In March 2019, after taking the uncomfortable step of admitting I needed help, the BCRC signed me up for trauma therapy. Surprisingly, finding a trauma therapist was easier than finding a regular therapist. I didn’t need someone to talk to. I didn’t want to just cry or learn to look on the bright side or have a kind face nod with pity and agree with me about how hard life can be. I needed someone to put on protective gear, crawl down into this dank hole I called life, and help me fix this shit.
You might think that all therapists are capable of such things. That’s pretty much their job description, after all. Trauma is different. I learned that prolonged trauma, like that of a long illness, war, abuse and other types of chronic horror, activates parts of the brain that cannot be “fixed” with traditional talk therapy, specifically the amygdala which is responsible for the fight or flight response to fear as well as some memory creation. You don’t “think” with your amygdala in the traditional sense. It works before and simultaneous to logic, often without your direction or consent.
To heal these deep and inaccessible parts of the brain, I would have to try unconventional types of therapy. Turns out, talking the living shit out of my feelings wasn’t going to work no matter how hard I tried! There goes the last 2 years. #fml But, there were secret, mysterious skeleton keys to the amygdala out there. It felt like the nearly burned-out, dusty 40W bulb dimly lighting my life flickered back on when I learned that. I was seriously beginning to wonder if I was permanently fucked up in the head so this was a big relief.
Enter M, my fearless and certificated (that’s a word now) trauma therapist. Her and I began the process of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. (This video is an excellent explanation of the process.) Over the last 9 months I’ve attended regular sessions, 6 months or so of setup and now a couple months of actual EMDR. It has been a difficult but fascinating ride.
Now that my sessions for cancer trauma are nearing an end, I’m moving on to bigger and better things to worry about! And that means this shit totally works because there are only a few things more worrisome than life-threatening cancer at age 35. And if you have had to deal with something more or less worrisome, this shit might work for you too. And that means all of you because shitty things happen to all of us. That is science.
If you’re into crawling into dank holes with armor on, you’re my people and I’m going to call you my armadillos from now on. Come with me to learn about the mysteries of EMDR and how your brain can heal itself after terrible things happen. I’ve got some pretty wild stories to tell.