amber rahim

Chronic illness: the parts we don't talk about

Things we don’t talk about: PTSD and EMDR

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So while on that cliff edge last week I remembered something: writing about the things we don’t normally talk about. I actually wrote this post awhile ago but somehow always skipped publishing it. It’s time now.

p.s. The shoes worked. Just thinking about them brings me back to that guiltless feeling and being on the brink is not so disorientating anymore.

PTSD, let’s talk

I don’t know where I am going with this.  I just read someone else’s blog and I got the urge to write about this.

As a woman in her 30’s, living in safe Holland, I was suprised to find out that I had PTSD.  Now what follows are not scientific or medical explanations, just the words that I have found to explain my experience.

I didn’t realise it for 3 years but looking back I can see that it was a time where I lived on adrenaline and with a constant sadness and fear that coloured everything in my life.

During my pregnancy, my daughter was diagnosed with a rare genetic kidney disorder that almost killed her in the first few weeks of life.

There were complications and basically I was keeping my legs crossed to delay the birth for as long as possible.  She was born at 30 weeks.

It was an emergency cesearean and once they had whipped her out they put her in an incubator and did a drive by so I could see her and then whisked her off.

I didn’t see her again for 24 hours.

I was pregnant one minute and then I wasn’t.  It was like she had died, which she almost did.

From the beginning I understood why I couldn’t see her, they had work to do.  They had to keep her heart beating, stop her dehydrating.  Hugs with mum had to wait.

After the first week I was able to see her everyday and then I had her at home so I knew, logically, that she was alive.

But something happened in the stress of that day.  I think it was too much for my mind and something got scrambled.

The normal process of filing got interupted – I mean, who has time to do the filing when all this is happening?

So my brain was unable to file the event and put it in the past

This is how I make sense of PTSD.

Things happen.  We experience them and then we file them into our memory storage.  We take them from ” this is happening” to “this happened”.

What happened to me was that the experience of my daughter dying stayed in the present, it never moved into the “this (didn’t) happen” category.

It stayed in the present so as a result I carried around the fear, sadness, adrenaline for 3 years.  No wonder I was on edge.

So where does EMDR fit in? This stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.

image

Well, as a simple patient, this is what I understand from the doctor’s explanation.

EMDR helps move the experience from the “this is happening” stage to where they belong, the “this happened” stage.

By engaging both sides of the brain while re-living / talking through the experience, something happens and the brain is able to do the filing.  It’s like it says “what are you doing out here making a mess?  let’s get you put away”.

It works.  I don’t understand why following a light from left to right (or following a sound) has this effect but it does.  So thank you to whoever figured this out (wow you must have tried out some weird stuff to come up with this).

I didn’t know I had PTSD and it took a couple of months of therapy before even the therapist saw it.

So this is what I have learned:

you can hide it – even from yourself.

Getting treatment works.  It released me from the past so that I could go into the process of grief and dealing with it.

When something doesn’t feel quite right, pay attention.

I think I had a pretty mild case.  My heart goes out to those who have it, especially those who have suffered more than I have.

 

2 thoughts on “Things we don’t talk about: PTSD and EMDR

  1. I had a really positive experience with EMDR too. My physical symptoms of the PTSD (nausea and a bitter taste in my mouth) stopped completely after leaving my counselor’s office. Very interesting concepts behind it!

    • Glad to hear it helped you. Yes, really interesting concept. I don’t understand how they find these things out but I’m glad they did.
      How are you doing these days?

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