Case Study: EMDR Treatment – Jenna
Jenna* was diagnosed with PTSD as a result of an ‘incomplete’ miscarriage and the inconsistent and traumatic care that followed. She underwent EMDR treatment over 20 years later which she says has ‘changed my life for the better’.
(*Please note, names have been changed for the privacy of our contributors).
“At the age of 21, I had a very traumatic and prolonged ‘incomplete’ miscarriage – and I was all alone – my husband was in Canada on tour with the Army, and the care I got for the miscarriage was inconsistent and traumatic in itself.
For many years after that I was being treated for severe anxiety and depression which at times I got extremely poorly. I was put on medication, which helped with the depression and anxiety, but I still had these extreme feelings. The things that caused them seemed so silly so I didn’t want to tell anyone just in case they thought I was going mad!! These feelings were so terrifying – there are no words to describe them. Some days I was able to brush it off straight away but other days it would be more intense. I woke up every single day wondering if I could get through the day without having an “episode”. Over 20 years these episodes got more and more frequent and intense. I still couldn’t find the right words to describe them to a doctor – I felt so silly at the situations that was causing them so it was simply put down to anxiety and depression, although I knew that it was something else as I was getting these episodes even when I was in a good place and feeling happy. I thought it was something that I would have to learn to live with for the rest of my life which wasn’t a pleasant feeling.
After 20 years and at the time when my son started secondary school these episodes took a turn for the worse. It literally happened over night. This dreaded intense terrifying feeling came and didn’t go away. I couldn’t eat or sleep. Over the course of a year, I tried several different antidepressants, going up to the highest doses but nothing was making me feel better. Every single day was absolute torture. I had gone from nearly 9 stone down to 5 stone in a matter of weeks. I thought of suicide every day. The only thing that stopped me was the thought of leaving my son behind who I loved dearly and my husband who was obviously doing all that he could to get me through each day. There was an inner willpower to stay alive for them.
After a year I finally got an appointment with a psychiatrist. She delved deep into this intense feeling I was having and for the first time in 20 years I was able to tell her without feeling stupid. I described that since being made to sit in a day room to watch Eastenders with the other patients whilst in the psychiatric ward 20 years ago I became absolutely petrified to hearing the theme tune let alone watch it. It would fill me with dread. Other things that would trigger it was if I heard or saw anything about mental health/suicide, anything to do with hospitals, whether it was on tv, radio, reading or simply people just taking about it. Because I suffered with it for so long on a daily basis, I was told that different scenarios had become secondary fears.
The psychiatrist said it was a classic case of PTSD. I honestly thought that it was only soldiers who suffered with such a thing and she explained to me how anyone who have had some kind of trauma in their lives can have it. This was all a “light switch” moment. After 20 years I was finally given the correct diagnosis!
I was prescribed a high dose of venlafaxine and recommended EMDR (something which I’d never heard of before). Unfortunately, there was a waiting list for over a year so we decided to pay privately. I really didn’t have any faith in EMDR as I couldn’t understand how such a simple technique could take away the horrors of PTSD. I had a session every week for around 10 weeks. Each session I stayed very sceptical but also clung on to the hope that this would make me feel better. My sessions involved following a pen from left to right. It all seemed so simple and too good to be true.
By the end of the treatments I slowly started to feel better. I remember the very first time that I noticed something had changed was when I took my son to the cinema. Halfway through the film it suddenly dawned on me that I didn’t have any terrifying feelings. It felt absolutely amazing. As time went on I slowly started to realised that I could face all of the situations, which caused such anguish, without giving them a second thought.
I would absolutely encourage anybody who suffers with PTSD to give EMDR a try. I honestly believe that it changed my life for the better. Of course I still get the odd occasion when I feel depressed or anxious and once in a blue moon I will have a ‘PTSD’ moment but I am thankful it doesn’t happen on a daily basis anymore and I don’t wake up every morning dreading what kind of “episode” I will have.”
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Treatments for PTSD
It is possible for PTSD to be successfully treated many years after the traumatic event occurred, which means it is never too late to seek help. For some, the first step may be watchful waiting, then exploring therapeutic options such as individual or group therapy – but the main treatment options in the UK are psychological treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Traumatic events can be very difficult to come to terms with, but confronting and understanding your feelings and seeking professional help is often the only way of effectively treating PTSD. You can find out more in the links below, or here.