holds no “special powers”. It’s the movement of the eyes that somehow counts, and yet, for nearly two hours I contemplated this pen as I progressed through the bowels of my trauma.
And it appears (I’m still tentatively waiting, watching), I’ve been relieved of a fair chunk of that burden. It seems so simple in retrospect, just like that pen…
I could get down on my knees and cry, in thanks…
P.S. More to come soon!! Despite my lack of a job right now, I’m actually a little busy. Mostly running around meeting recruitment people. But also, I just bought a brand new sexy laptop (my old one needed to be tossed out the window)! And, just like a new lover that you spend all your time with, currently has me in its thrall – downloading apps and fixes for Vista (the evil beaste of Microsoft that doesn’t play nice with many other apps), transferring data and so on.
What’s that place called? That in-between world? Not quite home yet, but somewhere along the way?
Feels strangely familiar, though I’ve never been here before. Has a lot in common with bus stops and airport lounges and waiting for a cab home late at night from places I’ve been all around the world.
But that’s not where I am right now, not at all.
Hardly any thinking occurs here. It’s kinda blank. Yeah, blank. And I feel so tired. There’s no reason to hold it in now, y’see… no need to pretend, keep up pretences.
And it feels like I’m not anywhere in particular, almost like it doesn’t have a latitude and longitude. But that can’t be true, right?
So how did I get here? Bought a ticket, that’s how!
I knew it’d be a trip, but apparently it’s hard to take good pictures along the way.
This place, it’s a sensate chasm.
Wringing out my nervous system, skin tingling pain – the kind that tells me good things are happening… despite the anguish.
But it’s all under the hood, so to speak, non-verbal, the re-structuring of my emotional landscape.
Sure, there’s stuff we talked about along the route. Looking at this scene, then that one.
Drawing up tears, emotions, pain, questions and haunting memories, imprinted there, since the night he…
So much, so fast, it’s hard to catch my breath. Can’t remember everything we said.
Not that it matters right now. Sleep is what I needed, sleep. A slumber to soothe rough edges, turn the soil and plant new saplings of hope.
To fill the vacuum, where once certain dreams held court, terrorising the breadth and depth of the kingdom. Happily, their landhold is now reduced. Weakened. Perhaps… not gone, not just yet.
But those eyes? The eyes of the predator that for years haunted me every day, without fail? The ones I could see without trying, eyes wide open? The photo-negative image containing so much rage and terror, like a brand, a tattoo, always there?
Must’ve left ’em behind on my trip. In that other place.
Sometimes, it’s good to lose possessions you wish you’d never had.
Right now, life feels like a swirling mass of colours blended together, so many shapes wanting to stand alone, but really, they’re all kinda layered one on top of the other, form collapsing, everything melding together.
Makes it a little hard to see clearly.
There’s that big stagnant lump of emotion o’ mine… I know its there, but right now, I’m almost completely unaware of where it’s at.
Courtesy of… losing my job, trying to find another, being absolutely over the moon with the birth of my new niece, talking to lawyers because my previous employers are being assholes and breaching their contract with me (and making lots of threats to try and get me to go quietly – am trying to weigh up what to do).
Then, I’m just really enjoying some time out. Doing not too much except seeing the niece, watching Veronica Mars on DVD and re-potting some of my plants.
Because I feel like it.
Actually, I’m not being quite as lazy as all that! I’ve gotten in touch with some recruiters, applied for a few jobs, and I’m halfway through writing up a flier offering my various professional services freelance. But it’s all been very half-hearted.
And… getting legal advice about my previous employer’s bastardry, and whether or not it’s worth my time and effort to fight them to pay me what they really owe me, instead of what they’re trying to get away with paying me. Still deciding on that one…
Also, I’ve been neglecting my blog a little, really. There’s so many stories I’m in the middle of telling and I’m fully aware of that…
I plan to wrap up the Guru story some time soon. And then there’s the relationship back-history stuff, painting a picture (for myself as much as anyone else), helping me see how I got to the point where I ended up being assaulted. There’s more to tell, but that takes energy I don’t have right now.
There’s all this ‘stuff’ clambering for my attention, and I’ve been doing, really, very little this week about any of it.
Yet, I’ve been doing enough of whatever it is I’ve occupied my time with… to avoid a glaringly obvious fact:
My appointment with the EMDR therapist is tomorrow.
Two hours worth of digging through my emotional dross. And I’m going in blind. Can’t quite assess where I’m at with all of that stuff, on account of all the white noise.
Which is pretty scary. I mean, I know I can handle it. But I just hate the not knowing, and the nasty emotional download that I know is coming.
I can’t feel it at all right now. But that doesn’t mean its not there. Not at all. I’ve been here before, so I know…
Anne Hathaway, blog award, Blood moon, Ella Hooper, EMDR, Friday 13th, Hoodoo Gurus, Magic Dirt, Rachel Getting Married, Rockwiz, Sidney Myer Music Bowl, SPiderbait, The Laughing Yogini, The Seekers, Therapy, Twitter
On Sunday, someone I adore told me via Twitter to cheer the fuck up – which made me giggle… seriously I’ve been a little maudlin lately. I know it, okay??
Friday’s session with the new therapist was pretty much just a history taking session. All about me (not a topic I enjoy so much). Before I even got there I’d already cried at work… cycled a short way to the therapist’s place then cried again before three sentences had passed my lips.
It’s still such a large glowing ball of pain and grief with the power to open one of its many waterways at the drop of a hat – which really annoys me. As I told AN (new therapist), I’m sick to death of it all.
But AN thinks she can help clear out all of the physiological responses, the trauma reactions that make no sense. Stuff that’s preventing me from moving forward. GOOD!
I’ll see her again in two weeks for a two hour session – she says it won’t be easy, but the effort will be worth it. Fingers crossed, eh?
Got home from that session, sat still for a bit while the internal car crash of my emotions slowed down and stopped reverberating through my molecular structure.
Luckily for me, that evening (Friday 13th) was far from unlucky.
My very good friend L had gotten us tickets for some event – I wasn’t even sure what it was. She just said – be outside the Arts Center at 6.30. Cool.
It was a brilliant night, unexpectedly so! There’s a very funky TV show here in Australia called Rockwiz, and in honour of the 50th anniversary of the Sidney Myer Music Bowl (fashioned after the Hollywood Bowl)… they did a live show there… under the smoky skies and blood red setting sun, tangible evidence finally, of the bushfires surrounding Melbourne.
Essentially it’s a music quiz show involving both members of the audience and rock stars making up teams. Between question sets are live performances of various songs related to the theme of the night.
We were also treated to a performance by a very youthful looking Judith Durham (wearing an outfit from her 70’s wardrobe) plus Ella Hooper (used to be Killing Heidi), Cram from Spiderbait, Adalita from Magic Dirt and a whole bunch of others. Lots of good musos!
The night ended with a classic 80’s Aussie rock band – the Hoodoo Gurus – playing a mini set of their hits (including Come Any Time, What’s My Scene, Bittersweet, 1000 Miles Away). The Hoodoos still rock!
Got home though, and noticed the moon… nasty looking reflection of the fires (still) consuming my home state.
Woke up Saturday to discover the lovely Caroline of Laughing Yogini had bestowed the Triple Award on this blog… must be award season again ’round these parts.
[Pranamming deeply in gratitude for the acknowledgement]
One day I’m gonna just hand the lot of them out to a bunch of blog folk, but it won’t be today!! ;)
On Sunday, by some happy accident (my own inability to get places on time), I’d intended to see Milk, but ended up watching Rachel Getting Married instead.
Personally, I’ve sub-titled the movie Kymberly Getting Flattened.
A really amazing move, but capable of causing lots of tears. It’s not lightweight viewing.
Containing more than enough ‘ouch’ moments I could relate to, there was also plenty I couldn’t.
Like… the outbursts of intensely personal arguments in front of others. I found myself feeling quite mortified on Kymberly’s (Anne Hathaway being brilliantly dark) behalf when family secrets are vomited in front of family-in-law to be, friends and strangers alike.
My family just never does that shit, and while I recognise the benefit of speaking freely like that… it’s akin to running a rake over my soul.
Kym has a dark secret. One of those ‘don’t go there’ stories, stuff everyone in the family desperately wishes never happened. I can relate…
The person about whom so much is avoided and ignored, although not entirely. Where no one wants to face up to the reality, or to their own part in what happened. And everyone tries to pretend it’s over but then, hits a speed bump drawing ugliness from the depths.
Reflected in Kym’s misery and deep abiding self-loathing, she even managed to say it out loud – I can’t forgive myself.
For how many of us does this ring true? Certainly, it’s something I struggle with.
Not to mention the intense sisterly dynamics, the emotionally distant mother, the father trying to keep it all together (and not very well).
There were times in the movie when I palpably felt Kym’s wish for obliteration, way before she crashed the car… a wish I’ve had for myself more than once.
Thing I liked most of all is the way the movie ends – Kym isn’t healed, no one has magically gotten better. Life goes on imperfectly, everyone doing what they can. Loving each other as you do with family, but not necessarily liking everyone all the time.
Kym has the sort of strength I think you can only get from being wounded and making a firm decision to get better – and her power is in her resolve, as fragile as that might seem at times.
Again, I can relate…
Been feeling out of sorts all day. Highly paranoid. Anxious. Stressed. Restless. Just generally not having a good day for no particular reason.
Then my mobile phone rings. The woman on the phone is confirming tomorrow’s appointment with my new therapist – the one who does EMDR.
Even then, I didn’t get it. Busy as I was, doing five hundred things (work has been like that all week). So I was all – Yep, sure I’ll be there tomorrow. Great, thanks.
Worked from 8.30am-6.30pm (said I was busy, didn’t I?) and then revelling in the soon-to-be-ending daylight savings, enjoyed my cycle home. Stopped in at service station for a couple of things, then, standing there stuffing things into my pannier bags…
[Sound of penny dropping]
Haven’t been to a therapy session with H since January, when we decided I’d give EMDR a go.
Took a few weeks to actually get to speak to the new therapist. She sounds different to H – sort of more measured, less earthy or something. Brisker.
Apparently she won’t do any EMDR stuff tomorrow. First session is just all getting to know me, getting to know all about me…
Again. Have to go through telling someone new all of my crap all over again. Gotta get used to someone new. And, ummm, I’m pretty sure in the past I’ve mentioned my horrible pre-therapy anxiety??
Flying under the radar, that’s what’s been eating at me today, damnit!
I know how this goes. I feel… quite okay right now actually. Been on a relatively even keel of late. Possibly because in my last session with H she didn’t really press any deeper again, knowing nothing was gonna change right there. Then there was my mini yoga retreat, which helped a lot, too.
But it’s waiting for me.
That slippery but stubbornly lodged boulder. It hasn’t budged, regardless. Its been hiding ‘neath other issues, smirking snidely coz it was concealed there all along.
And while H and I were busy dealing with other issues, it gathered it’s strength for the Great Sit In – the last few months, since H uncovered its existence.
Hell no, we wont go! It chants silently… very sure of itself, it is.
Its weapons are my body’s very visceral reactions – tears, choking, coughing, a racing heart, physical pain.
Freakin’ nasty little bastard.
And tomorrow I’m talking to someone I don’t know or trust, not yet anyway. No guarantee we’ll hit it off either. But in order to find out if we can work together, I have to reveal some very personal things to her – the contents of this blog.
My insides don’t feel so happy right about now… and I know it’s only gonna get worse as the clock ticks onwards tomorrow afternoon. Stomach pain, sweating, nervousness…
Breathe. Its time to remember to breathe…
There’s so many other things I want to be writing on my blog right now.
I’ve got half a dozen draft posts dying to get out the door. But captivated by other things… I’ve been unable to write about those things, or finish my other posts.
And I’m pissed off about that.
That post was a desperate attempt to explain something… I don’t really understand yet. It’s good that I wrote it though, because H read it (I trust her enough) and could then ask me questions to try and get to the point.
Which we sort of did.
The point would be, I’m going in circles right now. I’m super pissed that I can’t move beyond where I’m at. I feel like there’s a big, fat HUGE boulder smack bang in the middle of the path I’m travelling. There’s no easy way around it, not yet.
Every time I approach it, there’s a sense of incredible panic. The physical reactions of my body make me feel like I’m about to die. Not thinking I’m going to die – feeling it, in every cell. It’s happening in the moment.
If I’m in a therapy session, and we’re talking around/near this blockage, I literally feel like I’m choking, too. There’s an absolute tangible reaction and I cough – like crazy – trying to dislodge… whatever it is.
Then, there’s the residual knives in my heart pain, that takes ages to fade. And even as I think of it now… returns a little, reminding me… ooouuch.
This started when H asked me why I never say Andre’s name when I talk about him.
It’s literally the only thing that I’ve ever been really hesitant to talk about with H. Or anyone, for that matter. I think I might have written his name down in an email to some close friends right when it happened. I can say his name out loud when it’s just me. But I can’t talk about it to other people for some reason.
And because there’s this foundation there I can’t make myself go near… the pain, the terror, the horrendous emotions that go hand in hand with all of this refuse to gracefully fade.
Even though that’s what I want.
Unlike my mother, I don’t want to wear a badge of pain for the rest of my life. I don’t want to not get over it. I know that getting over it doesn’t mean that what happened wasn’t important. I absolutely know that!
And yet… here I am.
So. H suggested that because of the way I’ve described what’s going on, that I might benefit from a technique called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing).
From the website:
EMDR is an information processing therapy and uses an eight phase approach to address the experiential contributors of a wide range of pathologies. It attends to the past experiences that have set the groundwork for pathology, the current situations that trigger dysfunctional emotions, beliefs and sensations, and the positive experience needed to enhance future adaptive behaviours and mental health.
I’m interested to give it a go, of course. When something isn’t working, try something new!
So now H has referred me to two of her colleagues. I need to call them and see who’s available/what works best.
Ha! Another potential opportunity to neglect myself, sit on my hands and not do anything for a while… But I’ll try not to do that. I will attempt to call them, work out which one to see and book in some time and so on…
We both know its coming… ba-bump, ba-bump… I need you, I really do, yet – where can I find you?
Like a dream, something slithered ’round the corner… dark flutter of your coat perhaps? Perilous times, when you’re close… possibly you might surprise me instead. Throat clenching… aching heart… scent raising my hackles.
So I run.
You’re not my reflection… can’t see you in the mirror, hiding so close in… I know you’re around. Concealed.
Never do we lock step, but we must (at some point) be in tune. How do we, how do we get there? Death is your gift so it seems… life draining, blood boiling, pin prickling hair strands, tearing freshly made pink flesh loose… but not really.
The key to my locket… the one you won’t try… awaits only sometimes. Moments, only moments… the stars align and masks withdrawn, it’s possible just right then. And then. And, then…
Must be another way.
How to bring the combination that clicks… freedom?
Come softly, come this way, oh please, I can bear it, if I know you’re coming, just don’t sneak up, give me warning.
Just… a clue?