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Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a type of therapy that can be used to help people with symptoms of many mental health issues. Originally developed by Francine Shapiro, the therapy has been most recently used to treat symptoms related to trauma. When I talk about trauma, I’m talking about someone experiencing either a psychological or physical distressing event. Sometimes it can be just one event, but for people like me, my trauma was concerned with several (linked) events that happened over a three-month period.
Not everyone who experiences a distressing event will develop symptoms of trauma, but in quite a few cases, those who experience traumatic events can be left with both physical and psychological issues. Physical issues can be in the sense of a continuous fast heart rate, or elevated blood pressure for example, and those issues can be treated with medication from a GP.
The psychological issues, on the other hand, are issues that may be more complex, and this is what we can call psychological trauma. Symptoms of psychological trauma can include things such as withdrawal, anxiety, fatigue, anger and being irritable.
When I first experienced a traumatic event, it was a shock. I was put in a position that I could not get out of, and that alone has made me a very cautious person when I am in new situations or around new people. Without providing too many graphic details, my trauma is related to domestic abuse which progressed from a ‘small’ violent event to then very dangerous situations which ultimately put my own life and my unborn child’s life at risk.
On New Year’s Eve a few years ago, I invited family and friends over for a party to help celebrate the start of a new year. I had planned this event with my husband (now ex-husband) for months and we both appeared to be looking forward to hosting family and friends. Everything on the night of the party seemed to be going well and the atmosphere was amazing – that was up until the point of my husband consuming far too much alcohol. While our family and friends were cheering and partying the night away, the first incident happened. My husband was very intoxicated and ended up hitting me numerous times, at one point in front of our family and friends. That night came to a very abrupt end when the authorities were called, and I was sent to hospital to get checked over.
I thought that the incident was just a ‘one-off’ and I initially blamed the amount of alcohol consumption that took place. I couldn’t have been more wrong! After the incident I sought counselling from a local domestic abuse charity, and I cannot thank them enough for their support. I was encouraged and supported in going back home to what I thought would be an empty house, and I got myself to a point where I was comfortable in my own home again.
A few nights after returning home, my husband appeared again and this time the violence was worse – at this point, there was no alcohol involved.
Over the course of three months, I was assaulted numerous times, in different locations and ended up in hospital on multiple occasions. Sadly, this also caused me to lose the child I was carrying as she was born at 19 weeks (no where near full term) and this is one of the things will more than likely never learn to deal with. My (then) husband followed me wherever I went and always caught me when I was alone. I can say that this individual is now no longer allowed near the public and is currently serving a prison sentence for what he has done. Although this makes me feel physically safe when I’m going about my everyday life, it has left me with some rather difficult psychological issues.
For me, EMDR therapy was one that I did not want to try. I had discussed it with my GP who had told me that the therapy would be emotionally challenging and I can say that it most certainly was. During each EMDR session, a trained therapist asks a patient to focus their attention on a traumatic event and while doing this, the patient’s eye movements are guided.
The aim of EMDR is to help the patient to reprocess the traumatic images to try and make them less traumatic and to allow the mind to heal from the traumatic events. Even though I was sceptical about attending EMDR sessions, the good news is that the sessions have worked for me and I am now in a position where I find the traumatic events in my life less difficult to deal with.
Although EMDR therapy has helped me to reprocess my traumatic events, I have also been involved with further support groups and sessions to help me manage the everyday psychological issues such as anxiety, depression and even a lack of confidence in myself. At first, I was reluctant to seek support, but after everything finally building up a few months ago, I decided to seek support from counselling and also a domestic violence support group near to where I live.
I have been asked numerous times ‘why didn’t you just walk away?’ – well I tried! My husband was not allowed near my house or me while charges were brought against him but in all honesty, that did not stop him. Wherever I was, so was he.
If anyone out there is being subjected to any form of domestic abuse, no matter how small you think the incidents may be, my advice would be to try and seek some support if you can. Talking to anyone will help to make a difference. Since seeking support, I have learned to deal with my issues and I am now at a comfortable point in my life where I can continue without the issues that I have previously had.
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