Tag Archives: emdr

Being an EMDR Trauma Therapist Teaches You a Lot and Most of It Is Good

Yes! This.

Go With That

I’ll start with what sucks.  People do astonishingly terrible things to other people–unbelievable, unspeakable, and completely fucked up things.  This happens all the time and on every street.  Trauma happens in virtually every family.  A fair chunk of trauma is caused by people who claim to love the people that they hurt.  Many of the most severely traumatized people I have worked with had extensive contact with modern safety net services throughout their childhoods, with repeated foster care placements that resulted in round after round of additional childhood sexual trauma inside the systems designed to protect them.  Many of my clients have never had a single safe person, a safe place, or any safe time.

In the vast majority of cases, trauma doesn’t end in childhood.  It certainly doesn’t end with the person becoming my client.  Trauma is alive in my clients because so little of it has ever been…

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It seems to be going better

So, it seems the emdr had helped quite a bit. I’m actually sleeping?! It’s kinda awesome. There’s some “numbing” but Dr C seems to think it’s more of a lessening of the icky stuff as opposed to numb. I guess it just feels like numb because of how strong and prevalent the other stuff was. Whatever it is, I’ll take it. It’s so nice to get uninterrupted sleep, and to not constantly feel the body memories…


After-effects of being triggered? 

I’m not sure exactly what’s going on; if it’s an effect of the emotional upheaval from the emdr, something to do with my lack of sleep & lack of eating much the past few days, or if I just never paid attention to the aftermath of being triggered, but my whole body is jittery. 

I can’t seem to level my anxiety out. My heart rate feels fast, but when I measure it, it’s coming out normal for me (fast for most people, but I generally run about 100bpm)…


Am I pushing myself too hard? 

The emdr stirred up a ton of stuff. It’s not settling much, just cycling through things. She called it progress, but not necessarily relief. I’m not sure how well I can handle this, though when I just unintentionally triggered myself intensley, I was able to sit through it.

I’m feeling this huge internal pressure to talk to someone other than just Dr C about what’s going on, but when I try (even anonymously or ambiguously) I trigger myself… I’m back to doubting if I can tackle trauma processing outside of an inpatient (or at least intensive out patient) setting. I guess I’m doing ok because I haven’t resorted to cutting. I’m just scared I might be pushing myself too hard without enough safety nets in place. I mostly trust Dr C, I’m just not sure I trust myself…


Emdr (TRIGGER) 

Did some emdr kinda spontaneously on Monday. I was really struggling with some intrusive memories/body memories, and Dr C had extra time. 

We aimed for my resistance to emdr, and to deal with the fears around it. That quickly progressed to the body memories. It was fragments of things flooding in and washing each other away just to come back in a few minutes. It was intense. I think I was dissociated through some of it because we worked on re-centering and returned to the fear around exploring these memories. 

One of them was really weird. I think it might have been a memory of both the dissociative experience and the abuse melding together. It was similar to a strange dream, where impossible things are happening, and I’m at once experiencing them and watching them. I was at once floating in the ocean feeling the sun on my body, and being molested in a bed… 

It was incredibly intense afterwards and I kinda freaked out. It was the longest I’ve sat in Dr C’s parking lot after a session (almost 50 minutes) trying to center again. I’ve text her a lot since then. I feel like I might be pissing her off. 

Part of the emdr also covered the self-harm. It feels like the shame and guilt around it are gone, but at the same time, there’s a fear of the consequences. I guess that’s good. I want to destroy the parts of my body that remember the abuse, but I also want to avoid the hospital. 

I made another appointment for later this morning to process this with her. I felt like I was bothering her too much through text. I’m also hoping that seeing her in person and talking about this will help set my mind at ease about the process. I’m starting to remember some of this discomfort and turmoil after the first round, and I’m starting to remember that it passed in a few days. It’s been a bit better this morning. 

I had a really weird dream/memory/thing last night (another thing she said would be normal and expected). In it, I was a kid curled on my bed trying to sleep (similar position to how I was laying in bed last night, so I’m guessing the position was a lead-in to the memory)… it was another impossible situation though. There was a snake moving around the backs of my thighs and found its way between my legs. It felt very strange, not what my pet snakes feel like when I hold them, so I’m guessing it was something my understanding substituted for what was actually happening at the time… it reminded me of an article I read a few years ago that described the arrest of a man for animal abuse and assault when the kid said the man molested her with his pet snake. I think the man told the kid his penis was “his python” and so the kid kept calling it that… it’s quite difficult to make a snake do something it doesn’t want to, and a snake has no interest in worming it’s way into tight body orifices… 

Anyway, so… yeah. I’m waiting for time to pass before I have to leave for my appointment. My body is still shakey from my lack of sleep, and probably also from everything the emdr has stirred up… I wish I had the availability to do that intensive emdr now, but I have to be at work for the next few weeks… I might dissapoint my boss and end up needing coverage soon if I stir up too much. I’m trying to be available out of a sense of obligation to help out (staff vacations need coverage, and one of the main customer service reps is leaving for a full-time job after my boss gets back from her own vacation), but maybe I need to be a little less available. I have the option at this point not to work at all and just concentrate on my therapy. In theory, I should take the time I need to help me alleviate my symptoms… but at the same time, work is a good distraction. I didn’t exactly plan to be less available when we are already under-staffed, so I shouldn’t feel guilty about needing to say no, but I do… L and I need the extra money to help fix the car situation… and I have a huge thing about helping out, even to my own detriment, when someone needs it (especially someone I like/respect/care about). When I first started working there again, I was a bit better about maintaining my boundaries and not taking on too much. I’m falling back into that need to please everyone. I can see it heading to a huge disappointment when I finally find the courage to say I can’t cover too much… ugh. 

If I could find a way to just do therapy super intensley until I got to a point where I could get a handle on the symptoms and triggers and side-effects, then I could be a real, functioning human again. Insurance has limited that though. They don’t want to pay my therapist for more than one session a week. They don’t want to pay for an iop or php because I’m not in crisis (and if I was, they would want me inpatient first)… it’s frustrating how little they help when the whole reason I have them is because I struggle with mental health issues enough to make regular functioning near-impossible… there’s hope though. I just switched to the basic Medicare, which I’m lead to believe covers stuff easier than the crappy advantage plan I was on… starting September 1 st, coverage for therapy should theoretically be easier. 

There’s a tightness in my chest from all of this… Maybe I will ask Dr C about trying an iop as adjunct to the emdr we are doing. Maybe medicare will pay for it in hopes of getting me to a place where I can get off disability and get back to a real life. I just wish there was a close trauma iop or php… Maybe I could get into that place in Boston this time around (I was too acute 5 years ago when we first tried it. I landed in DC because their program was able to do crisis stabalization).
Sorry this was so disjointed and scattered…


Planning

I can’t really remember all of what we covered in session today, but it mostly consisted of me catching Dr C up on the past month… then we talked about being present in my body. I admitted I haven’t really been present for quite some time (several months, if not years). We talked about the barriers to being present. I mentioned liking the disconnect especially after the almost-3-years of constant flashbacks and intrusive memories while living down south. 

That brought us to the topic of what to do about the trauma work. We talked more about emdr and I was able to verbalize my concerns; namely that, while it has felt like the most successful treatment option to date, the last few times I tried, it had left me more triggered and dissociated. I expressed my desire to find some plan for maintaining safety if we are to go ahead with more emdr. 

We talked more about that, then we penciled in a very intense week of emdr to commence during my “vacationless vacation” coming up in October. I half-joking told her it would be awesome if I could enjoy sex again with my wife on our wedding anniversary… so now we are scheduled to do 7 consecutive days of 2-hour sessions, most of which will involve emdr (with talk and art mixed in). 

::gulp!::

I hope the nearly 2 months we have before that time will be enough to establish a sense of safety around the work we will be doing…

We arrived at the intensity of it after talking more about my fears moving forward. Both Dr C and I agree that the ideal setting for me to tackle my trauma work would be an inpatient/residential trauma unit. I don’t always have it in me to tackle the work in the single hour a week insurance pays for, and sometimes things aren’t ready to surface till odd hours when Dr C is unavailable. Other times, it takes a few hours of processing stuff internally before I need to talk about it again with someone. Since all of that is rather impossible, the next option would be a php or iop that specialized in trauma combined with seeing Dr C. Again, rather impossible since there’s nothing like that locally. So plan C is some really intensive therapy for the week both L and I are “on vacation”. The hope (from Dr C) is that L could drive me to sessions and provide some moral support afterwards. I personally think it’s a bit much to ask of L, I guess I can hash it out with her. It’s far enough away at this point that Dr C and I can still change the plan or arrange for iop…

Anyway, so yeah. That’s what we did today. I’m kinda happy we have a plan since I’ve been feeling stalled in therapy lately. 


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.