Trying Something New in Therapy

That freaking cat flashback has not left me alone for weeks.  I’ve been trying to talk to the part of me that experienced that horrible event and trying to find out what I need to do to calm that part down.  Honestly, I wonder if that part of me can ever be calm.  The shock and repressed rage and grief from that incident seem enough to fill up a whole life, yet here I am, grown, safe, capable…a warrior queen.

MT ( my therapist), recently learned a new expisure technique, so we decided to try it with this memory.  I guess the exposure and repetition is supposed to move the memory to a different part of my brain and help me to process it differently.  The repeated exposure is also supposed to help desensitized it for me.  This technique gives me at least 15 different exposures to the incident over a couple of sessions.

We started with me making a time line of the incident where the cat died.  I had to put both positives and negatives.  My positives were that I screamed (self-preservation) and that I did not die.  After I finished making the timeline, I showed it to MT and talked about it.  That part was pretty easy, but there was a part at the end that surprised MT.  She looked very disturbed.  It was disturbing, but I forget that sometimes.  I had never told her the ending.  I think I’d gotten stuck on the cat before and not been able to go beyond that in much detail.   I felt very removed.  Then I had to write for 5 minutes about the first half of the incident and then for another 5 minutes about the 2nd half.  Oh, yeah, I forgot…between each step, we did deep breathing and some relaxation visualizations.  The person who developed this technique theorizes that it is impossible to experience the trauma when one is relaxed.  I’m really not convinced, but I’m going to go with it for now.  Then MT said it was time for me to read what I go written out loud to her.  I immediately wanted to flee and my body provided me with an excuse.  Suddenly, I had to pee and there was no waiting.  I told MT i was going to the bathroom, and she actuallyasked me if I was coming back and if I had my car keys in my pocket.  That made me giggle.  My purse was still on the couch.  I went to the bathroom, came back, took a deep breath, and stared at MT.  I couldn’t speak.  She told me that this was important and I could do it.  After a minute or two of her encouraging me, I read it.  Then I had to go to the bathroom again.  Craziness.  Then MT read me what I had written, preaching it with, I’m going to read you a story and it’s disturbing.  It’s in the past, it’s over, but you might have feelings.  She read it, we did more deep breathing, and then she read it to me again. This time, though, she wanted me to concentrate on continuing the deep breathing and also to tap myself on alternating knees to give myself bilateral input, like emdr.  We did that. Then did 10 minutes of breathing and relaxation. I left feeling not overwhelmed.  We have a two hour session scheduled on Tuesday to complete this technique with this flashback.  We will see how that goes.  So far, the flashback persists, although it’s possible that my reaction is less intense.

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4 thoughts on “Trying Something New in Therapy

  1. This is an interesting approach. I have also read that repeated exposure changes the way you experience the memory. On the other side of it, I have read that focusing on the memory can be re-traumatizing and it’s best to work with the beliefs and patterns you took from a traumatic experience. But maybe that is not for flashbacks.

    I hope this will work for you, because shit, what a traumatic experience. It would be good if it could lose some of its power over you.

    It makes me sad to read that the good parts were that you screamed and that you didn’t die. I mean, of course I’m glad you didn’t die! But it has to be pretty effing bad for that to be the best you can say about it.

    You’re such a warrior queen, Patty. You’re really brave to take on this horrendous stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, though you don’t write about details much, I get the sense you got a pretty heavy-duty and long-lasting exposure to hell. It’s a wonderful miracle that you emerged as such a loving and lovely person.

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  2. Hi Patty, I hope your other session went well and you are always in my thoughts. I wish I could take all this pain away from you and I would do so in a heartbeat. But you will get through and you are already putting this behind you through small little wins like this. Big hug to you my strong warrior queen ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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