EMDR = Freedom after Trauma

I am!  I am!  That’s the feeling I left with after my latest EMDR session.

As I sat watching the magic wand with the little red clown nose at the tip swish back and forth, like a windshield wiper, scenes flashed through my mind, accompanied by these words: Look at my colored pencil drawings! Look at my paint-by-number paintings! Look at my multi-colored plastic peg creations! Look at me roller skate! Look at me dive into the river!  Look at me catch a fish! Look at me racing up and down the block with my best friend Irene! I am! I am!

I actually did all these activities as a child but never shared my joy or happiness, never verbally expressed my thrill about my achievements.  Self-deprecation was my byline. Showing enthusiasm was bragging and impolite. I lacked a feeling that I was valuable and valued. I was a burden, a failure, a disappointment to my parents, for I was very sick shortly after I was born.  These are the feelings that arise from trauma. When one is trapped, tortured, and helpless to free oneself, one enters the kingdom of post-traumatic stress. One does not show off. One hides.

How did I come to the I AM feeling of the EMDR session? By moving through feelings of absolute contraction. By sinking into the protective pose my body learned to assume without my conscious or subconscious knowing. My right shoulder automatically folds over my chest (the incision was made to the right of my belly button and up, just under my breast) and goes rigid, my breath shallow; and I mean shallow. Rigidity, lack of movement, and freeze are key. If I don’t hold myself in this grip, I will die–that’s what my body believed until age 26.

Little by little, EMDR unfreezes the locked up body-terror of not only intubation at 26 days old (the shoving of a breathing tube down my throat) and then stomach surgery without anesthesia (a scalpel cutting through skin, muscle, and the pyloric part of my stomach itself), but also the  body’s knowing that if I cried or coughed, my stitches could burst and I would die. My mother’s hands and face taught me these truths, trying to save me.

“I am!” I shared with my therapist in our talks between wandings, throwing my arms up in the air, “I am!” “Let’s fix that one,” my therapist said excitedly (“fix” as in set or emphasize). She picked up her wand and began, the red ball at its tip moving back and forth.  Delicious images of me feeling agency, excitement, joy, and thrill flashed into my brain. I am, I am, I am!

I am more of me.


8 Responses to EMDR = Freedom after Trauma

  1. So happy for you Wendy! I enjoy hearing of your emdr adventures!

    The biggest challenge is for me to relax/trust my very competent therapist.My “success” line might be more of that “I’m safe,I really am safe”,and all the trauma will truly heal.

    It really is so true how our bodies remember everything.I’m in the middle of hard stuff,so your successful,delightful post gives me hope.Thank you 🙂


    • So glad I could give you some hopeful energy. I had a backslide two weeks since my EMDR session got cancelled one week, so hang in there. It gets better.

  2. Thank you Wendy for your continuing series of posts about EMDR. You give beautiful expression to the sense of liberation and freedom to live and enjoy yourself. I’m very thankful I was not brought up with a sense of responsibility for and fear of my death, but have had to find freedom from the unspoken code of silence about my operation and scar. This code was no doubt amplified by the reticence of earlier generations to recognize, understand and express their inner feelings, let alone the trauma of long-ago surgery performed when we were at the pre-verbal stage of life.

  3. So true about the “reticence of earlier generations.” When I was little, my mother often complained about the burden of the operation in the cellar while she did the laundry and I played with my dolls. She did a lot of talking to herself really, which I overheard. On the ground floor, she might bring up my surgery but only to say how I looked like a dead squirrel or an alien from outer space after the PS surgery. Or she’d make some comment about my scar if I was undressed. No actual conversation ensued. The surgery certainly wasn’t something to be talked about over dinner. Best forgotten as an out and out topic, but how it seethed below the surface, bubbling up and burning more often than one would wish. How did you ever find freedom from the unspoken code of silence? When did you begin your journey?

  4. From the time I remember becoming self-conscious about my abdominal scar (about age 6) I also became obsessive about looking out for others who had a similar scar, others who shared my “uniqueness”, with whom I could feel kinship and share my inner pain. I had a few of these “discovery moments” in my 20s but was still too reticent to really connect with these people, and my sense of isolation continued. Searching libraries taught me about the condition and the surgery, but didn’t remedy the loneliness. Wendy, as you and I know, the advent of the internet has made possible the kind of healing I spent much of my life looking for, and clearly needed.

    • I can just see that little six year old. And yes, the Internet has made all the difference! We rowed in from different rivers but met on the same sea, eventually leading to the ocean. Healing waters.

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