Case Study: Melissa's EMDR Treatment
Melissa* underwent EMDR treatment after being diagnosed with PTSD following a medical emergency which resulted in an induced coma. Here, Melissa explains more about her treatment, what happened in her sessions, and the incredible difference she sees in herself following EMDR.
(*Please note, names have been changed for the privacy of our contributors).
A little about my life with PTSD before the treatment
“I am a Cardiac Arrest survivor. I had an out-of-hospital arrest and had to be given CPR, until the paramedics arrived. I was defibrillated and resuscitated.
It appeared to come out of nowhere. I had just travelled up to the outskirts of London that day to visit a relative before we were travelling on to Belgium as a family for our holiday.
I was taken to St Georges Hospital in London where I went into arrest again, fighting again for my life. Thankfully I was successfully resuscitated again, then had to be placed in an induced coma. In this state I underwent a cooling treatment for the body called Hyperthermic cooling. I was in intensive care, and very poorly.
I spent three weeks in hospital and when I could leave, I did so with a device called an ICD fitted to my heart. It is a device that monitors and will defibrillate me if I go into a dangerous Heart Arrhythmia rhythm again, that cannot be corrected.
At home back in Devon, I started to notice problems. It was difficult to pinpoint the problem but I had this feeling of there being things in the back of my head but I didn’t know what they were and I could not seem to reach them. I kept a close eye on myself, something I had started to do constantly. I was intently aware of my heartbeat at night, so much so I struggled to sleep for fear it was going too fast or it would stop whilst I slept.
My GP also kept a close eye on me, keeping a watch on my progress. He said what I was describing sounded like PTSD. He said to me you can deal with it in your own way or refer yourself to our local mental health service. I sat on the fence for a while, seeing if it would get better all by itself. It didn’t.
Watching television programmes or films where a character suddenly died, I would find myself instantly breaking out into tears. I would start sweating and feel anxious when people stopped to speak to me in the street, especially when a group gathered around me. This was difficult as I went back to my hotel receptionist job three months after my Cardiac Arrests. I had to deal with people. I had a couple of panic attacks in front of people when they stopped and wanted to talk to me, but I finally decided to call the mental health unit after watching another film, where someone died suddenly and I instantly reacted.
By this time I had been living with PTSD for three months.
How I discovered EMDR
I was given an appointment for the following week after I called the Mental Health Service and said I think I have PTSD and need some help. I was given a questionnaire to fill out truthfully and then we discussed the results. The questionnaire score level indicated that I did indeed have PTSD. My anxiety levels were higher than they should be in a person without PTSD and the therapist said I think EMDR Therapy will help you best as you were clinically dead and unconscious during the events that occured. I tried to help myself at home in the meantime listening to relaxing meditations whilst I waited for a EMDR appointment.
My initial thoughts about EMDR
I was hopeful that the therapy would help me. I understood that it was a therapy where you watched movements with your eyes. Someone that I know had also had EMDR and they told me and that it was very good. It helped them alot. I was willing to have the therapy and was open minded. If it was a way to help me feel as if I was in control of myself again then I was all for giving the experience a try.
The EMDR experience
The mental health service I referred myself too was run by the NHS. I did have to wait five months until my name moved up the patient list and it was my time to be allocated my first therapy session. Luckily, I had one therapist who continued to work with me throughout the length of my treatment.
During that first session we had an informal chat about my issues and about my Cardiac Arrests. It was very much ‘let’s get to know each other’. I was asked to fill out a questionnaire about how I had been feeling and I continued to fill out this same questionnaire at the beginning of each EMDR session. In all we spent four sessions just talking and building a rapport between us. The sessions varied from an hour to an hour and a half. I learnt EMDR is a visual therapy. As the patient you give short indications of what you are aware of mentally, physically and visually when you stop following the movements with your eyes. We had one session where we practised the technique.
During the very first EMDR session I experienced some very physical body memories. I recalled that I was unable to speak or communicate as I was becoming unwell and I felt panic rise up inside me. I felt in my throat that I could not breathe and I actually started to gasp and splutter. I realised my mind could not remember but my body did. I started jumping about whilst sat in the chair, jerking about.
My body remembered what the electrical current from the defibrillator did to me. The trauma was stored in my body. I had not even realised that this was even possible.
I experienced pain in my ribs, felt like I had indigestion and I began to cough.
I left that first session amazed and dazed.
Throughout that session and the following sessions I always knew that I was safe, that it wasn’t really happening to me in the now. It was the past and it was weighing me down. I had a safe place to go to if I ever felt distressed but I never needed to use it.
I did continue to have flashbacks sparked by television scenes whilst having my therapy and I always brought them up in the next session. Memories that were stored in my body like how cold I was when they had me induced in the hyperthermic state and colours came up too, what I could see flickering about in my vision when I was in the coma.
The therapy processed the stored memories that were in my body and stopped me from feeling weighed down and powerless or unable to help myself. The therapist only used her fingers to get my eyes to move and follow her. She called it finger wagging. I thought the whole experience was amazing and I learnt so much more about myself, my body and my mind.
I had twelve sessions altogether and having this therapy was the best thing that I could have done to help myself. I am so glad I did it.
Life after EMDR treatment
I left my receptionist job as physically it became too much. I started my own Reiki Healing business and have just finished a diploma in Hypnotherapy. I will be incorporating this form of healing into my business also. EMDR was the inspiration behind this idea as it worked so well for me. I have very little problems with my PTSD now. I can look back at what happened and the negative emotion is no longer there. I only see how far I have come.
My advice to others considering EMDR treatment
Please do not be afraid to try this therapy, it is amazing. It is so simple yet so effective. I was given my life back a second time when I underwent this treatment.”
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