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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

 

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“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 . . .