Striving to live in the present while coping with past demons without fearing the future. My journey with trauma, grief, anxiety & panic shared by my stories and through the expression of my poetry and photography.
How do you find gratitude in a world of never-ending suffering? How do you find gratitude in your own life if you live with the chaos of anxiety, depression and panic disorders?
Finding gratitude is a journey as individual to each of us just as our lives are uniquely different. For me, when I could easily be consumed by my limitations or simply by the news cycle, I like to check in and make a dedicated effort to see things with a grateful heart.
Some days it’s easy to feel grateful. I may have accomplished a goal, had a pleasant conversation with someone I love, or enjoyed a moment of calm and clarity. On bad days, when everything seems to feel off, whether depressed or hyper anxious, it’s harder to feel grateful. Oftentimes, on hard and challenging days, I need a gentle push back into the here and now to remind me to just be grateful for being exactly as I am. I think it’s those days when I consciously seek to find a moment of bliss and beauty that the feeling of gratitude feels more poignant.
Quietly, I acknowledgement that others are also suffering and that everyone is on their own journey, following their path, enduring their own pain, and walking with their own demons. It’s while in this repose that I can connect with the universe, nature, and all of humanity, sharing my thoughts and healing energies. What I ask of the universe for myself, I ask for all those who suffer. I find comfort in this continuing circle of energy and in the warmth of it’s flowing gratitude.
Just as you share in suffering, you can share in the joy of all that surrounds you. Take at least a few moments each day to pause and feel what is around you. What makes you smile? What stirs your heart? What do you find beautiful and special? What are you grateful for today?
Today, I am grateful for this blog and my ability to let words flow as both an aid to my healing and as an outlet for creativity. I am grateful that my feelings go forth into the universe as energy to be shared.
I said I would be writing about my experiences with EMDR therapy and It’s been awhile since my first post about it. I’ve had some difficulty writing about it because although the sessions and the treatment seem simple and straight forward, I find its effects anything but. Also, the nature of the treatment makes it hard for me to convey my experiences accurately with words.
A typical session begins by selecting a starting point for visualization. It can pretty much be in any location or situation I want but we’ve focused it around my trauma event. From the starting point I simply visualize and sort of watch a movie in my mind. As my therapist taps my knees gently, my mind takes me where it chooses, much in the same way your mind might wander from point to point while daydreaming. Initially as my movie plays across the screen of my mind I am taken many different places. It can be unrelated to the starting point of thought and/or the present circumstances, it could even be about last nights dinner.
I just realized I don’t actually know how long each tapping session lasts but after a time my therapist stops and we talk about where I am in my “movie” and what I am feeling both internally and externally. After that she begins again. As the session continues my mind, even if its jumping, is playing memories, feelings, perceptions and emotions across different points in my life. Most often it is within the timeframe of the chosen starting point from the beginning of the session. Again, she stops and we discuss where and when I am in my movie and the associated feelings.
We do this usually 3 to 4 times in a session. Sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on how much time is devoted to talking in between. Often times talking in-between is an analyzing of a situation, my perception of it both before and now, and any feelings and emotions associated with it. At the conclusion we might talk about each stopping point in this manner or a summation of the entire session.
There is no right or wrong in any part of this therapy. I am told that after the sessions your, or in this case my, brain keeps working behind the scenes. Although it’s unclear to me the exact mechanisms at work, the brain continually processes the experiences of the sessions; doing the work of reprocessing and re-association of events, feelings, and emotions into new and less traumatic and stressful associations. The consequence of which is to lessen or ultimately remove the traumatic triggers. For me these triggers are both in relation to PTSD and panic and anxiety disorders.
In the days after the sessions I notice a marked spike in my general anxiety levels. I’ve been known to have additional or more pronounced panic attacks and more episodes of agoraphobia. This heightened state usually lessons as the days pass.
Oftentimes it feels as though I am regressing by being more symptomatic but as the weeks have passed I have a greater understanding of myself and a clearer and better understanding of what’s happening to me both mentally and physically. By stepping back and looking at things as a whole I can tell I have, and continue to, benefit from this therapy.
I am not the typical EMDR patient addressing one specific PTSD traumatic event, but rather a series of events linked by trauma and debilitating panic and anxiety disorders. Consequently, the therapy is very much tweaked and adapted to my situation. I do not have sessions every week because my therapist has found I respond better having the extra processing time. The extra time allows me to return to a better baseline of functioning. From there we begin again.
Like many things, this therapy requires work, patience, and faith. I have hope that I will attain the best possible results from EMDR and will again share my experiences with it as things unfold.
Anyone who is plagued with anxiety of any form may be familiar with the difficulties of dealing with added stressors and the thoughts, feelings and emotions that intrude and hinder rational thinking.
I live in Florida in the path of Hurricane Irma. Her impending arrival was like a weight that sat on my shoulders, growing heavier each day. As if someone were piling on the weight until I buckled. Stressed beyond my ability to cope while trying to be prepared, I easily lost my thoughts and plans and had to stop, do nothing, and try to remember what it was I was about to do.
I wanted to escape, run, drive, or fly as fast as I could from my home to avoid the arrival of Irma. She veered east so the pressure was off a little. Against all the voices in my head we decide to stay put and hope her course didn’t alter. It did alter and again, while there was still time, we revisited whether to stay or go. Go Go Go, leave this place is all I can hear in my mind. Let’s get out now! I secretly scoured for flights. There are few flights out of the area. Those that remained are priced in the thousands. I checked random cities, any destination would do. I found nothing, or prices of $1500 to $3000 one way to go to Cleveland or Pittsburgh or Detroit; at this point I can’t even remember all the places I checked. They were all out of my price range anyway. Driving is an issue for me and was one of the factors in our continued decision to stay. I was uncertain of my abilities, even in this emergency to drive far from home. There was also the hotel room shortage from here to what seemed like the entire country east of the Mississippi.
So again we decided to stay. We made lists and I prepared while my partner was at work. I overthought everything. What to get, what to do if this happens or that happens. My mind raced 24/7. I couldn’t sleep and could barely eat. I needed extra doses of medication to maintain some semblance of order.
Irma is now on a direct path to our location. I knew we should have left is all I keep hearing in my head. Maybe I could have driven. Maybe I should have tried. Shoulda, woulda, coulda….. all the doubts and scenarios playing in my head like a loop of tape on a reel.
One more opportunity to leave and go stay with family on the other coast presented itself at the last minute. Do we go? Again, a million questions swirled in my mind at once. Is there gas along the route? How long will we be stuck there? Could I even make it? What if the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere? Our window of opportunity was slim, we’d have to leave within a hour to avoid the first rain bands along the way. My mind raced, my heart pounded loudly in my chest. I want to leave but I was afraid to leave. I was petrified in place. I couldn’t be driving, something that’s already difficult, in the rain under these conditions. We decided yet again to stay and the preparations continued. There were shortages now; no water left, gas was hard to find. I toped off anytime I would see a station that had gas. Will we have enough supplies? What can we do to secure our apartment?
It all seemed hopeless. Every moment was filled with regret for not trying to get out of Irma’s path. My thoughts were constantly of impending doom and death. I could already hear the roar of the wind and feel the thunder pounding in my chest. We’d retreat into the bathroom, the most interior room in the house, during the worst of the storm. I imagined windows breaking, debris flying in, and the roof peeling away. I could see and feel our struggle for life in our tiny bathroom. At times I was consumed by the fear.
Irma slows, prolonging the agony of waiting for her arrival. Every moment is panic. Every action is questioned and motivated by fear. Finally it seems as though we’ve done all we can. I still searched for more. We needed more batteries and I wanted nails. Why? In case I had to nail anything, something, to a broken window. I just wanted nails! We searched for nails the day before the storm arrived. I found one box. Intellectually I knew they were useless but emotionally I was relieved and satisfied. I had my nails. We were as ready as we were going to be. We made what little fortifications we could to the apartment and waited. The anticipatory anxiety was agonizing. I was so exhausted I don’t know how I remained standing.
What I’ve written about above is some of what happens to me, and I imagine others, when overwhelmed with added stressors that are above the normal baseline of daily functioning. It doesn’t have to be an impending disaster either, it can be the added stress of having to take my car for repair or somedays it’s just about anything out of the ordinary.
Fear is the enemy and as much as I have progressed in therapy it’s these times that remind me how much work I still have to do. I have the tools, I use them enough daily, but in these times they are forgotten as I slip into the familiar shoes of fear. To re-enter the fear loop I work so hard to break out of is disheartening, but sometimes it’s just how it is. Sometimes all you have learned, all your strategies and all you know to be true is hijacked by the fear and anxiety.
Irma arrived and it was scary, but honestly, her arrival was a relief in a way. The anticipatory anxiety was over, now all I had to do was weather the storm. We huddled through the worse winds in the bathroom, a few frightful hours. Fortunately for us it had shifted position a little and weakened by the time it reached us. The eye passed just to the east of us, yet somehow I think we escaped the worst of Irma’s wrath. It is bad in our area but at our house, in our immediate neighborhood, we were spared heavy damage.
In the end, for me the worse part of Irma was dealing with panic and anxiety. I am grateful that was the worst of my suffering and I hope to learn something from the experience for my future dealings with my demons of fear and anxiety.
My heart goes out to all those who suffered loss of life, safety, and property across Irma’s path as well as Harvey and the wildfires in the west. I send positive thoughts and energy to you all.
As I mentioned in a previous post I have been participating in EMDR therapy. I intended to report on my experiences and progress sooner but it’s taken me a bit of time to, shall we say, settle into the therapy. It is not an easy therapy, emotionally or physically. I thought in this first post on the subject I would give a description of he therapy from the web so that you may have an understanding of what it’s about. You will find some information below with two links to more detailed information.
I am receiving this therapy from my therapist. The same therapist I have been seeing for 1.5 years for talk and CBT therapies. Her recommendation and the fact that I trust her led to my agreement to try EMDR.
As it says in the definition of EMDR therapy, our first session was historical and informational in nature. Following that session we began with relatively benign subject matter to enable me to become accustomed to the way the treatments work. I had some difficulty visualizing while following her fingers side to side so we agreed after the second session to switch to a different tactile stimulation method. We use a left – right tapping that I felt more comfortable with.
There is a lot of information on EMDR on the internet, some of it quite subjective. I tried to link to two sites that presented the treatment in a more factual manner and in the way that is closest to my experience. In my next piece on EMDR I will go into more detail of my own personal experiences and opinions with the therapy. Until then, If you are interested in it I encourage you to read a little about it.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR therapy training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes.
More than 30 positive controlled outcome studies have been done on EMDR therapy. Some of the studies show that 84%-90% of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder after only three 90-minute sessions. Another study, funded by the HMO Kaiser Permanente, found that 100% of the single-trauma victims and 77% of multiple trauma victims no longer were diagnosed with PTSD after only six 50-minute sessions. In another study, 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in 12 sessions. There has been so much research on EMDR therapy that it is now recognized as an effective form of treatment for trauma and other disturbing experiences by organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization and the Department of Defense. Given the worldwide recognition as an effective treatment of trauma, you can easily see how EMDR therapy would be effective in treating the “everyday” memories that are the reason people have low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, and all the myriad problems that bring them in for therapy. Over 100,000 clinicians throughout the world use the therapy. Millions of people have been treated successfully over the past 25 years.
EMDR therapy is an eight-phase treatment. Eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) are used during one part of the session. After the clinician has determined which memory to target first, he asks the client to hold different aspects of that event or thought in mind and to use his eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision. As this happens, for reasons believed by a Harvard researcher to be connected with the biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, internal associations arise and the clients begin to process the memory and disturbing feelings. In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level. For instance, a rape victim shifts from feeling horror and self-disgust to holding the firm belief that, “I survived it and I am strong.” Unlike talk therapy, the insights clients gain in EMDR therapy result not so much from clinician interpretation, but from the client’s own accelerated intellectual and emotional processes. The net effect is that clients conclude EMDR therapy feeling empowered by the very experiences that once debased them. Their wounds have not just closed, they have transformed. As a natural outcome of the EMDR therapeutic process, the clients’ thoughts, feelings and behavior are all robust indicators of emotional health and resolution—all without speaking in detail or doing homework used in other therapies.
This country and indeed the world is a horrible place filled with hatred, inequality, misogyny, homophobia, islamophobia, and antisemitic behaviors, just to name a few.
Intolerance rules from the top down and lends justification to those who harbor thoughts to act upon them. It’s a sick and cruel world full of unprovoked shootings and mass carnage with no regard for human or animal life.
The toxicity of this time makes those of us already struggling with anxiety disorders and depression struggle all the more. And it has swelled our ranks with new sufferers at a time when privileged, uncaring, self serving, loathsome government officials want to strip away healthcare. They are causing the need for more but are to selfish, beholden, and blind to see that fact.
America, the self proclaimed bastion of justice and democracy leads the way in this new world order of intolerance, violence and hatred. We are where they want us; splintered, divided and fighting among ourselves. Slowly, democracy, if it ever truly existed, is fading.
For my own well-being I’ve vowed to not engage any longer in negativity. I keep informed and at times it’s a struggle to not virtually engage in the discourse, but it does nothing but cause me more turmoil.
I can only lend my voice to love, harmony, inclusiveness and peace. It is what I must do to survive, heal and thrive. It is what I must do to prepare myself for the bigger fights yet to come, for they loom closer on the horizon each day. When they do come we will all have to choose on which side we stand; love or hate, right or wrong. It is now, and will remain, that simple.
Love, light & peace…..always
“caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.” – Audre Lorde