Our holistic hero has really been in the wars…
Last month I managed to break both arms and smashed up my face pretty dramatically too. The ambulance service and A&E were wonderful, as were the orthopaedic team who operated on my wrist. I dosed myself with homeopathic remedies and took CBD paste (theoriginalalternativeofficial.com), but I realised I was going to need something more. While my bones were healing and moving on, my mind was stuck. I was constantly terrified that I was going to trip and fall again. Even though my accident was, in the scheme of things, relatively small, I was suffering from PTSD. So I booked myself in to see Wendy Savage (wendysavage.com), a psychotherapist who practices eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, also known as EMDR.
EMDR was created by Francine Shapiro, an American clinical psychologist, in 1987. While much of her initial research was with Vietnam veterans experiencing PTSD, nowadays the trauma tends to come from car crashes, accidents, loss or grief. Sometimes they generate from painful incidents in childhood, including abuse.
The theory is that when a trauma occurs, certain parts of the brain become over-excited and ‘freezes’ the information in its original anxiety-producing form. So instead of letting the experience become just a memory, the brain holds the terror and fear. This information will resurface, giving rise to intrusive thoughts, uncomfortable feelings, flashbacks, nightmares and even full-blown phobias or panic attacks “EMDR mimics REM sleep,” explains Wendy. “It allows the memory to be stored in the hippocampus rather like a photo in an album. We can still recall it, but it feels just like an ordinary memory.”
Practically speaking, the process is simple. Wendy and I sat opposite each other and once I felt comfortable, she asked me to recall my fall. She moved her arm like the pendulum of a clock and asked me to follow her fingers with my eyes while imagining pitching forward. At the point directly in front of me, my eyelids started fluttering furiously and both arms tingled. Wendy continued and gradually, my eye movements returned to normal and I found, to my amazement, that I could think of the fall without that horrible sick lurch.
My hour-long session felt like a year of psychotherapy. EMDR can be a powerful and swift catalyst, stimulating the mind to reprocess disturbing information quickly. However, it’s not suitable for everyone or for every problem: it only works where there is a traumatic incident at the root of the issue. A day later I’m walking much more confidently and I can think about my fall without wincing. Curiously, I’m also feeling much kinder towards myself. Visit emdrassociation.org.uk
Jane Alexander’s new book Ancient Wisdom for Modern Living (Kyle Books) is out now. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram - @exmoorjane and Facebook - @eJaneAlexander
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