I started meeting with Linda because I needed to leave a bad marriage and couldn’t. Things had been going downhill for years, our children were suffering and major depression was my constant companion. Even so, whenever friends, family, and therapists urged me to get out on my own, I would immediately avoid the issue with a lot of fairly lame excuses. I truly believed it was impossible to change the situation, because in order to leave the marriage I would have to stand up to my husband, something I was terrified to do.
My fear didn’t make a lot of sense – my husband was an alcoholic but never physically violent. Still, whenever an opportunity arose to express what I felt about our relationship, my mind would go blank and the words would dry up before they could leave my mouth. In those moments I could feel the capable, smart woman that I knew myself to be fading away, leaving behind a small, terrified victim.
I was seeing a different therapist at the time; after a year of talking and talking and not being able to make any changes, she recommended I see Linda and explore EMDR therapy. As Linda and I began regular meetings, I learned that for a young child sometimes even common experiences can result in trauma, and that very strong, basic emotions like terror and rage can be improperly stored in the brain. Any reminder of the trauma stirs up the feelings again. You can’t talk yourself out of the terror, because your brain isn’t calling up those emotions from a verbal, “thinking” place. Instead the feelings are coming from the part that reacts automatically to threats to keep you safe from physical danger.
So I learned to recognize when those old fears had been triggered – it was the dry mouth, the “blank spot” in my thinking, and a way my left arm had of freezing up on me sometimes. Linda and I talked a lot about my childhood, my relationship with my parents and my issues with my husband. During certain sessions, I would actively focus on my terrified feelings and the negative beliefs about myself that went with them, and we would do EMDR. To me, EMDR seems a little similar to hypnosis, in that the process involves eye movements and definitely took me back to some long-ago emotional places. Fortunately, Linda has been working with this process for a long time and I never felt unsafe during the sessions. Her gentle support enabled me to really let the fear come up and out so I could let it go. I can’t begin to express how light I felt afterwards. It was like a festering wound had been drained and cleaned. For a little while I would actually have a sense of empty space inside, where the old terror had once been, but after a while I would just have a sense of healing.
I worked with Linda for about six months. I think we did EMDR sessions three or four times. She also taught me a technique called EFT, which I was able to use on my own to purge more old self-destructive emotions and beliefs. Somewhere during that time my husband and I agreed to call it quits. I’m now living on my own with my children, and I’m free of depression for the first time in my life. I still have off days, but now my bad moods are temporary, like other people’s. My old feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness are completely gone.
Before I worked with Linda I never realized how much fear was driving me around. I would stay in bad jobs and abusive relationships; avoid new or stressful situations; give up activities I loved the minute they started to get challenging. My self-confidence was shrinking and my world was getting steadily smaller. Now, life seems full of possibilities!