Follow The Light

The day of my first EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) therapy session had me feeling nervous. But, something quite unexpected happened before I’d even walked into the hospital building.

Because of my previous ‘wobbles’ in the outpatient department, it had been arranged for my appointments to take place in a different part of the hospital. It involved using the same entrance through which I’d walked when I was taken outside for physio, returned after spending Christmas day at home and after a couple of afternoon trips off the ward.

It was also the entrance that I’d walked through when I arrived for my operation in November 2018 …….and left through on the evening of my discharge in late January 2019.

It was the first time I’d driven to the hospital and also visited on my own but everything felt great and I was feeling positive. As I went to cross the road and walk towards to the entrance, something strange happened that to this day I still can’t explain. It was as if there was a glass wall in front of me, stopping me from walking.

I literally froze on the spot and I couldn’t move. I couldn’t walk and panic set in. Not realising what was going on but realising that I needed to do something, I walked all the way around, through the main entrance, down 3 floors and into the department I needed to be in. The entire time I was breathless, panicking, flinching….doing everything I possibly could to stay as far away as possible from anyone or anything. On my way through the hospital everything was a blur.

It would be weeks before I could walk through the entrance again.

I was late for my very first appointment and in quite a state! As I sat in the waiting area, I remember staff looking at me curiously, probably because I was freaking out, yet nobody asked if I was ok. Suddenly the psychologist appeared….like a shining light in the corridor! I jumped up, almost ran towards her and burst into tears! We’d not even started the session and I was already a mess!

When I explained what had happened, she explained it was likely that I’d subconsciously associated the entrance with my time in hospital. Whenever I went through that door, I related that to me staying in the hospital and therefore that entrance meant not going home.

It would become a challenge that I would have to face for weeks, but one that I would eventually overcome!

After I’d calmed down, and stopped sniffling, the psychologist explained how EMDR worked and how it was hoped it would help me. My understanding of EMDR is where the person receiving the therapy will recall traumatic events whilst moving their eyes left to right following an object, or in my case, a light source. This then helps the brain to process these thoughts and transform them into less scary, more general memories and filing them in the brain. For a much more accurate explanation, visit https://emdrassociation.org.uk/a-unique-and-powerful-therapy/emdr-the-basics/.

I was told that each session may be traumatic and would most likely leave me feeling exhausted, but that I wasn’t to try and understand the feelings I might have after each session, but to just let them flow. I would be given 6, 1hr sessions for 6 consecutive weeks, then a break of 2 weeks and then if it was felt I could cope, a visit would be arranged to ICU, with further EMDR after that if necessary.

I settled down and must admit felt very silly having to follow a light moving across left to right. I just couldn’t see how it would work! I’ve never really understood therapies of any kind or if they actually work so perhaps I went into the session a little too cynical!

I was asked to follow the light and when told, begin talking about my first memory of being in hospital. It was really hard not to fall asleep whilst following the light, it was almost hypnotic, but I made myself concentrate – I had to trust the psychologist.

I began talking about some thoughts that came to mind and before I knew it, I was talking about things I hadn’t even remembered. “where did that come from” I thought! This was hard and I broke down in tears. I was encouraged to push on and not to stop, it was not easy! Over the hour I described a few deliriums in immense details. I spoke about how I was treated in hospital, things that happened, feelings, thoughts…..it was tough, really tough! I didn’t enjoy any of it and I felt exhausted.

As the session came to an end, I was a mess! I was told it was completely normal and to expect it to get worse before it got better. I walked out of the hospital, the long way round obviously, and before I knew it, I was almost home! Perhaps in hindsight I shouldn’t have driven because I remember nothing of the drive home!

It was an emotional rollercoaster that I just wasn’t expecting to be on….

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