Things are great at the moment, I’m spending every day working and living with people I love and the days are filled with totally crazy activities, but my EMDR therapy over the past few weeks has been tough.
In June I started the course of EMDR. A type of psychotherapy aimed at reducing the negative impact of traumatic events. I was absolutely terrified, and rightly so, but it’s safe to say that working at summer camp again at the same time has helped massively. I don’t think I would have coped with it as well without it.
I have had six sessions in total, the first one was straightforward. We created a timeline of my life, basically covering every bad thing that had ever happened. Obviously, my brain processed most of these at the time, so they were stored in the correct part of my brain.
In the second session we also worked on some positive imagery to help me feel safe after the rest of the sessions as well as some relaxation techniques. My psychiatrist did warn me at this stage that ‘next week it would get tough’, but I don’t think I realised how tough.
In the third session, shit really got real. It’s so hard to try and keep an image in your head when you have spent the past two years doing everything in your power to get rid of it. It’s not even necessarily the images, but the feelings that come with them images. The complete helplessness, the fear, the lack of control. The next two were even worse, and all of them were completely exhausting, both physically and emotionally, and the anxiety before the sessions was at times, overwhelming.
The eye movements that are used are the same as the ones our eyes make when we are in the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep, this is when our brain processes things from each day and stores normal memories in a less active part of the brain. Traumatic memories are not always stored normally, which is what causes PTSD.
In the third session we only started to deal with a small part of the trauma, so I knew that it was going to get worse. During the session, I had to picture certain images either of that night or of things related to it, while holding two little things that had flashing lights and vibrated, creating the eye movements. I then had to verbalise what I was seeing or thinking, which is the bit that I really struggled with and after part of the session, I literally couldn’t do it anymore. I hate showing emotion in front of people, especially people I don’t know that well and it was incredibly hard to fight back the tears, when at times it felt like it was happening all over again. Driving home I couldn’t stop crying, it was only when I got back to summer camp that I started to feel safe again and calmed down.
Session four was extremely difficult. I explained at the beginning that I struggled to verbalise what had happened, and had never had to speak about it before, so she got me to write the whole thing down from start to finish. It took ages and was incredibly hard, but I got there in the end. She then asked me to read it out loud which I genuinely didn’t think I could do. This took even longer and was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but I did it. I then had to talk through it again, this time without the paper but using the eye movements at the same time. At the end she gave me the opportunity to do what I wanted with the paper I had written on, I took it with me and burnt it which was an amazing feeling.
Session 5 was similar, I had to write down ‘his’ name, as I couldn’t say it which again I took and burnt. In the last session we focused on rewriting the ending. It involved me picturing bad, but hilarious things happening to him, I chopped off his balls, pulled out his fingernails and generally just tortured him. I’m aware that sounds bad, but whenever I think about him now it helps having them images in my head to get rid of the negative emotions. My psychiatrist said to me I should treat what happened like a death, the loss of friendship and trust. My response was that It would be easier if he had died, again that sounds horrible, but it would have honestly been easier to deal with.
If I wasn’t working at summer camp while going through this process, I honestly don’t think I would be able to deal with it. After each session I was able to go back to a safe place, surrounded by people I love and trust. If I wanted a distraction, it was always available and if I wanted to be alone, that was also fine. At summer camp there are so many totally insane activities, that between sessions there was not a great deal of time to sit and think, which for me was ideal. Spending time with my friends from camp again and making a few awesome new ones, was also one of the best things to help me through the therapy. A few of them know about what happened and have been seriously amazing in every possible way. But everyone at camp is always so friendly and loving, you are never a more than a few meters away from a great hug.
For now, I am done with the therapy, when summer camp finished we are road tripping across Europe and then working in the Czech Republic for 6 weeks. After that, who knows, it’s a nice feeling not being weighed down and having plans. When I come home I have the option of more therapy, if or when I feel I need it.