Peer support subsequent to trauma contributes to full recovery

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EMDR Therapy, Dissociation, Flashbacks And Self-Harm

Discussion in 'Therapy' started by disconnect, Jul 1, 2010.

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  1. disconnect

    disconnect Active Member

    This could be quite triggering, so please be safe when you read this.

    I've been seeing my current T for just over a year now. She's practically saved my life. We've tried EMDR before, but I've been far too distressed to deal with it. Lately, my flashbacks and panic attacks have become more intense and frequent, so we've started to try again with the process, hoping that this time, it'll be more successful.

    She asked me about certain aspects of a flashback I'd been having recently about my Dad (I won't go into details) and as I tried to stick with the memories, I had a flashback and dissociated. During this time, (I was unaware of this at the time) I was digging my nails into my arm and scratching so much, that I really messed up my arm. I've struggled with SI a lot in the past, but I haven't been actively SI'ing for a year now and suddenly, whilst dissociating, I ripped up my arm pretty badly. It wasn't until she pulled my hand away from my arm and told me to stop, that I saw what I'd done and it scared me that I couldn't control my actions.

    The past couple of days since my session, I've been extremely disconnected and haven't been able to concentrate properly and I keep repeating 'Please stop' over and over again. It's really freaked me out that I'm dissociating again so badly, that I can actively self-harm without actually knowing.

    Has anyone ever done this before? Is it normal? Will I re-connect to myself soon? (it's been 2 days of wandering around and feeling like a ghost). If anyone can offer any words or reassurance it'd help massively.

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  3. krillco

    krillco New Member

    What you a re experiencing is a very difficult and frightening thing. Powerful emotions can be very intimidating, but you are being courageous in working through them. Please contact your clinician and share with her/him what you are feeling, and follow their advisement.
    Meredith Monthcomery likes this.
  4. vallie000

    vallie000 Member

    I know about the ghost feeling. When I get the ghost feeling, it is because my brain is trying to figure out what's going on. Something new has happened and I'm trying to get a grip on it. For me, the ghost feeling is a good thing; it means movement forward.

    In your case, I can't be certain of course about what's causing the ghost feeling, but maybe it means your brain is trying to connect the self-injury behavior to past traumas and is trying to bring them into current awareness so the injuries can be healed.

    I know the overarching confusion and Anxiety you must be feeling because nothing is making any sense, but your brain is working furiously in the background to heal itself.

    Try to relax if you can and let the healing process do it's work. Someone is watching out for you and our prayers are with you.
  5. disconnect

    disconnect Active Member

    Thank you so much for the responses. It's amazing to have people who can understand & relate to similar feelings/actions.

    vallie000 - the thought hadn't crossed my mind about connecting the SI to the trauma and it's definately something to think about. They do say all these things are linked, don't they? Like memories being sparked off by the tiniest ember.

    krillco - Thank you for your words, it means a lot to me that my actions show courage, even when I don't actually feel it inside.

    The scratching at my arms must've been something instinctive within me, as I honestly can't recall doing it. Maybe it was connected to the injuries, or maybe it was how I dealt with it when it was all happening and being back in that place in the flashback, made it physically happen?

    Thank you.
  6. syrinx

    syrinx New Member

    It is really your therapist is informed, and I hope that since this happened in front of her she re-evaluates her use of this technique at this time. Stabilization needs to come before directly confronting trauma, you need to feel like you have solid ground to stand on.

    I hate that ghost like feeling, I was triggered that badly due to a bad job and would get stuck like that for days too. What helped me was pinpointing the moments where I felt the least out of it. If I could pay attention to even part of a movie, I'd watch it and keep pulling myself back. Lots of outside stimulation often helped. Being in the sun, and walking in safe places. Sometimes eating a favorite food would help ground me a little. I also would sing to my favorite songs and put the stereo up. I'd feel myself coming back into my body, and the ghost like times got less prominent and less intense.
  7. disconnect

    disconnect Active Member

    Thank you for the advice on how to ground yourself whilst in that ghost-like state. I finally reconnected to myself last night and I cried so badly and that 'Little Girl' inside resurfaced once more. I don't want to do EMDR for a bit, I'm too scared to do it again.
    Meredith Monthcomery likes this.
  8. syrinx

    syrinx New Member

    Yeah, the crying has happened to me too when I've reconnected. Sometimes I've been able to turn it in my favor, enjoying that I have that emotion and recognizing I am grieving and hurting over something I never got to heal from.

    Regarding your therapist, she really needs to take a break and doing something else. EMDR can be really effective, but it is not the only treatment. Also, Prolonged exposure and EMDR have mainly been study in "single incident" PTSD. To get through such a tough therapy other means of coping, containment and grounding need to be in place. There are plenty of methodologies that treat these skills. In CPTSD the first line of treatment is stabilization and safety, and even when working in the later stages it is expected that a return to working on safety may need to occur. You have the right to ask for what you need, you're the consumer, and you are you and in the end you are the Expert on yourself.
    disconnect likes this.
  9. disconnect

    disconnect Active Member

    Your reply made a lot of sense, thank you. I'm really close to my T, so I know I can ask for what I need, but I don't think I know what that is? I do need to do some safety work though - it's a really big problem for me.
  10. Iam

    Iam I'm a VIP

    HI Disconnect. I have to say how impressed I am with you continuing to work thru this. I had a severe dissociation a few weeks ago that lasted for a couple of days. It was due to taking a step that my therapist suggested. A friend came a got me, took me to the coast for the day. On the way I cried in grief for the first time. After that the dissociation was so intense that I couldn't understand what our waitress was saying to me. I had to have my friend translate, no joke! We then went to the beach and she just held me while we watched the waves. That grounded me and pulled me out of it, I think because she made me feel safe and protected.

    In retrospect, even though the dissociation was so traumatic in itself, I recognize it as a huge step forward. Knowing that makes me willing to keep trying to do the "hard" stuff.

    When I have had a tough time of it, my T backs off for a session or two and lets me calm down a bit. Then we start in again on the next step.

    Funny that you should comment on Krilco telling you that you are courageous. My T told me that in a reply to an email I sent him when I was freaking out about sending him a part of my timeline that really embarrassed me. "I have nothing but compassion and respect for your courageous journey". Somehow that statement made me feel ok, that he understood and respected me even though I feel so impure.

    The truth are courageous. You have made it this far when others would have quit and you are continuing your path in healing! You are an encouragement to us all ;o)
  11. alyxa

    alyxa New Member

    I did six months of EMDR and it was very helpful, but very difficult. Sounds like you know you may need to break for a bit, then take another go at it. I am in that odd place feeling like I need to return to it, but unsure if I am stable enough or have proper support.

    I would never allow myself to cry and it was this same therapist who helped me to understand that your brain will take a break. We only cry for periods of brief time and then we have to break and recharge and we may cry again. I think it helped me feel safer to let go and cry because I had some sense of not being out of control, vulnerable.

    EMDR is tough; you are very brave!
  12. disconnect

    disconnect Active Member

    Thank you so much for your responses - it's so amazing to talk to others who can relate to situations and emotions. Reading the experiences with EMDR is really helpful to me and knowing that it's going to be insanely difficult, but it's OK, because it needs to happen for me to grow, 'let it go' and be able to move on.
  13. Iam

    Iam I'm a VIP

    Awesome Disconnect. I am looking forward to hearing about your progress. My T brought up trying EMDR and I kind of backed off because I was afraid it would be too intense considering I am terrified of being overwhelmed by emotion. You are doing great! Maybe I will be encouraged enough to try it ;o)

    And Syrinx....whoa, the thought of actually crying in front of my T????? I think it is great that you can do that. Wish I could.....
  14. disconnect

    disconnect Active Member

    The past week has been complete hell. I'm crying all the time, feeling distant again, crying constantly about every little, tiny thing that's upsetting me and taking my anger out on my T. I've text her so often today and she says she thinks I need a break. I took that as abandonment (funny how I always make that connection now..) and I felt so alone. EMDR has really stirred things up for me and I'm scared now that everytime I zone out, I'm going to have a scary 'revelation'. My T thinks I've hidden something deep inside that is preventing me from moving on. I just feel stuck and I hate that feeling. Everything's messed up and I feel so unsafe and fragile. I'm really, really struggling and I don't know why.
  15. Iam

    Iam I'm a VIP

    You are struggling because you are unearthing stuff you have buried for a long time. It's scary to do that Disconnect. The closer you get the harder it gets.....the good news is, on the stuff you already have processed....those won't hit you so hard anymore ;o) The stuff that is hard today will be easier and hopefully laid to rest tomorrow. Keep forging ahead Disconnect, take a break when you or your T think you should. I think we all need breathers, time to absorbed the hard things that have exhausted us. It's all part of the process, including the breaks ;o)
    Meredith Monthcomery likes this.
  16. disconnect

    disconnect Active Member

    Thank you for saying that it's part of the process, as I keep thinking how I feel or hopw I react isn't 'normal', you know? I have this thing in my head that I can't be fixed.
  17. dharmaBum

    dharmaBum Well-Known Member
    Premium Member

    I've been receiving EMDR for 6-9 months weekly, and more and less frequently. I realized that the treatment provides me relief, but that it also brings deep seated trauma and the accompanying affective flashbacks to the forefront. Sometimes continually. At times I have requested more or less treatments in order to assimilate and normalize between treatments. When the trauma engagement is super-high, as you have described, I have sometimes had treatments every two or three days. I have also designed and adapted EMDR exercises to use for desensitizing/deescalating trauma-based reactions when I am at home/outside of treatment. They absolute help me, and I will gladly share them via this thread if you are interested, or you can search my profile for the posts. Only you know what is right, helpful, and timely for you though.

    When I first started counseling for PTSD my provider said I was not stabilized enough for Exposure therapy. He didn't exactly use those terms, and I didn't believe him. But I have been through EMDR reactions like you are describing (am kind of in one right now) and can see how that could have been very dangerous in the beginning when I was highly suicidal and thought that all of the childhood Abuse I experienced was my fault.

    Keep in contact with your mental health provider and/or seek additional professional care. I'm glad you can use this forum to get feedback when you need it!
    disconnect likes this.
  18. disconnect

    disconnect Active Member

    Wow, that sounds really useful. If you could share your thoughts and techniques that you've found have been of great help, I'd definately appreciate your input.

    My T said she'd spoken to her supervisor and told me her supervisor had thought that EMDR focussing on the past was being blocked by something else. We did a scale thing about how true I felt some statements were and how I felt if I were to solve said problem. The conclusion was that it all came back to my parents and how they spoke to me and treated me when I was growing up. We concentrated the EMDR on that and she made me think about telling them how angry and distressed they had and still do, make me feel.

    I feel incredibly vulnerable at the moment. Lost and alone. Very angry and anxious. It's so difficult. I'm meant to be doing some exams this week and I'm getting wound up at the slightest things. I've noticed that I'm retreating back into 'Little Girl' me a lot more often lately and I feel stuck at that age right now. I lie in bed and cry 'I want my Mummy' all the time and I find myself
    completely disconnecting and crying my heart out.

    I hate feeling like I'm floating around in nowhere land. I often escape from myself and I can't reconnect again for a while. I don't want the flashbacks anymore.
  19. dharmaBum

    dharmaBum Well-Known Member
    Premium Member

    Disconnect- sorry I couldn't get back to you sooner.

    Do you do desensitization exercises in EMDR? It's like a fast alternating bilateral stimulation while you simply focus on the most distressing feelings without trying to resolve anything. You do it for about 15-30 seconds, take a break, and then return to the original distress. You repeat this about 4 times, take a break, and then do another group of 4 repetitions. At the beginning you define the distress explicitly and rate your SUDS. Then after 1 or 2 groups of repetitions you rate your SUDS again, and repeat the process until you feel significant relief. You may get insights about the distress during this de-escalation exercise, but the idea is to only focus on repeated imaginal exposure until it diminishes, not to delve deep into the trauma like you would in a session with a practitioner.

    I first used alternating audio tones w/headphones to create the bilateral stimulation, but now I do eye movement on my own. I sight out two things in my visual field that represent significant differences left-to-right, so that if I can see one, I can't see the other. Then I feel I'm getting a broad enough visual sweep to be engaging the visual bilateral stimulation.

    Please talk with your EMDR practitioner about the appropriateness of trying such exercises at home. They should not increase your distress or heighten the range of triggering stimuli, but each person reacts differently to EMDR, especially depending on the length of their traumatic experiences.

    I'm really going through issues similar to yours with EMDR. Although I was in EMDR for prolonged rape traumas and sexual abuse, I could talk about that. If I had to talk about what my childhood was like, even the most seemingly benign senses of being "misunderstood", I would fall apart. I kind of "black boxed" that era of trauma, but have been approaching it a bit more in EMDR recently- it is still evoking very difficult feelings between sessions, but the desensitization exercises help.
  20. disconnect

    disconnect Active Member

    Yeah, I've done that a lot. I've found it triggers the dissociation which has been a HUGE problem for me. I'll continue with trying to break past these barriers that are caused by the dissociation and see what happens. Thank you for your words, they mean more than I can explain. Thank you.
  21. Lucycat

    Lucycat "Wisdom begins in wonder." ~ Socrates ~
    Premium Member


    I too have been having EMDR for childhood sex abuse. I have found it very hard, but also very rewarding. The first few sessions I cried throughout, but we just carried on. I was so please with myself when I managed to get through a whole session with no tears, and then on the last one I was crying again!! I told my T. I keep a box of tissues with his name on it!

    At the beginning I just could not go there back to the trauma. So it was more gentle with me thinking of it for just a few seconds at a time. I was told to imagine a line and go back along that line to the trauma and then quickly back to the present. I would then have the bilateral audio stimulation afterwards. We would repeat this numerous times each session sliding back and forward from trauma to present, then clicks. As time progressed the time I was able to spend with the trauma got longer and easier. The last time, without me noticing the change in technique, my T. did the clicks while I was 'in' the trauma. He said that I just could not have done that in the beginning. I did dissociate in the early days but always got 'dragged back' as my T. could see it happening. It is so hard to explain that to anyone who has not experienced it, so thank you for sharing your stories.

    I have no more EMDR planned at the moment. I started it back in February and we think that, finally, all the episodes have been dealt with. He has warned me though that more things might crop up and I should not see it as a failure if I need more. There was only one event that we actually repeated the EMDR on three occasions before I could really let it go. Every other one has worked with one session.

    There is no doubt that EMDR is not an easy option, but my T. was explaining to me how many hours of exposure therapy it takes to get to the same end result. For me getting better quickly was important and I was determined to go through the pain. I wish more people would write their positive outcomes of EMDR. I have read so much negative stuff about it. However I cannot go out and tell my pals how effective it is without going into the whole story .....
  22. disconnect

    disconnect Active Member

    Thank you for sharing your story with me :smile: I think it's amazing that you were able to keep persisting with EMDR and that you found it helped you, even though you found it distressing.

    My T is away now for a week, so I won't see her until the second week in August. I guess half of me is welcoming the break of intensity and the other half is scared of being without her. It's silly, isn't it? I want her, but don't want her. Push and pull. I can't trust anyone and although I trust my T completely, deep down inside, I feel like I shouldn't, or that I'll lose her if I talk about things (in the past, everyone I've gotten close to has left me) and that leads to dissociation.

    I find myself shutting down a lot more often in our sessions now and crying so hard that I can hardly breathe. This is one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do and it's very overwhelming to me. It's making all that anger, hurt and pain creep out from every part of me and it's draining to feel them so intensely every week.

    I'm petrified of everyone and everything and I don't want that anymore.
  23. Lucycat

    Lucycat "Wisdom begins in wonder." ~ Socrates ~
    Premium Member

    Hi Again,

    I guess your therapist is soon back from holiday. Mine is just going away - again! It will be 2 weeks before I see mine again.

    I did have a further EMDR session since I last wrote. I was not expecting it, but something came up in discussion and he simply said,'well, let's work on that today'. And yet again it worked. I have not had to go back over that particular issue and it is weird to think back just a couple of weeks and see how intrusive the problem was.

    Don't worry about the tears - just keep breathing:wink:
    You do not need to think about being strong or what your T. is thinking. This is YOUR time, and your chance to work through all the crap. At the end you will be able to leave it all packaged away and only drag it out to think about IF YOU WANT TO!

    Best Wishes

    Lucy x
  24. Iam

    Iam I'm a VIP

    I have a question about EMDR. My T and I decided that it might be helpful for me to try EMDR. He is not certified in it so obviously I will have to go to someone else for this therapy. We decided that I will do it in conjunction with my therapy with him, meaning I will still continue to see him weekly as well.

    My question is this. Has anybody here done EMDR with a different therapist while still working with their primary one? If so, how much detail do you have to go into about everything, not just the traumas? Did you do anything to prepare yourself for it?

    Trust is a big issue for me, probably like everyone else here. My T said that in this case maybe I need to trust more in the technique than total trust in the relationship with the therapist.

    The psychologist I've chosen is a female, which is also another factor. I have a harder time trusting women than men because of the emotional abuse I have suffered from my mother. Funny when you think about it because when reading my timeline it's been my father did this, my father did that. Anyway, he made an interesting comment about that. He said when a person choses one gender over another because of trust issues, that at some point when enough progress has been made in therapy the client should meet with a therapist of the gender that they are uncomfortable with. That it aides in the healing process.

    So, I will be calling this therapist and setting up a session for sometime in October. I sure hope it's worth it as she is 1 1/2 hour drive from my home.
  25. Lucycat

    Lucycat "Wisdom begins in wonder." ~ Socrates ~
    Premium Member

    Hi Iam,

    I only have the one T. for all, so I can't answer that. But I do know what EMDR is like. During EMDR sessions I did not have to go into detail with the T. I had to YHINK about the experience/trauma rather than verbalise it. That is much easier as I just did not have the words. I know understand my difficulty in saying it out loud is because I was too young when the trauma happened to have the words then...

    What you DO need to describe to the T. is what is happeneing inside your body during EMDR. At first I just felt numb and just kept saying nothing is happening. But as we went on I DID feel changes, sometimes pretty subtle and sometimes more obvious. These don't have any apparant connection with the trauma, but the T will work that out for you.

    My trauma was all from a male, and yet I am very comfortable with my male Therapist. I just feel that a trusting relationship with the T. is more important than everything else. Time has to be taken to gain this trust before any actual EMDR takes place. Also during this time we established the rules for feeling safe. I saw my T. for several weeks before he thought I was ready to start EMDR. I have had numerous sessions, and although there are no more planned at this stage, I would not rule it out if more memories surface. I still my T. every week or two.

    I did not have any trust in the technique before I started. It sounded bonkers then and still does, but that does not bother me at all as I know from experience that it works. I trusted my T to give me the best treatment.

    I hope the EMDR goes well for you. Do not worry about it. There really is nothing YOU can do to prepare for it, it is more of a matter of 'going with the flow'.

    Lucy x
  26. Iam

    Iam I'm a VIP

    Wow, ok Lucy, that helps me a lot. Thank you, thank you! I am glad it is working well for you. Yes, I totally agree that it sounds does EFT, but people say it works and that is all that matters to me. Thanks again for the info ;o)
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