Wednesday was finally the day where I started my first proper session of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing). By proper I mean it wasn’t just a practice couple of sessions for a small fear. It was actually going back into my past and remembering a traumatic event. It was all about going to the initial feeling of being abandoned by my parents and almost reliving it.
I had to remember that summer where I was left completely alone in a 5 bedroom house. My parents had just decided to get divorced and my mum had already been abroad for 1 month. My brother had also already left home 4 years previously as he was attending a special needs school in another country. My mother was also there helping him, her golden child. I didn’t matter because I was told to be the strong child. I was told that I wasn’t allowed to express emotion as my mother couldn’t handle it. If I was lonely then I was too sensitive. If I was feeling down then I was negative. She trained me so well to ‘shut up’. That summer I had just finished school and I was incredibly relieved. I was incredibly relieved as I had been depressed and school was such a struggle. Apart from celebrating with my friends for a week or two after, my parents were ‘not present’. My Dad was in his own world as usual, working and out seeing women. My mum on the other hand was calling me crying down the phone at me about how sad she was. I didnt have the ‘Well done, you did it’ with a hug or kiss.
When doing the EMDR on Wednesday I was very nervous. I also felt nausea the night before from the anxiety of thinking of it. I did my research however and my therapist also comforted me by saying that I am always in control. If I didn’t feel comfortable at any point we could stop. Instead of following her finger from left to right this time, she did tapping on my hands. Following her finger in the practice period was very uncomfortable for my eyes so tapping on my left hand then right hand really quickly was much easier.
I was told to express the strongest emotion of my abandonment which was ‘I feel unheard & unloved’. I then had to picture myself alone in my bedroom as if I was 17 again, and let the feelings and thoughts just come to me. That summer I had insomnia for 3 months and was too uncomfortable to sleep before sunrise every morning. I guess when you are all alone in a 3 floor house, darkness can be even more scary. In fact, being afraid of the dark isn’t irrational at all but a natural human impulse. It turns out that the feelings of anxiety and uneasiness we feel when the lights go out are a reflection of an evolutionary impulse to remain safe. Just as humans were always more weary at night in primitive times, due to the big scary nocturnal animals, we are also more evolutionary primed to have increased anxiety at night. Anyhow, back to the EDMR..
So my therapist told me to picture myself in my room and just let go without judgement about what I feel, think or see. She would then ask me to connect with the feeling of being unheard & unloved and she would start the tapping. I must admit that it really wasn’t as bad as I thought. I had fleeting moments of complete and utter nothingness and then the thoughts that would pop in my head were things like not knowing when my Dad was home and desperately wanting some company. Not knowing where he was or who he was with, as he constantly lied to me saying he was friends. I remembered calling him asking him to come home. I remembered how much I would smoke back then to comfort mysef and how I always needed the tv on in the background. Internet wasn’t really something you used as much back then, so my only line of contact & feeling more connected was by phone, radio and tv.
Every time my therapist would have a break from the tapping she would ask me ‘how do you feel?’ Sometimes there was nothing and other times I would just talk about the things that pop into my head. The moments of feeling ‘why did I have to be so alone’ to then realising & remembering how much ‘surviving & self soothing’ I had to do.
The session was luckily finished on a positive note. I talked to my therapist about the compassion I had for myself back then and how difficult that summer was. I talked about how resourceful I must have been to keep myself going that summer. It was 40 degrees most of the time and the house wasn’t close to the town. I didn’t really go out that much and all my friends were away on holiday. Luckily I had aircon and everything I needed, apart from the love, understanding & empathy of my parents.
My next session is next Wednesday so I will continue reporting on my experience with EMDR. I am currently thinking of getting this book to help me on this journey!