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How EMDR Therapy Saved Me From PTSD

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I was enjoying breakfast with my young son when all of the sudden my husband accidentally slammed our pantry door a bit loudly. Stunning everyone, including myself, I immediately ran into my bedroom closet and fell into a crumpled, crying heap. I had no idea what had just happened. After some reassuring hugs from my family, my little boy said, “I know why you freaked out, Mom. Remember that time daddy punched the pantry door by your face?” And my son was right — that’s exactly what happened. The kitchen in our new house was laid out like the kitchen in the home I shared with my ex.

• What is PTSD?

These episodes continued and I’d almost have a heart attack at the slightest noise. Then the nightmares followed. Dreams so vivid in color it was like I stepped onto the set of “The Wizard of Oz.” Dreams of memories I had apparently buried deep in my mind to save my sanity. I needed help.

That help came in the form of a young therapist. I learned that everything I was experiencing was a result of the years of abuse I experienced at the hands of my supposed soul mate. I had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But wait; I never served in the military and isn’t that who struggles with PTSD? She explained how anyone with exposure to trauma can be diagnosed with PTSD.

I then learned of a new type of therapy called EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing). And after several sessions identifying specific traumas, we got started with the EMDR. It almost reminded me of the hypnosis games I played as a child. I would focus on a particular trauma and at the same time follow my therapist’s pen as she waved it side to side in front of my face. I honestly didn’t think this would help. We kept at it, once a week for a few months. It was exhausting for some reason and I didn’t look forward to the sessions. I did not like reliving these things, but I learned you have to look at all the ugliness of the abuse before you can heal.

In laymen’s terms, the “trauma” stays in the more active part of the brain and does not go where “regular” memories go. This back and forth with my eyes finally put my traumas in the memory file where they should go. They are not first and foremost anymore, but rather, just memories.

Since therapy, I have been exposed to things that would have triggered me in the past, but they no longer do. I have not had a panic attack since completing EMDR, nor am I as easily startled. We have ended our sessions and I have been down-graded to generalized anxiety disorder. I truly believe EMDR saved me.

If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence or emotional abuse and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

Thinkstock photo via Strekalova

Originally published: October 23, 2017
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