Monday means EMDR. It’s become a regular fixture of dread in my schedule. Although my therapy sessions with J are often tough, I rarely hate the idea of going there. But EMDR is different. It is gruelling and painful. There’s not much room for humour or to share the lighter moments in life.
Today Dr H and I were continuing to work on the intrusive image we focused on last week. I felt like I made some progress in the last session, managing to get my distress level associated with the image down to about a 3/10. This morning, Dr H asked me to go back to it and imagine being there again and we did more of the same. Repeated sets of eye movements, working through whatever feelings came up.
Last week there was a huge amount of fear connected with the memory. I kept crying because I felt so small and scared. There was less of that today. The image felt softer, less abrasive somehow. But I still felt trapped, claustrophobic. I kept seeing the closed door and feeling like I couldn’t escape.
Dr H suggested I consider how it might be to leave the room. That brought up a lot of fear again. It was a totally new thought to me in that moment. When I was ten, I didn’t see running away as an option. In this particular memory I am in my brother’s room and he’s exposing himself to me. I’m repulsed and ashamed and terrified all at once. But I am between him and the door, so escape is of course completely feasible.
The thing is, in my child’s brain, I am frozen with fear. And moving makes me feel like even more of a target. I think, what if I try to run and it makes him angry and therefore more forceful? What if I escape and he tells mum and dad what I’ve been doing? Staying put seemed like damage limitation.
It took almost an hour of trying, but eventually I could picture myself gripping the door handle. Then, with more effort, I could imagine opening the door and stepping to the other side. As I did this, Dr H continued with the eye movements and continued to repeat ‘You’ve survived, you’re safe now’. Slowly, I built up to being able to see myself run from the room, slam the door closed and jump up into my dad’s arms. His hugs have always felt so strong and safe.
I think today’s session was another small, but successful step. Now when I go to the memory, I know it’s still there and it still happened. The great thing is, I picture him alone in a dark room with the door closed. I’m not in there with him. He’s still disgusting and frightening, but that particular memory is a bit more distant. I couldn’t completely get to 100% believing the positive cognition about having survived, but we did manage to put that thought more strongly in place than it was before the session. So I think I’ve somehow chipped away at a small bit of the trauma.
On another note: Dog update
For anyone who’s interested, the pup is still in pain and pretty miserable. I took her for a follow up with our own vet today (emergency ones were naff) and they did a really thorough exam. She’s in a lot of pain and has developed a blood clot on the front of her eye. They’ve got to monitor her closely as she’s at high risk of developing glaucoma, which could lead to her losing the eye. Also if the clot doesn’t start breaking up naturally by Wednesday, they’ll have to do a bit of surgery on it to help it heal.
The worst part is that they’re certain her vision has been damaged. She’s a sighthound, so used to being able to spot things miles in the distance. It’s really sad to think she’s not going to see properly again at the tender age of 3. I know she’ll adapt, but it’s horrible when something is damaging and irreversible like that. It’s a bit of a blow really, but I’m just reminding myself that she will survive and be happy again once it’s all healed. Here’s her sad little face this evening.
Main photo: n4i, Creative Commons.