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Kate Alexandria

EMDR Therapy Uncovered My Sexual Abuse By My Mother

In the early summer of 2019, I had finally gotten to the hardest part of my EMDR therapy. For months, I had been working with a therapist to build up to the event of my forcible rape at age 16. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing ( EMDR ) is one of the most effective treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), essentially neurobiologically rewiring your brain’s reaction to a traumatic memory. But in patients with complex or compounded traumas, EMDR can also unearth and trigger memories of other events. That risk was high with me. Before my grooming and sexual abuse at the hands of my debate coach started, I had lived an incredibly unstable, traumatic, poverty-stricken life at home. In order to protect against being overwhelmed by a potential tidal wave of other trauma , my therapist and I worked up to the bigger event gradually. We established a safe place for me to ground myself in mentally and started with the smaller events that had led up to the rape. After the session where we finally processed the rape, I went to the parking lot and started my car, drained and exhausted. Then, the flashback hit me. I remembered the clamminess of my skin. The nausea. The small water-closet toilet, the white tile, the white door, the late afternoon sunshine streaming onto the double vanity on the other side of the room. The pain. Me, begging: “No, no, please take it out, stop, take it out!” And then, my mother, with her fingers inserted into my rectum, hissing angrily at me. “Kate, be quiet. The neighbors will think I’m raping you.” The flashback wrecked me. I told a few close friends about it once I finally steadied myself enough to drive home. They were all horrified but similarly puzzled about how to classify it. Is it sexual abuse if it sounds like she didn’t get any sexual pleasure out of it? Rape and other sexual abuse doesn’t have to be about pleasure or attraction — sexual violence can also be about power and control. So, why have I been so hesitant to call it sexual abuse ? Later in 2019, I was sitting on the toilet, arms folded across my chest and tightly pressing a pillow against my abdomen. I was clammy, flushed, nauseated, and blacking out every few minutes from the intense abdominal pain. It was in the same place as always — the center of my stomach, aided only by heat or pressure. These attacks had been happening my whole life. Usually, they were in the middle of the night, but certainly not every time. They would last anywhere from 30 minutes to six hours. I was resigned to not knowing what they were. My friend, who lives with a connective tissue disorder like me, noticed that I was active online and sent me a message asking me why I was awake. I told her and she almost immediately responded. “Dude, those are abdominal migraines.” I was highly skeptical. I knew that abdominal migraines do disproportionately impact people with connective tissue disorders like us, but I had never been diagnosed with them. Still, it was interesting to me that the pain did feel suspiciously like the kind of sharp, rolling pain in my head that I get when I have aura migraines, and it did similarly respond well to heat and pressure. Casey advised me to take one of the triptan abortives I have prescribed for my normal migraines. I crawled to the vanity, found my medication, and put one under my tongue. Ten minutes later, the pain was gone, and the nausea and clamminess were rapidly fading. Every time I got one of these attacks going forward, I did the same thing and experienced the same results, just like I do when I take this medication for an aura migraine . My neurologist confirmed it as soon as I told her about it. They were, indeed, abdominal migraines. I had spent over two decades of my life suffering these excruciating attacks. These were the very same attacks that my mother had used to justify inserting her fingers into my rectum on multiple occasions, notably when I was 13 and 15 — under the supposed reasoning that she knew what was wrong, positing that I was experiencing a GI impaction and “the ER doctors would just do the same thing.” To be clear, my mother was abusive in many other ways. Emotionally. Financially. Physically, on occasion, too, though her preferred weapons were control, isolation, enmeshment, and cruelty. Many victims of parental narcissistic abuse and covert emotional incest have a similar mix of experiences. This experience, however, felt different — and the more I’ve worked through it and thought about it, the more confident I am that labeling it as sexual abuse is a crucial part of my recovery. There have been lots of documented cases of people using false medical reasons as a guise for sexual abuse against children — notably Larry Nassar, the pedophile in prison for serial abuse of teenage gymnasts. Not only were these incidents with my mother intimately violating, but her excuse for it also crumbles with just a few questions. Even if she truly thought that I was having GI impactions, I absolutely should’ve been taken to the ER. GI impactions are potentially life-threatening medical emergencies, and they’re not just a “normal” thing that happens from time to time. If your child randomly stopped breathing and you managed to resuscitate them with CPR, you’d still want to investigate why they stopped breathing — especially if it happened again. If I was prone to these impactions, what was I supposed to do for the rest of my life whenever they happened? She never took me to the ER or mentioned the supposed impactions to my doctors, and I never said anything either. Why? Because, at its core, it was humiliating, violating, and deeply uncomfortable. I wanted to pretend it never happened. I’ve spoken in great detail about the sexual abuse that I endured later on as a teenager, when my 25-year-old coach groomed me and serially abused me, and while there was some embarrassment to work through about the stigma of how long I stayed with him after I turned 18, it somehow seems even harder to talk about this. That humiliation and embarrassment are probably what links those two events together so strongly in my head, and it’s likely what neurobiologically bonded them so deeply that I had that flashback after the EMDR session about my rape. I remember the embarrassment of the acts that immediately preceded the forcible rape at the hands of that 25-year-old — the way he shoved me down on the ground and forced me to give him oral sex, taunting me by asking “is that the hardest you can suck?” while I choked and cried. The humiliation was palpable. It was degrading. It was vile. It was something that almost seemed intentionally difficult to repeat or vocalize, just like “my mother put her hand up my ass last night.” Since 2019, I’ve worked on processing the abuse and vocalizing it to my loved ones, and I’ve recognized that these incidents of sexual violence were inextricably tied to a broader range of inappropriate behavior that completely disrespected my bodily autonomy. My mother would make comments about the differences between our genitalia. She would frequently share details of her sex life and her sexual preferences. She would make out with — I’m hoping it was just that — boyfriends in hotel beds a few feet away from me. She encouraged my sister and me to go after older men — in fact, it was expected of us. She once interrogated my sister and me about whether or not we’d ever had orgasms and told us we needed to Google how to masturbate. She would nudge us and imply we should sleep with her students. Once, after a party she threw at the house with her former students, she told my sister and me at age 15 that “one of you is going to go home with Fred” — a student at the very least in his late 20s at the time. All of this behavior crosses hard boundaries, all of this behavior would instantly be recognized as abuse or harassment if it came from a different adult, and all of this behavior is rooted in power and control. I didn’t ever stop to think that it was sexual abuse when it was happening. We don’t typically talk about mothers sexually abusing their daughters, and as a society, we sorely lack discussions about healthy boundaries and inappropriate parental behavior. If kids aren’t given those tools, it’s impossible for them to identify abuse when it happens to them, unless it fits a very small and stereotypical criteria like a stranger on the internet asking them for photos in their underwear, a family friend touching them inappropriately, or an adult asking them to run away with them. As a result, far too many abused kids never even get the chance to call for help. I believe that it is possible to heal from this abuse as an adult, but we owe it to ourselves and to our kids to have better discussions about what sexual abuse can look like. I’ve been no-contact with my biological family for several years now. I still have nightmares about my mother from time to time, but EMDR, trauma therapy, and support groups have dramatically helped me heal. I’m no longer willing to hide the fact that this was sexual abuse , and I hope that my own honesty will help someone else carrying the burden of a similar experience.

What to Know If You Are Struggling With Your Type of Therapy

When we are offered therapy modalities that are presented as the gold standard of treatment, it can make us feel like a failure when we have trouble with the treatment. However, sometimes it just takes reminding our therapists that we are individuals and that even though one treatment might be the usual option, it might not be the best option. My first time in therapy and I was diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder ( OCD ). The most effective modality treatment for my complex PTSD, which was primarily affecting me, was eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. EMDR is a type of therapy that reprocesses traumatic memories by focusing on the target memory and then stimulating each side of the brain, using eye movements, sounds or tapping. By doing this, the target memory is reprocessed and the event becomes less distressing. Usually, EMDR allows people to process trauma without going into detail of the event. This can help people process trauma that might take years through talk therapy. Originally I thought it was the best treatment process for me as well. I was a visual person. I’m autistic and I think in pictures, and I wasn’t always great at communicating. However, after some sessions, I had trouble with EMDR and I quickly started to self-doubt. It took me some time to truly understand why I had trouble with EMDR therapy. During my EMDR sessions, I was asked to identify three things with the target memory. The first being to visualize the most vivid image related to the memory. Second, a negative belief about the self that is tied with the memory. Third, the related emotions and body sensations. While accessing the core memories and letting my mind try to go to these events, I had trouble letting my mind drift from each memory during the session and then, after, not really analyzing the events. I felt I needed to process each memory by talking about them instead of just acknowledging the memory and letting it pass. After a session, I had trouble with answering questions related to body scans. Due to being autistic, I wasn’t sure how to rate my emotions and didn’t know how to correlate bodily sensations that related to each memory. If you ask me how I felt about the memory, I would often not know how to rate. If you asked me where I felt tension or pain from the memory, I would confuse it with my chronic pain that I felt in my body already. All of this made it hard to reprocess memories. At first,, when I had trouble with my treatment, I thought it was my fault. I thought maybe I just wasn’t trying hard enough, maybe it was a part of my PTSD and it was my avoidance behavior. After some sessions, I started to avoid EMDR and talking about my trauma altogether. But the more my therapist asked why I had trouble with EMDR, the more I realized it was because the type of therapy really wasn’t for me, and that’s OK. My experience with EMDR might be different than yours. Sometimes it takes time and understanding to learn about what works for ourselves when it comes to therapy modalities to be able to succeed in therapy. Don’t force yourself to stay in a treatment that isn’t working for you because it has been said to be the most successful. Just because it’s the most successful doesn’t mean it’s the most successful for you. Talk to your therapist and explain why you are having trouble with the current treatment modality and maybe you can figure out one that is better suited to your needs. I am currently in the process of switching to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which has helped me feel more in control of my therapy and continue my journey of recovering from PTSD. Have you ever had issues with a therapy modality that a therapist recommended to you? What did you do? Enjoy my writing? Find my writing and advocacy on Instagram and poetry book on Amazon .

Community Voices

EMDR software therapy

#EyeMovementDesensitizationAndReprocessing . I am participating in EMDR therapy via telemedicine. So glad my therapist found this option! Anyone else doing this?

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How to Cope and Build Resilience Between Trauma Therapy Sessions

Trauma therapy is hard. It peels the scar tissue of old wounds, exposing the raw tender flesh open for anyone to poke and prod at. At times, it may feel like fracturing a bone that was once broken before and healed incorrectly. Making us feel debilitated, the feelings of healing tangled with hopelessness — an unpleasant paradox to embody. At times this hope speaks up with the reminder that this pain is the path to healing and growth, that big transformation requires feeling uncomfortable. Undergoing trauma therapy builds resilience. The resilience is built between sessions, without the presence of your therapist. Here are some ways to cope with the difficult feelings that arise between trauma therapy sessions: 1. Binaural Beats Specifically for those undergoing eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, bilateral stimulation helps calm the nervous system. It is one reason we tap or move our eyes from left to right in sessions. The movement of sound from the left and right ear can simulate the eye movement and tapping this modality is built upon. It is calming meditation-like music that brings your focus from left to right. There are many  binaural beats playlists on Spotify  and a  free meditation on Youtube  that I highly recommend. These relax and soothe the nervous system, helping the difficult feelings pass and bring about the feeling of safety. 2. EFT Tapping It is common between sessions, when our wounds are poked, to go into fight, flight or freeze mode. Emotion freedom techniques like tapping helps soothe the nervous system. This practice targets specific points or meridians on the body linked to Chinese medicine that when tapped can bring us back to a more regulated state again. Here is a guided tapping session hosted by Marie Forleo in  video  and  podcast form with Nick Ortner. 3. Safe Place and Container These techniques are taught before undergoing EMDR therapy. They are usually done at the end of the session to regulate the body again and “contain” the arousal within the session (and not take it with you as you leave your therapist’s office). I found it very helpful practicing it in between sessions. Here are short, guided  safe place  and  container  sessions by Notice That — An EMDR Podcast meant to help calm the nervous system and contain thoughts regarding trauma . It is also a great podcast to learn more about the process of EMDR. 4. Movement Moving the body helps. It can be going for a long walk to see the sunset, it can be dancing by yourself or practicing ecstatic dancing (a practice where you move intuitively). When animals are in stress being chased by a predator, they sometimes play dead (freeze). What is observed is that once the threat leaves, they shake uncontrollably. It is a mechanism to release the energy built up from the fight-or-flight response. If we do not fight or flight (run) in response to the sympathetic nervous system activating, that energy is stuck in our bodies. Like animals, to return to homeostasis, we must release that frenetic energy in our bodies by moving. This can be done by walking, exercising,  somatic yoga or even shaking. There is a structured shaking process called  trauma releasing exercise (TRE) or an unstructured shaking process where you actively  shake  your body. Do not be surprised if emotions arise from this; release them and ensure you are in a place you feel safe when undergoing these practices. These practices helped me along with the usual self-care of journalling, tea, hot baths and being with loved ones. If there is interest I will be creating part two of this article, with more coping mechanisms. An important thing to note is there is no one-size-fits-all in healing, so explore and curate your own toolbox with things that work for you. Remember that true healing is often difficult and messy. The path to healing requires us to feel the pain in order to transform it. These tools help the pain be slightly bearable but often the pain needs attentive attention, and the best thing to do is lie down hugging a warm blanket and crying until the feelings pass. Listen to your body and what it needs throughout the healing journey, and know that the bigger the feelings, the deeper it carves into your heart, creating greater space and capacity to feel not only the bad, but the soon-to-be good.

Monika Sudakov

How Attachment-Focused EMDR Therapy Is Different and How It Works

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a trauma treatment modality developed by Francine Shapiro in the 1980s. The protocol utilizes bilateral stimulation during the recall of traumatic memories to help the client process the memories and alleviate the charge these intrusive memories have upon the individual, thereby reducing symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Research has proven this method of treatment to be highly effective with those struggling with single-incident trauma , like a car accident or natural disaster. However, the treatment has proven to be less effective for those experiencing symptoms from complex PTSD (C-PTSD) resulting from prolonged trauma, often called developmental or attachment trauma , like child sexual abuse or separation from a parent. Enter Laurel Parnell. I first encountered her attachment-focused EMDR after my therapist mentioned it in one of my sessions. She and I had been doing EMDR on and off for a couple of years, targeting one memory at a time to get to it all. While I found that my flashbacks and triggers have reduced markedly with regards to my sexual abuse , my symptoms associated with anything having to do with my covertly incestuous, overly enmeshed mother appeared to be unresolved. My therapist asked if I’d be interested in trying this adapted version of EMDR and I said yes. What exactly makes attachment-focused EMDR different from the traditional modality? It tends to be less rigid in its application to the client, adapting to what the client needs and where their brain goes, within the framework of the traditional protocol. Additionally, while the classic protocol does focus on “resourcing” in terms of identifying a “safe place” that the client can return to to ground themselves and reduce their SUD (or subjective units of distress — essentially a rating scale from one to 10 indicating low-level distress to a high level of distress), the attachment-focused protocol incorporates additional resources to expand the ability of the client to self-soothe and ground themselves. These include: nurturing figures (for example an “ideal mother” and “ideal father”), protector figures, inner wisdom figures and an inner support team. These “resources” take myriad forms from people a client actually knows to celebrities, fictional characters or even animals. Once these “resources” are identified and “tapped in,” meaning processed using the bilateral stimulation protocol, the client can begin the attachment-focused EMDR process. But what does this actually look like from a practical perspective and how effective is it? Here’s an example of an actual session I had recently. I will preface my description with some qualifiers. My “safe place” is actually a person: Céline Dion. It’s not necessarily common, but my therapist has always been keenly aware of making sure we adjust protocols to accommodate my specific needs. Additionally, because a lot of my trauma involved female figures, my mother in particular, I did not identify an “ideal mother.” It didn’t feel natural. That might change as we continue processing and I am able to let go of some of the charge of my memories, but for now, that’s what we decided upon. To begin, I put on headphones that are connected to handheld devices called “tappers.” These are hooked up to a machine that creates a beeping noise and buzzing sensation in the tappers, alternating right to left. We select a target memory that I want to work on and then identify my SUD as it pertains to my memory. Then she activates the bilateral stimulation while I close my eyes and just let whatever comes to mind flow naturally. When the stimulation stops she asks me “what’s coming up for you,” which includes any bodily sensations and feelings. I note them and then we continue for a few more rounds. Here’s where the protocol shifts into the attachment focus. We invite one or more of my selected “resources” into the memory and then return to the bilateral stimulation. I can only describe this as a “make-believe session.” In a way, I get to access the playful creativity of my inner child to create a new version of my memory, one that feels less triggering. In my last one, I invited Barack Obama to walk me down the aisle at my wedding and have the father-daughter dance with me, something I didn’t get because my parents divorced when I was three and my dad was never in the picture. Once we are done, we reevaluate my SUD, which usually goes down after this. We finish by focusing on my “safe place” for a few rounds of the bilateral stimulation, make sure my SUD is low enough for me to be grounded when I leave the office and then we end the session. It may seem super-bizarre to someone on first glance, and frankly it felt super-weird the first time I did it. I mean, it’s not like I can rewrite my history. But as my therapist explained to me, the “resources” are really intended to tap into parts of ourselves that we can call upon in times of distress to helps us self-soothe outside of the therapy room. I will say, I actually feel almost giddy after leaving my session. It’s like the act of creating these new “pseudo-memories” dumps a huge amount of dopamine and other feel-good chemicals into my body. I’ve only had a couple of these modified EMDR sessions, but I already can feel a shift. I feel more hopeful, less reactive and maybe just a tiny bit more empathy towards my child self. I look forward to continuing to explore the possibilities that exist within the creativity of my mind. One word of caution: EMDR is exhausting. Even the attachment-focused version requires a lot of physical, mental and emotional energy. I recommend not having too much on your schedule for the rest of the day and being cautious when driving home from your session. If you are interested in attachment-focused EMDR, be sure to find a certified clinician who has knowledge of the modified protocol. And above all, work with someone you connect with. The therapeutic alliance is the single most important factor in how well therapy works in general, but I feel like it’s particularly critical when doing work that is this intense.

Community Voices
David Lasby

Exploring Trauma and Recovery in Zelda: Breath of the Wild

“In Hyrule, I was always on the verge of something new, a promise of discovery that freed my spirit from the two-ton anchor of my own thoughts. In Hyrule, if only for a few hours, I could breathe. Breath of the Wild had become very significant to me … Hyrule had become my escape.” These words from Derek Buck in his 2017 piece for GamesRadar+ speak for more than just himself; “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” (for Nintendo Switch) has been a lifeline to many drowning in depression, anxiety and mental health crises. Its open-world, full of light and beauty, offers players a chance to explore, embrace creativity and to delight in the whimsical details of Hyrule. Perhaps most important, players are granted the power to tell their own story in the game’s wild, post-calamity world. While the mental health benefits of the 2017 “Zelda” title have been well documented, the storylines of the downloadable content (DLC — additional gameplay consumers can purchase) have been examined far less; and that’s a shame because the second DLC has perhaps some of the most healing narratives in the game. First, some important context for those storylines. (If you’re a veteran gamer or familiar with the “Zelda” universe and want a more detailed explanation, please visit the Youtube page of Nintendo Black Crisis , who offers a fascinating theory about “The Champions’ Ballad,” the DLC storyline for “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which specifically explores the origins of Monk Maz Koshia). During The Champions’ Ballad, the main character Link — the “Hero of the Wild” — is invited by an ancient monk, Maz Koshia, to undergo a series of trials to prove his worth as a hero. One particular set of trials allows Link to visit a place in the subconscious known as the Illusory Realm, where he revisits traumatic moments from the past; in particular, he reexperiences the loss of his friends (the Champions) at the hands of dark creatures known as Blights. For complicated reasons explored elsewhere (see above), Link possesses a piece of the souls of his lost friends inside of him, and thus retains the actual memories of their deaths — their memories, not his own since he wasn’t present at their demise). Thus when Link reexperiences these memories, he is directly living the trauma of his friends in addition to his own grief at their loss. (For further explanation, watch Nintendo Black Crisis’ video at 13:05). Beyond providing an explanation for the nature of the monk’s trial of Link, the theory from Nintendo Black Crisis, and ultimately “The Champions’ Ballad” itself, constructs a beautiful and complex picture of the trauma survivor’s journey through the abyss of memory and into post-traumatic growth. Trauma lies at the very core of the “Breath of the Wild” narrative. The Great Calamity (an invasion by dark forces) destroyed a kingdom, took countless lives and produced generational trauma that spans a hundred years. By the time Link awakens within the Shrine of Resurrection, the children and grandchildren of those who faced the Great Calamity make their way through a desolate Hyrule, still picking up the pieces of their families’ lives. Even Link himself must come to terms with the trauma he has endured, defending Princess Zelda and the kingdom to his last breath. Many have observed that loneliness defines the world of “Breath of the Wild” and while this is a human experience that extends beyond trauma, there is perhaps nothing that encapsulates the lived experience of survivors more. It is in this sense then that something very beautiful emerges in “The Champions’ Ballad” — a story arc that players likely travel after they have defeated Calamity Ganon (the game’s ultimate antagonist). The heartbeat that reverberates through the DLC story is not hardship but post-traumatic growth. Within the professional field of mental health, there are two powerful treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that I believe resonate deeply with the narrative in “The Champions’ Ballad.” While somewhat different in their application, both eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy and lifespan integration (LI) therapy seek to carefully reintegrate trauma survivors into their whole self, eliminating the fragmentation that can occur in the brain due to trauma, and lessening the sting of traumatic memory and experience. Both therapies rely upon the patient revisiting, and in a sense reliving, the traumatic moment. Peggy Pace, founder of LI therapy, explains , “Lifespan Integration relies on the innate ability of the body-mind to heal itself … [it] utilizes repetitions … of memories to facilitate neural integration and rapid healing.” She observes that, “Through the process of LI therapy clients come to understand … that they are living here and now in the present time. The process of viewing … memories of their lives strengthens connections between neurons … [and] is key to a unified sense of Self.” While receiving treatment, clients may imagine themselves intervening in the traumatic moment, integrating their past and present selves by acting upon the memory, altering it if needed in order to find power in what was otherwise a devastating experience, and to ultimately allow the brain to move forward to the present. It is this process of unifying the self and intervening that I believe allows Link and the Champions to move through their collective and individual traumas, and at last find rest after Link revisits their darkest memories. As each Champion imparts a piece of their spirit to Link, imbuing him with their unique powers, he also takes on their grief, their lingering defeat, their terror. After gathering the requisite Champion Emblems for each Divine Beast, Link is granted access to the Illusory Realm, the place of memory. Monk Maz Koshia warns Link, saying “The enemy you shall face is a product of the fear that dwells within. You must overcome this fear to proceed. The battle is a trial of the soul.” In other words, Link must face the moments in which he lost his dear friends, overcoming not only his own suffering, but their shared trauma as well. Avoidance is a driving impulse for survivors; revisiting the moment of pain or terror triggers a limbic response (fight, flight or freeze) in the brain, and as a result, most push the memory away or bury it in the subconscious. However, in order to experience liberation and healing, it is crucial to face what happened and thus bring the memory into the conscious mind. It is exactly this that Link does in his trials. With each journey to the Illusory Realm, he enters into combat with the perpetrator of the Champions’ collective trauma, the Blights, creatures especially designed by Ganon to kill Link’s friends. Link wears the clothing his friends died in, uses the weapons with which they fought to the death, faces the monsters that stalked them inside the Divine Beasts. Link is going there both in spirit and therapeutically. Link closes his eyes and enters a meditative state at the direction of Monk Maz Koshia. During this meditation, the buried memories of trauma for each Champion are brought into the conscious mind. It is here that change begins to occur. Rather than simply reliving the same horror, Link is granted a kind of agency, the ability to reshape the memory in a way that produces a different outcome. Rather than watching his friends fall, or having the internalized spirit of the Champions re-experience death, Link defeats the Blight in combat; he imagines a different outcome, made manifest by the strength of his courage. It is important to note that in all likelihood, the player has defeated Calamity Ganon by this time, so the conflict resolved here is removed from the threat facing Hyrule and is personal, spiritual in nature. Link’s imagined victory does not and cannot change the events of history, but it does change the way in which he and the Champions relate to the memory. This change in relation and the healing that follows is what’s known as post-traumatic growth (PTG). According to psychologist Richard Tedeschi, PhD , when undergoing post-traumatic growth, “People develop new understandings of themselves, the world they live in, how to relate to other people, the kind of future they might have and a better understanding of how to live life.” Link’s reimaging of the moments of trauma functions like treatment, not all that dissimilar in outcome from EMDR and LI. The horrific past has not changed, but the characters’ relationship to it has. This transformation is finalized when Link emerges from the Illusory realm to meet Kass (a traveling bard), who finishes and performs his song memorializing the fallen Champion, interweaving collected interviews, stories and fond memories shared with the bard by all who loved and lived with the community’s lost hero. These form a new tapestry in the mind that redefines the life and death of those Link lost. Link and the Champions emerge from the quagmire of the past, modeling post-traumatic growth. “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” continues to be a refuge for those in need of escape, who yearn for relief from the chaos and frustration of life in a pandemic and the mental drain of 2020. With news of two new installments in the game’s narrative universe, it will be interesting to see how the storytelling from Nintendo continues to reflect the shared traumas of our own world, and provides a template for facing that darkness with courage; and like the Hero of the Wild, may our courage bring peace and liberation to those in need around us. David Lasby is a contributor to The Mighty and a staff writer at Zelda Dungeon. His favorite Zelda games are Breath of the Wild and A Link to the Past. You can find him on Twitter to talk about all things Nintendo, sci-fi/fantasy,  mental health and creative writing. A version of this article was previously published on Zelda Dungeon.

Jodee Prouse

EMDR Therapy and Cutting My Mother Out Helped Me Process My Trauma

I felt like author Brené Brown. I related to her on an emotional level because I know what it is like to have a mental breakdown like she did. A “spiritual awakening” as her own therapist called it, but I know it doesn’t feel like that at the time. It had been over a year since my nervous breakdown and visit to the emergency room and I was doing much better. I had spent the previous 12 months in a desperate fight for my life. I have always functioned better during stress, which likely stems from my early childhood growing up with an alcoholic father. That also cemented my desire to look after the people I loved most in the world, which included my mom, brother and sister. I was always the helper. The fixer. The one people called. And I was up for the challenge until it all became too much. A lot had happened in the years prior to my “spiritual awakening,” including the death of my greatest friend, my younger brother Brett, who lost his battle with substance use disorder and mental illness when he took his own life. He was only 39. It was a stressful time in all our lives, and I wish I could say it brought our family closer together, but just the opposite happened, leaving me estranged from my mother and sister. I had also written a memoir, a complicated love story between brother and sister, trying to fulfill a promise to my brother of telling our story in hopes of helping others. I honestly thought I was fine. As it turns out, I wasn’t. In June of 2017, with no warning, I was instantly someone I didn’t recognize. At the time, all I understood was Friday I was me, and on Saturday I wasn’t. I would now struggle with anxiety and panic attacks, depression, confusion, memory loss, dizziness, ringing in my ears and crying spells for no apparent reason. My daily life felt like I was in a dream. That it was no longer me in my own body. In fact, it felt like I was dead, not alive, but floating on clouds. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t be alone. And what terrified me the most is I was experiencing a constant urge to take my life. But I wasn’t unhappy, not consciously anyway, and this scared me to death. For the first time in my whole life I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to fix it. I took my mental health recovery seriously, doing everything and anything to feel better. Therapy. Books. Articles. Massages. No coffee. Changed diet. Exercise. More sleep. More books. More therapy. All of this with eventually antidepressant medication. After 12 months, I was feeling better by comparison, the suicidal thoughts had subsided, but I was still not the me I used to be. By now, I had opened a business with my youngest son. It was a welcome relief, keeping my mind occupied, which was good for my health, both mentally and physically. But I was still experiencing bad days, ones filled with fear, panic, confusion and jumbled thoughts bouncing in my head like a ping-pong ball. I thought I would try a different approach, researching a new therapist who specialized in trauma. I had been seeing my new therapist once, sometimes twice a week, for about a month and I really liked her. I remember so clearly during our sixth or seventh appointment, picking up a tissue out of the box, dabbing my eyes, and then explaining to her how I had an episode the week before at work that terrified me. “I see now, I spent too much time on my computer last Wednesday and stood up too fast which made me dizzy. Instantly I felt a tingle in my arms, a jolt of lightening in my head and alarming thoughts I was having another nervous breakdown. I immediately went outside, sat on the concrete floor and allowed the sun to warm my face. I took some deep breaths until I realized I was in fact safe and not dying. But that small experience set off my day. About four hours later when it was time to wash the dishes at the end of the day, I stood in front of the sink and stared at the shiny stainless-steel taps. Left. Right. Left. Right. For at least three minutes, I just stared back and forth.”  I took a deep breath. “I couldn’t remember which tap was hot, which tap was cold. I am a grown-ass adult, 48 years old and I didn’t know which was the hot water.” My therapist reached over and picked up her iPad.  I kept talking about my feelings, and she seemed preoccupied as she focused on something she was reading. I was annoyed, although I kept talking. It seemed like I lost her attention. She reached out her arms and handed me the iPad. “Jodee, I want you to take this survey. Answer the questions as honestly as you can.” I began to read, “Choose: Always. Sometimes. Never.” Have you witnessed or experienced a life-threatening event that causes you intense fear, panic and horror? Do you have intrusions about an event in a negative way? Do you experience constant worry about yourself and others? Feeling distant or cut off from other people? And about 10 to 15 similar questions. I handed back the iPad and she analyzed. “Jodee, you rank high between generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).” “What? I couldn’t possibly have PTSD,” I thought. “I would like to try something with you next session if you feel you are up to it. It is called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy,” she said. I like to think of myself as knowledgeable and educated. I do not have a post-secondary education on addiction or mental health, but I have taken counseling seriously for more than 15 years, including many visits to doctors and therapists with my brother. I have read over 50 books both by clinical professionals and memoirs of people like me, yet I had never heard of EMDR therapy. My therapist explained EMDR is a form of psychotherapy where I would be asked to recall some distressing images. That when our brain processes an event, it comes through the left side of the brain and it gets resolved and remembered on the right side. Or vice versa, that is my interpretation, whether precisely correct or not. She pointed to a small box sitting on the table next to the sofa. She believed I was a really good candidate where there would be a flashing light, left to right, left to right, back and forth. And the goal was to help me resolve that experience. Of course, I went home intrigued and searched EMDR therapy. The EDMR Institute explains EMDR as the use of: “Eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) during one part of the session. After the clinician has determined which memory to target first, they ask the client to hold different aspects of that event or thought in mind and to use their eyes to track the therapists hand, or in my case the flashing light, as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision. As this happens, for reasons believed by a Harvard researcher to be connected with the biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, internal associations arise, and the client begins to process the memory and disturbing feelings. In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level. For instance, a rape victim shifts from feeling horror and self-disgust to holding the firm belief, ‘I survived it and I am strong.’ Unlike talk therapy, the insights clients gain in EMDR therapy result not so much from clinical interpretation, but from the client’s own accelerated intellectual and emotional processes. The net effect is that clients conclude EMDR therapy feeling empowered by the very experiences that once debased them. Their wounds have not just closed, they have transformed.” Although the internet is a wonderful place for knowledge and education, it can also scare the crap out of you. I read a few stories of how EMDR therapy can bring up hidden trauma buried deep inside and open a Pandora’s box of wounds if you are not careful. That didn’t scare me, I was sure I had resolved my early childhood trauma long ago. I sat down with my therapist at my next session, grabbed my trusted box of tissues, and after talking about how my week was, she asked me to once again relay to her what was happening in the days or weeks leading up to my breakdown. I have watched Brené Brown’s interview with Oprah Winfrey where they discuss Brené was warned to not read comments about herself, but she did anyway and how that impacted her own mental health. I know people can be mean and hurtful: the internet trolls, the ones who are brave and fearless behind a keyboard, which sadly, can include family. I was prepared for all of that. What I wasn’t prepared for was the relentless smear-campaign by my own mother. If someone like Brené Brown can be affected by the opinion of strangers, imagine if the hate, negativity and denial was coming from your own mother. I am not pointing a judgmental finger nor shifting blame. I am 100% responsible and accountable for how writing and speaking about my life’s journey affects others. But I can do that. I can write. I can talk. The world is full of books, including memoirs, articles, television interviews with people sharing their unique stories and perspectives. What I am not responsible for is someone else’s reaction. I was more in-depth this time, telling my therapist how I was feeling that Friday, the day before my breakdown. On a positive note, my sister and I had rekindled our relationship after many years of estrangement. We had each apologized and forgiven so many past mistakes. It meant a lot to me my sister acknowledged we lived different life experiences. I am, after all, eight years older and our mother does treat the two of us much differently. When she told our mom we were rebuilding our relationship, that she supported me and that she was proud of me, our mother disowned her. I don’t want to get into the specific details of what my mom was doing in the days leading to my breakdown. What I will share is I ended my relationship with her four years prior. I tried to make it work, attempting to instill healthy boundaries in our relationship. But sadly, my mother isn’t capable of supporting boundaries. I could no longer listen to her reminding me often I abandoned my brother and didn’t save him from addiction. And so, I said goodbye. What I own is I never wrote a story to make someone choose between me or my mother. Or to disparage or show hate toward anyone. To my mom, I had committed the ultimate betrayal. I talked about what went on behind closed doors in our family. I dared to speak out. When I got to the part of the story where I ended up on the way to the emergency room feeling like a bomb had went off in my head, my therapist bent over and turned on the EMDR machine. She asked me to keep talking, take me through those moments and concentrate on the lights. Right, left, right, left. I began to cry hard. My arms were tingling, my body was on fire. I was fearful and panicked. I continued describing my feeling of that day in the hospital. I didn’t know what was happening. I was dying. I was embarrassing my family. I kept talking, focusing on the red light. Right, left, right, left. “I am so mad,” I said to myself. “I am so mad,” I repeated to myself. I kept crying. Harder and harder. Breathing heavier and heavier. Tissues soaked with tears. “I am so mad,” I finally said to my therapist. “I am not mad at my mother. I am mad at me for allowing her to get to me.” And without exaggeration, my breathing started to level off and I just sat there. Holy shit. “Everything is always my fault,” I said aloud. And then sat there astonished to what I had just said. I knew, at least on a conscious level, my mother made me responsible for everyone in my family and it finally took its toll. In between therapy appointments, I was still focusing on my recovery every day, eating right, exercising and our new business was getting busier which was a great distraction. I was now seeing my therapist every two weeks and between visits, I bought a couple more books, which is how I was introduced to Brené Brown. I bought her books “Daring Greatly” and “The Gifts of Imperfection,” and I learned more about shame, vulnerability and courage. For me, this journey was never about me trying to figure out my mother, it was an attempt to figure out who I was. You hear so many times people say you can’t blame your parents, none of this is about blame, it is about why we behave in a certain way. And yes, whether we want to deny it or not, I believe it all begins with experiences in childhood. My next therapy appointment wasn’t quite as enlightening. We talked at length about my guilt and shame surrounding allowing my young children to witness traumatic events with regard to my brother, and how I felt I should have protected them. We tried EMDR again, walked through some of the events and nothing. No tears. No panic. I have apologized to my now-adult sons. If I could rewind, I would do things differently. I would still have supported my brother and been by his side, but in a healthy way. And I would not put anyone’s needs above my husband’s or children’s, nor myself. All of this I have resolved. It is amazing what a simple, “I am sorry” can accomplish. Not only for you, but others as well. Acknowledging you hurt someone else, not denying their version or experience, is therapeutic to both sides. And I thank my sons for their understanding and forgiveness of my own personal failings. The next week was an even bigger breakthrough with my therapist. She really wanted to know about my feelings surrounding my mother. It was such a random, non-important conversation as she bent over and turned on the lights. Bright red. Left, right, left, right, and we continued to talk. Even today, I have no explanation why or how this story began. It wasn’t a repressed memory, it wasn’t traumatic. It was such a non-important event in my life. I had never shared it, not even with my husband. “I was 5 or 6 years old, before my parents divorced. I know it was the late spring or summer months as there was no snow. Almost 45 years later, and I can still envision the street downtown. My mother and I standing in front of the jewelry store window.” I began to cry. “She points to a charm, laying in a velvet box. Plain. Gold. Rectangle. Beside it, a square charm, two adults, one male, one female kneeling their backs touching also in gold.” For some unknown reason, I was now crying harder and harder. I continued to tell my therapist what I remembered. “’Can you tell your dad I want that charm for my birthday? my mom asked me, pointing to the simple rectangle. As always, I obliged.” I take a deep breath. “I don’t recall my mother opening her birthday gift, where or when.” Lights continue to flash. I am concentrating. Left. Right. Left. Right. “My dad had mistakenly bought her the male with female charm. And my mom’s reaction?  She showed it to me and was so angry, not at my dad, at me.” By now, I was crying hysterically, barely able to breathe. “She could have simply told my father the error and exchanged it, not a big deal, but instead I had once again done something so horribly wrong and she had to let me know it.” I sat crying, gasping, blowing my nose and reflecting on everything I just said. “My mother wore that man and woman charm around her neck for a very long time,” I thought to myself. “No matter how hard I try, I fail my mother. So, I try harder and harder to please her. But in the end, I always fail.” And I begin to calm. My tears subside. And I sat there in my therapist’s office in silence for a couple minutes until I really understood the scope of what just happened. Your subconscious is an incredible thing. I saw my therapist only once or twice after that session. I didn’t need to go anymore. As each month went by, I became emotionally stronger and stronger. No longer the fragile stranger I didn’t recognize. This June it will be three years since my breakdown, and I do have some residual effects. I monitor how much time I spend on my computer. I need to make sure I get plenty of sleep. My ears ring and feel plugged regularly for no reason at all. I occasionally speak faster than my brain reacts, using the wrong word I am thinking and having to correct myself. I have memory loss. If I feel nauseous, like having the flu, it is a trigger for me as my brain still recalls the traumatic experience in the emergency room where I believed I was dying. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen often as I am a healthy person, but those days are filled with anxiety as I wrestle with the thoughts in my head (a PTSD reaction). And I continue every evening before bed to take my medication that helps with anxiety and depression. Since that last life-altering EMDR session, I have never experienced bouncing thoughts, confusion, crying spells or any suicidal thoughts whatsoever. None. What I am left with is a new, enlightened, resilient, honest, healed, boundary-promoting, at peace, grateful me with a mental illness. Sadly, my rekindled relationship with my sister was short-lived. She needs her relationship with our mother and all the conditions it comes with. I accept that as those are her life’s choices. I wish her a lifetime of happiness. As I sit here today, like most of us, I have more time to think, being homebound due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), the new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system. I ask myself the question, “Will I keep reading the comments?” And the answer is a huge yes . The thing is, without reading the occasional negative response, I would be shutting myself off from the beautiful, kind, heart-opening ones. The ones that inspire me, learning of someone else’s journey and feeling a deep sense of togetherness. There is nothing I could do in this life that would make everyone happy. But that’s not my job. I used to think it was. I need to be happy. Me. Starting from my inside. My life didn’t turn out as I planned. I lost a brother to alcoholism, mental illness/suicide. I am permanently estranged from my mother and sister. And I had a nervous breakdown at 48 years old. But what I have learned, is you can’t experience all of life’s wonder and beauty if you don’t also experience heartache and pain. What I know about myself, is I believe from the depths of my soul there is nothing more important than family. But believing that doesn’t mean I, or anyone, must give up their life or their own needs for someone else. Not even if that someone else is their own mother. Nothing ever would have worked to bring me back to health and happiness. Not therapy, EMDR, medication, books, interviews, diet, exercise, the love of my husband, my daughter-in-law, my friends or my children if I wasn’t willing to accept there were behaviors and relationships in my life that had to go. And I do not feel guilty for that. I chose me. Forever. Always. As the inspiring Brené Brown says, “I want to be courageous. I want to be in the arena. I want to be vulnerable. I want to be daring.” Me too. Fucking daring.

Shaelyn Heise

Accepting 'the Past Is the Past' in Trauma Therapy

Many hiccups come with working through trauma , including days where I don’t want to get out of bed, but I decide to. Whether my goal for the day is a laundry list of errands or simply to take care of myself, I always set a goal. This is what continues to motivate me — taking everything day by day because that’s all I can do at this point. This means attending weekly eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy sessions, monthly psychiatrist visits, and each day taking care of myself. In the beginning, it was hard to accept I need time to focus on myself. Hard to accept that I currently cannot work, therefore help provide for my household. For many weeks I felt like a burden, taking advantage of those closest to me by not being able to “contribute.” Through many nights of reflection and many conversations with my therapist and family members, I have realized I was never going to be able to fully “contribute.” I was miserable, terrified of lots of situations, avoiding my fear like clockwork. I was living in my personal nightmares each day. Don’t get me wrong — not every day was bad. Some days, the “symptoms” would seem to disappear. I later realized this only happened on days I was avoiding, therefore feeding into my fears. I would never be able to be the best version of myself until I took the time to take control of my past. Though I know nothing can change the past — I fully realize that — I can change how I perceive the past. I can change how it affects me, and that’s what I am focusing on. I’m changing my perception, my personal view of the situations that haunted me. Not trying to understand them necessarily, only understanding that it doesn’t need to affect my daily life. The past is the past. I am still trying to accept that simple five-word sentence. How we perceive the past in relation to trauma is up to a simple response of fight or flight . Whether we defended ourselves, and how we are dealing with that, whether we endured, ran or stayed silent and now we are dealing with that. Whether you chose fight or flight, your choice was the best option for you at the time. It is now a matter of accepting the choices we made, not the situation itself. In my opinion, there is no solution to the past or to solving the past that involves other people. All you can change is your view of the past, and accept that it is the past. For me, yes, it is taking months of extremely difficult work. I will admit there are more bad days than good, but I am doing it now for the next 50 years of my life. I know that if I can do this in ways recommended by the professionals — in many views, the hard way — then this year may be hard, but the next 50 years will be easier than the past 22, give or take. I have hope, which is the best and sometimes the most unnerving feeling you can have. I am vulnerable, and with that comes fear. What if all this is for nothing? What if nothing changes? That fear is simply focused on whether or not I put in the work to change. All I can hope for at this time is that I can heal the wounds. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) comes with many of them, as well as triggers. These triggers are the part impacting my daily life, and what EMDR therapy is focused on. From a few months of this treatment, my triggers are getting slightly better. It is difficult, yes, but on days I am not in therapy, I find myself being triggered less. For the most part, there are obviously days when they completely control me. Slowly but surely, though, they are getting better. All I can hope for is healing, and I hope that for a nyone struggling as well. I hope that by hearing some of my story, it will encourage another person to get the help they need. I know it’s not full of sunshine and rainbows but it is a positive story. Struggling every day because of your past is wasted potential of a great life, and everyone deserves a great life. If anything I said in this post resonated with you, please reach out to someone in your community. There are so many people you can talk to, and it’s so worth it. A version of this article was previously published on teeupformentalhealth.com

What It’s Like to Have a Bad PTSD Day

A few years ago, a friend asked me what my bad days with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are like and what it meant to have a flashback. She didn’t hav e PTSD and wanted to know what I was experiencing so that she could better help me in those moments. I’ve realized that many people have loved ones with PTSD , but many of them don’t get an honest glance into what the bad days are like. Too frequently, trauma survivors keep their bad days hidden because they’re worried about what people will say, even though the bad days are when you need help the most. I’ve absolutely done this because of hurtful things that have been said to me in the past after confiding my PTSD in the wrong people. I’ve been told I need to let my sexual abuse go, and I have control over my thoughts, so if I’m reliving the trauma it’s because I want to. However, PTSD is a disorder. I can’t just “let it go” or think happy thoughts to avoid flashbacks. So, I would like to shed some light on what it’s like on th e bad days. This is my own personal experience, so it won’t be the same for every person. I wake up panting and covered in sweat. My body is shaking and on high alert despite there being no danger. I can feel the anxiety from my nightmare filling every nerve in my body. I shake my head, trying to clear the anxiety out of my mind like a cobweb. I try getting some fresh air, water and a blanket; attempting to anchor myself in the present. Minutes of deep breathing, calming music and grounding exercises pass. The anxiety refuses to let up. I sigh in frustration, tugging on the ends of my hair — one of my nervous ticks. I know I’m about to relive the abuse I endured at the hands of those monsters. My mouth is dry. My skin feels like a dress five sizes too small that I can’t get out of. I can’t breathe. I feel like my body’s collapsing in on itself. My stomach starts shooting acid up my throat to try to distract the rest of my body from what’s about to happen. I can feel my heart racing in my chest, trying to outrun the fear. The sound of its steps pounding against my ribcage is deafening. My mind is in disarray, desperately trying to grab on to any other thought. Lyrics, poems, movie lines; none work. Tick tock. Tick tock. I know time is running out. It’s inevitable at this point but I fight anyway, knowing this is a battle I won’t win. I cling to memories of friends, family, pets like a piece of driftwood in a violent ocean storm. Please, make it stop. Those memories are ripped away. My lungs can’t get enough air. They’re working double-time trying. I try to focus on the ceiling, walls, floors; anything. Please, get me out of my head. And then the dam breaks. There’s not enough oxygen in the room, in the world. My lungs collapse. My stomach contorts, cowering in fear. My body trembles, attempting to shake the memories out of my head by force. My ribcage clings to my heart to keep it from hammering its way out of my body. The memories bleed into all of my senses, completely unchecked. I can feel her hands holding me down. Smell One’s body wash. Taste Four’s lips, as he forced his on mine. Hear Two telling me to hold still. See the way Three smirked as he zipped up his pants. The monsters ravage my mind, body and soul like hyenas tearing apart a carcass. I bite my tongue to keep from screaming. I hold myself tight, rocking back and forth, desperately attempting to touch the present, trying to escape the torture they put me through. Their hands are all over me. I can’t get away from them. I’m every bit as trapped now as I was then. The memories are projected in my mind like a movie theater screen. I’m strapped to a chair and forced to watch my own personalized horror movie and the only one in attendance is me. I try running, but I’m isolated from the present. Separated by hands, sneers and silence. No one else is allowed into the theater, and I’m not allowed out. It’s a screening the Devil reserved just for me. I see the various acts the different monsters committed. I feel them using my body like a trash bag to fill up and throw out before getting a new one. It goes on and on. Sometimes it lasts minutes, other times hours. But time doesn’t exist in this theater. Every time, it lasts forever. Every time is the time they steal your sanity. Every time, you’re stuffed into a box of nightmares and never let out. After an eternity, the screen goes blank and I manage to stumble my way back to the present. I open my eyes and survey the damage like a hurricane survivor peeking out from their shelter to see the wreckage that was once their home. My body is shivering and rocking back and forth, shaken to its core. My cheeks are wet, cold and salted from the tears I unknowingly shed. My mouth is full of cloth from the shirt I used to gag my screams, my teeth clenched around it like a bear trap. My mind is scrambled, thoughts shredded. I can’t put two words together or make sense of my situation. And then, the thoughts roll up like detectives at a crime scene. They pass by security, no problem, examine the evidence and leave me with more questions than answers. It’s been six years since Four. Six years since the last time it happened. I should be over it by now, right? I’ve been in therapy for four years now. I should be past this, but I’m not. Why not? Why can’t I let this shit go? Why am I still this fucked up? They leave me feeling broken, ashamed, weak, empty. I pick myself up and go on about my day, more dead than alive. Someone taps me on the shoulder; I jump out of my skin. Once I’m alone, I break down crying about how unfair it is — that they’re the monsters and yet I’m the one left to clean up the mess. They broke me and I have to try to fix it. My husband gets home, and I can’t even let him touch me. Human contact is the trigger. Later, I can’t get close enough to him. I’m in the fetal position, glued to his side, trying to will my body to meld into his. His arms around me, his voice in my ears, is the safest I can feel. He tells me over and over again that I’m safe and no one is going to hurt me. Some days I believe him. Some days I can’t. Hours later, once I’ve calmed down, I have the epiphany. The same one I always do on these days: Sexual abuse or assault fucks you up. I’m doing the best I can at this time and that just living to this day is a damn miracle. And, most importantly, there is no set amount of time for how long this is allowed to affect me. Surviving (let alone healing from) rape is the hardest thing many people, including me, ever face. People tell me that getting through the abuse itself is the hard part, but I haven’t found that to be true. Healing from it has been the hard part for me. Surviving it is closing your eyes and clenching your teeth through the pain while you’re emotionally stabbed with a piece of glass. Repeatedly, in my case and many others. But healing from it means sticking your fingers into an open wound after the adrenaline has worn off. It means pulling out the glass shards, cleaning your wounds, and giving them time to heal. Time is the most difficult and important thing to give any wound, including trauma I can’t rush the healing process. All I can do is keep going to therapy, work on myself, continue practicing grounding exercises , distractions, ways to let out my feelings in a healthy way. And, continue to be honest with those I love when I’m struggling and asking for help. It’s hard work, and I feel like I’m drowning in my tears a lot of the time, but it’s worth it because I know it won’t always be this way. If I put in the work, I’ll live a life not haunted by nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety and hypervigilance. If I do the work, I’ll be happy and at peace. I’m hopefully starting eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy in late October, and honestly, it scares the shit out of me. But what scares me more is waking up 20 years from now and reliving this day over and over again.