PTSD and EMDR

My ‘Secrets’ blog is a serialisation of my story. You may want to first go back to read previous weeks’ accounts 🖤

2020

I’m back with my counsellor. In the past two weeks’ sessions I have tried to share with her the extent of what happened to me as a child and as a young person. The problem is, that there is so much, I cannot put it simply into words. I can’t say some of it out loud at all. To do so would make the events I’ve tried so long to deny, real again. I’m already reliving them in my sleep but I can’t speak them in my waking hours, even to this most gentle and understanding of people.

She is sympathetic to my problem and suggests we try a therapy called EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing. It is a form of psychotherapy.

I’ve never heard of it. It is relatively new, having been developed by Francine Shapiro in 1988.

She explained that in embarking upon this therapy I would be asked to focus upon the things that distress me from my past, but without having to speak about them and describe them in detail. It is explained and demonstrated. EMDR involves bilateral stimulation. During the therapy sessions, I would follow her hand movement from side to side as I recall the images that disturb me most.

She provides me with printed literature and points me to the Internet where I am able to read up further information before we proceed. I need to know what I’m getting into. This therapy could help my mind to recover from the psychological trauma I am suffering, but it is not an easy opt out. It is particularly effective for sufferers of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), which had become my diagnosis on my second visit to the GP.

After researching and reading about the therapy, I agree to give it a go. Everything is set to begin my EMDR on Wednesday 25th March, but then we hadn’t accounted for Monday 23rd March 2020.

23rd March 2020 was my 62nd Birthday, but the day and date was not memorable for that reason. It was the day Boris Johnson, our Prime Minister, locked us down. I can still remember the complete sense of panic overwhelming me. What was happening? What did this mean for us all? It seemed that all our freedom was being taken away. On top of this I was now facing a further dilemma: what was going to happen to my planned EMDR? Where did this leave me in the terms of dealing with these damaging traumas from my past? How was I ever going to move forward now?

I received a text from my counsellor. It was bad news. We couldn’t begin the EMDR. It needed to be done face to face. She would phone me and we could talk through the options. I was devastated. I thought I was beginning a journey of recovery. Now I was plunged into confusion. I couldn’t get through this by talking about it because I couldn’t say out loud what had happened to me, even over the phone, or especially over the phone. What was I going to do?

For several weeks we had ‘check in’ phone calls. I worked on a lifetime chronology to try to help my counsellor put into sequence what had happened in the context of other events in my life. It was only when it was in front of us both in black and white that I began to appreciate just how chaotic my childhood had been.

My years of experience as a teacher, and particularly, as a headteacher, has taught me that alarm bells should have been ringing where it appeared a child was being moved repeatedly from Primary School to Primary School. Questions should have been asked. Somebody should have been watching. But this was the 1960s and 70s and nobody seemed to pick up on what was happening in this particular young child’s life, just as nobody bothered to pick up on the fact that there was a 16 year old looking after three younger siblings whilst supervising a suicidal mother.

Looking back on these years and events, the fact that I managed to scrape through two A Levels, pass Piano Examinations to Grade 8 and subsequently go on to acquire two Degrees at the University of Leeds, is nothing short of amazing, even to me.

My counsellor once said to me that I must have a strong resilience gene! I think I must have something!

And now here I was, in March 2020 and somehow, I was going to need be resilient again, because the counselling therapy I really needed could not go ahead.

I was soon distracted when our daughter fell ill, with what the doctor diagnosed as most probably being Covid-19. She was so very, very poorly for weeks. I didn’t feel too wonderfully well either, but there was no testing facility in those early weeks of lockdown. All we could do was self-isolate.

🖤🖤🖤

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