“I just need someone to talk to, I don’t need any of that hippie stuff.”
I must have said that dozens of times. The problem was that talking wasn’t helping. It hadn’t helped for the last few doctors, in reality, it only pushed me away. It delayed treatment. Every time a doctor tried talking to me, I would find reasons why they just didn’t get me. Part of it, was that they really didn’t get the life of a first responder. Also, no one wanted to explain to me what was really going on in my head! They would listen to me spill my guts for an hour, but offer up no advice or treatment options.
Talking didn’t get to the bottom of my depression. Talking didn’t answer why I couldn’t sleep at night. Talking didn’t help me understand why I spent every waking moment on edge.
After 3 breakdowns, 3 times making my wife cry from my outbursts, and my 4 year old son flat out asking me why I was angry all the time, I found my current doctor. This ended the cycle of get better for a few weeks, end treatment, get depressed, get angry, and anxious again, then find a new doctor.
To put it bluntly, my current doctor saw through my bull shit. She explained WHY my brain was doing what it was doing. Sure, she listened to what I had to say, but she wouldn’t let me get away with open ended statements, and called me out every time I tried to lie or take the easy way out to avoid confronting my demons.
“Have you ever heard of EMDR?” These words made me shudder. I trusted her, and here she is pulling this shit on me! The difference this time was that she answered my questions, told me she understood why I called it hippie stuff, and gave me the science behind it. During EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)therapy sessions, you relive traumatic or triggering experiences in brief doses while the therapist directs your eye movements. EMDR is thought to be effective because recalling distressing events is often less emotionally upsetting when your attention is diverted. This allows you to be exposed to the memories or thoughts without having a strong psychological response. Over time, this technique is believed to lessen the impact that the memories or thoughts have on you. (Legg, 2017).
My sessions started much the same way every time. I would hold a vibrating paddle in each hand. I would focus on the paddle vibrating left then right, left then right. This happened for about 15 seconds, after that I was told to tell my story and relive my most horrible memory in short doses. Before each session, I was equipped with the knowledge that I had the power to end the treatment at any time. After each dose of recall, went the vibrations: left right left right. When my doctor could tell I was getting burned out, we would be done.
Funny thing about it, after only 6 weeks of sessions, I was making break throughs! I actually felt better! Maybe there was something to this after all!
Fast forward about a year. The trauma doesn’t hurt as bad as it used to. EMDR has done more in this short time than anything else possibly could. Even so, I still find myself dwelling on it. I still find myself striving for impossible perfection in order to appease the demons inside of me, and I still stay up later than I should, but the memories don’t produce as many tears.
Come to find out, healing the trauma isn’t the hard part. It’s healing the bad habits I used in order to hide from the trauma, and healing the relationships that those habits hurt. With continued effort, I know I can get through this, and it’s all because I finally found a good fit.
Maybe talking is what gets you better, maybe you need something more. The key is to never give up. Don’t delay treatment because it’s out of your comfort zone. There is treatment for you, that fits you, that will help you heal.
As always. If you need help, or a little advise… let’s take a walk
Legg,T.J. PhD (2017, Dec15) EMDR Therapy: What You Need to Know. Retrieved September 24, 2018, from https://www.healthline.com/health/emdr-therapy