I started Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy in February of 2008, because of the trauma I had experienced during the birth of my son in 1999. It has worked wonders for me. The experience had moved into “normal memory,” and I now have no stress when I think about what happened.
During my EMDR sessions, my therapist uses a small machine that has two little paddles, I hold one in each had, and they vibrate alternatingly. This facilitates the REM function for me. I do this throughout the entire session.
The first session we had, involving my birth experience, was distressing. I held the paddles and went over the memory of the moment when I thought I was going to die over and over again in my mind.
Remembering that was very hard. It was difficult to do because it was like going through it all over again… remembering the sights, the smells, the sounds, the feelings, the thoughts, etc. When the session ended, I was stressed. My therapist helped me with a relaxation exercise before I left, which helped relieve the anxiety.
The second session was much different. My therapist suggested trying to think of something that would help my distress with that memory. I began going over the moment in my mind… I was lying on the operating table, and I couldn’t breathe. Then all of a sudden, I imagined myself today being present with myself then, so there was two of me: the past self and the present self.
The present self knows that I did not die, and that everything was going to be okay eventually. The past self did not know that. So I imagined my present self comforting my past self, stroking her hair, and telling her that everything was going to be alright. I just started to cry. It was such a comforting thought. I spent a good ten minutes just dwelling on that because it was so soothing. My therapist was very pleased with my creativity and the progress I made in just a few minutes.
Then my therapist brought up the fact that I didn’t get to hold him until after I woke up. I told her how empty I felt after he was born. I went to sleep pregnant and woke up not pregnant. I just kept thinking, “Where is my baby? He’s gone.” I wanted him back inside me, but he was right there in my arms, I just couldn’t make the connection. I felt ripped off and so incredibly empty.
She suggested that I imagine myself in the operating room again and having the doctor give the baby to my present self. So, I imagined my present self watching my son being born, then the nurses wrapping him in a blanket and handing him to me. I began to cry again. I never had that feeling of joy, it had been stolen from me, but I was able to reclaim it for myself. I kept imagining my present self holding my newborn son and crying, and I let myself heal.
Then, in my mind, I brought my present self and my past self back together at the moment when I woke up in the recovery room, when I got to hold him for real… Oh my, what closure. The tears I cried that session were tears of healing, joy, and release. I never realized how wonderful healing could be. I can truly say that I have brought joy to the memory of my son’s birth that was never there before.
I would recommend EMDR to anyone who has experienced trauma.
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