My EMDR experience

I was born Lisa Marie Snopek and I am thirty six years old.  I have always been pretty fit and healthy without any real serious health issues.  That was until the day of the fifth of April 2017 arrived.

That day I travelled to Sutton on the outskirts of London to stay with my father in law from the South West.

About six o’clock in the evening I dropped to the floor like a tree trunk! Hitting my head and face on furniture.

My husband performed CPR on me until the emergency services arrived with the defibrillator.

I had cardiac arrests there and also in St Georges Hospital in Tooting when I arrived by Ambulance.  My medical team in hospital kept telling me, when I was up and about a week later, how really lucky I was!

I got on with my recovery but I was aware of something just not being right.

On realising there was a closed off feeling in the back of my head like there was a small cabinet in there that I just couldn’t reach, I had a chat with my Cardiologist who said it sounded like I had some Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

I went for an appointment with my GP who told me I could self refer myself to Options, the local Mental Health Unit. Or I could just deal with it myself as many people do.

I sat on the fence for a while thinking I’ll be ok, it will probably pass! It didn’t.

I noticed myself getting repeatedly upset whilst watching TV programs or films where someone suddenly died. Instantly I would break into tears. Not just that, but I’d start sweating and feeling anxious when people would stop me unexpectedly in the street or if a group  gathered around me. Working as a hotel receptionist dealing with groups is to be expected.

Whilst watching a film where a teenager died of a drug overdose, and I instantly reacted. I decided to try and get some help.

I called the number I had been given to refer myself, the very next day.  There was a cancellation that afternoon so I only had a few hours to wait to be seen.

During that first appointment, I had an informal chat about my issues and about my Cardiac Arrests with a Mental Health Worker.

I had to fill out a questionnaire about my symptoms and how I was feeling. My answers indicated that it was likely I had PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

There was a bit of a waiting list for  Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) which was the therapy my assessor thought would be the correct therapy for me.

He wasn’t an expert in it he told me but he would speak to someone who was and come back to me.

He sent me an email to say I was on the waiting list!

It was 5 months before I heard anything. An email came through from a therapist saying I was next on the waiting list would I like an appointment still?

My first appointment was a get to know you session.  Me and my therapist Holly chatted about what happened to me during the Cardiac Arrests and what problems I was experiencing.

I had to fill out a two page questionnaire on how I had been feeling during the week.  These same questions are asked every week at the start of every EMDR session . Sessions vary from an hour to an hour and a half.

We spent four sessions just talking about myself, my family and my upbringing. I became comfortable with her and felt at ease talking to her about myself. Usually I am a keep everything close to my chest sort of woman!

EMDR is a visual therapy and in my case a physical therapy. It is not a talking therapy. You give short indications of what your aware of mentally, physically or visually.

The images that you see in your mind that are causing problems are discussed in the planning stages and are visualised one at a time at the start of a EMDR session. Though until one image becomes processed, you have to stick with the same one.

You and the therapist have to sit diagonally facing each other and the therapist puts two fingers in the air and moves them in straight lines. In any direction that the therapist chooses.

We spent one session practicing, Holly my therapist moved her fingers from side to side and I had to follow with my eyes and not move my head at all.

After a very short  time of doing this on my first EMDR session I started to experience  some very physical body memories.

My starting image was of me stood in the doorway of my father in laws flat in London. I can remember that my husband was sat on the sofa with my two youngest children. I’m not feeling well stood in that doorway and I’m trying to communicate that to them, but I can’t.

I have lost the ability to speak and I am panicking.

Whilst following the therapists fingers with my eyes I started to get a feeling in my throat like I couldn’t breathe. I began gasping and spluttering for air.

My body was remembering what it had been through.  The therapist encouraged me through the pretty horrendous memories then asked me how I felt or what I could see when she stopped moving her fingers.

After that incident, whilst following her fingers with my eyes I began jumping and jerking around in my chair. I was remembering how I felt when I had the electrical energy passed into me via the defibrillator. I wasn’t consciously thinking about it but my body remembered.

It had stored all the trauma and I had not been aware that this was even possible.

I felt pain in my chest that made me call out and I felt pain in my ribs.

Through out, I was also experiencing symptoms of indigestion and coughing. I had forgotten but my body hadn’t!

It was really pretty unbelievable. I left feeling amazed and dazed at the same times.

Three times I struggled to breathe and three times I jumped and jerked about like I was being resuscitated with the defibrillator.

I had gone into Ventricular Fibrillation three times.

I knew through out the session that I was safe and that it wasn’t really happening to me at that moment , but it was my memory and it was weighing heavily on me.  The tears silently rolled down my face.

I was given a print out explaining how EMDR actually works.

Well the theory behind it is that when someone suffers something traumatising  the event may not be processed properly and stored in the memory part of the brain. The following with the eyes motion is known as bilateral stimulation. It is the same movement that your eyes make when you are asleep in the REM processing stage. Therefore it has been found to enhance memory processing.

A week since my first appointment on a Sunday night, settled down to watch Call The Midwife with my family. In the episode a lady was dying from a condition of the lungs. She was struggling to breathe and coughing up blood.

Within seconds of seeing this I was a hot mess, with tears silently flooding down my cheeks and I was gasping for air and breathing loudly. As quickly as the Flashback started it finished. My children were all sat around looking at me frightened .

My husband explained to them that it was my subconsciousness and  body remembering what had happened to me because of the EMDR Therapy that I go to on a Monday . He also explained to them that what  I had watched on telly had instantly triggered it.

At my EMDR Therapy appointment on the following day I informed Holly my therapist about my flashback and then we we went back into processing.

Starting again with the memory of me standing in my father in laws doorway unable to speak and unable to move. Though added to that picture now was the memory of me collapsing to the floor when I cardiac arrested the first time.

My previous EMDR session had resulted in my brain processing  that memory, so I could now remember it.

This processing session was much shorter in length, only half hour but the breathing and body jerking reactions had reduced a lot and were no where as violent. I no longer felt “Desperate” or “Powerless” either when I though about the memory at the end of the session.

Though I did feel exhausted and my brain felt foggy, like I had had a few glasses of wine. The channel had been cleared so I was no longer feeling threatened by it.

The next channel for me to process is as equally unpleasant for me as my doorway image used to be.

Memories of being treated,  wanting the medics to stop treating me because it hurt so much. I couldn’t take it any longer. I was thinking just let me go now, I won’t fight any more, I’ll go now!

Being unconscious I had no way of communicating to them.

I was powerless! Though now I’m so very grateful to them for what they did for me, but the memory of it still bothers me. Though I now understand in a few weeks it will have no more negative effect on me.

The brain and the body are amazing and we need to realise they work together and they are both affected by what happens to us and we should not feel guilty about our behaviour or mental state.

We should listen to what it tells us.

I for one am starting to feel a lot lighter and the back of my mind isn’t feeling so much out of reach.


Click on the following link to read more about  Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)

And the following link for more on  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Enjoy life

Guest post from Mick Schofield

This was originally posted into our Facebook group (October 2017) and received such a warm reception we thought it worth publishing to a wider audience.

Firstly, please don’t view into this post as me boasting and sorry about the length of it. I hope it may help others in the group.

My wife and I have just returned from a holiday, the first since my SCA 1 year 11 months ago. We booked a 3 week fly drive in North America, passing through numerous National Parks to celebrate us both reaching a ‘significant 0’ age.

Before going, I can’t deny that I had numerous concerns. Would I still be here, would I be legally allowed to drive, would I get travel insurance, would the holiday be ‘too much’ for my body, would the airport security checks be a problem, would the long flight be OK and finally would being at altitude during the time in the USA cause me problems?

A lot of my concerns were answered just before we went, the ICD technicians and my GP, both said for me to get out and enjoy it. My GP gave me extra medication because the prescription was due to run out during the holiday.

My insurance company was a bit more of a problem, two weeks before departure and after the ICD had undergone its 6 monthly check, they then sprung it on me by e mail, that they were happy to provide cover as long as the person responsible for my treatment said they were happy. (I chose to check with them that I did have cover for the USA with my declared condition because I simply do not trust insurance companies and I wanted something from them in writing in addition to their terms etc).

As I have not seen the consultant since my discharge from hospital, then who was responsible? To cover all angles I managed to get an OK from the consultant who treated me in hospital in time, (only because a friend of mine works alongside him). I told him exactly where we were going and what I wanted to do and the altitude.

The airport was no problem, the 10 hour flight was no issue at all. My experience of being at a mainly 6000′ above sea level in the USA for just short of 3 weeks turned out to be no more a problem for me than being at sea level. I actually went up as high as 10,500 feet. I checked trails and their severity before we left the UK and made a route before we left.

All of this took time and planning, but it turned out to be worth it. I accept that there were some places I did not consider trying to get to see, I knew the trail would be too severe. While going to those places I did go to, I just took my time and listened to my body whilst carrying 10kg of my camera equipment.

So what is the point of this post?

Don’t let the SCA stop you doing things, it’s a beautiful world we live in and you can still get out and see it if you choose to.

Enjoy life.

Stubborn old git, one year later

Guest post by Keith Lord

Well the last time I left a note was a couple of months after my SCA in September 2016. By November I had also suffered a pulmonary embolism caused in part, the doctors thought, by the implanting of my ICD.  So after another stay in the emergency unit I was put onto a blood thinner, Rivaroxiban and sent home when all seemed well.

A week later I was feeling good and got up in the morning and went for the obligatory emptying of the bladder and low and behold I nearly had another SCA when I pee’d blood instead of the usual, so much that I thought I would faint. Called the wife who called NHS who booked us an appointment for the next day in the hospital.

We had to get a cab to the hospital and went to ambulatory care ward, one look at the sample we had taken with us and was told “you are not going home!!” So another ten days being prodded poked and cameras inserted where men really dont want them inserted (my bladder was very clean on the inside), I even won a bet with the senior urologist when I insisted that their was nothing wrong with my waterworks and why didn’t he talk to my cardiologist about the blood thinners.  So, after him paying his debt to me (which I donated to the ward) I caused no end of fuss being a stubborn old man and insisted I be transferred back to cardiology.

Back on cardiology and all went well and dosage of blood thinner reduced and home I went. Was seen by the cardiac nurses who said, well you certainly know how to keep us on our toes and again I told them that I was not going to give in or up. A week later I found myself with breathing problems, initially I put it down to having maybe twisted a couple of the mending broken ribs. I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and noticed I had white nipples!!! So, call the wife, who called the cardiac nurse who was there within the hour who listened to my chest and said – I think you have pneumonia !!  So another blue light trip, because by this time I really could not breathe without any oxygen mask. At A&E there was much joking about  “your usual bed sir?” and “did you pre-book for this weeks stay?” etc. Anyway, guess who had picked up a hospital acquired viral infection which then led to the pneumonia and plueresy. Eventually I was released from hospital on December 10th.

Four life threatening occurrences later and the cardiac team were calling me Mr Miracle, in their experience no-one had been able to survive so much post SCA and still be smiling. Well, to say I took it all in my stride would be boasting and a lie, but here I am one year later and now in 18 days, I, my wife and family (who by now all have a small amount of PTSD)  pick up the keys for our adapted dormer bungalow near the sea. It’s been a tough year, perhaps more so for my wife, son and daughter, but we have got through it. There have been some very down moments and some great laughs, we have wonderful friends who have supported us. The damage to my heart is severe, left ventricle only works at 15% so getting enough oxygen to my brain means sitting down most of the time. But I have my driving licence back and a whole new area to discover at our new location on Anglesey, I was lucky to only suffer minimal recent memory loss so although I might forget what I ate yesterday I still have all my pre SCA memories. You will get down and fed up and it can be very hard, but try for humour and being aware that there is another go at life.  If you can be positive about what has happened.

It’s a wonderful life for a stubborn old git !!