Homework

After my therapist and I did those sessions of reconnective healing, I asked her about EMDR. I did a session once, back in November 2013, with my previous therapist, and it was so interesting and intense that I always kept in my mind the idea that I could pursue this kind of therapy.

EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing – is a technique developed to help victims of trauma. It initially became very popular and successful with war veterans suffering from PTSD but it is being increasingly used to treat other forms of trauma – including emotional trauma – and even to soothe anxiety symptoms in people suffering from severe anxiety.

No one knows exactly how EMDR works. One of the theories suggests that, by stimulating alternately both brain hemispheres, it helps processing and storing your memories in a way that they won’t be harmful or stressful anymore.

When I did my session I was in a bit of a shock, and a bit in awe too, not because of the memories themselves – EMDR doesn’t usually unearth repressed memories – but because of the feelings and events those memories came up associated with. I would have never made those connections on my own and yet they made so much sense. Groups of memories are stored in the same neural pathways for a reason, and finding and deconstructing those reasons – and getting to the root of those pathways – can actually untie many knots – repressed emotions and physical symptoms associated with them.

EMDR usually follows a protocol and several steps. I remember in 2013 I was asked to think of a vivid memory, an emotion associated with it and where in the body I felt that emotion. Those were the three key ingredients. After that, it all went pretty fast. It’s like you’re in a movie and the images are just being flashed at you. I shuddered. I had to catch my breath. Whenever it seemed like I was hitting a wall, even that feeling of being in a dead end could be used to trigger more associations. When I left I had to rush to write it all down, to make even more sense of what I’d “seen”. I don’t know why my therapist didn’t suggest we’d do it again, but I suspect she recognized my nervous system was hyperaroused and wondered if I was able to deal with everything. Some months later she moved to another country and I’ll never know.

This time my therapist gave me two options. One was to think of a specific fear and make a list of everything associated with it. That felt too overwhelming for me – I have many many many fears and I tend to make endless connections between things. So I went for the other option, which is to build your life story with all the significant events, bad and good. I don’t need to describe them, just to make a timeline and pin them to it. Some events can be good and bad at the same time, which only adds to the challenge. Still it feels overwhelming. I jokingly told my therapist that I would call her three months from now when the homework is done.

Adding to this overwhelming feeling, the weather isn’t helping. It’s that weird time of the year when temperatures are high during the day, almost summer-like, and then drop to winter again at night. But the sun and warmth have made me want to go out more after a year of playing hermit. Dinner with friends, going to the movies and exhibitions or just reading in the park all sound better than sitting and thinking about all traumatic events in my life. Homework is really the last thing I feel like doing right now, so let’s see what I can come up with until Wednesday, when my therapist and I will discuss the next step based on my timeline.

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