Friday, 29 July 2011

Introduction to my Therapy

I have been thinking about blogging about my therapy for a while but I have held back because it is a very personal thing. I am going to tell you about it in baby steps, as much as I feel comfortable for now.

I am seeing a counsellor for PTSD from Zane's birth. It was very traumatic, he wasn't coming out, the doctor tried vontouse but every time she pulled his heart rate went to zero. It became critical and the consultant literally put his hands up there and pulled him out. It turned out that he had the cord wrapped tightly around his neck, and every time the doctor pulled she strangled him. I didn't see Zane for three hours after he was born as he was rushed to SCBU. I felt like I was watching over my life for five months after the birth, it was like the pethidine had never worn off. I had been having daily flashbacks of the birth for 17 months when I read someone else's story, they said is it normal to have weekly flashbacks? Everyone who responded said no, they must go to the doctors. I thought, my goodness, they are saying that when she is having them weekly, sometimes mine are hourly! I decided that day to book into see the doctor about it.

I was referred to a counsellor, initially I saw one that didn't specialise in anything in particular. He felt that as he was male and couldn't understand about birth trauma as good as another woman could, he was going to pass me on after a couple of sessions. It was a shame because he was very friendly and gave me some good advice. I was passed on to a lady that specialised in PTSD, and she had it herself a few years ago so she knew how I was feeling and had a good understanding.

We spent a couple of sessions just talking about the past, and she wanted me to briefly tell her about my birth and the flashbacks. I find it really hard to talk about them. I feel sick when I am asked to describe it, I have a big knot in my stomach and chest and feel like I have a massive stone weighing me down. I managed it, and then my counsellor talked about the condition. She said that with PTSD, usually a traumatic event from earlier on in life can set the stage for fully blown anxiety and PTSD, and my stage was the badly managed birth. Coincidentally my most traumatic event in childhood was very similar to the part of my birth that I have the most flashbacks about.

My counsellor decided that I could have a choice of two therapies. The first was intense talking about issues and events, she explained that this could be traumatic in itself and could make me very distressed. The second option was EMDR. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. This was explained to be quicker and less distressing, so I went with that option.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing  is a form of psychotherapy that was developed to resolve the development of trauma-related disorders caused by exposure to distressing events. According to the theory, when a traumatic or distressing experience occurs, it may overwhelm usual cognitive and neurological coping mechanisms. The memory and associated stimuli of the event are inadequately processed, and are dysfunctionally stored in an isolated memory network. The goal of EMDR therapy is to process these distressing memories, reducing their lingering influence and allowing clients to develop more adaptive coping mechanisms.

So are you boggled like I was? Well what actually happens is that firstly the counsellor installs new software in your brain. Firstly a safe "thing" like an animal, person, anything you want it to be. Your imagination can run wild, but I found that what I chose was something I would never usually think of, and its characteristics are very apt for why my personality needs it. The second piece of software is a safe place. This can be imaginary or a real place that you have felt safe. Once these have been decided on and described the counsellor uses a lightbar which has flashing lights running all the way across it. As you follow the lights with your eyes the counsellor calmly describes them back to you using the same words as you did. At first I thought whats the science behind this? How is watching lights going to stop me have flashbacks? Well in simple terms your brain does its filing when you are having REM sleep, and following the lights simulates that experience for you brain. As the counsellor asks you questions and you respond, it reprocesses the information into the right part of your brain so it is no longer lingering.

Once I had my first full session using the lightbar I was a bit confused, the counsellor would tell me to get into my safe place, and then think about the traumatic event, and get right there like I was reliving it again so I felt all of the same feelings. I then had to follow the lights and say how I felt, or whatever popped into my head. Then we would just repeat that over and over again until I didn't feel anymore. The therapy is exhausting, after half an hour I am yawning and ready to go to bed, and the next day is terrible, I am an emotional wreck, crying most of the day. It is all part of the processing though, and I am starting to feel a little better.

That's enough for now. Next time I want to tell you about my safe thing, and safe place. They are very special to me.

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