Thursday, January 18, 2018

EMDR Therapy (with horses) works

I had my second session of EMDR this week. We started by talking about a moment in the present:

I realized recently when Todd is around, I ask him how to do things I am perfectly capable of doing. As I thought about it and tried to source that behavior, I came to the conclusion that it was about doing things the way he wanted. It was important to me to anticipate his needs, wants, etc. before he told me. At first, I thought it was out of fear of being hurt. In session with my therapist, I felt like it was more about being who and what I was supposed to be. 

In the discussion, I felt shame. I wanted to curl up, hide, disappear. I also pictured being in the kitchen with Larry on one specific night. 

He had forced me to have sex when I didn't want to from day one of marriage. On this night, I fought back. I don't remember what made it so different, but I kicked and screamed and then curled up into a ball trying to keep him from getting my pants off, climbing on top of me, and forcing himself inside of me. Eventually, he won the fight. Then he got up and yelled at me. He was upset because I had fought and forced him to do that to me. All the fight was gone out of me, and I stood in my kitchen and apologized to him. I promised I would never do that to him again. I knew it was my fault, and there was something wrong with me for not letting him do what he wanted. 

That moment has always been emotionally charged for me. I feel deeply ashamed for both fighting him and for apologizing. I felt sad and angry and hurt and scared when I thought about it. At the same time, I had a hard time recalling it. I saw it as if I was outside my own body watching myself. (The picture was of me standing in my Mickey Mouse pajamas in the doorway of the kitchen with the living room behind me.)

In session, my therapist holds my hands and taps on the back of them, alternating back and forth between the hands. I also do therapy in the roundpen with a horse. In this session, she was wandering freely around us. 

As I described the moment in the kitchen, Wendy (therapist) had me focus on how the shame felt. I felt like curling into a ball, so I did. She followed me down to the ground, and Violet (the horse) stood guard while I cried. 

I cry often, but not in therapy. I am usually too self-conscious and hyper aware of everything around me to let myself cry. This time, I wasn't self conscious, and I was completely unaware of everything except Wendy and Violet. I have no idea how long I cried - just until I was done. Then we stood up and Violet nuzzled my face while Wendy and I talked. 

(This is when I learned that Violet had started licking Wendy's butt and legs - yet she didn't lose it. She didn't even laugh or flinch. She's got rockstar focus.)

Wendy asked me what I would do if put in the same situation now as I was that night. 

"I'd get up. Put clothes on. Leave and go to the police. There's no reason to take that kind of shit ever again."

It has NEVER occurred to me that I could have gone to the police; that I would have been believed; that THAT is what you can do when your husband is physically and sexually violent. 

Since my session, I recall the kitchen, and I can picture what it looks like. Instead of seeing it as if i was outside myself, I see it from my own perspective. I no longer feel sad, or ashamed, or scared when I picture the kitchen. I feel strong, which is weird and cool. 

I have spent a lot of time in therapy talking about that day. I've expressed anger about it, I've talked about how the shame isn't mine, there's nothing for me to be ashamed of, but nothing has been as effective as EMDR (with horses) at changing me. It's kind of amazing, and I keep wondering if it's real... but if it's not real, it feels real enough that I don't even care. 


I just wrote about all of this, and still, all I feel is strong. That is very different from any experience I have ever had before. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Day After EMDR Therapy

My first EMDR therapy session was yesterday morning. I left the session not sure how it helped or didn't help. By the end of the day, I felt emotionally fragile and tired. I wanted to cry, but couldn't say why... so I just let the tears flow for no reason. (This is one of those moments where I feel very grateful for the relationship I have with Todd. There is zero pressure to not cry, or to talk about it, or to explain the tears, or to do anything but cry if I want. He sat next to me and held my hand. That's all.)

This morning, I woke up with every muscle in my body sore. At first I thought maybe I was coming down with a cold or flu-ish something, but then I realized: My muscles aren't achy like I'm sick, they are sore like I worked out really hard. I didn't work out really hard yesterday. I just went to therapy, where every muscle in my body shook for at least a half hour (and maybe longer, it's hard to tell when I was going through it).

It makes sense to be sore.
And I would just like to say, our bodies and our brains are amazing. To both hold emotion and trauma, so that I don't have to experience, and then to process it using every single muscle, it's amazing.

I still don't know if it was helpful. It's kind of hard to say, but if pain is gain, then it was helpful.

P.S. If you want to read about the actual session, it's here. If you want to read about anything else I've written about EMDR, check out these posts. C-PTSD means no EMDR, and Moving Forward

I'm thinking after reading these posts, it might be good to do a post about what EMDR actually is. If I get to it, you'll get to read it, otherwise there are some good books and posts about it.

Check them out here:
EMDR: The Breakthrough Therapy for Overcoming Anxiety, Stress, and Trauma 

The EMDR Coloring Book: A Calming Resource for Adults - Featuring 200 Works of Fine Art Paired with 200 Positive Affirmations

http://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Equine Assisted EMDR

I've been working with a human therapist and her two horses (and whatever barn cats come by) for theee years now. Working with horses has been helpful - it gets my whole body involved in processing - which seems to work a lot better than sitting on a couch talking.

Because of my chronic pain, I've been looking at EMDR.  My pain has all sorts of visible and diagnosable causes, but I've still wondered what connections there are to trauma. I've got a lot of years emotions that were held in while going through some kind of intense trauma. It makes sense to me that it would add to a pain feedback loop. Besides all that, PTSD and trauma emotions and memories are still a part of everyday of my life. I've learned to cope, and I've learned to manage, and I function really well. I'm overall happy and healthy, and I also recognize it could be better if I'm willing to put in more work.

Insurance refused to pay for EMDR therapy. They said because they cover therapists who treat trauma, they don't need to cover that therapy. I don't have the cash available to pay 100% out of pocket, so I hadn't thought much more about it until my therapist told me she was getting trained in it.   I figured, "What the hell? Let's give it a go."

Today was my first session.
First, I am glad she didn't get offended when I couldn't help but laugh as she moved her hand back and forth. It's a little weird, so let's laugh about it.
Second, I couldn't keep my eyes focusing on her. When I dissociate, I get lightheaded and there seems to be a block between the rest of my body and my head. So she used tapping on my hands. That helped me stay more grounded, feel more connected, and made me feel safer on an emotional level.

Since I have learned that sitting in an office is less effective for me, I chose to go out with the horses while also giving EMDR a try. Having two horses tuned in to me, and one licking my hand and resting her nose on my cheek, arm, or leg, was calming and grounding for me. I know some people don't feel calmer standing in a pen with two horses, but I do.

There really wasn't much to it. Talk about a memory - or a cluster of memories with similar emotions.  Wendy (therapist) tapping my hands while Daisy and Violet (horses) do their thing, and I stand there and shake until I'm done shaking.

Since I can recall memories without pain or intense emotions, it's hard to tell if it was helpful. I can disconnect and dissociate while still staying present and look connected. (It's a helpful skill to have if I'm being totally honest, but it's not necessarily how I want to live my life if that makes sense...) l will see how it goes and how I feel between today and my next session in two weeks.

It's really hard to describe what it does and how it works. Equine assisted therapy is like that too. Somehow, it just works for me. I am able to process things on an emotional and body level that gets me farther than just talking. I'm smart. I can say and do what needs to be done, but sometimes it actually works better to NOT work that way, and let emotions take control and lead the way. Like I said, hard to explain.