Although I wish it wouldn’t, Monday inevitably comes around and I have to drag myself to EMDR. This morning I just wanted to run away. Driving to the clinic, I felt sick with nerves. I arrived early and waited in my car for a while. That made everything feel worse. It took a lot of talking to myself to avoid just turning the car around and driving away.
Going into the session, I knew I was going to have to face something horrible. In the past weeks, Dr H and I worked through an intrusive image that has encroached on my life a lot. It does feel less powerful now, although it’s still present. So the book is closed on that one, and next I had to choose another memory to work on.
I had a week to decide which memory to go for, but I procrastinated because I didn’t want to have to think through all my worst experiences to choose a significant one. That meant I ended up deciding impulsively when I was with Dr H today.
In the end, I went for a memory that came up during my last EMDR session. It’s one of the worst. Actually, I think it might be the worst. I don’t know because they all feel horrendous. But this one stands out for two reasons; first, my brother was physically aggressive to me, and second, it was the day my parents found out he’d been abusing me.
I can’t really explain how awful it was going back into that. Watching it from start to finish was like some nasty film, made to torture me. I cried a lot. And I didn’t even know why. It just felt frightening and painful to take myself back there. To recall my little self trying and failing to take control. To remember how powerless I felt when I said no, repeatedly, and had my will overridden by this vile man who was supposed to take care of me. It all felt so far beyond my control; his sixteen year old body was five years stronger than mine. There was no way I could fight him.
EMDR is a harsh therapy. There’s no stopping to acknowledge feelings or talk about them. It feels cold, when I am so distraught, to just keep going with the eye movements and stop only occasionally for a sip of water, a deep breath and to wipe my tears. I feel bruised by it. About half way through the session today, I just wanted to run. All I could think was ‘I can’t do this’. I wanted desperately to go to my car, curl up in a ball and just cry. I wanted to call J, my therapist and tell her how it felt. I needed to feel her empathy, her compassion. I needed to feel held.
But I had to keep going, to push through those feelings. It hurt. Again, I can’t describe how much. It’s impossible to put words to excruciating emotional pain, but all I can say is that it was one of the most gruelling experiences of my life. I had to go on to complete the narrative within the memory, moving through to the point at which my mum walked into the room and witnessed my brother abusing me.
Needless to say that brought up more horrible feelings. I felt guilty, ashamed, and yet again, really scared. I saw once more the expression on her face as she discovered us. I felt the searing shame. I felt disgusting. I felt responsible. Like I should have stopped him. I should’ve shouted for help or gone to my parents when it first happened. I remembered the sense of my world imploding; the belief that nothing could ever be OK again after this moment.
I’m going to stop writing now, because I can hardly tolerate how it feels to type these words. It’s all so raw. I feel fragile, exhausted. I feel like I can’t face going for another session, I am trying to ignore the fact that I have to go back next week. I have to do this again, to open up all that pain again. It’s all too hard. I’m starting to think that maybe I’m just not strong enough to keep going with it. The problem is, I can’t live with how these memories haunt me either, so I don’t see that I have any choice.
Main photo: n4i, Creative Commons.