As you know, if you have been following my blog, the goal driving my therapy has been that of alleviating my PTSD symptoms.  About two years ago, my PTSD symptoms, after having lain somewhat dormant for about ten years, came back with a vengeance.  It’s not as if I had been ignoring my psyche and not dealing with the dissociative episodes, the flashbacks, the numbing, and all the other classic symptoms of PTSD for the past thirty years.  Not at all.  Over the past thirty years, I’ve seen a number of therapists and have spent a lot of money and about twelve years of my life trying to do something about the mess in my head.  (For more on this, please read the other articles archived on this blog.)  Unfortunately, despite my efforts, I had not found a therapist who specialized in helping people heal from trauma damage until fairly recently.  Now I am seeing such a person and am getting the job done.

After spending about eighteen months doing ego state therapy work, I am finally approaching the next phase in my therapy:  EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).  The work in ego state therapy has prepared me for the EMDR, and now I am ready to make the transition.  Of course, I keep in mind the fact that progress in therapy, like progress in life in general, does not run in a straight line.  Progress in ego state therapy has been a dance called the “two step”—two steps back and one step forward.  However, I now have identified the parts that inhabit my psyche and seem to be most influential in their influence on my thoughts, feelings, and behavior.  More parts may announce themselves as I continue in therapy, but the parts of which I am now aware are working well together, helping one another, cooperating, and generally being friendly and supportive to one another. 

Instilling a spirit of cooperation among the parts inhabiting the psyche is fundamental to laying the basis for EMDR work, as is instilling resources or strengths in the psyche.  If this isn’t done, an EMDR session in the afternoon can result in a horrible, awful reaction in the evening. 

My previous therapist had, unfortunately, taken a shortcut with the preparation, having done virtually no ego-strengthening work with me.  One afternoon after I had been seeing her for about six months, she had me do a written dialogue between my left hand and my right hand, a powerful technique used to get in contact with one’s right brain, the side of the brain containing, among other things, emotional memories and memories of awful and traumatic events in one’s life.  After I had done this dialog and had explained the dialog to the therapist,  she clapped the EMDR apparatus on me and left it for a long time.

By the time I departed for home, I felt disoriented and spacey, and after I arrived home, I felt panicked and anxious, two feelings which became more intense as the afternoon and evening wore on.  And then it happened—I had a full-blown reaction, call it an abreaction or a flashback, whatever—and I was scared!  The reaction was directly connected to the material I had generated in the afternoon’s non-dominant hand dialog, and this material was not the stuff of which lovely, wonderful, and happy memories are made.  No, this material was the stuff of which nightmares are made and the stuff which drives some women to escape their husbands and other women to sacrifice themselves and become sexual slaves to their husbands.  Some people still do not believe that there is such a thing as marital rape.  I can tell those people a thing or two about marital rape that might make believers of them!  And on that afternoon, I relived just one episode of many episodes of marital rape during my twenty-year marriage.  The fact that this particular instance of marital rape took place in the kitchen when at least one of my children was present intensified my reaction, I’m sure.

When the reaction had run its course, I was frightened and disoriented, more fragmented by far than I had been before the EMDR experience.  I called my therapist, but she said there was nothing she could do for me.  She did suggest I use self-soothing techniques, but since I had never been taught to self-soothe and was not in the right frame of mind to learn by Googling, I hung up, knowing that the job of getting myself gathered up and re-oriented was mine and mine alone.  This was on Monday.  By Thursday I was sufficiently present in my body to leave my apartment and seek some help.  I found this help in the form of a young Episcopal priest, and by the time I left him, I was ready to take the next step, that of finding another therapist!  Every so often, I think about this experience and wonder if other clients of that therapist are experiencing a nightmare similar to mine. If they are, I hope they, too, find another therapist.

Because I am not easily deterred from a path that I consider essential, I did not give up the search for a therapist who could help me alleviate my PTSD symptoms.  And now, as I have mentioned, after spending about a year and a half preparing for EMDR, I am ready to take the next step and do it!  I know there is the possibility that despite the careful preparation, I can have a bad reaction to the therapy, but I also know that my present therapist will be there for me if I do.  I also know that she will do all within her power to minimize the chance that I will have a bad reaction.  Of that, I am confident. 

Why, after such a horrible experience with my previous therapist, do I believe EMDR is worth doing?  For one thing, despite the bad experience I had, I know EMDR works.  I can now remember the instance of marital rape I re-experienced that Monday after the EMDR treatment, and the memory no longer carries with it the full emotional charge.  Also, in about 1994 another therapist had successfully used EMDR with me to discharge the energy from another traumatic experience.  So I know EMDR does what the folks at the EMDR Institute claim it does, and because I want to do all I can to prevent sliding back into the pit of having my life disrupted by PTSD symptoms, I will give my best efforts to EMDR therapy. 

For more information on EMDR and to see if it’s something that might help you, please read the material on the official website: