Recently I had my last session of eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR). This is a psycho analytical technique which uses the REM eye movement to help reprogram and save traumatic memories. This treatment has been hugely beneficial but also incredibly difficult to complete. The technique requires you to revisit the trauma and experience the situation again. Whilst you are going through this a psychologist completes a movement with their hand and you follow their fingers. This is a movement similar to the REM sleep cycle. This sounds a bit crazy, at first I had no idea what was happening and I felt like I was being hypnotised. You are asked to picture a traumatic memory – the most recent, the worst and the most significant. These sessions have been ongoing for 6 weeks but we have only recently completed what I felt was the ‘worst’ trauma.
You are asked to imagine a picture postcard image of the trauma and as soon as I do this I am back there. I no longer feel present in the psychologist’s room, I do not feel present in my own body and I have been moved back to that moment. I am asked how I feel about myself in this memory and how my body feels – do I feel tense? Am I in pain? The most important thing I have learnt about trauma is that your body remembers – in some cases I felt like my body remembered more than my mind. Each traumatic memory has made my stomach tense, my legs jumpy and given me an intense pain in my throat. On reflection I think this relates to my need to run for help, to quickly jump into action and the maybe the suppression of my fear. If you can put yourself back into a memory quickly, see everything in full colour, feel the sensations and sense the smells it could be that you have a memory that has not been processed properly. I am in no way a psychologist and this is just my interpretation. I do know that certain traumas have affected me so significantly that it has impacted on every aspect of my life and my life has had to go on hold until I have resolved them.
The ‘worst’ trauma that I wanted to deal with was not related to Joseph’s diagnosis, hospital stays or even surgery….it was bloody croup. Joseph has suffered from croup so many times that I have lost count. When it started I did not know what was happening. Joseph had gone from peacefully asleep in his cot to struggling for every breath. I had been relaxing in the bath and heard a loud gasp for air coming from the bedroom. I thought he was going to die. I reacted quickly, called 999 and we were rushed to resus. The paramedics have called ahead as they think Joseph is in danger and potentially going into heart failure. As we arrive he lets out a loud barking cough…’Its just croup’ they say….’it’s very common’. This happens again the next night, the night after that and the night after that. I become oddly comfortable calling for an ambulance. Some investigations show that Joseph has a physiological problem with his throat which means that the croup infection that causes the throat to swell has a severe impact on Joseph. They promise me that he should never stop breathing but this could happen again and again until his throat strengthens. We are now on high alert. This only seems to happen at night so Joseph is never left in a room to sleep by himself. We put out clothes for a hospital trip before we go to bed. I watch him constantly during the day to ensure he is not going blue and at night we wait for him to struggle to breathe. We can not relax. This lasts for months but the effects for me mentally last much longer. Joseph is fine now but I have struggled to move out of this hyper vigilant mode. I have learnt through this trauma work that this is because my body and my mind still think that I am living in that moment. I could not eat, sit and watch TV, I couldn’t read and I struggled to have a conversation. I could talk to some one but only whilst still looking at Joseph. I was not being rude; I just had to give Joseph my full attention all the time. This was exhausting and not healthy. I found going back to work very hard. I knew Joseph was ok but my body still thought I needed to behave in a certain way to keep him alive.
EMDR has enabled me to go back to these croup episodes, tweak the memory and save it in the right place. This has had a profound affect on my life. I feel less tired, less paranoid and my body is more relaxed. It is only now that I have completed this treatment that I have the head space to think about the future. This has definitely signalled the start of my post traumatic growth.
If you can relate to this in any way please know that help is out there. The effects of trauma can be completely debilitating but you definitely can get better!
I am now very much looking forward to the future.