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Sunday, April 12, 2020

EMDR, Part 2

A little over a month ago I wrote about beginning Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR for short.  It's a therapy technique that, with the aid of a trained and experienced facilitator, I am employing to address the matter of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD and I promise that's the last acronym) that I was diagnosed with two years ago.

We are now well into the treatment, and it has begun to bloom forth some enormously positive results.  That, despite the unusual circumstances that have sent this procedure onto a wildly parallel tangent.  This past week was the third session that we had to conduct via video conferencing as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.  COVID-19 has affected pretty much every aspect of health care in our area.  The building I work in  - a mental health facility - has five entrances.  Right now passage is only allowed through one, and you have to answer a series of questions ("Have you been out of state in the past fourteen days?") and have your temperature taken before entry.  Even then the place is eerie quiet, absent the usual presence of our patients and most of the staff: all appointments are being conducted via telephone.  And then this past week the order came down that cloth masks were to be worn at ALL times apart from individual offices.

The location of my treatment is something of a "sister site" to ours.  It's having the same lockdown.  Hence, having to use tele-therapy, with the facilitator and I in our respective homes and working over the Internet.

How has that been working?  Surprisingly well, believe it or not.  Fortunately we were able to lay down most of the basic groundwork for everything that has come since, but we are still not at the real heart of EMDR: the use of light and motion to "rewire" the brain to steer away from traumatic memories.  I don't know how or when it's going to work when that part of the process sis entered into.

But still, a number of tools have come about that are already helping me to aggressively counter the trauma.  For example, there are two places that I can "retreat" to when things become almost overwhelming.   They needed to be places that have some kind of special significance.

For my second place, I chose this:

The desert of New Mexico near Socorro,
home of the Very Large Array

I spent over a month in Albuquerque around the end of summer in 2016.  Had things gone the way I had hoped, I would have been able to settle down there.  New Mexico is one of the most beautiful places I have ever discovered, and it was beckoning my heart the closer we got (my dog Tammy and I).  The scenery, the people, the opportunities there... well, the timing didn't quite work so well on that last one.  Maybe someday I will get to return there to stay.  It would definitely be a sweet place to have a family.

A few days after we arrived I went looking for something I had always wanted to see with my own eyes: the Very Large Array radio telescope near Socorro.  I knew what it looked like - it's been featured in many movies, particularly Contact - but to gaze upon it just from afar... that thing covers almost as much area as most counties in the United States!

It was the desert in all its wild natural beauty, magnificently married to that system of modern science.  Perhaps the largest research facility of any discipline on the surface of the Earth.  It was all one painting, and I was walking through it.  In those moments, I felt more alive than the vast majority of times throughout the span of my lifetime.

When asked for a place of peaceful retreat within my mind, during our third session, that is what I thought of immediately: the New Mexico desert.

And other tools have come about also, including the knowledge of certain people in my life who are something like "avatars" of aspects of character: the nurturer, the spiritual side, a few others.  There are more tools than I could convey about in a blog post, but you get the idea.

As I said, we still haven't gotten into the part of EMDR that many people consider to be the "real" course of treatment.  But this is all still of tremendous importance.  This is the foundation upon which all of that work will be built upon.  And so far we've been building a strong foundation indeed, according to the facilitator.

That's how things stand now.  What happens next will be impacted in one way or another by the coronavirus situation, and it's conceivable that we may have to delay the "lights-on" part of the protocol until the lockdown is alleviated.  But even so, I'm feeling very upbeat by what has come so far.  They are tools that can be used in the meantime and who knows, it might even strengthen the effects of the next phase of treatment.

Will write again soon.