Visualizing the Trauma

I have said that I will write openly and honestly about the EMDR process, but this last session has really tested my resolve.

Lori had me visualize specific instances of trauma that I can remember, and then describe not only the picture I see, but the feelings and thoughts associated with those traumas. This was, without a doubt, the hardest session I have had so far. I didn’t want to write about it because I didn’t want to face what I remember, but I know that I will only get out of this what I put into it, so here goes.

A low wooden desk, plastic and metal chairs around it. I’m looking down at my lap. I can see my bright pink sweatpants with the white cord and the desk is covering part of my knees. I was wearing sweatpants because I had learned that he couldn’t get his hand under the elastic, so he would stay out of my pants. I can feel his hand on my right arm, going up the sleeve of my t-shirt. I feel alone, trapped, isolated. No one can help me. I feel dirty and guilty. Ashamed. I know I am surrounded by people, but I know–without a doubt–that I am completely alone.

I walk into a classroom. I see the kids across the room and am looking forward to talking to them. I see them look up, see me, and then pointedly look away. It happens over and over. I don’t know what’s wrong. I think there must be some mistake. Some misunderstanding. I see sneers and haughty looks. I hear that they believe him, not me. I think this can’t be real. It can’t be real. I feel alone, betrayed, shunned, rejected. I want to cry but don’t want to give them another reason to hate me.

Eating lunch in the cafeteria. The green tables with the little round stools. One blonde little girl, Rachel, is showing her friends a game. She used to be my best friend, now she leads the other kids in teasing me. But then she turns to me and wants to show me the game. Is it over? Are they taking me back? Finally, finally, are things back to normal? She has a little pat of butter in her hand, the kind that comes between two pieces of paper. She sprinkled salt on it while telling me some story about a crocodile and saying how the salt on the butter feels exactly like crocodile skin. She holds it out to me to touch. I’m wary and hesitant, still not sure if things are truly back to normal. I reach out my hand to feel the ‘crocodile’, like the other little girl, Jessie, did just a minute ago, and she smears the butter all over my hand and arm. The girls laugh and tears burn in my eyes. I’m humiliated and betrayed. I don’t understand why.

I lag behind the kids in the lunch line so they won’t tease me as much. I get my lunch very last and only have a few minutes to eat my hotdog before we go out to recess. It’s a really hot day and when we line up to go inside I end up leaning against the wall and throwing up my hotdog, which was still in chunks because I had to eat so quickly. The entire playground can see and they all start making fun of me and calling me gross and disgusting. I feel humiliated as well as sick and start to cry.

Fifth grade, our classroom is crammed with thirty desks. His is just a few over from mine, and that makes me extremely nervous. The lunch sign-up list is being passed around, and we are supposed to circle which option we want, but he won’t hand it to me. He keeps saying I should just tell him what I want and he will mark it for me. I don’t know what to do. I don’t trust him. I don’t know whether to get the teacher, or just tell him what I want. I have this feeling he is going to play a trick on me and I wonder if I should tell him the meal I don’t want in the hopes that he marks down the other meal. I finally end up telling him the meal I want and he makes a big deal of marking the paper before passing it on. When I get to lunch I find out that he did indeed mark the meal I didn’t ask for, and it was something I didn’t like. I sit by myself and pick at my food trying not to cry.

It’s fifth grade and I’m looking through my desk trying to find something. My teacher is yelling, telling me to hurry up, and I’m getting nervous. I can’t find it, and the whole class is watching and tittering behind their hands. The teacher keeps saying things like “hurry up” and “you’re holding up the whole class”. I finally realize that I’m not going to find it and my eyes fill with tears. My teacher sees this and in front of the whole class says “Oh great, and now you’re going to be a cry baby about it.” Everyone laughs. I feel humiliated, weak, alone. I can’t stop the tears, but I hate them.

Junior high on a bus. Sitting near the back, trying to ignore the kids around me. They’re bouncing in their seats trying to make the whole bus bounce. One boy, DJ, who is always mean to me is trying to get me to bounce too, because I am the only one not bouncing. I don’t want to, thinking it will be just another excuse for the kids to make fun of my weight. He keeps saying that he wants everyone to do it and I finally give in and bounce a little. As soon as I do, he does this exaggerated fall and says “Woah, I really felt it when Laura did it! She made the whole bus move by herself!” I felt stupid for trusting him, for thinking he was being sincere, that he wanted me to be a part of their game. I’m humiliated, self-conscious, and embarrassed.

Taking Off the Life Jacket

I have had so many people say to me that I am brave, that I am strong, that they are amazed by what I have been through. And what they say is nice, and I appreciate it, but I don’t believe it.

I’m not strong. I have gone through things because I had to. I didn’t have a choice. If I could choose I would gladly choose to be a selfish person with no life experience rather than go through what I have. I face things that I have to face Yes, I am very good at dealing with whatever life throws at me. I don’t like it, but sadly I have had enough experience that to onlookers it comes off as ‘brave’ or ‘strong’.

But I’ve never really been brave. Or strong.

When I tried to get help for my abuse and it backfired (horrifically), I took one look at what had happened and gave up completely. I hid inside myself for thirteen years. I mentioned to Sheila that I felt like I had been avoiding my issues and now with the EMDR I was having to truly face them, and I didn’t feel strong enough. She gave me this look, as if she was surprised that I didn’t see the truth, and said “But you haven’t been avoiding it for the past four and a half years, you’ve just had a life jacket on. Now you’re in the deep without a life jacket.”

So I think this is the first time I have been brave, and strong. This is the first time I have said that I don’t want ‘good enough’, I don’t want the bare minimum I need to get by. I want everything. I want my life back. I’m scared, and I know it’s going to hurt, and I hate that I’m having to go through this, but dammit, I’m going to do it.

This time, I am brave.

Broken Now Instead of Destroyed Later

Right after losing Jamie, I talked to (and yelled at) God a lot about why He took our baby from us. I knew he had a reason, but for the life of me I didn’t understand, and I didn’t agree. Every one I spoke to about this said the same thing, that ‘someday’ we would understand. But I felt so betrayed by God. How could He do this to us? What possible reason could He have for taking away our child? Were we being punished? Had we done something to deserve this pain? For months on end we talked and prayed, questioned and cried. Every time a person said ‘someday’ it felt as though a bitter knife was driven a little deeper into my heart. I blamed myself for being a bad mother, I blamed God for being unfair. I hated myself and I especially hated every pregnant woman I saw. And I still miss Jamie. I would still give anything to hold Jamie in my arms, to kiss that little face. I still wish that things had turned out differently. But I think we’ve reached ‘someday’.

When Rob and I went through our rough patch in August, we had a lot of heart to hearts, and one of the things we talked about most was Jamie. We both agreed that we never really processed losing Jamie, or accepted that loss. We both just tried to push past it, to tell ourselves that if “this” happens, then the pain will stop. We talked about how much we missed our baby, and how losing Jamie broke our hearts. We talked about how not mourning together ripped us apart and in many ways broke us. And, hardest of all, we talked–honestly–about what could have happened if we hadn’t lost Jamie.

It’s easy to tell myself that life would have been perfect, but the truth is that’s probably not real. I had a really hard time being pregnant. I felt like I wasn’t in control of my own body. All of a sudden there were so many things I couldn’t do, food I couldn’t eat. I was feeling things I had never experienced and couldn’t stop and couldn’t take medicine for. Feeling out of control is a huge trigger for my PTSD, and so many things about being pregnant were making me feel out of control. When I started bleeding at 9 weeks, I was put on partial bed rest and told not to lift anything. Rob, being the sweet and loving man that he is, did everything he could to take care of me, even carrying my purse, but to me it felt like all of a sudden I had lost my power. Now instead of having a few restrictions, I wasn’t allowed to do anything. I was frustrated and even resentful that I was having to go through this, all I wanted was to be pregnant, but be able to live my life normally. When we had our honesty talk, we realized that those feelings wouldn’t have just gone away. In fact, there is a very real possibility that they would have gotten worse. That could have, in turn, caused issues with the pregnancy and delivery. It would have

The scariest thing we talked about was postpartum depression. I was told by my therapist that I was at very high risk for postpartum depression due not only to my PTSD, but also to the fact that I have depression. What if I had abandoned Rob and the baby? What if I had started cutting, or even killed myself? What if I had hurt the baby?

What if I had killed our baby.

I know I could never have forgiven myself. That would have destroyed me. In all honesty, I probably would have killed myself once I realized what I had done. That would have destroyed not only me, but Rob, and our relationship. Rob recently told me that even when I was pregnant, the thought of me with postpartum being home alone with the baby terrified him. Even then, something inside him was afraid.

I will never be glad that we lost Jamie. I will never stop missing or stop loving Jamie. Jamie is our miracle baby, and I am so thankful for the time we got to spend together.

We believe that God took Jamie home so soon because He wanted Jamie to be a light in our life. A reminder of our love and happiness. He took Jamie so that we were broken now instead of destroyed later.

Serene

Today was my first real experience with EMDR.

I’ve met with Lori, the therapist who will be working with me, once before, but that was just a basic get-to-know-you session. We talked about why I sought EMDR therapy and my general back ground, that kind of thing. Today was trauma history, which I was really dreading, but actually turned out not to be that bad at all. I sent her a copy of my writing from Telling the Story, so she really only had precursory questions before we started on the actual EMDR exercise. I hope that those of you who are starting, considering, or know someone undergoing EMDR find this helpful. I had done a lot of research on the subject but everything I read was very vague and I like to know details. I’m sure everyone’s experience will be different, as will each therapist’s method, but I’d like to share my initial experience with EMDR therapy.

First Lori had me situate myself so I was comfortable and relaxed. I was sitting on a sofa with my left arm on the arm rest and my legs on the floor in front of me in a natural and relaxed position. She told me to place one of my hands on my stomach and focus on my breathing. Not to change my breathing, but just to learn the rhythm. Learn the pattern that my body has. When I was familiar with the pattern of my breathing I was to let her know. Then she had me focus on the hand that was resting on my stomach. To feel how it moved up when I took a breath, and down when I exhaled. She told me to close my eyes and focus on that. I felt my thumb rise and fall with each breath and became familiar with it. She asked me to picture a place that I felt safe. It could be a place that I had been before, one I made up, inside, outside, a beach, anything. Just build it in my head and when I could see it to tell her it was.

It was a forest.

She asked me to keep breathing and to describe what I saw.

It’s not a really old forest. But it’s not a young forest either. The canopy is overgrown so that it’s shady but the sun still shines through the leaves. It’s shadowy but not dark. The light is kind of dappled. Almost soft. It’s not an evergreen forest either. There are big moss covered boulders and fallen trees. It’s the beginning of fall because everything is still green but it’s not hot. I guess it could be spring, I don’t know.

Tell me what you smell and hear. Tell me what you feel.

I don’t hear anything. I feel the sun shining through the trees on my face. And I can feel a breeze. It’s not a cool breeze, just a nice breeze. It makes the air feel alive. I can smell trees and dirt and water. Maybe there is a stream nearby. I can feel twigs and the uneven ground under my feet.

While continuing to focus on the forest and all the positive feelings it was giving me, she asked me–when I was ready–to open my eyes and follow her pen with my eyes. She moved her pen in almost an L shape a few times before pausing.

She asked how I felt.

Relaxed.

She asked me to think of a word that represented that place, and the feelings it gave me.

Serenity.

She asked me to focus on that word, serenity, and the good feelings and follow her pen again with my eyes.

I tried, but this time something was intruding. Serenity is the name of  a Joss Whedon movie, and the Reavers kept popping into my mind. Not what you want during EMDR.

When her pen stopped she asked again how I felt.

Paused.

She asked me to focus on the paused feeling and the word serenity and to follow her pen again. How did I feel.

Like a lake. Calm. At peace.

She said it seemed like I was able to conjure and imagine the place with great detail fairly easily which is a good sign, and I mentioned the connection I had made between my word serenity and the movie Serenity, so we changed the word to serene. She said it was very helpful for her to know that, and my first true EMDR appointment is next Tuesday!

Overall, the EMDR ‘walk-through’ took very little effort. I would say that the hardest part was being honest and saying the first thing I was feeling or thinking as opposed to coming up with the “right” answer. The further into the exercise we got, the less self-conscious I became, and the more relaxed I felt. It was something like getting a massage. It was that level of relaxation. I don’t know if it will be that way with the ‘official’ EMDR given that it will deal with trauma, but the practice version was very reassuring. I hope that this was in some way helpful to some of you. If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them, or at least try.

Not yet

I want to get a job. I’ve thought of so many different things I’d love to do for a living, but I can’t do any of them right now. And even when I am stable enough, I don’t know if anyone will hire me with my work history. What if I have damaged my life too much to come back from? Is the only way for me to have a career to go back to school and start over?

I want to publish my book. I’m getting closer. This blog is helping me get (some) exposure, and it helps me to write what I am going through. And I think I finally know where I’m going to end the book: with the conclusion of my EMDR treatments. The book is actually titled “Things I Need To Say” and follows the same theme as this blog, but I could never decide where to end it. When we found out we were pregnant I thought about concluding the book with the birth of the baby, but then we lost Jamie. Then I thought about ending the book whenever we found out we were pregnant, but that didn’t (and isn’t) going to happen, plus it didn’t really fit with the theme of the book. But the EMDR treatments are perfect. It’s me taking my life back. Sheila asked me the other day what inspired me to seek treatment. I told her how she and I had talked about how I had been transferring my PTSD issues onto Rob without realizing it, and later I was thinking about how often I had done that exact thing without even realizing it. Over and over I had let what he had done to me as child come between me and Rob, and something inside me stood up and said “you can’t have this.” That was the line for me. And standing up for myself, and for our relationship and finally taking back my control is the perfect way to end my book. Sheila actually suggested I look into publishing it first as an e-book, and I did a little digging and that looks like a good option, but I still have to wait til I’m done with the EMDR therapy. I really hate waiting.

I feel like I’m suspended in time. That I’m just hanging here, not doing anything. I’m so bored, waiting for life to happen. I have so much coming up, what with the EMDR and Rob and I have some really fun stuff planned and I’m getting back into different church activities but most of the time I just feel bored. Like I’m just twiddling my thumbs. And it’s frustrating. It feels like I can’t harness my potential. That I have to wait until I get the EMDR resolved until I can truly be me again.  I want to re-engage in life. And for the first time in years it is within my reach; it’s actually a possibility. Just not yet.

Not a Man

There were several times in my life when I told myself that I was going to get over the abuse. That from this moment on, it wasn’t going to affect me any more. One of those times was back in 2007. We had just adopted my first little sister and I was laying in bed and I wrote this poem. I told myself that this was it, I was going to be okay. It didn’t work, but to this day this poem is still one of my favorite pieces.

I was young and naive

You knew all the right things to say

Before I could blink you had me wrapped up in your arms

I loved your smile, your touch, your kiss

I was addicted to your charm

I’ll never forget how you sang to me

or the way you said

.

‘Come on baby, what’s your worry?

You should do it cause you love me.

Come on.

Let me.

Don’t wimp out.

It’s what you owe me,

I’m your man.’

That’s when you were my man

.

And that went on for months on end

You owned my life

I never said anything to all our friends

even when you pushed me too far

I thought that you knew best

because you were experienced

and I trusted you when you said

.

‘You have to let me, I’m the guy.

I know men do this all the time.

Relax.

Hold still.

Don’t walk away.

It’s what you owe me,

I’m your man.’

That’s when I thought you were a man

.

Then one day in the car listening to the radio

I heard a song that maybe saved my life

(saved it from you at least)

it said “You have to tell ’em when you’ve had enough”

and I finally realized I’d had enough of you

so I looked at you and said

.

I don’t ever want to see you again.

You used me and abused me.

So I’m gone.

Good-bye.

I’m walking away.

You never would have touched me

If you were a man.

Coming Unglued

Last night at my church there was an event called Unlgued to kick off the fall women’s study, also called Unglued. It was an event solely for women and we had a guest speaker from Proverbs 31 ministries, Nicki Koziarz, who spoke about  how becoming unglued can be miraculous if it leads us to holiness. She spoke about how she was the quintessential Jesus lover in high school, and one day God revealed the real her when she found herself pregnant at nineteen. She talked about God used her brokenness to do amazing things, including leading bible studies for the very women who rejected her and her baby.

She encouraged all of us to let God expose our true selves and to let Him use us for His glory, and it was beautiful. It was everything that I have been trying to do. I want to do the EMDR not just for me, and not just for Rob, but for God. To become the person I am supposed to be for Him and to let my story be a light to others who think there just can’t be healing for them. I don’t want them to look at me and say “oh she is so amazing”, I want them to look at me and say “look at how amazing God is, I want that

Telling the Story

I start EMDR therapy in 3 days, and I am getting really scared. I know that in the end it is the best thing to do, but reliving all of this is going to be awful, and I’m scared. I’m trying to be brave, but every time I remember what I am getting ready to face, I feel like I am six years old again. Rob and I talked and he held me while I cried. He told me how proud he is of me and that he is here for me. And I feel a little better. Someone commented on my post from the other day and told me a little bit about what they went through that led them to EMDR therapy, and I realized that I have never really shared my story with you, the reader.

So here it is. I don’t remember everything that happened. I don’t know if it went on for days or months, or what time of year it was. This is what I do remember:

I started 1st grade in 1993 at Butlerville Elementary and my teacher was Mrs. Beel. She was pregnant, so most of the year–at least it seemed like most of the year to a six year old–we had substitute teachers. My class was small, maybe fifteen of us, and between church and kindergarten I knew almost everyone. I don’t know if I knew Matt from before or if I met him in first grade.

Back then I was the popular girl. I was a gymnast—had been since I was 2 years old—and was very outgoing, athletic, and pretty. I was a happy little kid.

When I was in kindergarten I had a ‘boyfriend’  named Nathan, and at our school’s skating night at the local roller rink he won a bracelet for me. It was made of three little gold hearts joined together and I loved that bracelet more than anything.  I was so smitten with the idea of being someone’s girlfriend, and to me, that bracelet was a symbol to the world that I belonged to someone. That someone loved me.

When I got to first grade,Matt was the popular boy and I thought he was the coolest person I had ever met.

And he liked me.

It just seemed like the thing to do, so we started dating. He held my hand. He bought me a gold necklace with a little red heart that I wore every day. He was my man. I remember sitting in class and he would pretend to shoot all the other kids so we could be alone.

That should have tipped me off right there.

I wanted so badly to be grown up. I was fascinated by this popularity I was experiencing and wanted to live in that world forever. I went to gymnastics, played with my friends, and was Matt’s girlfriend. I thought I had the world. I remember being so unbelievably happy.

It started slowly. He would sit next to me at the little table in class when our teacher would read us stories and we would do our work. He used to put his hand on my thigh, and to be honest I liked it. It made me feel special. Over time, his hand crept higher. It went up my leg, under my shorts, and inside my panties. It felt nice. I felt shivery and special. This was something new for me. Eventually his hands ended up inside my shirt too. He would have me lean forward and put his hand through the sleeve of my t-shirt in order to touch and rub my chest.

He did all of this at school, during class.

There were days when I got tired of him touching me; I wanted to learn but what he was doing was distracting. I remember one time I wouldn’t lean forward so he could put his hand in my shirt and he got really mad at me. He told me that this is what boyfriends and girlfriends do. He told me I had to let him. And I did.

I don’t know how long it went on, but I do remember that I started trying to avoid him. Him touching me started making me nervous, and him getting mad and telling me that I had to let him scared me. I started trying to sit across the table from him instead of right next to him. But all my friends said we looked so cute together and I always ended up right next to him. Right where I didn’t want to be. I remember being scared. There is a home movie of me in my leotard and tights showing off for the camera how I could take my tights off without removing my leotard. In the background you can hear my dad saying how he should show this video to Matt. To this day I can hear the fear in my voice when I tell my dad no. I was six years old and I was fighting a battle no one should have to face. I was trying so hard to be the perfect, popular girlfriend and yet my every instinct was telling me to run. Like I said, I don’t know how long this went on. I have all these memories but it isn’t one coherent memory, more like flashes. I do know that I started getting mad at him for getting mad at me all the time. It seemed like no matter what I did, or let him do, it was never enough.

So I started doing things to purposefully annoy him, hoping that he wouldn’t want to spend time with me. I remember one night my dad and I were at the elementary school after hours for a parent teacher conference and he was there too with one of his friends. He was listening to a Walk-Man and had his headphones on so when I said something to him he couldn’t hear me. I reached over and pulled the headphone away from his ear, repeated what I had said, and let the headphone snap back in place. The next day at school he told me that I had broken his headphones and I now owed him fifty dollars. When I got home I told my dad what he said to me, crying because I knew I didn’t have the money and because I was so frustrated. I don’t remember how the whole thing got settled, but we never replaced his headphones. After that we just kind of fizzled out.

It was a year or two later that I finally realized what had happened. One morning I crawled crying into my mom’s bed and told her what had happened. She asked me some questions and then called the school. I don’t know what she said, but I don’t think I went to school that day. I later found out that he had been forced to go to a day-long therapy appointment. We weren’t in the same class together, but when I walked into my classroom the next day, everything had changed. There was this feeling of hostility and anger focused on me that I didn’t understand. It turned out that he had told everyone what I had said and that I was lying to try and get back at him for breaking up with me in first grade. They all chose him. Every single one of my friends thought I was a liar and from that day on they had nothing to do with me.   Only one girl, Brittany, stayed by my side. She didn’t stand up for me, but she didn’t ostracize me. To this day, she is the only person from that class that I still speak to. In one day I lost all of my friends. Everyone hated me. I truly believed I was wrong to have said something. So I didn’t say anything else.

 

I learned to be okay being alone. School became torturous for me. I didn’t have any friends and I had gone from being the most popular kid in class to being an outcast freak. I started to turn inside myself. I thought that if I didn’t look like I used to then no one would ever do that to me again. I thought that if I made myself invisible then no one would notice me. I thought I needed to change because I had brought that on myself. So I changed. I became quieter, I kept eating, and I tried to quit caring. I went to school where I said nothing, and I came home where I sat in front of the T.V. and ate cereal from the box. I started gaining weight. I no longer had a gymnast’s body and I was okay with it.

I started trying to hide inside myself. I suppose that as a kid I couldn’t handle what had happened, so I tried to cope as best as I could. And so I ate. I remember coming home from school and instead of playing with the dogs or going outside I would sit in front of the tv for hours. Just sit there and eat. Cereal mostly. There would be times when I would sit down with a brand new box of Cheerios and when I got up it would be empty. I hadn’t even realized I was eating. All I knew was that I was safe. I could hide in the show, in the reality that wasn’t my own, and for a few hours I would feel safe. But in my little bubble something would always break through—my mom telling me to stop eating, my dad trying to get me to go outside, or even my sister just wanting to change the channel. And every time that happened I lost the tiny piece of safety I had clung to. It was like being abruptly woken up. Almost like I was in a deep sleep and someone shook me awake, back to the reality I was trying so hard to escape. But I could never escape. I never stopped trying. I kept eating, kept gaining weight. I thought that if I didn’t look like I did, didn’t look like a girl, then no one would ever do that to me again. I thought something about myself had made me be a target, that I had somehow brought the situation on myself. And so I just kept eating.

I went from an extremely fit little girl to an overweight shadow.

Food became my one safe thing in the world. My entire world had been taken from me, and food was the one thing I had control over was my food. Eating made me happy. Well, not happy, but I actually felt something when I ate. The rest of the time there was nothing. It was almost like I felt this void inside of me and I thought that if I ate enough then I could fill that void. That I would get better. But I didn’t.

Now, instead of being invisible, I was a target.  Kids at school who had been my friends only a few years ago now teased me. I was the proverbial fat kid. That became who I was. I wasn’t Laura. I was Fat. And to a certain extent I was glad for the change. I could hide behind that label, hide within my own skin. I sort of felt safe. If they started treating me as Fat, could I become Invisible? And I tried. I started dressing very androgynously and I cut my hair short. I remember there were days I wouldn’t brush my hair and would purposefully wear loose clothing so I could hide behind this new front I was making. I got very good at hiding. With the added weight and the change in my appearance I morphed further into an almost faceless kid. I wasn’t invisible, but I was unrecognizable. By the time fifth grade rolled around it was nearly impossible to tell that I was a girl. I remember walking into the women’s bathroom at the local library right as a little girl and her mom walked out. As I passed them, the little girl said to her mom “Mommy, is that a boy or a girl?” I felt proud. I had done it. I had successfully hidden inside my own skin. I wasn’t happy, but I felt safe.

 

After I told my mom what had happened I was never placed in the same class as him again. At least, not until fifth grade. My elementary school was very small but the number of students had started to grow. When I was in fifth grade we no longer had enough room to divide each grade into two classes. My fifth grade class consisted of thirty students: all of the fifth graders, including him. I managed to make it most of the year unscathed. There were a few times he managed to torture me, but overall he wasn’t a big problem. My teacher, on the other hand, was and so my parents ended up switching me to Morrow Elementary  to get away from him. Morrow was another elementary school in the district, but at that school I didn’t know anyone. My teacher was amazing. He was kind and understanding of the scared fat girl and I started feeling at home in his class. I made friends and actually had a good year.

Sixth grade started and I stayed at Morrow Elementary. I was so excited to be with my new friends and enjoy my year. For the first time since second grade, I was happy to go back to school. But the school year brought about some changes that I hadn’t expected. I no longer had my kind Mr. Perkins for a teacher. Ms. Hill was my teacher for sixth grade and she was as far from Mr. Perkins as one could get.  She unbelievably strict, condescending, and unkind toward us as a teacher could be without getting fired. I starting getting quiet again and there became fewer and fewer times I was happy at school. Looking back now I most likely over reacted to the situation, but I was gun-shy and just wanted to protect myself. My favorite time of the week was when I got to leave Ms. Hill’s class room for a day and take a bus with some other kids to Maineville Elementary (the third elementary school in the district). That one day a week was reserved for the academically talented program (ATP). We got to learn algebra, do projects, and learn things just for the fun of it. Unfortunately, the kids from Butlerville Elementary were there too. Seeing them once a week wasn’t nearly as bad as being around them all the time, so I still loved ATP with Mrs. Cusick.

In junior high all of the elementary schools came together into one big school. Having students from all three schools thrown together was chaotic, but the Butlerville students were diluted enough that it wasn’t too big of a problem. Don’t get me wrong, junior high sucked for the quiet nerdy fat girl, but it was the normal level of sucking, and I did make some amazing friends. High school was more of the same, but I started coming into my own. I joined the marching band and got closer to my friends. I was happy again and I finally stopped gaining weight. The entire time I only had one class with him. The last day of high school came and I was over the moon. I had been accepted to my dream school and I was finally leaving this place that had been so hard for me to get through. All of the seniors were gathered in the auditorium and we were told to split into groups according to what elementary school we went to. Well, I went to two of them, so the teacher told me to sit with the one that I had gone to the longest. That meant Butlerville, and so I warily sat with all the people I so desperately wanted to leave behind. When I came over to the group and sat down in the back, several classmates turned to me started saying how I shouldn’t sit with them because I had abandoned Butlerville and I wasn’t a true Butlerville student like they were. I was amazed and so hurt.

After all those years they were still against me.

 

Starting the Process

I start EMDR therapy next Thursday.

Holy freaking crap.

For the last few weeks I have been doing research on EMDR and emailing back and forth with my dad about insurance (I’m on his insurance because of Obamacare), but this morning I was poking around the EMDR Institute website. They have this really great tool where you can put in the first 3 digits of your zip code and they will find all the registered EMDR therapists in your area. I put in the numbers for my area and got around a dozen results, which was actually a lot better than I was expecting. Having been molested by a male, a male therapist is pretty much out of the question, so I found the first female name that I got a good feeling about (Dr B) and called and left a message. She called me back right away and we talked and I have an initial appointment next Thursday at noon.

Most of me is so excited that I am actually (finally) starting this. I can’t wait to see what my future holds and how I will grow and develop, and even flourish by going through this therapy. I feel like for the first time I actually have a chance to get back all of me. It’s like there have been parts of me that were locked away, and with this therapy I might get those parts of me back, and I can’t wait.

But part of me is terrified beyond all reason. I know this is going to be hard and I know it is going to hurt. This could be the hardest thing I ever do. Like I wrote in Setting the Break, EMDR works by re-opening the trauma and allowing the patient to process it properly. Knowing how the process works and knowing that I am essentially going to have to relive the worst moments of my life are two very different things.

I’ve tried to keep myself busy today, but I can feel myself starting to freak out about the idea of starting therapy. Part of me wishes I could start tomorrow. Just jump in, not let the fear get a hold of me.  I was actually surprised she could see me as soon as next week. I had wondered if she would be booked for weeks and I would have to wait to get an appointment. I think it’s good that I have a week before starting therapy. This gives me time to adjust and process. I think like any type of therapy a person has to go when they are ready, and if I can deal with the week of waiting, if I can wrap my head around this and reconcile it in my head and my heart then I truly am ready. A while ago, Sheila had given me a pamphlet on EMDR with a number to call and see about setting up an appointment, but the woman I spoke to was rude and I chickened out in the end. I don’t think I was ready. But more and more, with everything that we have been going through, I feel like everything is lining up and this is the right time. And I am ready. I’m scared, but I am ready.

Setting the Break

I’ve only just starting reading the EMDR book, but from what I understand, the body wants to heal itself. Say you suffer a compound fracture to your leg. With no medical attention, your body will do its best to heal itself. Bone will regrow, bruises will heal, and the break will slowly mend. But a compound fracture is so severe that the body can only do so much on its own. With no medical attention, the break will heal poorly and will most likely result in a limp, if not loss of use of the leg.

The same idea holds true for mental health. With a severely traumatic event, such as childhood sexual abuse, a part of your brain essentially breaks. Our bodies and minds can only handle so much, and when they reach that breaking point they can’t help but break. But your body wants to heal itself, so it tries. It starts to knit the pieces of your mind back together. But it does it imperfectly. Just like in the compound fracture analogy, the body is more focused on getting the job done as opposed to getting it done right. The body knows that there is a crisis and that it gets better if it tries to heal itself. What it doesn’t know is that in the long run, whether with the PTSD or the compound fracture, the body’s way of healing ultimately hurts the person.

EMDR resets the break. With a compound fracture, you have to re-break the injury in order to properly align the bone so that when the body sends the signals to regrow bone and tissue, the break can heal properly. With EMDR, the patient (again, from my understanding) re-experiences the trauma to a certain degree. Often times a person is not able to recover from a trauma because they have never fully processed what happened, simply because of the faulty healing the body does. But once they have processed the trauma, they can reconcile it and begin to truly heal. I read that most EMDR patients recover partially, if not fully, in 3 sessions.

I can’t even imagine recovering. All of this–the trauma, the PTSD, the fear, the coping, everything–has been a part of me for so long that I’m not sure how to even process the idea of it not being a part of me. I think it mostly scares me because it is a change. I would love to be one of the success stories of EMDR. I would love to be healed. It’s amazing to think that I could have a career. Maybe we could even have biological kids if we can fix my PTSD. There are so many possibilities if the EMDR works. Maybe that’s what scares me. The only times I’ve failed have been because of the PTSD, but if that is gone and I still fail, what does that say about me? I don’t think I will fail. Or, to be more accurate, I’m sure I will mess some things up and not succeed at some things, but I know that I won’t be a failure. The more I think about it, the more excited it makes me. I could be a teacher. I could have few (none!) flash backs. I could go to my sisters school plays without feeling scared and vulnerable. I could drive through my home town without feeling like I’m going to have a panic attack. I could be me again.