My decision not to carry on with trauma therapy and EMDR – finding my own way forward

Around two and a half years ago I thought my life had completely fallen apart again and I ended up in hospital. I have reached this kind of ‘crisis’ point so many times in my life and even though it wasn’t actually as extreme as some times in the past, it felt like one of the most devastating to come back from. Before this I had spent a couple of years making more progress than I had ever been able to do. I had started volunteering, doing a work experience placement, getting my first job, being able to have a relationship which at times helped me to feel a sense of connection and happiness I’d never felt before, getting a place on the access summer school at uni and started my degree of Community Education at university. I finally felt like everything was falling into place but this brought with it so many difficult emotions.

For the first time in my life I truly felt like I had so much to lose. Everything felt so fragile, and I constantly felt like if I made one wrong move everything would fall apart. I had been on a roll the past couple of years, full of determination that I was going to get to where I wanted to be. At the same time, I felt disconnected from most things because it felt like I was living a life I wasn’t supposed to be living. I wasn’t supposed to have made it here. I wasn’t even supposed to be alive. I wasn’t supposed to be the person who gets to feel happiness and achieve the things I want to. I was supposed to mess it all up. That is the story I had been telling myself for years about how my life was supposed to go, because that was familiar to me. Because of this, I couldn’t cope with everything being okay for once. It got too much, and I spiralled downwards again with all of these things going wrong just like how I expected it was supposed to be. When I was in hospital I got referred for trauma therapy and I thought this was the only thing that was ever going to properly help me.

As we probably all know, waiting lists are long and I waited around 2 years to start the therapy. During the time of waiting to do the therapy, I have been on such a strange but healing journey. I didn’t choose to start processing the trauma, but in some ways I don’t think we always get to make this choice. After years of avoidance and distraction, it was coming out of me whether I liked it or not. The loss I felt from having to take time out of uni, losing my relationship and the life I thought I had built up, helped me start to feel the loss I felt for so many other things that the trauma had taken from me as a child and as an adult. I can’t describe this process in any other word except grief. For the first time in my life I grieved, without trying to get rid of it, and I can tell you I have never experienced something so painful. Without using my usual ways of avoiding this pain, I felt raw and weak as if nothing could protect me. But some part of me knew somehow that this process was the beginning of me protecting myself. To let myself feel and to eventually learn how to comfort myself, I was building a new sense of strength that I’d never had before and it’s carried me forwards to the place I’m in now.

I started the therapy just before lockdown and tried a couple of times to do EMDR but over lockdown I have realised that this is just not something I want to do. I have heard so many experiences from people about how much EMDR has helped them and whilst this is obviously brilliant, I have become okay with it not being my way forward. Over the past couple of years I have felt pain that I didn’t even know it was possible to feel. I still feel it sometimes, but it is so much less extreme. I have processed so much of what I need to process, and I’ve developed ways of coping that will see me through processing the rest. Despite the ups and downs, and loss, I have also experienced good things in my life over the past few years that I didn’t know I could ever feel. I have bounced back and am half way through my degree now and have started a peer worker job. I have had moments that make me realise what it’s like to feel alive, and to feel connected. That is what I want to focus on now. I can see the benefits of processing traumatic memories in EMDR, but for me I don’t want some of these things to be anywhere other than in my memories of the past. I don’t want to bring them into the present. I have already experienced enough pain and whilst I expect there to be many more losses and pain throughout my life because that’s what makes us human, I think I know now how to grieve for them and find a way forward.

As lockdown comes to an end and as difficult as I’m finding adapting to all the new changes going on right now, a part of me also feels ready to move forward. When I feel those moments of happiness and connection now, I no longer feel like that is something I’m not supposed to feel. I am supposed to be alive. I am supposed to live.

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

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