My EMDR conclusion

Post by Lisa Snopek

Having recently opened up about my PTSD diagnosis and my journey into the world of EMDR therapy, I decided a conclusion was needed.

I needed to let others know that you can come out of the condition, successfully on the other side. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) does not have to take control of you and your life forever.

I needed twelve sessions of  Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)  and I was given it on the NHS.

I finished my therapy feeling much more educated and mentally aware of how my brain and my body works. They work in tune, and if the tuning is out, then the effects can be detrimental. I am amazed at how clever and effective this treatment is.

It can be the alternative to taking psychiatric medication for years.

I am PTSD free now and I have been discharged from the wellness clinic.

I can calmly think about my three episodes of cardiac arrest that were caused by ventricular fibrillation whereas in my previous article, I described what a physical and emotional wreck I could become in seconds.  I am now able to recall my memories unemotionally and they no longer fill me with fear or panic.

I can think back to my most horrifying flashback of standing in my father in law’s doorway and feel absolutely nothing about it, other than it happened!

I was unable to speak, and my vision was blurry. I was desperately trying to communicate that there was something wrong with me but having lost control of my functions it was not possible to do so. I can recall it now without any stress.

List, Note, Office, Business, Suit

All traces of the event have been expelled from my body’s memory too. They have been released so I no longer react physically when I watch scenes on tv that act as reminders. I can watch people gasp for breath on telly programmes now without joining in.

In my first article I shared how I relived my whole event during my first EMDR session.  I relived physically the pain I had felt, I re-enacted every time I died, I felt the temperatures my body experienced during my trauma and my body would physically jump and jerk when it remembered being defibrillated each time, both out of hospital and in it. I could feel the pain in my ribs and the pain and hissing in the left side of my head and ear whilst I was being worked on in resuscitation.

I also had horrendous pain in my lower stomach. My EMDR therapist put this down to my bowel starting to shut down. My organs were starting to fail. The body takes a while to completely shut down and so it can remember physical sensations, even when a person’s brain can’t -either because a person has lost consciousness or has died.

Since that previous article I have experienced other memories during EMDR that I think are worth sharing if anyone is considering having this therapy.

I was sitting following my therapist’s finger wagging movements with nothing but my eyes during a recent session when I started to feel really cold. I noticed blue flashes of colour and white floating specks ahead of me. They would come and go and sometimes grew nearer to me before disappearing. I could feel myself getting colder and colder and I started to shiver. Holly, my therapist, told me at the end of the session that I had looked very cold throughout. I was jerking and jumping a little bit, nothing like the amount that I experienced during my first session, but I was aware of a feeling of pressure in my left ribs. I jumped up in the chair, with a sudden sharp pain in my left groin. I felt very tired and heavy and was aware of tingling and pain down my left leg.

I was remembering the lights and flashes that I could see when I had been semi-conscious. Also, it seems that I had been aware during my treatment that my ribs were hurting. The pain in my groin we suspect was me feeling when the medical team inserted cooling tubes into me to put me in to therapeutic hypothermia.  I was in an induced coma at the time, but I had felt it and my body remembered. That totally explained why I was experiencing the extreme feelings of cold. I could remember my body temperature being brought down.

It may be worth mentioning that after an active EMDR therapy session you feel absolutely exhausted. It’s not distressing as you work your way through the memories but moving nothing except your eyes is physically tiring; as is moving memories around in your brain. I would often leave in a feeling of fog. After that particular session, I had to sit in the car telling my husband to crank the heating up as I was shivering.

Pay, Digit, Number, Fill, Count, Mass

The session the following Monday took off from that last point. I was still seeing blue flashes and white floating specks that would fly at me and then vanish. I would jump in the chair as they flew at me. There were also a lot of green lights. Again, these were all memories from a state of unconsciousness. Flickers of lights glimpsed, noted but not processed.

I could feel my jaw, face and neck were all aching too. My mouth felt difficult to move. No surprise really, as I had breathing apparatus in my mouth and my jaw had been forced into an open position.

I started counting in my head – 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 and then I started again 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14. I didn’t know why or what I was counting but it obviously meant something.

I was very much aware again of there being pain in my left leg and the tingling sensation.

This was an informative part of the EMDR process as no cause has been found for my episodes of V Fib, though there had been a few suggestions. One possibility was that a blood clot had hit my heart. The pain in my leg during my EMDR sessions fits in with this theory.

I had been bitten on my left leg by a dog four months before my event happened. Though it had seemed to heal well, I had had a lot of leg pain inside and had been to see a GP who increased my dose of a nerve drug.

The EMDR reminded me that I had felt a lot of pain and tingling in my leg in hospital.  My daughter also confirmed this, as she told me that when I came round in intensive care, I was complaining about my leg hurting. Needless to say, my doctors are now very vigilant with me and my children concerning clotting.

It was about a week later that I remembered why I had been counting. All of sudden it just came to me. When the medical staff were bringing me round from the induced coma and removing all the tubes and equipment, I had been sat up in the bed as they pulled and tugged, and it was really painful. So, I counted in my head as a way of distracting myself to see how long it would take.  The memory had been processed finally by the EMDR, moved along to the correct part of my brain and I could then remember.

Number, Pay, House Number

I had discussed with my therapist that I felt the EMDR had worked towards the end of my treatment, but I mentioned I was finding myself thinking a lot about the time that I could not remember and trying to fill it in. I had lost 48 hours’ worth of memory before my cardiac arrest and that bothered me. I was constantly trying to remember.

My therapist explained that as I’m the sort of person who always knows where they are and what they are doing, I was now finding it difficult to deal with the lapse in memory and the lack of control I had had during that period of time.

I answered the questionnaire again that I had taken when I first got my diagnosis. My score when I referred myself back in August 2017 was 60 percent. My final result was 19.5 percent, the normal anxiety range for people not suffering from PTSD.

To help me try to come to terms with the fact that there is a period of time I can’t remember, I had an EMDR session with the aim of installing information instead of removing it. It’s not the normal strategy of EMDR therapy but it has been known to work with cardiac arrest survivors, who have memory gaps.

So, I started with the phrase “I don’t remember, but that’s ok, it doesn’t matter.”

I then followed the finger wagging by moving nothing but my eyes and I started to recall memories from when I was younger. It worked, and I have hardly given it a moments thought since.

This therapy can’t repair the physical damage that has been made to my brain, but it has helped me deal with what I knew, but had forgotten about, and moved it into the correct storage areas of my brain.

Making the decision to have this therapy has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.

 

 

 

 

 

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).