I’m in the middle of EMDR therapy and it’s hard.as.fuck.
My family is joining me in this therapy ride, whether they like (or know) it or not.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy is an interactive psychotherapy technique used to relieve psychological stress. It’s often used to treat trauma and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which I’ve had for over three years thanks to Rapegate.
PTSD doesn’t necessarily last forever – but it can linger. It’s just the fucking hardest thing to describe a disorder that is invisible. It’s like having a ghost live within you and it comes out to haunt your body where its housed anytime it motherfucking pleases. Just like no two rapes are the same, no two pregnancies are the same, no two diagnosis of PTSD are the same.
So, there are obviously different treatment approaches depending on the person, the therapist, the situation. I started with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Rationally, I knew it wasn’t my fault I was raped. But I could not help but feel that I let it happen to me. I was my own worst enemy, standing in the way of my recovery process due to my black and white thinking. I still wrestle with this after three years of therapy but CBT helps you become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way. Coping mechanisms are put into place and for me, mine is – ‘would you talk to a friend like this?’ Fuck no I wouldn’t, so quit talking to yourself this way.
We can be our own worst enemy. CBT helps anyone learn how to better manage stressful life situations.
Starting EMDR with my therapist, Superhero Sheila, I was told to think of a happy, relaxing, real life place. Somewhere I’ve experienced first hand, where I felt safe. It took me a minute but I thought about water. I thought about laughing. I thought about what I loved in my life. Maybe it’s the time of year, but my safe place is memories of time spent at the Lake of the Ozarks with my family every Fourth of July.
From wapatoolies, to aqua bars, to tattoos, to boys against girls Trivial Pursuit games (pretty sure the chicks won more), I can envision this place and be at ease. Hearing the boat motors, my family’s belly laughing, smelling the lake water, my uncle ‘washing’ his hair in the lake (true Griswolds move right here), the relentless teasing, remembering my sister getting hit in the face with a can of Budweiser thrown from the boat to the water (ah, memories).
The first thing for me to tackle in EMDR was the exit off of the interstate which leads to the house where I was raped. My ex friend’s house. I pass by that exit almost every day. And every.single.time I think, “oh, that leads to Ex Friend’s house where I was raped.” It doesn’t ruin my day. I don’t ruminate over it. But it’s a thought that pops in my head and can causes anxiety that sometimes spills into my daily life.
To tackle this, Superhero Sheila hands me a device with two knobs – one for each hand. They vibrate, alternating, then at the same time, then alternating, using both your right and left sides of the brain to re-train your thoughts.
“Close your eyes.”
“You’re driving on Interstate I40, coming up to the exit. You see it through the windshield.”
*feel pang in my stomach, think of safe place*
Driving a boat at Lake of the Ozarks.
“You are getting closer to the exit, what are you feeling.”
*pang in belly, think of safe place*
Oh hello boozy party cove.
“Are you going to pass the exit or get off?”
*if I get off here now in my thoughts, it will take me to the place where I was raped…think of safe place*
Laughing with family.
All day laughing with family.
Family laughing all day with help from Jell-O shots…
…and whipped cream.
“You are going to pass by the exit. What are you thinking?”
*why are there tears starting to roll down my face..stop it…think happy place*
Lake of the Ozark patio karaoke nights.
With a microphone hog.
“Are you OK? Do you want to keep going?”
*yes…even though a river of snot is now accompanying the stream of tears down my neck*
“Take a deep breath in. Take a deep breath out. Think of your safe place.”
After boating pool dunks while our moms fixed supper.
“You’re now passing the exit. You’re past the exit. Take inventory of your body. Do you feel anxiety anywhere?”
*a small pang remains in my stomach but it doesn’t ache*
“How do you want to feel?”
*more tears, happy place, happy place*
Drunken dancers around a hunk.
*I want to stay afloat, I don’t want to cry, where’s the goddamned aqua bar when I need it*
“Deep breath in, deep breath out. How do you want to feel – how do you see yourself?”
I see me cooling off with a refreshing beverage.
“How do you see yourself?”
*I’m strong but I’m crying*
“You are not alone. Emotions don’t equate weakness. Feel them. Sit with them. Think about your happy place.”
*I feel strong. I feel like a badass. I am a badass*
“Know that this exit, this representation has a beginning, a middle and an end. You’re OK. How do you feel?”
*I feel…better…no dull ache in my body but what do I do when I drive by the exit…fucking christ, how will I feel then…*
“You will go to your secure place. You will use your coping tools. Now open your eyes. How do you feel?”
I feel safe. I feel happy.
Therapy of any kind is fucking hard. The interstate exit is the smallest of my issues that root in my Rapegate anxiety but, as with anything, sticking to it is a gigantic key to my recovery process. No matter how much I want to quit. No matter how many fucking tears I shed. No matter what. It’s my key to carrying on.
Here’s hoping you have a secure and favorable place to go in your mind, whenever you need.
Be your own badass – with as much help as you need. Thanks to my own version of the Griswolds family, I am…how bad can that be?!