Leaving stirred-up after emdr

I went in with an intention to avoid doing more emdr on the unidentified stirrings that I’ve been running from. We hadn’t talked about doing emdr again today, so I didn’t expect her to have planned on doing anything, but she pickled up where we left off Thursday.

I didn’t really want to do it. I had questions about it all. What if all of this is simply another way to stuff things? What if, because I don’t know what exactly I’m “processing”, it will just come back later, with more of a vengeance? Can you really process someing you can’t even identify? I don’t want to be sucked back into that downward spiral again. I don’t want to spend another year and half in and out of the hospital again. I don’t want to feel that hopelessness again…

So we decided to tackle the fear of falling again. It was easy enough to put myself back into the head-space of fearing being so out-of-control again… it quickly branched to remembering what my files for disability read: that I was hopeless and a lost cause… we processed that a bit more, and it continued down the self-hate spiral.

The only thing today’s session brought up was the worthlessness and hopelessness and self harm urges… I kept thinking to myself; “please don’t leave me here. Please don’t leave me stuck in this helplessness…” but I never voiced that.

Then time was up. Way too fast. I was still in the middle of feeling and remembering how shitty it felt 6 years ago… all I wanted to do was cry and hide. She offered to have me stay, but my afternoon was packed. I left with tears in my eyes.

It certainly wasn’t a good place to stop, but it was what it was. At least my afternoon was busy. If I had been at home, the self harm urges would probably have won. I’m still struggling with them (and the urge to completely self-destruct), but I’m sitting with it. I’m not alone at home, so it’s going to be ok for the night. I work tomorrow morning, so that will be ok too. I see Dr C again tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully then we can pack away all of this…

I’m so tired of fighting this all the time. I’m tired of having so much to wade through, only to find so much more each time I think I’m getting to the end.

I’m just tired.

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One response to “Leaving stirred-up after emdr

  • Patti Levin

    It sounds like you and your therapist didn’t do enough of the preparation phase work! You should not be feeling so stirred up and awful!!

    One of the initial EMDR therapy phases (Phase 2) involves preparing for memory processing or desensitization (memory processing or desensitization – phases 3-6 – is often what is referred to as “EMDR” which is actually an 8-phase method of psychotherapy). In this phase resources are “front-loaded” so that you have a “floor” or “container” to help with processing the really hard stuff, as well as creating strategies if you’re triggered in everyday life. In Phase 2 you learn a lot of great coping strategies and self-soothing techniques which you can use during EMDR processing or anytime you feel the need.

    In phase 2 you learn how to access a “Safe or Calm Place” which you can use at ANY TIME during EMDR processing (or on your own) if it feels scary, or too emotional, too intense. One of the key assets of EMDR therapy is that YOU, the client, are in control NOW, even though you weren’t in the past, during traumatic events, or whatever disturbance(s) on which you’re working. You NEVER need re-live an experience or go into great detail, ever! You NEVER need to go through the entire memory. YOU can decide to keep the lights (or the alternating sounds and/or tactile pulsars, or the waving hand, or any method of bilateral stimulation that feels okay to you) going, or stop them, whichever helps titrate – measure and adjust the balance or “dose“ of the processing. During EMDR processing there are regular “breaks” and you can control when and how many but the therapist should be stopping the bilateral stimulation every 25-50 passes of the lights to ask you to take a deep breath and say just a bit of what you’re noticing, anything different, any changes. (The stimulation should not be kept on continuously, because there are specific procedures that need to be followed to process the memory). The breaks help keep a “foot in the present” while you’re processing the past. Again, and I can’t say this enough, YOU ARE IN CHARGE so YOU can make the process tolerable. And your therapist should be experienced in the EMDR therapy techniques that help make it the gentlest and safest way to detoxify bad life experiences and build resources.

    Grounding exercises are essential. You can use some of the techniques in Dr. Shapiro’s new book “Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR.” Dr. Shapiro is the founder/creator of EMDR but all the proceeds from the book go to two charities: the EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Program and the EMDR Research Foundation). The book is an easy read, helps you understand what’s “pushing” your feelings and behavior, helps you connect the dots from past experiences to current life. Also gives lots of really helpful ways that are used during EMDR therapy to calm disturbing thoughts and feelings.

    Pacing and dosing are critically important. So if you ever feel that EMDR processing is too intense then it might be time to go back over all the resources that should be used both IN session and BETWEEN sessions.

    As a recently retired psychologist, I used EMDR therapy as my primary psychotherapy treatment and I’ve also personally had EMDR therapy for anxiety, panic, grief, and “small t” trauma. As a client, EMDR worked extremely well and also really fast. As an EMDR therapist, and in my (now retired) role as a facilitator who trained other therapists in EMDR therapy (certified by the EMDR International Association and trained by the EMDR Institute, both of which I strongly recommend in an EMDR therapist) I have used EMDR therapy successfully with panic disorders, PTSD, anxiety, depression, grief, body image, phobias, distressing memories, bad dreams, and many other problems. It’s a very gentle method with no significant “down-side” so that in the hands of a professional EMDR therapist, there should be no freak-outs or worsening of day-to-day functioning.

    I can’t say enough good things about EMDR therapy. It’s changed my life both as a person/consumer, and as a therapist. It has been so satisfying to have someone come in for help and then to witness them get through their issues and finish therapy relatively quickly (compared to regular talk therapy, it’s like night and day). I am both humbled by and grateful for this wonderful method that heals suffering.

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