Trigger Warning Sensitive Material
It is a Friday night. I had a day of horrible flashbacks. They were unrelenting and there was no relief. I was truly desperate to escape from them, to stop the past from intruding into the present but I could find nothing to break the onslaught.
As the day progressed I became increasingly suicidal until by 7 pm I could control it no longer but the telephone rang. It was my Therapist. We have a Friday night scheduled Consultation Call as part of my therapy. The coincidence was uncanny and extraordinarily good timing. I actually had gone and put a razor blade in my pocket waiting for the opportune moment when my family was distracted. They were remarkably vigilant about watching me as I am chronically suicidal and engage frequently in self-harm due to Complex PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). It is my Mother alter and 17 year alter that drive the self-destructiveness. Both were present that night.
I took the phone from my husband and went into the bedroom to take the call in privacy, We commenced the Consultation and from the outset, she knew straight away that I was unwell and suicidal. I explained the vice like grip I was feeling in my head like someone was trying to squeeze either side of my head until it snapped and that I could not stand it any longer. We talked through and processed the flashbacks that had been tormenting me all that day and in doing that the tears came and flowed and flowed. I let go of all my pent up emotions that I can only do with her.
I put the telephone on speakerphone and took out the blade intending to cut there and then. I was beyond caring. She immediately detected the change in sound and demanded to know what I was doing. I told her exactly was I was doing. She said “Erin, you can’t let them win, this way they win. You will have achieved nothing. Your family will never recover. I will never recover. All those that love you will never recover. We have been here before having this conversation about ending your life and we’ve agreed that we wouldn’t let them win by doing that”. I sobbed and just listened as she talked on in that vein encouraging me to fight on. She said “Cry, cry, let the tears for all those years fall, mourn the loss of your babies and your childhood. You deserve to but don’t take your life. You deserve a life now with the four babies you have now. They deserve you”. We talked like this for two hours. She eventually asked me to get my husband which I did and she explained to him the state I was in and not to leave me alone under any circumstances and to bring me to see her tomorrow. She advised taking extra sleeping medication for that night to get us through the evening. So once again for about the eight-time she had saved my life through talking me down from a suicide attempt.
We got through the night and awoke the next morning groggy from the extra medication but after a shower and some breakfast well enough to make the journey from the farm to her rooms in the city to the appointment. I was so glad to see her. We have a very strong therapeutic alliance built up over five years and I trust her implicitly. She is the only person who knows the full details of my entire story. Her therapeutic method is EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Movement. This process is very intimate and requires a great level of trust in the therapist. This takes a time to build. We built such a trust over time and EMDR could begin coupled with medications to control the depression, crippling anxiety and mood swings.Eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) are used during one part of the session. After the clinician has determined which memory to target first, he asks the client to hold different aspects of that event or thought in mind and to use his eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision. As this happens, for reasons believed by a Harvard researcher to be connected with the biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, internal associations arise and the clients begin to process the memory and disturbing feelings. In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level. For instance, a rape victim shifts from feeling horror and self-disgust to holding the firm belief that, “I survived it and I am strong.” Unlike talk therapy, the insights clients gain in EMDR therapy result not so much from clinician interpretation, but from the client’s own accelerated intellectual and emotional processes. The net effect is that clients conclude EMDR therapy feeling empowered by the very experiences that once debased them. Their wounds have not just closed, they have transformed. After a few months session of Psychotherapy, I trusted her enough to engage in the process of EMDR. We started gently engaging for only ten-minute sessions at first as that was all I could tolerate as my brain immediately connected with the eye movement of the finger and awakened incidents locked away for over thirty years. It was a shock to me how effective the therapy was. There was no suggestion by the therapist of what memories to engage with they were just the ones that were coming to me as current flashbacks. After a few sessions, I was able to tolerate the therapy for longer and eventually enormous amounts of emotions were released. Tears kept hidden well under wraps were shed and traumatic sadness and grief were processed. Intolerable flashbacks became bearable memories through the effective treatment of EMDR in a way no other treatment had done for me before.
Often for me, we would not target a specific event but would commence the process and an event would erupt. I would find myself in uncontrollable tears as I relived the death of a child, a rape, vicious beating or whatever traumatic memory was obviously being dealt with by my subconscious. At the end of the EMDR process, we would talk about the material and process, lessening its power. Often as not this would take several sessions to endure and would at times appear to have been overcome when it would reflux itself back under EMDR again some months later when another detail was rekindled. I would often attempt to exit the room only to be held in the safe arms of the therapist on whose shoulders I would be able to let go my long held in tears and pain. She would persuade me to remain in the room and sit back down and recommence the session. If it was too painful, we would just talk. She skilfully would bring me back to the here and now and never let me leave that room under the influence of EMDR, always ensuring I was living in the present once again. Some sessions went three hours, usually two, several times a week. I never remember what happens under EMDR even though you are not in a hypnotic state. Under EMDR I relive the experience and often during the process can describe the room, surroundings, furniture, people present, happenings etc in great detail and once EMDR is over remember nothing. It is relayed back to me and it’s processed and discussed in great detail. My brain protects me and flashbacks that have been causing me great grief dissipate and become tolerable though still painful memories. There are times when I can tolerate the treatment and sessions are psychotherapy alone. It is a powerful technique and freed me from many of the crippling flashbacks that have plagued me over the years.
She is a gifted practitioner of Psychotherapy who gives one hundred percent to her patients and is totally committed. I am truly blessed and grateful that she came into my life and am convinced that I would not be alive today if it were not for her. With her, I will beat Complex PTSD, learn to live with DID and learn how to control it. There is a lot of work ahead but even though I had a terrible week last week I feel a sense of optimism because of her work and what it can achieve.
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