EMDR, PPD & Self Compassion…
Every Monday I have my therapy appointment. This is for my new therapy that I started a few months ago, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). If I tried to explain the exact technique, I think I would confuse you further. What I can say, is that it is hard. It was extremely hard in the beginning recounting memories that often brought me to tears and hyperventilation. Yet, I give this form of therapy two thumbs up, as I have slowly and gradually begun to forgive myself.
My therapist has been all over my head in the last few months, starting with my recent severe depressive episode to my blocking belief that I don’t deserve to get better. While the latter is no more an issue, I still have yet to return to everything that has happened a little over a year ago. As we have progressed in therapy, he and I have realized that my Postpartum Depression and Anxiety definitely affected this latest and greatest episode of Depression. So, we dove into that time in my life.
I was asked, if I summed up my whole Postpartum Depression and Anxiety episode, what one memory is the most painful. It wasn’t too easy to choose. Those months were a time frame I would like to forget and one I thought I was emotionally over. I was not. Thinking back, the most painful memory was myself, sitting in the ER with my mother next to me, waiting to be seen.
It was the old ER, as my local hospital has recently been renovated. Low ceiling, beige walls. Office chairs with fabric, grey in color, and black plastic handrails. The room felt so small and was pure chaos. To the right of me were the check-in stations with the workers behind a half wall with glass above. To the left of me were more of these common office chairs filled with other people waiting to be seen. In front of me was a wall with a floral framed picture and the entrance to the ER was to the front left.
Although the other people in the room were talking and moving, I was slightly out of my body in my own pure hell that I was still unaware of. My main reason for going to the ER was the simple fact that I must be malnourished and dehydrated since everything that went in my body quickly came out. I was rocking back and forth, with my hands gripped so hard on the handrails they were in pain. In addition to this, I was shivering as if the temperature had dropped to zero degrees Fahrenheit. Hyperventilation was present and tears streamed out of my eyes non-stop.
“When did this happen?” asked my therapist.
“Exactly 1 month after Sophia was born.” I said.
“Let’s go with that.” he said. That was my cue to close my eyes and allow the Thera-Tappers to do their work. Buzz in my left hand, buzz in my right, over and over again. I started looking at Postpartum Stephanie, and as anxiety churned my stomach, I could feel tears well up. I wanted to hug her.
“What do you feel?” he asked.
“Sadness for her. She must have been scared. She has never been through this before.”
“The intense anxiety, the panic attack. This is new. All of my bouts before were just Depressive. This was my first where Anxiety made and appearance.”
“What do you think you needed back then? Someone to have done something? Said something?”
The first round of EMDR with this question stumped me. I had the support of my family. I was seeing a psychiatrist and a therapist. I was on medication. What did I need back then? What would’ve helped me? We tried again, and instantly it came to me:
“I needed someone who had been through Postpartum Depression and Anxiety to tell me everything would be okay. I would’ve believed that person because they would have experienced what I had or something similar. All these other people telling me it would be okay didn’t help. They didn’t know what I was going through. The Postpartum Community was so small back then, almost 9 1/2 years ago.”
“Put yourself in the ER, yourself now. Think about it. What are you doing? What might you say to yourself now.”
He turned the Thera-tappers back on. I closed my eyes and returned to that scene. The present me was kneeling on the floor of the ER with my hands on the knees of the Postpartum me. I could still see her rocking back and forth. Truly scared for her because she had no idea what she was going through. My touch an instant connection to the feelings inside her head then. I tightened my squeeze and looked up at her face. She had a blank stare at the wall ahead as she rocked back and forth. I noticed the fear in my mother’s eyes as she wondered what was going on with her child. I turned back to Postpartum me’s face and I spoke:
“It will be alright. You will be okay. I know you will be okay because I’ve been there.”
The second I said “I’ve been there”, Postpartum Me’s eyes focused directly on mine and she stopped shaking. I kept repeating it over and over, “I know because I’ve been there.”
It was the first time I showed my Postpartum Self some self compassion.
Stephanie Paige is a 30-something who has struggled with Depression since age 14 and Anxiety since age 26. She is mother to one beautiful daughter. With the strength of her husband, parents, and her child, she has survived 6 bouts of Severe Depression and has become a huge advocate of Mental Illness. Currently, she has been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder and has survived severe Postpartum Depression & Anxiety.
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