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#229981 - 06/09/08 11:51 PM EMDR (long and triggering)
BJK Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 08/02/07
Posts: 1526
I've been doing some in depth EMDR for seven months now, and as I get closer to the 1 year anniversary of when the stark realization of what exactly it was that I went through when I was a child, it pays to take some time to reflect where I've been and how far I've come.

I remember the first few EMDR sessions were all about "safe place" training. I have learned that my safe place is more a frame of mind than anything else, and I have learned to find it in some of the most stressful of situations in day to day life. In fact, if I was able to get nothing else out of EMDR, the ability I have learned to deal with triggers as they happen has been a tantamount aspect to my recovery as well as my success in my professional life.

The first real EMDR session I had was pretty ugly. We were focusing on a situation I had at work where I was triggered, and the focus of the excercise was to simply try to find my way back to my safe place. Unfortunately, I couldn't help but to compare it with some of the things that I had endured as a child. This opened up a huge can of worms that took over a month to close back up again. All of those emotions came rushing back all at once, and it was not fun.

But since then, even though I was scared to return to the EMDR, I have learned how powerful it can be. We have tackled two memories thus far, and it is amazing how those two memories affected my every day life.

I'm going to describe these memories as vividly as possible, so this might get a little triggering.

The first memory was from about the age of 3. My mother used to babysit a girl who lived down the street, and the two of us would generally eat lunch together. I remember, as a child, that there was always a fuss about trying to get me to drink my milk. I never liked the stuff. On this particular day, we had grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup for lunch with the customary cup full of milk. I didn't like tomato soup, either, so there was obviously a bit of a ruckus in trying to get me to eat anything but my sandwich. The milk, however, was sour, and I don't know if my mother realized it or not. It was the last bit from the carton, and the girl my mother was babysitting got a fresh glass from a new carton. I remember that I was crying as I tried to choke down the clumpy sour milk, and I gagged as I had nothing to wash it down with besides the tomato soup that I also loathed. After several tries to gulp down my milk, my mother had enough. Apparently, she hadn't realized that I had just taken a mouthful of milk that I was trying to swallow as she clobbered me unawares in the back of the head. Sour milk went up my nose, a lot of it, and then I vomited. All of this mess ended up in my tomato soup, and I was forced to choke it all down nonetheless.

How does this memory affect me today?

The fact is, I barely remembered the incident until doing some EMDR work on it. However, I have had a hard time, over the years, even watching others drink milk. When I see a child that has a milk mustache, I have to choke back gorge in my throat. I have found that, recently, this horrible backlash has begun to fade. Hell, I even let my niece kiss me on the cheek with a brand new fresh milk mustache just a couple of weekends ago. Also, there is the PTSD that is associated with my mother's incessant desire to clobber me in the back of the head when I had no clue it was coming. If I knew it was coming, she'd psyche me out a couple of times before following through. Somehow, this has developed into an irrational fear of balloons (among other things). A few weeks ago, at work, something thought it would be fun to fill one of the boss's offices up with balloons while she was on vaction. A group of people literally spent dozens of hours blowing up hundreds of balloons, and the end result was that someone had to pop all of those balloons to dispose of them once the joke was done. That was pure hell for me. In the past, my DID would have kicked in, and I would have done something completely irrational without any memory of even doing it. Instead, I was able to find my safe place long enough to go out and explain my dilemma to the balloon popping crew. "Hey, guys? I'm right inside that door there, and it's extremely stressful in there. Every time you pop one of these balloons, I jump about three to six inches in the air. I have nerves of noodles, and they're about shot right now. Is there any possible way you could take this out to the parking lot?" Without a moment's hesitation, they agreed. The problem was solved.

Now this was a pretty minor success, and it was my first foray into the world of EMDR. The memories, as I try to tackle them, get progressively more traumatic. Ironically, when I was rating these memories, I came to the realization that shame is a much more traumatic feeling for me than fear. The next memory, although it originally centered on fear, has come full circle to represent shame as well.

I was about the same age as what I have affectionately begun to refer to as "The Milk Incident", but this cause and effect of this memory go quite a bit deeper than just the memory itself. In actuality, this memory triggered a whole host of other memories, including the realization that a flashback I had last autumn was an event that actually happened. Now this might seem a little odd to some, but I actually remember being potty trained. I was treated like a dog, and there are two specific heavily triggering memories that serve to make up the next stage in my EMDR. This is still hard for me to write even after all of this work.

Little boys, even as young as two years old, get erections from time to time, and they can make potty training quite challenging to the poor parents that have to deal with the runaway stream. That was the precursor to a flashback I had last autumn, where my mother was absolutely livid that I had missed the toilet. Instead of just cleaning it up, or instead of just showing me how to clean it up, she had to make absolutely certain that it was ingrained into my head that missing the toilet was a no-no. She rubbed my nose in it. I'm not sure if that happened more than once or not.

At about the age of three, we were shopping in a Target store when I was incessantly asking her to take a bathroom break. I got yelled at over and over again until finally the dam broke and I wet my pants. It's common for three year olds to wet their pants, and it's really nothing to be ashamed about. I've spent the last 30 years trying to live down the shame of that incident because she couldn't stop at just punishing me. She brought me to the ladies bathroom, pulled down my pants, and tried to cut my penis off with a scissors. I was quite uncooperative, and I ended up with a bruise on the side of my face for my efforts. After all of these years, I remembered my mothers reaction after she punched me for the first time just recently. She was an opium addict who walked around in a daze for most of her adult life. After she clobbered me, she had an "oh, shit...what have I done?" moment. That was when I was able to escape. I didn't bother to pull up my pants. I ran out of the bathroom through the aisles of Target with my pants around my ankles screaming my heads off. Back then, people just didn't ask questions.

When we were going through this memory in EMDR, I had to stop one session short. I became so overcome with shame and anger, at the same time, I lost my connection with my safe place. It was like I had found a great big ball of goo that had crusted over, and once some of that crust had been removed, the goo that was on the inside was releasing a stench of emotions I could not handle. I could feel myself starting to diss out, and my therapist worked with me for a half hour making sure I was able to get back to the safe place. We waited about two months before trying again, and the task was much easier after having a chance to discuss the emotions that had started to leak through in the first attempt.

How does this affect me today?

Quite obviously, I have developed an extremely averse reaction to natural bodily functions. I'm not talking about your standard "oh, gross" reaction. I mean that I actually have a lot of shame about them. For years, I couldn't use anything in a public bathroom besides a urinal out of fear. The thought of other people using the bathroom disgusts me, and I can't even think of changing a baby's diaper without having to choke back bile. It has been a severe problem, but the EMDR work has provided a breakthrough. Back in March, my sister came to visit with her kids. They were all dressed up to go swimming, and the littlest one, who is two, was wearing those swimming diaper things that aren't very absorbant. As fate would have it, she had an accident while she was sitting on my lap. A year ago, I would have totally freaked out even though I didn't get very much on my. It was mostly on my hands and on my lower pants leg. I would have had to take a shower and change ALL of my clothes provided I would have been able to stop myself from gagging. Instead, I was able to wash my hands and just walk it off. It was only a little bit on my lower pants, and it was mostly water. It didn't stink, no big deal.

So how does this whole EMDR thing work?

Well, the best comparison I can provide is if how a person sometimes says a word over and over again, it tends to lose its meaning. That's really what the EMDR has done for me. The memories themselves don't really, nor have they ever, had a hold on me. It is the emotions that are associated with the memores that hold me. The emotions cause me to diss out, and the fact is, I'll probably never get over feeling those emotions when it comes to triggers. However, I am coming to understand that they are only emotions. I'm learning to feel them, and I'm learning to master them. As I sit in my safe place and relive these memories over and over again, the emotions they invoke tend to become like a word that is recited over and over again. Those emotions start to lose their meaning, and as a result, they start to lose their hold.

I have a long ways to go, as in my last therapy session we went through the list of memories I have that we are going to be going through at my own pace. There are a couple of memories in that list that fill me with a dreadful shame. I don't want to touch those memories, and I don't want to go through the emotions they invoke. It's my choice whether I do it or not, but I know that in order to become the person I want to be, I'll have to tread through.

After my therapist session on Wednesday, I'm taking about 6 weeks off. My therapist says I've earned it.

_________________________
Revenge is nothing more than another way of perpetuating abuse.

What the world needs now
Is some new words of wisdom
Like la la la la la la la la la.
-David Lowery

Having a friend who will keep a secret for you is worthless compared to a friend who won't keep a secret from you.

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#230244 - 06/11/08 12:00 AM Re: EMDR (long and triggering) [Re: BJK]
Hauser Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/12/05
Posts: 2962
Loc: United States
Hi again Bryan.

We've discussed these events in your life many times in the past. All of this is still fresh in my mind, believe it or not. It's little wonder that you've been struggling with addictions and various other avenues of escape all this time until recently.

I believe you might actually be growing Bryan. I mean........becoming more self-aware......and making sense out of a crazy and, may I say it, terrible childhood.

Have you been working with this same T the whole time? Was she the first one that you interviewed with? Just curious.


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#230269 - 06/11/08 05:00 AM Re: EMDR (long and triggering) [Re: Hauser]
BJK Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 08/02/07
Posts: 1526
This whole recovery thing is strange in a lot of ways. I never think things like, "boy I've made a lot of progress today" or "this week sure was a good week". Instead, there are simply moments of "I would have handled this differently a year ago".

I got lucky with my T. I started seeing her as an addiction counselor, and I was referred to her through my employers' referral program. It turns out that she is also a sexual abuse counselor, and since there are no male sexual abuse counselors in my area that are covered by my insurance, I got extremely lucky in that she is one of those people who are never satisfied with "knowing enough". She continues her own studies in an effort to help her clients.

I've seen different therapists over the years, but since I've been going headlong into recovery, this is the only one I've been seeing (besides my psychiatrist, of coure).

_________________________
Revenge is nothing more than another way of perpetuating abuse.

What the world needs now
Is some new words of wisdom
Like la la la la la la la la la.
-David Lowery

Having a friend who will keep a secret for you is worthless compared to a friend who won't keep a secret from you.

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#230271 - 06/11/08 05:23 AM Re: EMDR (long and triggering) [Re: BJK]
roadrunner Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 22045
Loc: Carlisle, PA
Bryan,

I hope this doesn't sound like I am blowing sunshine here, but I can see a lot of progress just from what you say in this post:

1. You can talk about things in detail and you can actually post about them. Could you have done this awhile ago? Do you see how important this is? Just your ability to do this is a way of rejecting the blame and shame. You are also rejecting the continuing power of abusers over what you say and do.

2. You are confronting and "owning" some pretty terrible feelings from childhood. Gaining a clear and cogent grasp on the reality of these feelings is the first step towards resolving them.

3. You are asking for the support you need and trusting that you will get it. Implicit in that is the belief that you are worthy of help and deserve support. And of course you do!

EMDR isn't an area I know much about, but it certainly seems that you are fortunate to be with this T. She recognizes occasions when it's time to back off, and it sounds like she is doing a good job guiding you and keeping you safe.

And once again, bro - welcome back!

Much love,
Larry

_________________________
Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking my freedom highway.
Nobody living can make me turn back:
This land was made for you and me.
(Woody Guthrie)

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#230322 - 06/11/08 11:46 AM Re: EMDR (long and triggering) [Re: roadrunner]
BJK Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 08/02/07
Posts: 1526
Thanks, Larry.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that I still have a pretty uncomprimising view of religion in general. To be truthful, I think this is a result of my recovery, not a result of the abuse.

To be frank, though, I've gotten to the point in my recovery where I'm sick of being the victim. It's really about the one snippet of wisdom that I was able to gain from 12-step programs (which I also have a pretty uncompromising view of). I am learning to take control of my life while letting the things I can't control go.

I've come a long ways, but still have a long ways to go.

_________________________
Revenge is nothing more than another way of perpetuating abuse.

What the world needs now
Is some new words of wisdom
Like la la la la la la la la la.
-David Lowery

Having a friend who will keep a secret for you is worthless compared to a friend who won't keep a secret from you.

Top
#230323 - 06/11/08 11:56 AM Re: EMDR (long and triggering) [Re: BJK]
Hauser Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/12/05
Posts: 2962
Loc: United States
You got my attention with something you just said Bryan. "I'm learning to take control of my life while letting the things I can't control go."

What are these things that you can't control? What was it about them you were trying to change? Why and when did you decide to stop trying?


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#230326 - 06/11/08 12:07 PM Re: EMDR (long and triggering) [Re: Hauser]
BJK Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 08/02/07
Posts: 1526
Originally Posted By: Hauser
You got my attention with something you just said Bryan. "I'm learning to take control of my life while letting the things I can't control go."

What are these things that you can't control? What was it about them you were trying to change? Why and when did you decide to stop trying?


I'll answer this later tonight, Alan. I have work to do now:)

Bryan

_________________________
Revenge is nothing more than another way of perpetuating abuse.

What the world needs now
Is some new words of wisdom
Like la la la la la la la la la.
-David Lowery

Having a friend who will keep a secret for you is worthless compared to a friend who won't keep a secret from you.

Top
#230408 - 06/11/08 07:36 PM Re: EMDR (long and triggering) [Re: BJK]
BJK Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 08/02/07
Posts: 1526
Ahh, yes. The issue of control. Isn't that really what is at the root of all abuse? This desire to control manifests itself in many different ways, and it is my beleif that even though the need to control our environments doesn't necessarily always lead to abusing others, it is the one element that contributes the most to it. The need to control our environments can manifest itself in so many different ways.

There are the little things that add up, for instance. When I used to be a line cook, I used to get so angry at the couple who would come in five minutes before close to order the menu item that made the biggest mess just after I had cleaned everything up. I used to expend so much energy complaining about how the tickets were coming in one at a time all afternoon that I was too tired to complete the tasks that were required of me. In my present occupation, I work as a dispatcher. My job is to fix messes and to make order out of chaos. However, I learned over the past few months that it doesn't pay to try to force other people to do their jobs right so that everything goes perfectly. We all make mistakes, and just because all of everyone else's mistakes end up on my plate doesn't mean I can make other people make fewer mistakes. I used to expend so much energy making sure that other people were doing their jobs right, I had no energy left to do mine. Since I have let that go, and I have developed an attitude of trying to find ways that we can all work together to make things flow more efficiently, not only has my job gotten easier...but other people have started making fewer mistakes!

This can get more severe in nature as well. Acting on anger is nothing more than an attempt to make someone else feel guilty, and the desire for revenge is nothing more than a desire to control one's surroundings. I can't make someone else feel something I want him or her to feel without commiting an act of abuse. It's a natural reaction to want to do so, and that is why abuse tends to perpetuate itself.

When it comes down to it, all we can control is how we react. We can't force others to react in a certain way, and we can't force others to accept our point of view. We can't even force others to accept who we are because of our point of view, and that is what is so difficult for me. I've gotten to the point where I don't necessarily need anyone's acceptance except for those who accept me unconditionally, but that doesn't mean that I will give up fighting when I feel someone's actions or opinions are unjust. There is a fine line, though, between controlling what we have to say in a debate and trying to control our debate opponents' opinions. My goal when I debate is to teach, not to change my oponents' minds, and when I walk away from a debate with an opponent that still doesn't see or understand my point of view, I consider that a failure on my part.

I failed last Spring when I couldn't get anyone to understand what I viewed, and still view, to be a double standard. I freaked out because I couldn't control their understanding. I hope I am a better person than that now, but at the same time, I don't know how else to tackle the subject. My view on religion...that is who I am, and it is just as important of a part of who I am as my desire to protect children.

Bryan



Edited by BJK (06/11/08 07:39 PM)
_________________________
Revenge is nothing more than another way of perpetuating abuse.

What the world needs now
Is some new words of wisdom
Like la la la la la la la la la.
-David Lowery

Having a friend who will keep a secret for you is worthless compared to a friend who won't keep a secret from you.

Top


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