This was the first sentence I heard when I answered the phone call. This person was feeling terrible; not sleeping, feeling hyper vigilant all the time, flashbacks, overwhelmed and thoughts continually going round and round in her head. When we first met, her sister drove her because she was tired, tearful, upset and in her words, ‘just not functioning.’ ‘It’s like my mind is stuck in that moment in time when I was 16 and all the same feelings are feeling happening all over again’ she described. Despite telling herself that she was safe, and it was twenty years ago, she was feeling terrible and that was clearly evident.
What this lady was experiencing is a classic symptom of trauma. Trauma can be a relationship break up, bullying, sexual abuse, the loss of a loved one, a car accident…the list is endless. Often we think we have dealt with these things, just for them to appear later on in our lives when a similar event or something we read about or see on the news, retriggers us into that situation. Everything we have ever experienced in life is stored in our memories. Most of our memories are neutral and the chances of us remembering them again are very slim. Think about how many cups of tea or coffee you’ve ever made in your lifetime. You probably remember meeting friends for a coffee but the many times you’ve made and drunk those beverages in your own house are stored in your mind somewhere but are mostly forgotten about. That’s because those memories are balanced between the two hemispheres of the brain; the right hand side emotional brain and the left hand side, rational, thinking brain. Traumatic memories are stored very firmly in the emotional side of the brain and it takes very little for those memories to come to the fore. Often people say to me. ‘it feels like it was just yesterday’ when talking about strongly emotional events from their past. In a way, in their minds, they are right. The time and date stamp on that memory needs to be reprocessed.
A therapy I use often in these situations is eye movement therapy (Integral Eye Movement Therapy or IEMT). This is a fast way to de-charge negative memories and reduce the negative emotions associated with them. Memories lose their emotional attachment. People remember the memory but they do not have ‘to be’ those memories. This lady experienced rapid release and relief once we reprocessed the traumatic memory as well as other associated negative memories. We were also able to significantly reduce the feelings and emotions around these memories, such as guilt and shame and anger.
Over the course of two months we had five sessions. The results were profound. After the first two sessions she was able to drive herself, she was sleeping well and not needing to self-medicate with alcohol and cannabis. By the end of our sessions together, she looked a different person from the one I’d first met. She was so relaxed, calm and at ease, smiling and said she felt lighter and freer than ever before. She explained that for the first time for a very long time she felt confident and was looking forwards to her future.