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It’s hard to believe that I have been here in my new home in Chehalis, Washington, for almost a year, now.  It’s been a while, a couple of months, since I last took the train to Portland, Oregon, and visited my therapist in her office, and it’s been almost a year since I have had regularly-scheduled in-person sessions.  For a while, beginning in about February or March of this year, my therapist and I met once a week for a Skype long-distance session.  By July or August, we were meeting via Skype less frequently, and now we have an “as needed” agreement.  How do I feel about this arrangement? 

It rocks!  That’s how I feel.  Since I have been living in this small Western Washington town, I have not really felt the need for therapy sessions.  In fact, when my therapist and I were doing our weekly scheduled Skype sessions, those sessions became a burden to me because I disliked having to stay home on Thursdays.  I had other things I really wanted to do.  However, I respected my therapist’s belief that tapering off our sessions was better than going “cold turkey.”  And she was right–several matters came up that I needed to spend time discussing with her.  So I am glad I hung in there. 

Five years ago, my inner life was so painful and so turbulent that I had given up leaving my apartment unless absolutely necessary.  It seemed that no matter where I went or who I was with, I was constantly having to deal with PTSD triggers.  Separating and hiding my inner life from my outer life took so much of my energy that I was ready to give up.  Fortunately, I don’t give up easily, and I made one last attempt to find a person who had the knowledge and experience to help me.  Bingo!  After contacting the former head of the psych department in a well-known local research hospital, I got the name of a therapist who was able to diagnose me accurately and then offer me the help I had been trying to find for the past thirty-some years. 

Now, I have always been a person for whom having a personal goal is essential when I engage in an activity that is important to me.  My goal when I began seeing my therapist in 2010 was to do the work I needed to do in order to reduce and manage my PTSD symptoms so that I could enjoy the final part of my life.  Well, I worked my tail off in therapy, and I achieved that goal.  I hung in there, forced myself to go to my sessions even when I didn’t want to go, spent hours and hours at home working on my Ego State Therapy dialogue, and now I’m finished.  My reward?  A state of inner peace I have never had before in my life and what I would call a relatively normal life–normal for a 75-year-old senior living in a small town, that is.  Even more:  I am able to manage any distress I feel before it gets to the point where symptoms might recur. 

Yes, I’ve learned in therapy how to gather my ego states together so that we might iron out any difficulties that could cause distress.  For that, I don’t really need a therapist’s help now.  Five years ago, I did! 

Oh, yes, I need to define my new “normal” life here in a small Western Washington  town of about eight thousand souls.  I’ll tell you about this life.  You may not find it appealing, but I’m so happy to have it!  First, I sing in my church choir at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church.  I also sing in the female “barbershop” group that one of our choir members put together.  We call this group “Joyful Noise,” and the name fits.  Sometimes it’s more noise than music, but we are working on it.  Our choir now has tee shirts with St. Timothy’s logo on them to wear on December 13th when we participate in one of the community Christmas events.  The children’s choir is going to join us, and I bet they steal the show!  So I look forward to that event.

Recently, I’ve begun volunteering at our local community college, something I love doing!  I’d forgotten how much fun it is to work one-on-one with a student.  I’m helping twice a week in a post-ESL class, giving students individual help.  In addition, once a week I will be facilitating an English conversation session with students who want to practice their speaking skills in English.  For me, this work is fun, and I’m just happy that my head is peaceful enough so that I can use it for other things now instead of therapy. 

Overall, I’d say my life now, post-therapy, is pretty typical of the lives led by many women my age (75).  I don’t feel a need to explain myself, as I used to, because I feel that I blend in with everyone else.  I no longer feel that I am a freak or even that I am weird–whatever those terms mean!  “Quirky” I may be, but not freaky.  Now that I no longer have a war taking place in my head, I am able to simply be a part of life and enjoy the experience–the bad and the good of life.  I like knowing that now I can usually roll with the punches and not experience flashbacks and other symptoms when the going gets difficult.  That new feeling is awesome!

Will I stop posting to my blog now that life has settled down for my ego states and me?  No!  But I won’t post as often as in the past.  I’m simply going to be too busy living!  So now you know what I will be thankful for this Thanksgiving and now you know that my greatest Christmas gift will be from me to me, the experience of living without the daily torment of PTSD symptoms.  At the Thanksgiving table this year I will say a prayer of thanks for my therapist and all her help, and I will thank God and the powers of the Universe for giving me the stamina and the powers of insight needed to do my work in therapy. 

To conclude, below is a British saying adapted to fit our American Thanksgiving:  

 

(Google Images)

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and don’t forget to thank the Universe for

being there for you!  You exist–now take the next step! 

 

 

 

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To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

 A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.   (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8), King James Version of the Bible

 

If you follow this blog, you have probably wondered why I have not posted recently. Have I lost interest in writing? Have I lost interest in therapy? Am I “cured” of my Complex PTSD? The answer to those questions is “NO!” I have not lost interest in writing or therapy, and I most certainly am not “cured” of my C-PTSD. But I AM at a point now where I am ready to end therapy.  

When I began therapy with my present therapist, a clinical psychologist who specializes in treating people who have developed Complex PTSD caused by abuse, I was at a point in my life where I knew that if I did not get competent help and get it soon, my symptoms would cause me to isolate myself to a point of no return. In other words, I would withdraw from all social interaction to a point where I might not be able to return to the “real world.” Why? The flashbacks and the other symptoms I experienced were so daunting that I simply did not want to be where other people were. Also, because I lived in a big city and used public transportation, my symptoms were constantly triggered every time I left my apartment.  

Thus, I knew in April of 2010 that that I needed to find help, the right help. Over the previous thirty years, I had seen a succession of therapists, only one of whom had given me an accurate diagnosis. He could also have helped me, but he moved away before we had time to get started. The others? Well, some were well-intended but were not capable of diagnosing me and then offering me treatment options. Others wanted to stuff me like sausage meat into their well-practiced treatment modalities and force me to accommodate myself to their requirements. A few therapists during this time wanted me to be their therapists. They were more in need of help than I was. In total, during this period of thirty years, I saw fourteen therapists. By April of 2010, I had given up on finding competent help.    

Then one Monday evening in mid-April, 2010, I suffered a flashback so debilitating that it took me five days of hard work by myself to get back on track, and I decided to try one last time to find somebody who could diagnose me and then help me to heal. I phoned a woman who had been the head of the psychiatric department at a prominent teaching hospital and asked her for some names of psychologists who worked with trauma patients, and then I began calling those names until I reached my present therapist. During my first session with her, this therapist not only gave me an accurate diagnosis, but she gave me treatment options. I chose the option that sounded like the best fit for me, and—as people say—the rest is history.  

Now, slightly more than four years later, I am ready to stop therapy. How do I know I’m ready? For one thing, my symptoms have abated to the point where they simply do not interfere with my daily life as they once did. I know that they can always reappear, but now I am no longer afraid of them and no longer afraid they will reach a point where I cannot control them. Now, when I am in a situation where I begin to feel spacey—a signal to me that something about the situation is not working for me—I take a “timeout,” analyze the dynamics, and help my ego states work together to restore my inner equilibrium.  

Another reason why I know I am ready to stop therapy is that I simply don’t have time for my sessions. When I began four years ago, I met with my therapist twice a week, 2 ½ hours per week. If I had been allowed to, I would have met with her every day, for my mind was working full tilt at getting myself out of my psychic “mess.” I did, however, work on my EgoState Dialogue almost every day, and by doing that, I accomplished what I needed to accomplish despite not being able to see my therapist every day.  

By the end of the second year with this therapist, my PTSD symptoms had faded in intensity, and I was able to focus on other aspects of my Complex PTSD and to do some important EMDR work. Recently, in the past month, my therapist has taken a few weeks off. Did I miss my sessions with her? No! I was glad to have the time off and not structure my Thursdays around my therapy session. I missed seeing her, as I would miss seeing any friend or person whom I liked and enjoyed, but I did not miss my sessions. I’m just too busy now for a session per week! I’m too busy for any sessions at all now!  

Finally, I now live in a small town, and I am feeling confident about my ability to deal effectively with any social interaction in which I am involved. Life in a small town is not so overwhelming as life in the big city was, and I feel quite capable of taking care of myself. I’ve already gotten myself into and out of some sticky situations that could have been nastier if I had allowed them to be. But I didn’t allow them to grow nastier—I called them as they were and put up my boundaries and probably “unfriended” a few people in the process, but I have no regrets. They were what they were, and I’ve moved on.  

This next Thursday, July 10th, I will have one more session, and it will be my final formally scheduled session. My therapist and I have discussed the fact that I am ready to end therapy, and she is okay with my decision. I plan to let her know that I’d like to be placed in the “as needed/if needed” category. Of course, I don’t know for certain what she will say, but I would like to think she will be happy with my decision. It’s time.  

In closing, I would like to thank my therapist by quoting the following:  

(New Blessing in the Celtic Style) 

I lay my head to rest and in doing so lay at your feet the faces I have seen

the voices I have heard

the words I have spoken

the hands I have shaken

the service I have given

the joys I have shared

the sorrows revealed

I lay them at your feet and in doing so

lay my head to rest

(http://www.faithandworship.com/Celtic_Blessings_and_Prayers.htm#ixzz36jEqRjfv) Copywritten, John Birch, Author

 

cowboy

One of my ego states, Cowboy, has been my protector and “can-do person” ever since I was a child. She has always been there for me, always risen to the task when I’ve needed her.

I have found Ego State Therapy to be extremely useful in my healing process because this modality enables me to conceptualize the inner workings of my psyche.  If I think of my psyche as a place in which all the parts of my personality (ego states) dwell, and if I see these parts of my personality as “people” who interact with one another, then I am able to interact with these parts to bring about peace and, eventually, change.  One of the big players in my psyche’s cast of characters is the part that I call Cowboy. 

Although Cowboy is a girl, she displays some qualities normally attributed to males–toughness, assertiveness that sometimes borders on aggressiveness, and pride in her ability to protect my psyche from “varmints” and nasty critters that might want to hurt me.  Yes, Cowboy has existed for a long time, at least I have been aware of her for a long time.  When I was a little girl and witnessed another child having her skinned knee kissed by her mother, Cowboy was the part inside me who said, “Well, I don’t need any of that baby stuff.  My mother doesn’t kiss my skinned knees, and that’s because I’m tough.  I don’t need my mother to do that.”  Actually, I longed to have my mother kiss my skinned knees, but my mother didn’t seem to notice them.  I learned not to cry because when I cried, my mother got irritated with me and yelled at me.  Sometimes she even ridiculed me when I cried.  So when my Cowboy said to me, “You are tough.  You don’t need your mother to comfort you,” my Cowboy was protecting me from the pain that came with my mother’s neglect and indifference toward me. 

When I was sexually molested by the neighbor at age four or five, Cowboy let me know that I could take care of myself and that it would be better if I did not tell my mother.  She would probably spank me and yell at me and tell me it was all my fault.  I did not need her; I could take care of myself.  And, for forty-two years I did–until I had a huge flashback to the abuse incident and fell apart.  Later, when I was about nine, a friend of the family who had not seen me since I was about four years old said, “Is that Jeanie?  But she used to be so cute!” My mother said nothing to her or to me to soften the effect of her words on me, but my inner Cowboy whispered to me, “Your mother isn’t on your side, and she doesn’t care about you, but you are tough and you don’t need her, anyway.  You can take care of yourself.”  And I did.  I stayed away from my mother. 

In 1961, when I announced to my mother that I was getting married, my mother said, “Well, all my friends think you have to get married, anyway.”  My inner Cowboy let me know, once more, that I didn’t need my mother or her approval, “Don’t let her words get to you.  You are tough.  Just go ahead with it.”  In 1981, after enduring years of an abusive marriage without taking any action to change the situation, my Cowboy took the bit in her mouth when she witnessed my husband molesting our daughter and decided that it was time for action–she led me to confront my husband and tell him I was reporting him to the police, and then she and I did just that.  Then Cowboy took the bull by the horns and helped me file for divorce. 

Yep, Cowboy has been a major player in my psyche.  She has protected me from feeling the pain of being abused and neglected, and she has enabled me to survive situations that otherwise might have rendered me permanently nonfunctioning.  She has been a true friend when I desperately needed a friend.  She has picked up the pieces of my psyche and helped me put them back together again–she rounded up the dogies and brought them home.  Now, however, I’m beginning to see that maybe it’s time for Cowboy to relinquish some of her power.  I’m seeing, too, that even though Cowboy deserves a medal for helping me survive, she has some rather ugly qualities that detract from her otherwise golden image. 

You see, because Cowboy has ridden to the fore in rescuing me and protecting me and all the other parts of my psyche, she has developed an “attitude” in the process.  For one thing, she is contemptuous of the parts that have not been as forthcoming as she.  She sees herself as a hero, rough and tough, and she regards the parts of me that have been more passive as “wusses,” sissies, sniveling cowards, worthless laggards.  In other words, she sees herself as superior, better than the other parts.  Not good!  Rather than join the other parts of my psyche in working together for the good of Jean, Cowboy appears to be drifting into isolation.  She appears to be setting herself apart from the others and spending less time in the midst of the community of parts. 

Why is this happening?  My theory is that as I am healing, I no longer have as much need for Cowboy’s help as I formerly did.  Cowboy senses that, and she doesn’t know how to deal with the changes in my psyche.  I am no longer an abused and neglected child who needs a mother, and I am no longer an abused wife.  In fact, for the past thirty-some years, I have slowly taken over the work of protecting myself and have externalized my response to threats without needing her help.  Cowboy may be feeling unwanted, unneeded, and unappreciated.  The fact is–while her environment has been slowly changing, Cowboy has not adapted herself to that change.  How can I help her?

Coming soon, I hope:   How Cowboy and I come to terms with her need to change. 

Somebody found my Google blog today by asking this question:  “Can an untrained EMDR therapist cause . . ”  I’m assuming the complete question would be something like, “Can an untrained EMDR therapist cause damage to a client?”

My reply to the question above is, “Yes, an untrained or poorly trained therapist who works with EMDR can definitely cause damage to a client!”  I was, in fact, damaged by a previous therapist who didn’t know what she was doing. The memory of this bad experience slowed my recovery because it made me reluctant to continue in therapy.  In order to help you avoid some of the pitfalls involved in finding a competent therapist, here is a guide published by the EMDR Institute:

Choosing a Clinician:

Make sure that the EMDR training your clinician has taken is approved by EMDR International Association or EMDR -Europe. Clinicians may have unknowingly taken substandard training. EMDR should be used only by licensed clinicians specifically trained in EMDR. Take time to interview your prospective clinician. Make sure that he or she has the appropriate training in EMDR and has kept up with the latest developments. The basic course is at least 5 days of training over two weekends, or spans several months, plus supervision, consultation, and continuing education. While training is mandatory, it is not sufficient. Choose a clinician who is experienced with EMDR and has a good success rate. Make sure that the clinician is comfortable in treating your particular problem. In addition, it is important that you feel a sense of trust and rapport with the clinician. Ask each prospective clinician:

  1. Have you received both Part 1 and 2 of the basic training?
  2. Was your training program approved by EMDRIA or EMDR Europe?
  3. Have you kept up to date about the latest protocols and developments?
  4. How many people with my particular problems or disorder have you successfully treated?
  5. What is your success rate?
  6. Are you doing standard EMDR as it is (a) described in Dr. Shapiro’s text, (b) supported by EMDRIA, and (c) been tested in research?
  7. Will you discuss with me the way EMDR can deal with my obvious symptoms?
  8. Will you also discuss with me the ways EMDR can be used to help me live a happier, more productive life by treating the other negative memories, beliefs, feelings, and actions that may be running my life?

http://www.emdrnetwork.org/choosing.html

Following the guidelines above will help your chances of finding a competent, experienced therapist who will help you heal your C-PTSD, but these guidelines alone will not do the job.  I had a list of guidelines in my mind when I chose my previous therapist.  However, the fact that our therapist-client relationship sank like a rock was due in part, at least, to my overriding the red flags of warning sent up by my intuition.  Had I paid attention to the message my intuition sent me, I could have saved myself from a very bad experience, an experience that I certainly did not deserve or need!

Remember:  You have the right to evaluate a prospective therapist and to make sure the person is qualified to help you and is a good fit for you.  Try not to be as timid as I was!  Do your research on the person, test the waters in an interview, and make one of the most important decisions of your life.  My best wishes for a productive and beautiful relationship with your therapist!