It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything. I haven’t really had anything to share. I’m working on a new collection of poetry with my writers group, working on ideas for a sculpture and wood carving, hanging out with a new friend, and dealing with extensive bouts of depression.
I’m writing now to share with you something that has had a profound effect on me—EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy.
Definition: According to the WHO practice guideline: “This therapy is based on the idea that negative thoughts, feelings and behaviors are the result of unprocessed memories. The treatment involves standardized procedures that include focusing simultaneously on spontaneous associations of traumatic images, thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations and bilateral stimulation that is most commonly in the form of repeated eye movements.” (My therapist uses hand tapping and electric stimulation pads. The eye movement didn’t work with me, but the other two are highly effective. I prefer the pads.).
My new friend, Lee, introduced me to my therapist, Julie Madsen, who is herself a trauma survivor with C-PTSD and has gone through EMDR therapy. Lee had been seeing her for a few months. In that time I noticed such a profound transformation and growth in Lee that I had to give EMDR a try.
I noticed the change in how Lee views and treats herself, how she now advocates for herself, how she speaks with greater love and compassion toward herself, how she trusts her intuition more, and how, after existing in an emotionally, financially, and verbally abusive marriage for twenty years, she has found the courage, strength and self-worth to file for divorce.
I knew I wasn’t getting anywhere with talk therapy/CBT anymore. I had gone as far as I could with it. For the last several years I’d talked about the same issues, particularly my emotional eating and self-sabotage, and nothing changed. I wasn’t getting any better. I was stuck. So, I decided to give EMDR a try. I have done more intensive work on my trauma issues (as a survivor of family violence, incest, and rape) in six one-hour sessions than I have in thirty years of talk therapy/CBT. Healing is happening on a deep level. I want to share my EMDR journey with you. I will post my journal entries, which I write upon reflecting after each session, and will share any insights gleaned from the work.
I have had a total of eight sessions so far, one each week. The first two sessions were for my therapist and I to get comfortable with each other and for me to give her my personal history, then decide which track to pursue. We came up with two core beliefs I hold: “I hate my body” (I am fat and ugly and therefore have no value) and “I am not safe”. The first four sessions were on zoom. We used tapping on my shoulders, alternating left, right, left right… as a way of reprocessing. The last two sessions have been in-person, using electric stimulation pads, one in each hand.
Julie diagnosed me as having DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder/Multiple Personality Disorder). She assured me it is nothing like what is portrayed in movies. She explained that, in order to survive immense trauma, my psyche fragmented into a number of selves, each with their own role, beliefs, and way of behaving. They have revealed themselves to me over the sessions, each time showing a little more about themselves. I will introduce you to them now:
My inner child, Penelope, is fragmented into three selves. The eight-year old holds onto all our fear. The ten and twelve year old hold our shame. My sixteen-year old, Bobbie, is the rebel. She is the one who resists—and sometimes revolts—against things my adult self wants or needs to do.
There is a twenty-five year old. She is the dancer/model/beauty queen who carries our anger—mostly toward our other selves. She is hyper critical and very demanding. She carries the core belief that in order to be accepted and loved she must be beautiful and physically flawless. She feels powerful and in control, but Julie said this is an illusion, that she is just as wounded and traumatized as the others. Her function has been as protector.
Then there is Venus, the part of me that is obese and has issues with emotional eating as a means of soothing herself. She was the part that was bulimic. She also functions as a protector. I didn’t want to refer to her as “the obese part” so I named her, with her permission, Venus after the Venus of Wollendorf—ancient symbol of beauty and fertility. I met her for the first time two sessions ago and, through journaling, discovered that she is the part who holds all of our pain so that the rest of us can function in the world. My twenty-five year old and she had a long talk (through journaling) after that session, which I will share in the next post. They each got to express where they were coming from and how they felt about the other and ended up working out their differences and reached a mutual understanding.
Then there is the part Julie refers to as “the manager”. She sets and enforces rules and structure and likes to bark orders. Bobbie rebels against her a lot. The manager gets upset and comes down on the rest of us when her expectations aren’t met.
Then there is my adult self, the part that tries to navigate in this world. The part that seeks healing. Julie calls her “the firefighter”. Her role is to smooth ruffled feathers and put out fires between the other parts and try to get them all to work together.
The long-term goal of EMDR therapy is to integrate all of my fragmented parts into one whole self, as well as reprocess all my painful memories so that the trauma no longer has power over me. Julie said this will be a long process due to the extent of my trauma (she said, “Your trauma is as bad as it gets.”). I told her that I feel that I experienced what I experienced and “it is what it is”. She said that’s my dissociation talking, that my psyche has been severely damaged at a core level and that one day I will be able to acknowledge the abuse I endured with self-compassion and empathy.
Anyway, thank you for taking the time to read this post. I wish you all well.