Today is therapy prep day. A few months ago my therapist decided that I would be in charge of all of our session, I decide what we talk about, I lead the conversations, and she sits back and listens. I hated her for it, and even though I’ve gotten more used to it, sometimes I still feel like I don’t know what we are doing. I tested her that first session, and she told me that we could sit there silently the entire session but she wasn’t going to jump in and save me. She was true to her word, and I was pretty upset with her because of it.
The change in how we dealt with therapy sessions had a lot to do with negative transference. Anytime she became even the tiniest bit authoritative or pushed me a little, I’d shrink back from her. She explained that I have an issue with authority in general, and felt threatened by it. We were essentially playing out the relationship I had with my father. I was angry with her mostly because I wanted things to stay the same. I wanted the comfort and familiarity of that relationship and her room was the closest to it. I remember her saying, “Danielle, I’m not your father.” I just whispered back, “I know.” But part of me wished she was him. Is it bad to admit just how much I miss my relationship with him? It’s taken some getting used to the change, and I was really hurt when the dynamics between my therapist and I were altered, but I’m also aware of the positive influence it is having.
Unfortunately, I sometimes feel a little lost on what to bring up. Lately, I feel like our discussions have been a little bit scattered, and I haven’t been digging deep into anything. I don’t know if it’s just because there isn’t enough there to talk about or if I’m just evading the issues at hand. This weeks prep feels the same. I don’t have one singular discussion that I feel is significant enough to fill the entire session.
Last week we did cover one vital topic, we discussed what led up to the rape. It’s the most detail I’ve discussed with her on the topic, but it also felt safe. I’m so uncomfortable telling her what exactly transpired, it’s just not the kind of thing you talk about, and I feel like in this way we are taking baby steps in that direction. It was important for me because I had an incident with a prior therapist where I tried to bring up the fact that I was raped and she shut the conversation down before I could say anything really. She basically told me that she isn’t a trauma specialist and that it was something I needed to discuss with someone more qualified. She also made statements that left me feeling as though she doubted what I was about to tell her. In a quick summary, she felt that because I have a history of abuse it’s very possible that sex and abuse become synonymous in my head. It was truly unfair because she made that statement without any clue what had happened, no detail, other than my mention of rape. She is proof that there are some poor therapists out there.
It has made me really insecure and unsure of myself when it comes to talking with my current therapist about this. Part of me is terrified of telling her the details, but part of me is desperate to be heard. I know for certain that what I experienced was rape. There are no other words to describe what happened. The person who did so intentionally meant to hurt me, and what transpired was violent, both physically and sexually abusive. But there is part of me so scared that my therapist might question my experience the same exact way the prior therapist did, although she has given me absolutely no reason to believe this. She was the one that asked me if I’ve been sexually abused. She is the one who watched me struggle so much during EMDR when such images came up and even though I couldn’t bring myself to tell her exactly what occurred, I was able to allude to what happened. She’s been nothing but supportive and empathetic.
I felt this huge wave of relief when I described the events leading up to the rape. That story leaves very little to the imagination about whether or not what occurred next constitutes as sexual abuse. I feel like I no longer have to worry about being believed by her. I wouldn’t have to ever tell her any of the details of what would occur next in the story in order to be believed.
With that tangent over with, I need to decide what to discuss for tomorrow.
#1. Not getting weighed by my psychiatrist. This ought to be a fun conversation. Truthfully, I can’t decide whether I want to hit my psychiatrist for scaring me like that or hug her for not making me go through with it.
#2. EMDR. I need to get ready to go through another round of this. I mentioned at the end of a session not long ago that I’d like to go ahead and get back into EMDR this summer when I don’t have to worry about work.
For anyone who doesn’t know what EMDR is, it’s a trauma processing model that helps decrease the stress around traumatic events. But the process itself is grueling, things usually start to feel a whole lot worse before they begin to feel better. Basically, it works by mimicking the REM cycle. The REM cycle, while you sleep, is important because it is during this time that you process the events of the day, but for those of us with PTSD, the REM cycle sorta gets stuck and we don’t process the trauma as we should. Instead, we keep reliving it. During EMDR, your eyes track an object, for me, it’s simply my therapist’s fingers, back and forth in the same manner your eyes move during sleep. The idea is to bring up the distressing image and just allow your mind to go where it goes as it processes the trauma.
The best way I can describe EMDR is it’s like controlled flashbacks. Typically one image after another comes up in rapid succession. The idea is to try and put the images you see on a movie screen so to speak, instead of allowing yourself to relive it. Every few seconds, your therapist will stop and ask you what it is you are seeing. This helps to ground yourself and keep one foot in the present. It also helps because if you really start to struggle, your therapist is right there to help you through it. I’ve had numerous times where I’ve dissociated and needed help grounding, and I had one pretty intense flashback which she helped bring me out of. The struggle with EMDR is that your brain continues to process the events for the next few days afterward and you are left on your own to deal with those distressing images. Some of those images are of things you had forgotten about until the image comes up as a horrible reminder. For someone with a lifetime of abuse, there is a lot of images back there to revisit and I never know what I’m going to see next.
Last time I handled the EMDR sessions incredibly well. I was really scared but very determined to get through it and to stay present and not dissociate. This time I’m much more scared because I know how much I struggled with the sexual abuse images that popped up during our last EMDR sessions. I’m not sure I have the same level of determination this time around, but I need to find it. I know a great deal of my fear stems from the fact that I will have to give out at least some details of what occurred. I’m also scared to see it all again, detail by detail, and to be left with those images on my own. What caught me by surprise last time, especially when it came to being molested as a child, was how disgusting I felt. I just wanted to go home and take a shower.
Another issue that presents itself, is that I don’t know memories need to address. I thought if I got through the worst of it, dealt with the trauma that led up to my PTSD, that I’d be finished with EMDR, apparently, that isn’t how it works. But so many of my abuse memories don’t feel distressing. I honestly don’t know what needs to be tackled and what does not. I’ve got three memories that I know are worth processing through, but I don’t want to get through that and think that I’m done if I’m not. I also get this feeling that there is some significant stuff back there that I can’t remember like it’s just barely out of my reach. I don’t know why I feel this way, I just do.