2 steps forward, 1 leap back.
That is how the PTSD experience has felt so far. I had about 4 consecutive good days. I was ready to declare victory. Drugs win! I don’t need therapy, just a good dose of drugs. Or so I wished… but the crippling body feeling came back a few days ago and hasn’t gone away. Obviously, I’m very naive about this whole process. Or maybe just too wishful like Trump that it will all “just go away with the humidity.”
So today was my first EMDR session. EMDR helps deal with the original trauma moment when your brain was not functioning normally due to its natural fight/flight response. It helps reorganize the traumatic memory with the prefrontal cortex activated.
I had to pick a memory that causes pain to start with. I picked Steve’s cancer. I thought that would be easier than Jacob’s. A good place to start. The practitioner asked me to think about the first moment I can remember regarding Steve’s cancer. I oddly didn’t think of the time when I first found out. When Steve first said “they found something big in my lung,” but it was the moment I said those words myself.
I was on the phone with my mother and told her “they found something and it’s big.” And I remember the silence on the other end. My mother, not being one to not have something to say, was silent. It was brief silence, but I remember the silence. This was bad. I recall I was alone in my closet, a place where I was hoping kids couldn’t find me, and I remember realizing that this could be the end. And I sat in that closet. I didn’t go to Steve to comfort him. I can’t say I was wife of the year. I just sat in a closet and said to myself “they found something.”
And then through the session other memories came up. Just popping. Like the call I got during Steve’s surgery telling me they want to take more of his lung than we discussed. Looking for my approval. Steve, of course, had thought of this possibility and spoke to me prior. He was very clear, take as much as they can. And then I felt such fear. Such fear. How would I live without Steve? I couldn’t even answer a question without knowing his answer in the back of my head. That feeling came back as real as if it was happening. That feeling of unpreparedness. Of inadequateness.
And quickly then I recalled another moment that I’ve forgotten. After surgery we had a scare where Steve started not breathing well. Nurses flew in. Doctors. Alarms. He was transferred to intensive care. The whole time only thinking, “I need to get Steve’s parents here now! What if this was it? They are in New Jersey!”
I haven’t thought about any of this in over a year. There has been no space with Jacob’s cancer. There was no “post” to this trauma as it blended straight into another.
But today I am starting this hard work. I can’t pretend this is fun. I am just telling the truth as many have reached out asking what EMDR is like. Well…it’s tough and today I’m teary and tired. It brings out things that you have forgotten, but I guess really haven’t. BUT I’m sticking with it.
Anything to be able to feel lighter in this body that has me captive.