Trauma Therapy Session 19: The Magic pill EMDR at least for some

Continuing to share a journey through therapy in the hopes it helps someone else find their path.

I was so hesitant about today. I must admit I think part of me was a bit of a skeptic. I didn’t see how waving my eyes back and forth or tapping my legs would make any difference. But I had done lots of research and all the science suggested it could really have an impact. So I was committed to giving it a try.

I think a big part of with was worried that it wouldn’t work for me, because I have spent so long distancing myself from emotions I was not sure I could sustain a connection to how I was feeling for long enough. Or allow myself to sit with whatever came up.

Well it was astonishing Chris eloquently led me through the process and dam I felt amazing after. Heres roughly what happened…

Setting up the EMDR

The first job was creating a safe space. Somewhere I could take myself in my mind if I needed to calm myself or take a break. I already thought this is sounding kookie but I went along with it. It didn’t take long to create the space. Mine was an old smoky jazz bar. No windows or doors (I didn’t want to be disturbed). Everyone had left except for the pianist in the corner who clearly was enjoying playing too much to desert the ivory’s. So I sat in a chair just listening to his melody. Chris built up the layers with me, what I could see, smell, taste. Dam I wish I could go to bar in person one day it’s heavenly.

Chris asked me to test it out by thinking about some mildly annoying situations from the last week. I focused on the annoyance from work and allowed myself to get into that frustrated head space. Than off I went to the jazz bar. Each time finding myself able to easily cool off.

The introduction to EMDR

Chris explained clearly what we would do. I tried the tapping across my chest but it just threw up my anxiety so we settled on tapping across my knees. Once Chris had established the rhythm and approach. Giving lots of space for all my clarifying questions he then read out a bit of script.

Part of this script was an opportunity to consider a method of how to engage with the memory. Some suggestions included watching the memory from the window of a passing train, imagining a cloud that comes and goes, or thinking about it as if you are watching it on a movie screen. I landed with peering out the window of the Tardis. (I mean after all the doctor can travel in time it felt fitting).

And so it begins…

We had agree to use a mid level memory. And so as instructed I formed the snap shot in my mind. It is not a memory we had touched on before so as I started to describe to Chris the bathroom, with a sink covered in blood and me stood in a puddle of blood on the floor, I felt the need to clarify the blood was not mine.

I didn’t need to tell Chris much. The focus was on describing the scene in front of me not the whys. So I didn’t didn’t need to explain the situation but for you I can…

(It was one of my earliest memories of mums attempts on her own life. I had woken up in the middle of the night and could sense a commotion in the house so I snuck downstairs and sat on the landing trying to strain to hear the tense voices downstairs. When someone moved into the hallway I was worried I would get told off for being out of bed so I darted into the bathroom, thinking if they caught me I could just blame needing the toilet. I was not expecting what I found.)

Chris asked me to bring the image to mind. He asked what feelings it stirred. Frustration, anger, fear, stupidity. Then he asked what belief it created. “It’s my fault” (Interestingly I actually said “it’s your fault”, as I naturally slipped into the internal monologue of beratement I often play out in my mind). And then we established the belief I wanted. “It’s not my responsibility.”

So Chris guided me through tapping whilst focusing on the images and letting whatever came to mind come to mind. At first it was just waves of emotions, fear and anger giving way to sadness. After each round Chris would ask me to recognise what came up and then guide me back into another reflective round of tapping. After emotions came to mind a random statement popped in my head ‘I can’t do this.’ I have no idea what I thought I couldn’t do, I don’t think it was the EMDR. I think there has always been a little voice buried somewhere who every time I found myself in a difficult situation would voice that fear I couldn’t get through it. Then my louder internal voice would naturally take over and push me through some how.

There was a potential breaking point here and I could feel just a huge wave of sadness drawing me towards it. But I couldn’t go there. When Chris asked me start tapping and go with that feeling I just couldn’t engage with it. He skilful guided me on slightly altering the course to try and understand what was behind not going there.

Then randomly my mind tried to bring up every argument I have ever had flicking through memories (of course not covering them all, but just lots of random fights from my past). We journeyed on…

At one point Chris asked what I wanted to do with all these emotions and I responded simply that I wanted to package them up and send them to the North Pole. (I know an adult who still very unapologetically believes in Santa). But if anyone could do something with a load of horrid unwanted emotions a mystical being had to be a good shot. So I took the time in one of the rounds to imagine doing just that.

When Chris checked in on the scale of how much heat what the original memory it had come down from five to four, but I also mentioned something had changed and that change bought new heat. Now when I thought of that image, written in blood across the mirror were the words it’s my fault. Earlier in the session Chris had asked me to bring that believe into the image some how and as much I didn’t want it to that is where the words landed.

Chris took me back in asking what I would want to do and the answer was so easy. I would want to clean up all the blood. He enquired if that would be the me of today or the me back then. Todays me is a more proficient cleaner so the answer seemed obvious…me now. ( I also wonder if I feel like the me now would be better equipped to deal with it all, although perhaps that is a little naive. No one is probably equipped to deal with some of the nonsense I faced back then).

So Chris guided me to imagine doing just that. What I didn’t share with Chris because he didn’t need to know the detail was when I went back into that memory to clean it up I still found little me there stood frozen in shock. So I took the opportunity to lift them gently onto the edge of the bath and clean off their feet with warm water and bubbles before I proceeded to blitz the room with bleach, elbow grease and rubber gloves. Little me just sat in silence and watched.

We measured the scores of my new belief and it was stronger than before. And loads of heat had gone out of the memory. We did what felt like trying to seal in some of those newer happier feelings tapping more slowly this time and I was done.

Now I know I titled this blog the magic pill. EMDR won’t work for everyone but at least for me even though I didn’t believe it would, the impact and benefit was immediately felt. Now to hold onto to it.


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