“God is the friend of silence. See how nature –trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

Mother Theresa

Last week was an emotionally difficult one for me, a true test of my progress these past few years.  My wonderful grown-up daughter visited me for a few days, and we were so happy to spend the time together.  Over the past thirty years we really have not had much time simply to be together and enjoy each other.  She is married and lives about two hours north of me up I-5 in Washington.  I live in Portland, Oregon.  Neither of us has much money, and I don’t drive, so we do not see each other very often.  We phone often, but phone conversations do not replace in-person visits. Thus, I was glad to see her, and she was happy to spend time with me.  

Our visit went well.  When we said goodbye at the train station, I was truly sad to leave her there.  She joined the long line of passengers heading north, and I caught the light rail train and began the trek to my therapy appointment.  Oh, how I needed to see my therapist!  

You see, my daughter’s visit brought back memories of our past (1970s-1980s) when we were living as a family–father, mother, son, and adopted daughter.  It’s not that my daughter talked much about those times–she didn’t.  However, when we spend time together, little bits of information surface, bits of information that later, when I connect the dots, help me understand the events comprising the darkest periods of my life.  (My three-part essay titled “Fallout” will give you some background on this.  I  posted it to both my WP blog and my Google blog some time ago.)  With this new understanding comes an overwhelming mix of emotions–sadness, anger, hopelessness–all the emotions that threaten to drop me into a black hole of depression, anxiety, and despair.  

After I had left my daughter and had a chance to scan my inner emotional state, I felt the full and sudden impact of a memory I had been suppressing for decades, a memory of an event during my marriage that was so physically and emotionally painful, so humiliating, and so violent that I became nauseated just remembering the event.   As I sat in the light rail car and remembered, I worked hard at not vomiting.  When I reached my therapist’s office, I settled into a chair and forced my mind to focus on a crossword puzzle until my appointment time arrived.

Once in my therapist’s office, I allowed myself to remember and to feel the memory as I told her my experience.  She suggested we do some EMDR work, and I agreed. Before we began, she asked me where I was on the SUDS (Subjective Units of Distress Scale–see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22038278).  I replied that I was a 10+, 10 being the highest number of the scale.   I told her about the nausea and my struggle to not vomit during my trip to her office. Then, as she gently tapped on alternate knees, I told her about the event itself, and as she tapped and I talked, I felt a glorious and beautiful peace settle upon me like a cozy, soft shawl and drape itself around my shoulders, a gentle peace that whispered to me, “You can do this; you will recover from this memory.  You are loved.”  

By the time we had finished our EMDR work, my SUDS score had come down to a 4, still too high, but I knew I could function until we did more work to bring the score down further.  That was Thursday.  Today is Sunday.  I have, indeed, gotten through the weekend, possibly because I have socialized a lot these past few days, and socializing–being with other people I enjoy and care about and participating in interesting conversations–helps get me out of my head and shoves painful memories and emotions into the background of my mind. 

By the time I leave for my appointment tomorrow, my SUDS score may have risen somewhat, but when my therapist and I work on this memory again, I have no doubt my score will be even lower than a 4.  We will continue working on the memory until it is simply a memory, something that happened to me, but it does not carry the strong emotional content.  

Clearly, EMDR is proving to be a valuable tool in my recovering from C-PTSD.  If you are working with a therapist who uses this tool, I hope you are benefiting as much as I am.  If you are not seeing a therapist presently and would like some tips on how you can help yourself, you may be interested in this book: Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy by Francine Shapiro, the person who “invented” EMDR.  This book is available through Amazon in paperback and costs less than $15.  

“When one door closes, another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” Alexander Graham Bell, Scottish Scientist and Inventor

Peace be with you . . .