Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How a Little Known Therapy Changed My Life

When I found out I was pregnant in Novemeber 2010, I was shocked by my reaction. I was so stunned it was as if I had been slapped. I felt tremendous guilt because I never imagined I could have the feelings I had after all the losses we had endured. How could I not be happy and grateful for this blessing? What was wrong with me? As I dug deeper, I discovered that there still lingered fear. Memories rarely die, and my heart, mind, soul, and body could remember all I had endured during each pregnancy. I was not physically, mentally, or spiritually ready to endure all that again. I broke all my own rules and allowed worry to consume me to the point where I fell into a depressed state. I had studied a therapy we'll call EMDR for short. (It actually stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Another therapist shared that he had learned about the therapy after his own son had died and it worked for him, soooooo I searched for and found a certified practitioner in my area.

My therapy experience

To my utter amazement, after the first session of actual reprocessing, I felt good about being pregnant. By the end of the second session I felt I could handle any drama with confidence. By the third session, I was dealing with life experiences that I had no idea were even linked to my reactions to the loss of our three children!  By the fourth session, I was feeling light, bubbly and EXCITED about being pregnant. I felt positive and didn't feel the need to simply "go along" with every suggestion the doctor made. I felt confident in my body's ability to handle this pregnancy. I began to even do pregnancy yoga and consider my options for a natural birth over having a repeat c-section. By the sixth session all anxiety, apprehension and negative emotions completely went away! And I wasn't dreaming!

What has made life even better is that I can see the difference in other areas of my life. It's like the therapy has helped me see perspectives I was completely oblivious to before. For example, situations or comments that used to bother me, don't bother me anymore. I'm not as sensitive about things (which is GREAT when you are married or have a significant other!) and I feel like a physical burden has been lifted from my shoulders.

The thing I love about EMDR is that it wasn't some weird hypnosis or anything like that. Research has shown that back and forth eye movements (think REM sleep) somehow help our brains switch between the emotional center (limbic system) to the more logical center (neo-cortex). So when we experience trauma or something disturbing our brain automatically taps into the emotional databank, which gets the common fight-or-flight reaction going. Sometimes the memory gets trapped there, so the mind and body never heal properly. EMDR helps the brain take that memory and deposit it into the logical databank, which allows us to finally heal. I was in complete control and thank GOD I did not have to re-tell all the painful details that brought me to the session because EMDR isn't what we call "talk therapy".

I pulled up a mental image, tapped into some negative and positive beliefs I had tied to that image than did the eye movements. It was like I was watching the scenary go by and when the "train" stopped, the image didn't bother me anymore and the negative belief system was gone, too! Each session lasted an hour and although the scenery went by, there were moments when I cried my heart out or felt upset, but it only lasted for one or two minutes. After many sessions I felt completely exhausted and sometimes would have dreams that gave me further clarity about the topic we had worked on.

The most interesting thing about EMDR has been experiencing first hand that painful memories don't just get trapped in your head. They get trapped in your body, too. So when I talk about a weight being lifted off of me, it turns out it was not some figment of my imagination.

Please share your questions ... I'll do the best I can to answer all! Have any of you experienced EMDR or any other therapy? What was your experience?


Anonymous said...

This message has been very touching. Do you do speaking engagements?


Sharee said...

Thanks for your comment ... yes, I do speaking engagements.