So I got through my first two sessions of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy, and I can tell you this is not a therapy for the faint hearted.
For those who are unfamiliar with this process (as I was) it works like this:
The therapist sits very close to the patient, and I mean close, almost knee-to-knee. She then moves her hand back and forth in front of the patient's eyes. Some therapists hold an object in their hand, others (like mine) just use two fingers close together. The back and forth movement is quite rapid and sweeping from far left to right. I (the patient) am to follow the movement with only my eyes, keeping my head still and sitting still. While doing this (the first time) we talk about the traumatic experience, in subsequent sessions I only have to visual it.
Walking into my first session, I had known that we would be using May 28th as the trauma we would be focusing on, but I was thinking we'd be using the events of the entire day, i.e. my finding Bob dead in his bed, calling 911, paramedics, police, the men in black, etc. etc. but no this was not to be. Our focus has been simply on the most traumatic part of the day, which was me, waking up, finding him dead.
So the visual is this -- I wake up, am startled because the sun is shining and Bob didn't wake me up with his usual "Good morning! The sun is shining!" and so I call out to him, receive no answer, run to his bedside, find him on his back, eyes wide open staring at the ceiling, and me screaming his name, trying to shake him awake and screaming No No No! over and over and over again.
And as the therapist moves her hand back and forth, we go through this scene, reliving it, over and over and over, sometimes 15-20 times during our one hour session.
Oh. My. God.
Of course, there are breaks in-between where she asks me how I'm feeling both physically and emotionally, she writes down my reaction, asks if I want to continue or visualize my "safe" place for a moment, take deep breaths etc. Then after the one hour session ends, we talk about how I am feeling once again and compare that to how I was feeling at the beginning of the session. It's quite amazing the emotions that break through, some like anger, I did not expect. And this anger was directed at Bob, like "After all I did for you, this is how you pay me back, you bastard!" Whoa. I was so pissed I wanted to kill him, but couldn't because he's already dead. ha!
The only light-hearted part of the session was Kona, who usually lies by my feet during therapy, but could not do this because the therapist was sitting so close to me and so I had put Kona to the side and told her to "stay". Unfortunately that day, my therapist was wearing a skirt, and, unknown to us, part way through the session, Kona somehow wiggled her way between us and suddenly up popped Kona's head from underneath the therapist's skirt! Oops! (I noticed at the next session, my therapist was wearing pants -- lesson learned.)
Anyway, I can't even tell you how shaken up I was after the first session. I almost puked on my therapist. She's lucky I didn't. I went home exhausted, both physically and mentally. I slept 13 hours straight that night (I have had been trouble sleeping).
Yesterday I saw my shrinkologist (you know psychologist or psychiatrist -- whatever she is, I always forget, so I just call her my shrinkologist) and told her I was doing EMDR with my grief therapist and she told me that she was proud of me for taking this step. That the unexpected emotions (like anger and guilt) are things I've been holding inside and need to get out in the open and release them in order to heal. She also said it will be a long process, sort of like digging a swimming pool in your backyard with only one shovel as a tool. And just like digging a swimming pool with a shovel, I will be exhausted.
It's hard work. My next session is Thursday. I'm not sure how well it's working, too early to tell, but I'm not giving up yet.