EMDR, trauma, and PTSD?

I’ve been avoiding this post like the plague. I’ve sat down at least a dozen times, closing out of the page with a few measly words written. I think what I’ve realized is that there will never be a “right time.” The fear won’t entirely go away. This is me feeling the fear and doing it anyways.

This is one of the hardest posts I have written. It is vulnerability to the extreme. I can count on one hand the number of people who know anything at all about this, yet here I am, sharing it on my blog for who knows how many people to see.

I’ve wavered back and worth whether I should actually post about this. I barely can admit some of what’s going on and happened. I made a pros/cons list and realized that I needed to write about it. This space is my journal and a place where I can hope to impact others. A goal I’ve kept from the very beginning is for this to be the authentic version of myself. That means not hiding behind a facade that all is perfect in my life. It means facing fears head on by being completely honest. It means putting my story out there in the way it truly happens. I don’t want to sugarcoat things. There is no point in calling this a recovery blog if I do that. After all that rambling, I have to take a deep breath and share.

I don’t quite know where to start. Should I begin with the first time I realized something was wrong, talking about in treatment, or even have it begin once I started having specific therapy for it? I think the best solution will be to lay it all out there because I think that’s important to understand.

This all began with my first and only true relationship. I was 14 and he was somewhat older. Right away, we grew very close and probably enmeshed. It seemed like sunshine and rainbows on the outside. Hell, I even believed that it was. Underneath that all was a very unhealthy relationship. No specifics here, but it involved manipulation, pushing boundaries, angry outbursts, an emotional abuse, to name a few. Almost the entire time I was stuck in this cycle of feeling like I needed to be the perfect girlfriend, then guilt and shame when I didn’t do enough. Other core beliefs that began there include: I am defective, I am unlovable, I am not worthy. I knew that something was wrong in our relationship. I never saw the truth or tried to do anything to stop it. I just kept rationalizing and denying. I broke things off after 3.5 years. That was the hardest thing I’d ever done at the time.

This next period, which lasted right around 4 years, involved pushing everything down. I could make a few connections that maybe some of how he treated me affected my mental health. I didn’t focus on it too long, though. Any time I would think of him, our relationship, or things that happened would bring intense shame. I immediately felt disgusting, worthless, and plain wrong. Although I started therapy a few months later, I consistently avoided the topic for over 3 years. Not a soul knew anything bad happened, and I didn’t believe it myself.

The first time it ever came up was around this time last year. We were playing recovery jenga in IOP and the question “what have you not talked about in therapy before but should?” came up. I answered my ex relationship. Naturally, this got back to R and she asked about it the next session. I gave her a very generic answer: it worsened my depression, made me feel isolated, maybe manipulation, self-esteem issues, etc.  can see now that I was minimizing it. We spent maybe 10 minutes on it and then it was never brought up again.

6 months later the truth (well, parts of it) came out. I was with my therapist at CFD, and when something was brought up (during assessment maybe? I don’t remember) I began to open up a little. We then made the goal to write out more details and then read them to her in session. I ended up being able to read it first to my favorite counselor. That was such a God thing. Her response gave me more confidence to open up. The entire time I was terrified, but met with tons and tons of support. For the first time, I had someone fighting against my thoughts and saying none of it was my fault. The way that things happened in residential set up for how  I would continue to open up. I didn’t believe all J said, but it still helped.  [Also the greatest thing ever happened when I was there. I had my mom send me my promise ring and then a nurse helped me break it in half. On my last outing I threw one half in a nasty public toilet and the other in the ocean. It felt SO good.]

PHP was very different. I had one session a week, so we had zero time to talk about it more. I did have a step forward in two ERP’s (exposure response therapy). I wrote in more detail about relationship and then read it to the group. I think that set me up for going home to R again.

The first thing R did (after I read her what I wrote) was suggest EMDR. I was 100% certain I didn’t need it at all. I figured maybe we could talk about it a few sessions and then it would just clear up. That sort of therapy required something extremely terrible to happen, and what I went through didn’t even come close. Eventually she did convince me, and we began the therapy. The first target I set was on some beliefs stemming from childhood. This involved feeling different, not worthy, and others. That target only took a month to work through. In the last week of September we switched to the topic of my past relationship, which was absolutely terrifying to me.

EMDR is hard. There’s no way around that. I’ve had over a dozen sessions for this target, yet I feel like we haven’t gotten all that far. A few weeks in, I began to notice subtle changes. I was having some dreams about him and that something bad would happen. I’m forever anxious walking alone, but it has now exploded so much that I can’t even walk on our campus without looking around me every minute or less. A trip to Meijer isn’t as easy as it used to be. I sometimes will have periods where the memories are so clear and seem closer to reality compared to when I thought about them before. Basically, things have just gotten worse in how the relationship affects me.

Around a month ago, R started using the term trauma when talking about what I’ve been through. That word made me sick. There was no way this was that serious. Everything was my fault because I had a choice, screamed shame. I felt like i could and should snap out of it, but that wasn’t happening. She began explaining how it’s different for everyone and doesn’t have to be the worst possible situation in the world. A few weeks ago she mentioned an acronym I really hated to hear: PTSD. She explained some of the symptoms that I’m showing. I got a good explanation about what the diagnosis actually looks like. Still, I didn’t buy it. I couldn’t. If it were true, that means I id go through something a lot harder than I wanted to admit. It would prove that I do deserve to get help. The thing is, I already knew I had multiple symptoms of PTSD. We finished our trauma/abuse/disorders lectures the week before R talked to me. I saw myself in those symptoms, but I was in denial. I ignored the fact that I may be close to having it.

In the past two weeks I’ve realized that I cannot heal without accepting that I need help. I think maybe this is why EMDR so far has been just a few steps forward. I don’t want to accept the T word or PTSD. I’m not entirely sure how to feel, but I am coming to an acceptance. I hate it more than anything. Still, I am trying my best to look into the truth. I know that I can’t heal if I am stuck in denial. I want to believe I need help and that things will change. I’m not ready to say I have PTSD or talk extensively about having gone through some things that were traumatic to me. Maybe one day it will come. For now, I’m just going to fight like hell.

I have 2 quotes that I connect with right now:

  • The only way out is through
  • No one can have power over you without your control

*I want to add a little note. I am not at all insinuating that PTSD is invalid, you need to be very bad to get help or have it, etc. This is simply how I feel about MYSELF. I would never, ever go tell anyone that their experiences/trauma are invalid. I’m also not saying having PTSD is a bad or shameful thing.

16 thoughts on “EMDR, trauma, and PTSD?

  1. Thank you so much for writing this. I really relate because I’m also doing EMDR therapy for something I didn’t initially consider traumatic. It’s so hard, and I keep avoiding it, but facing it is all that helps long-term. I know this must have been very hard to write and I really commend you on that

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome. Wow, it sounds like we’re in a really similar situation. Even today in therapy I kept trying to avoid or minimize so I don’t have to work on it. Thank you for sharing, too. It’s nice knowing I’m not the only one.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t think it’s uncommon for people to question the validity of their own PTSD because they don’t think their trauma is “capital T Trauma” enough to be valid. My take on it is that PTSD isn’t about what happened to you, it’s about the brain not being able to process it afterwards. Good luck with the ongoing EMDR work.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi! Thanks for being able to open up. I hope it helped you relieve some anxiety or pain around doing so. Yes, trauma is difficult to define because we usually view trauma in terms of something like a death, abuse, etc I find any event or anyone who caused me an exorbitant amount of negative emotions that caused change in my thoughts or behaviors is possibly traumatic. It’s subjective. Either way I’m glad I found your blog and you’ve shared your story. Hope you’re doing well😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been there, girl. EMDR seemed to initially intensify my symptoms, but it really did get better with time. Now it’s to the point that I rarely think of the individual that hurt me, and when I do, it doesn’t send me into a tailspin. Don’t give up. You have a future worth fighting for, and continuing in the ed consumption won’t bring any kind of fufillment.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can relate to this. I don’t know if I have or have ever had PTSD (one psychiatrist/therapist out of the handful I’ve seen thought so), and I obviously don’t know the details of your situation, but I commend you for writing this. I was in an extremely toxic relationship 7 years ago while I was constantly in and out of treatment and before that. I didn’t talk about it much in treatment – only once with the therapist who suggested trauma. At that time, I was highly anxious and – I’ll say it – just a total mess. I never did EMDR, although I know what it is. And who knows – that could have just been my anxiety disorders, because I’ve gotten so much better. But the emotional abuse, especially and the mind games. It’s really difficult. Keep working at this! I’ve known people who did EMDR and it was so helpful! Hang in there. Believe in yourself and recovery, because its within your reach. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing your story, too! I can definitely relate to the emotionally abuse aspect too. It was definitely a big part of the relationship – kind of the backbone for other things. I’m praying that EMDR will help in the end. The hope of recovery is what keeps me going. Thank you ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m also doing EMDR therapy. I’ve had 3 sessions and the last one sent me into a terrible PTSD flashback a few days after the session. I took a break for a month and will be starting again this week. I know that it’s helping, but being in the thick of it can be so challenging. Thanks for opening up about your story. It’s nice to know that other people relate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That must have been really hard. I’m glad that you’re going to keep fighting for yourself, though. It definitely is challenging, but I hope worth it. One of my goals in opening up is to connect with others and feel less alone in the struggles we face

      Liked by 1 person

      • I just created my blog this week and that’s the exact goal that I had in mind. I’m not in group therapy and I really need others who understand. I was having a rough morning and your comment really encouraged me. Thanks! I’ve been feeling a lot of avoidance towards EMDR this week. I’m so nervous to go back to it and scared of what it will bring up.

        Like

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