Long post; be warned!
For anyone who has read my previous blogs posts before, you know that I have anxiety and depression stemming from a pretty traumatic childhood, and exacerbated by a pretty shitty adulthood.
Last year my depression and anxiety battered me pretty badly after finally seeing a specialist for my Chiari Malformation. Between hours in MRI machines getting countless scans, and waiting literal months between being able to see my doctors, there was a hurricane. We were without clean water and electricity for almost 11 days, in over 100 degree weather. And as we live directly beside the Florida Everglades, we are pretty remote, with limited access to help and provisions. I have never been so sick. During this time it was completely impossible for us to receive any kind of contact from the outside world. Even our cell towers had been damaged.
So when we finally got power back and got the call to go in to not only see my neurologist, but the surgeon as well, at the same time, I was pretty shaken up. The verdict was surgery. But not just regular, old surgery. Emergency, as-soon-as-we-can-get-the-prelim-tests-done surgery. In fact, it was so rushed that no one caught the anemia. My three hour surgery turned into a seven hour surgery because I wouldn’t stop bleeding and almost died. When I woke up my hands and arms were black and blue from the amount of times they tried to put an IV in me, only to have it explode on them. I ended up getting a line in my femoral artery.
If you look closely you can see the bruises from the blown veins on my hands and arms.
Waking up was almost as traumatizing as needing the surgery. And the 13 week recovery process for brain surgery is not fun. They removed skull, a bit of brain, and shaved down my first vertebrae in an attempt to make more room for my brain. In the process they had to cut the major muscles of my neck, leaving me with no range of motion and unable to bear any weight. It’s been something like ten months and I’m still in the process of recovery. My neck muscles are still trying to heal. I have very little core strength. I can’t even wear my camera strap around my neck.
Around May I was in a black hole of depression. The only reason I left the house was because of my camera. When I say photography saved me from myself, I’m not being flowery. Without my camera, I think I would have been much worse. Added that I really don’t have a lot of emotional support from my non present family, I felt as if I were destroying my husband’s life with my problems, and that didn’t help either of us.
I had been seeing a therapist for a few years now, and she had helped me a lot. But the problem is that we kept having to cancel appointments for whatever reason, and then we would just not make another one. Currently I actually haven’t seen or spoken to her for months because she forgot to call me back to reschedule. I know her daughter just started college, so I’m not mad or anything. Life just sort of overwhelms you. Obviously, since that’s what I’m talking about anyway.
SO! Here I am functioning as well as I can despite the terrible depression, wanting to cry and scream from the anxiety. Have panic attacks because I felt like life ruining garbage. But doing my best to hold it together because my husband needs someone to rely on just as much as I do.
One day a coworker told my husband about a therapist he’d been going to see that changed his life. The therapy involved an electrical apparatus and meditation of a sort. Now, I know this sounds like one of those infomercials they play at two in the morning. But this guy was super adamant about this therapist and his treatment. And my husband was currently looking for a new therapist.
Hubby has ptsd and mental issues because of the army, and they’ve not helped him be able to cope well with life. But he’s also one of the smartest people I know. He could probably give Elon Musk a run for his money with a little self esteem. The therapy sounded weird, but we decided to check it out.
The therapist was a great guy. I really liked him when we first met him. He told corny jokes and didn’t try to brush off our concerns. The type of therapy he practices is called EMDR therapy, and it’s actually derived from electroshock therapy. But instead of it being scary, you basically hold these two small electrodes in your hands, and after talking to the therapist about your issue, they give you something to repeat to yourself, and you sit back while the little things buzz away in your hands. Supposedly it uses rapid eye movement to help you reframe traumatic memories and emotions, making them easier to process. You still keep the bad memories, and they’re still bad. But you are able to adjust how you react to it, and it helps you adjust your overall attitude and trauma into healthier coping behaviors.
(Something I found on Pinterest with some useful info!)
Hubby was super scared of starting it at first, but I assured him that if it didn’t work, we’d leave and not go back. But we should try it because it might help. After the first session he turned into a completely different person, but in a good way. He approached strangers, he had conversations, he made new friends! When we went to Supercon he had no problem going up to complete strangers and asking for photos with them. He talked to all the vendors and bought art from them. Then he made the decision to go back to school.
He’s having a fantastic life right now. And I swear it’s because of the EMDR therapy. He went in maybe four or five times and that was it. He hasn’t had to go back. I’m so relieved and so grateful.
But I think the most terrifying moment for me was when he pushed me to do it, too. My life is too weird, there’s too much shit to unpack, I’ll drive the therapist crazy, I’m too dysfunctional! He wouldn’t listen to any of my excuses. Honestly, I just didn’t want to relive any of the bad things again, even if it was for the 45 minutes of one session. I had also been diagnosed with dissociative amnesia when I was about 5, so my memory was SUPER non existent on parts of my formative years. Adding to my concern that the therapy would just be a waste of time for me.
Well, he kind of gently manhandled me into it, and I mostly went because I knew I should, not because I was excited to go. That first session was hard. But the doctor and my husband helped me through it, and when I finally walked out, I felt like I had let go of something that had been stuck inside my chest for a very long time.
And I’ve only been gaining more and more self esteem and surety since I started. After three appointments, I feel amazing. Like a human being. When was the last time someone told you they felt like a human being? How novel is the concept of actively feeling like a person? And believe me, I know how crazy that must sound to someone else. But for someone like me who has only ever been treated like a parcel, something to own or use in an argument, the difference is astounding. I can see the people in my life clearly now. And I realize my worth compared to how they barely recognize me. Just from sitting back and telling myself I deserve to be loved and respected, while holding on to two little vibrating things.
I want to tell everyone about this. I want everyone to know that they can do this. You can actually be happy. This has helped me so much. And my therapy isn’t even over.
I will keep you guys updated on how the rest goes. We haven’t reached my medical diagnoses or subsequent breakdown yet, so that should be interesting. And I’m definitely preparing some other fun things to write about as well! The last year has been pretty bad, so I want to take it back.
Here’s some info on EMDR:
From what I understand it’s sometimes not common, or easy to find a therapist that does it, but if it sounds like something you’d like to try, I encourage you to look for someone who is qualified to do it. There also seems to be different ways of doing it. My therapist doesn’t use music, but others do, etc. Find what’s comfortable for you. And I don’t mind answering any questions!