Tag Archives: EMDR

EMDR success

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Wow.  My first session of EMDR with my new therapist was fantastic.  Intense and exhausting, but really interesting.  And successful. 

She had a process that was quite a bit different than the ways I have done it before with other therapists.  So if you’ve tried it or are thinking about it, ask about how it’s done.  Of course, I’m not sure I could have chosen one that I liked the best until doing them all. 

I picked a target, a memory/moment that really affects me.  The further back, the better since it can be connected to the newer memories.  For me, my targets this time will be memories with the guy from high school and some major moments in my marriage that contribute to my struggles with not feeling good enough, not being worthy of healthy, equal, and supportive love.  

She had me sit forward on my chair which was new for me.  She talked about how this position engages the core and why that is important.  It really did make a big difference from sitting relaxed. 

Once I had my target for the session and I was sitting forward, we talked about the negative feelings and beliefs connected to it.  She had me focus on different areas of the room and think about the negative memory.  This was amazing because that memory was more or less horrible depending on where I focused my eyes.  One area is normally the “worst” for a person and it was clear which area this memory was stuck.  So that becomes my area of focus.  

So I’ve got my target and I’ve got my area I will be focusing my eyes.  Now I’ve got headphones on which will be on for periods of time while I focus my eyes and think about the memory.  The headphones vary, some therapists use tones and this was a combination of music and tones.  It was really good. 

People get hung up here thinking they will have to voice details of horrible memories and that’s the greatest part about EMDR.  I never said a word.  Just focused my eyes and thought about it.  I’m told to think about how it makes me feel, think about how my body is feeling while thinking about it, and just let it happen.  

I’m sure the experience is different for everyone, but for me this was a very powerful session.  Quick too.  As I thought about it, I had a lot of physical symptoms and some that I don’t mind sharing.  With this specific moment/memory, I got hot in my chest and physically shook.  Then I felt this heavy weight and the strangest pain in my knees.  And as we worked through the negative, she starts to ask what “that girl” needs.  

That’s when I realized right where The Girl in the Corner came from…that exact moment.  I could see it so clearly as the very moment I started to accept abuse.  I fought through the urge to stop and go home and we decided what the girl needed.  I breathed in those things that were needed and exhaled the ick.  Specific words were exhaled.  Specific words inhaled.  And the pain moved up and out my body.  I could feel it. 

Powerful, awesome things happened for me.  I lost the view of the room even though my eyes remained opened and focused on my spot.  It was dark around me and I released and released that moment and that weight like the loud, single clap of hands. 

Woah.  It was really crazy. 

To end a session of EMDR, you always want to try and be relaxed.  As relaxed as possible anyway.  And I felt exhausted.  She reminded me that my brain would continue to process and that I would likely be very tired.  I was.  I still am. 

We checked in with that memory, and I was ok.  Thinking about it now, I experience none of those negative physical symptoms. 

Amazing. 

Goodbye traumatic moment.  I will not miss you hurting me. 

I cannot wait to go back and work with the other targets I will choose.  Really excited for this final stage of my healing. 

I AM good enough. 

KK

EMDR: round 2

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I’ve committed to doing some EMDR again.  And the first session is Wednesday.  I’m nervous.  Because I can’t stop myself from feeling like I do it wrong.  

That’s ridiculous, of course, you can’t really do it wrong, but that is how I feel. 

I told this therapist up front that I need to be pushed so I don’t avoid things.  Why did I say that??  It’s true, and I’m mostly glad I told her so that I don’t avoid things and not face the things I most need to work through this time.

It’s mucking up my whole week though because I’m nervous and so my body is responding poorly to everything I do that is not laying in bed.  I know I’ll get through it, and I’m hoping it will go really well. 

Therapy this time is really different.  I was better prepared up front to say why I am there and what I like and don’t like.  Being able to voice what my biggest challenges are as a person feels really good.  It marks growth and I’m loving that.  I think this time I’m better equipped to work on what is still stuck.  Especially because I can tell in my daily life what is certainly not stuck anymore.  

I had zero physical reaction to talking about some things in our introductory 2 weeks.  I was thankful for that, if a bit surprised.  Zero shaking, zero temperature change, zero inappropriate laughter!  A miracle.  Hahaha, not really, just a fabulous confirmation of how far I have come.  

The Girl in the Corner.  She’s still suffering some.  Not just from my past with the abuse, but also from my marriage and divorce.  I am sick of thinking of past abuse from high school and I am sick of thinking about that guy who walked out on me.  He’s so not worth the head space.  So I was absolutely thrilled that when I did discuss that, I had none of the physical reactions I use to have and I was able to put the blame for what he did squarely where it belongs…on him.

What bothers me now is that the abandonment seems to have transferred to my ex and in talking about him and how checked out he is from me and our child, the physical symptoms were all there.  One of the hardest parts of that is just the shock.  I didn’t expect it.  Not at all.  We were very amicably separated and even amicably divorced for quite a while.  We remained as a parenting team well into my new relationship.  I could still confide in him about parenting issues and get his input on stuff and that is just gone.  And I don’t get it.  Our state forces a parenting class on people getting divorced.  It’s good.  They make it quite clear that “divorce ends a marriage, not a family.”  But not for us.  He’s just done. 

And that makes me angry.  Bitter, as I said recently. 

Why in the hell does he not recognize what his absence is doing to our child?  

The anger makes me want to forget all the good years we had, but I won’t.  I will continue to tell my kids the good memories and the fun we had as a family.  If he wants to live like none of that ever happened, like we never should have been together, well that’s his right.  But it’s a disgusting disservice to our children.  And I guess it means it shouldn’t be any surprise to me then how they feel. 

I am really nervous about how therapy will go and how the EMDR can help me work through all that, but I know if I trust the process, it’ll happen.  And I’m so happy to be pushing myself into this round of hard work because I am ready to put my ex in the same area that the other stuff went as I worked through it all.  I’m looking forward to not being so angry about him because he doesn’t even deserve the angry energy I’m giving him. 

He won’t ever get it.  He doesn’t even want to try and understand. 

And my kids will still be ok.  I have had some of the greatest conversations with my kids in the last few years.  Ones where we can be completely honest and sad or angry and still end up being so glad to have a hug and say I love you.  Conversations where we really hear each other, everyone’s opinions and feelings are respected, and we grow together to have a stronger bond. 

EMDR is so different between therapists.  And even though I’m really nervous, I’m excited to see how this therapist will work with me through the process. 

KK 

The moment I cried

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**Trigger warning if you read the linked article because she talks about abuse.**

I read this article after noticing it because of its title.  And boy did it hit home.  I will link it here so you can read it if you want to before going on to read about why it was so important to me.

“MY BOYFRIEND WAS ABUSIVE — AND I DID NOT REALIZE UNTIL AFTER WE BROKE UP”

Timing is everything.  And it is sort of ridiculous that this week is when that article posted and when I saw it to read.  Except for the actual boyfriend part and some of the boyfriend’s anger, this is me.  SO me.  Well…so much the Girl in the Corner.  All through high school and not with a titled “boyfriend,” but certainly someone I really thought I wanted to be my boyfriend.  He let me believe that is what he wanted too, because if he let me believe that, it made it easier to abuse me.

Allow me to go back a few weeks and say that I am really, really struggling with this group therapy this time.  I need and want to focus on this relationship which shaped so much of what I have felt about myself and how I responded to everyone around me throughout high school and since 2012. But I victim-blame myself on this relationship SO much, that I am consistently failing to stay engaged in group.  I begin minimizing my experience and feelings the second group begins and I punish myself with put-downs for taking up space for a “real” victim.  I know it is silly because the group members and the facilitators would never want me to feel that way, and we always discuss that exact feeling when groups begin.  It is common to feel that someone’s situation may be “worse than” and so victims begin to minimize their own experience as not as bad and, therefore, not as worthy of help.  Ridiculously sad.

So I’ll return to high school now.

The very first time this guy finally showed me some attention was one night when I was having a sleepover and he knew it.  He told me how much he and his friends just wanted to have some fun and that we should sneak out to party with them.  And at that point, I would have done just about anything he said to get his attention.  So we did.

As we got to the woods where everyone was partying, I was happy.  Happy to finally have his attention.  And all of us had fun for a while, but there was a few times I just felt it.  And by IT, I mean that gut feeling that was trying to say “not ok, get away, this isn’t right, he is a jerk” and “you are worth more than this.”

Sometime during the night we were all by a pond and most people were stripping off their clothes to go swimming, including him.  And here’s the thing about that–no way was I doing that.  Not because I couldn’t or wouldn’t get naked, but it was dark out and I don’t like fish touching me so I’m sure as hell not getting in the water in the dark at that point.

That’s a whole other issue for another time.

In any case, I was more than happy to hold his clothes and laugh and have fun with a few people who didn’t last long in the water.  I wasn’t much of a drinker, but I did smoke cigarettes at that point so I just hung out and smoked.  Later, back at the area where everyone hung out, there was a tent.  And when he asked me to go in that tent, I was happy, just like the girl explains at the beginning of that article.  Happy to have attention from someone I liked so much.  I was so excited that he was showing me attention and I was thrilled that he was taking me in this tent for what I thought would be some kissing.  And he made it clear very quickly that he was interested in more than that.  And I completely froze.  I had NO idea what was happening and NO experience in dealing with it.  And, again, just like in the article, the next day or the next weeks at school he was so distant and acted like he didn’t know why I wanted to leave that night when I finally said “take us home.”

Given some time, he was right back to flirting and calling and showing me attention.  And he made it seem like what happened was no big deal, so I just moved on without giving it much more thought.

In the article linked above, the following quote hit me so hard I had to read it again and again:

This is the hardest thing to explain: I really liked him. So when he turned on me, it felt so insane that when he was normal again, I’d forgive the crazy behavior — and then do everything to prevent it from happening again.

Now, unlike the article, he never yelled or threw things at me.  But he was mean.  So very mean.  He would say really rude things to me and treat me like crap if other people were around him and just generally disrespect me.  He would say such awful things and I always felt a level of humiliation being around him, but I didn’t know what to do to get away from him and just as I would decide he was horrible, he would say loving, wonderful, fun things and I would forget everything else.

He would call me and apologize and say wonderfully nice things to get me to come over to his house or pick him up.  And we would go places or do the things he wanted and needed to do in my car because he didn’t drive.  It always felt like a mixture of fun and torture to be with him.  He would always try to talk me into sexual stuff.  Sometimes putting me down until he got what he wanted.  I would laugh things off uncomfortably and tell him I hated him.  But I did things he wanted to do most of the time.  He humiliated me on a regular basis into having sex with him.

Two other quotes came at me like slaps to the face from the above article…

It didn’t feel forced, but it certainly didn’t feel good.

I was so deep in the relationship that I didn’t have words for how I felt.

WHAT IN THE HELL WAS I THINKING?????  The blame the guilt the yuck just comes at me from all over my head and all over the things people say about girls “like me.”  Girls like me.  I felt that my choices were what made me into that girl.  A girl who felt SO MUCH SHAME on a regular basis, but didn’t really know why.  A girl who became mean and confrontational and just generally not nice to people she identified as better off than her.  Which was pretty much everyone around me outside of my close friends.

I didn’t understand why I felt so terrible being with him because I could only see the worth he allowed me to feel and to believe.  Which was tiny.

Fast forward now to last week in my group therapy and the topic of anger.  We did an exercise that I laughed through because that’s what I do to avoid and cover when I can’t cope.  When I feel blame and guilt for my own sexual assaults.  When I feel unworthy of the free therapy and the healing and the love and support all around me.  Healing is difficult, exhausting, frustrating work.  But the anger exercise broke me.  I threw the word consent out as confusing and as something that makes me so angry when focusing on this past rape.

Because I liked him.  Because I wanted to be around him.  Because I said yes, I’ll go with you and drive you, and I NEVER SAID NO.  I would shutdown and say nothing when he humiliated me to the point where I would just “let” him have sex with me.  And when I would “let” him, he showered me with attention and fun.  He built me up just enough to feel worthy of his time and attention, so that I would be around the next time he called.

And as I said those things to the group, the room went silent.  And the facilitator said…”humiliation is not consent.”

And then she just let me sit there with that feeling.  And in that silent moment I did not laugh.

It was the moment I cried.

I can guarantee you that this moment was only the second time IN MY LIFE I have cried over the realization of how horrible this person was to me.  I let that out on the side of a road one other time, with a friend who I had called to come and sit with me because I was sure I would never stop crying and was going crazy.  It was the first moment I cried that led me to this second moment last week as I cried all over again.  This time with the complete realization that it was NOT my fault.  That he was the one in the wrong.  That he KNEW very well what he was doing all those times.

That liking or loving or desiring someone is NOT equal to giving consent.  Humiliation is not loving.  It is wrong.

The first moment I cried empowered me.  And that was in 2012.  That year I had contact with this guy for the first time since 1996 and it was a mess.  But I’ll talk about that another time.

For now, what is important is that being contacted by him brought me to healing.  Brought me to try EMDR.  To become aware of who I was and how that made me into who I am today.  I won’t thank him and I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive him, but I do recognize that from pain came knowledge and healing.  I’ll say again, I won’t thank him.  He gets ZERO credit.

That first moment that I cried brought me to my second moment.

I did the work.  I recognized that the work needed to be done.  I took back control of my emotions and my body and my life.

The last quote, which I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE from the linked article is this:

It’s funny to hear the word empowered when where you’re coming from a place of zero power. I’m just trying to get mine back. People talk about survivors like we have an extra coat of armor when really we’re just trying to grow back our skin.

I’m doing the work and I’m finding my power.  And it sucks and it is really difficult.  I want to give up most days.

But it is also awesome and freeing and wonderful.  And I cherish the opportunity I have been given to find healing.

And you know what else I really cherish??

The moment I cried.

KK

Just go with it

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Last week and over the weekend I was really stressing out about the disclosure for my group therapy.  It was like I couldn’t think of anything else.  But a friend of mine told me to stop thinking about Thursday and when it gets here just go for it.  And for some reason even though I could tell myself that, it just stuck more when the friend said it.

So I have been very busy this week and not really focused on the disclosure, which felt really great.  I went to all my favorite workout classes, got caught up at work, and continued to work with my dogs who were recently fighting a lot.  And when today came, the actual day I will be doing the disclosure, it didn’t feel so big.

I mean, I’m sure as tonight gets closer I will have more nerves than I do right now, but mostly I feel like whatever happens will be good.  Freeing.  Positive.  Necessary for healing to really move forward.

Two brave souls went first in the group.  It was tremendously cool of them to take that on and go first.  It was exhausting to be a listener of someone’s trauma.  But I’m truly thankful for them being so brave because it gave me the chance to see how the process happens.  And you know what?  It is really great.

I’m even kind of looking forward to it.  After the disclosure the group is allowed to give feedback and what could be more awesome than supportive feedback from people who have felt most, if not all, of the same feelings I have felt and continue to feel?  It is a bit crazy to think that I have been stuck with this burden for all these years and a good chunk of it could feel a lot less heavy after I make it through this day.

“Just go with it.”  That’s a phrase used often in EMDR.  When a feeling comes up or I notice something during the process, my therapy always says “just go with it.”  And then we proceed.  When EMDR starts there is a negative cognition.  I’ve listed some before, but things like “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t deserve love” would be negative cognitions.

One successful session of EMDR for me was “I am a disappointment.”  When it begins, the therapist asks how true that statement feels.  For me it was very much a real feeling at that time with some specific circumstances from my past.  So, in EMDR, there is a stimulus used such as buzzers in each hand, eye movements following a hand or light, tapping, or tones with headphones.  At the time, I used the buzzers in each hand.  So I would close my eyes and just “notice” what feelings would come up thinking about that specific situation that made me feel I was a disappointment.  After a certain amount of time, the therapist would have me open my eyes and say what I thought about, pinpointing something by saying “just go with it,” and then I would close my eyes again and the buzzers would start.  Now, I am no expert in EMDR.  So research it if you want all the specific information, but this is my experience.  It never seemed like I was doing it right.  I always felt like I would think the wrong things or not focus on the things that were necessary.  But that’s silly.  The idea is that I close my eyes, the buzzers start, and I just think about what comes to mind without judging myself for it!  In any case, I couldn’t believe that I could feel that good about a situation in only one session.  I felt released from the burden of that disappointment and truly felt that I was ok just the way I was and so I’m fine the way I am now.

I think “just go with it” and/or “just go for it” are my new buzz phrases.  I can’t wait to get the disclosure over with tonight because I feel like “going for it” is really going to get me through some of the necessary steps to move forward.  Not without my experience or my trauma, but better because of how I got through it and how I can now begin to recognize that it is a piece of me and NOT who I am.

KK

I am…whatever

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I’ve had 2 sessions with my new therapist.  As I said previously, it is no fun to start over.  However, this is going well so far and could possibly be something I wish to continue even when my other therapist would be available again.  I’ll deal with that when the time comes, I guess, for now I’m just happy that after 2 sessions I feel this comfortable.

I am somewhat stubborn.  I don’t mind being told I’m wrong, I’m open to other ideas and enjoy learning new things, and I really am ready to become the best me.  Still, I am somewhat stubborn.

I need a therapist who will push me to face certain things.  Without inappropriate laughter or justifications.  This woman is quite possibly that therapist.

Today, after only hearing me talk a bit about my week, she completely unpacked what was going on in my head that I was NOT saying.  Well done, lady.  Then she handed me Examples of Cognitions.  Oh boy.  The idea with cognitions is that we all have them, positive and negative.  With survivors of trauma, many of the cognitions are negative.  The lists of negative and positive are long.  When a person decides to do EMDR therapy, cognitions are discussed at length because the goal is to have the negative thing a person believes irrationally become untrue and replaced by a positive cognition.  I’ll give some examples from the list.  There are many more on the list.

Negative

  • I am not good enough
  • I cannot succeed
  • I am not in control
  • I am stupid
  • I am a disappointment
  • I am ugly
  • I cannot trust anyone
  • I should have done something

Positive

  • I am a good (loving) person
  • I am fine as I am
  • I can trust my judgment
  • I am significant
  • I did the best I could
  • I am lovable
  • I can be myself (make mistakes)
  • I can choose who to trust

When the therapist handed me the list, she asked me to look only at the negatives and choose one that feels the most true at this moment.  Unfortunately, many rang as truth in my head.  I started to physically shake while reading them (she wrote that down).

I should have done something.

That is the phrase that most represents my head most days.  In my day-to-day, logical state of mind, I fully understand that I am not to blame for being assaulted, ending my marriage all by myself, or ending my first serious relationship.  But I have absorbed all the blame and turned it into “I should have done something.”

The worst part of that ringing so true in my head is that I can’t quite follow the phrase back to where it began, but I really need to think about it more this week.  I will try desperately to make myself too busy to think about it during the day so I can do my life.  But at night, that is often how I feel going to bed.

I should have done something.

You know what the facilitator in my group therapy said when this came out as how I feel?  “That must feel very heavy.”

It really does.

So as heavy as it is, I am going to keep doing something until it isn’t so heavy anymore.

KK