Case Study: EMDR Treatment – Ranya
Ranya* grew up in a violent and abusive household which led to her developing PTSD. In this case study, she tells us how, despite her initial worries, EMDR has changed outlook her outlook on life and she’s now on the path to reclaiming her life.
“I’m 32 years old. I grew up in a household where my father was violent and abusive to my mother, to myself and my siblings. I had witnessed and experienced the abuse. There was always an atmosphere in the home and we were always on edge worrying about what my father would do next. We eventually managed to escape him and fled the home when I was 8 years old. All contact with him stopped. Around 10 years later, he died. I had all sorts of conflicting emotions. I shut them away and tried my best to carry on as normal, thinking that was the best way to cope.
A couple of years later, my sister had a mental breakdown and was sectioned which was yet another traumatic event. By this time, I knew I was suffering from depression and I had a very negative view about life.
I spoke to my GP and began taking anti-depressants. I was also referred into counselling. I’ve never been good at sharing or talking about my feelings. I didn’t find the counselling comfortable at all and gave up a few sessions in. I was 20 years old and in hindsight, young and immature.
My mental health for the following 10 years was up and down. I had some very low moments.
Once the pandemic came in 2020, my anxiety went through the roof. I felt suffocated during lockdown. I was always on edge, worrying about everything. I began to have nightmares about some of the trauma I had suffered in the past. I had always avoided talking about any of it to anyone. I would avoid reminders as I would have upsetting flashbacks.
I was having regular thoughts of taking my own life, coming close to it on at least 3 occasions. Thankfully I didn’t go through with it. I knew I needed help so I self-referred to psychological services via the NHS. I had an initial telephone consultation where I was told that my symptoms were akin to PTSD. I was shocked by this as to me, PTSD was related to war veterans or people who had experienced a single, traumatic event. I only ever thought I had anxiety and depression. PTSD had not crossed my mind. I read up on it and found that flashbacks, nightmares, feeling on edge and mood changes were all symptoms of PTSD that I had been suffering.
I was offered EMDR therapy. I had heard of it before in my professional life but never had a real understanding of it.
My therapist explained it to me. It felt daunting and also a strange type of therapy in terms of having to do rapid eye movements. One of the first things we discussed was what I wanted to achieve from the therapy. I wanted to reclaim my life and set myself up for a healthy future. The early sessions of the EMDR therapy involved learning grounding techniques and coming up with a safe space in my mind for when I have to face up to the trauma. I was able to use them not just in sessions but also in daily life. We worked through a timeline of the key traumatic events in my life that we needed to work on. This planning and preparation gave me a sense of control which was great considering my anxiety. I was motivated to engage in the therapy and I felt hopeful. I didn’t want to worry my family about my diagnosis or that I was having this therapy as I felt as though they had been through enough distress. I did however confide in a friend who supported me every step of the way, encouraging me and checking in on me after sessions. This was a great help and also kept me motivated.
My therapy was via the NHS. The first session with the rapid eye movements was tough. We talked first traumatic memory I could remember from my childhood. I felt very tired and overwhelmed afterwards and wasn’t sure I was able to go through all the traumatic events and carry on. I felt like giving up with the therapy but my friend reminded me how far I had come and that I was on the verge of getting the help I needed. I pushed myself to carry on. As the sessions went on, I began to find them easier as I knew what to expect and I had figured out what self-care I needed after sessions. I could slowly feel the burden on my mind lifting as each session went on. Some sessions would be harder than others depending on the traumatic event we would work on. But facing up to and working through the trauma helped me come to terms with it all. I’d finally been able to understand my feelings and face up to them.
At the moment I have completed 13 sessions and have just 3 more to go. My outlook on life has changed. I tend not to get caught up with insignificant issues and I try to have perspective on things. My nightmares have pretty much stopped and my anxiety is much more under control. My brain has managed to process the traumatic events. They will always be there in my mind but the feelings of not being in control, fear, guilt and anger at what happened have now been replaced with feelings of feeling in control, knowing that none of it was my fault, that it is over and that I am safe.
Engaging in therapy is daunting but you should stick with it. It will feel much better as each session goes on and you’ll start to feel better within yourself. It’s also really important to get the right therapy – the counselling I had when I was 20 was the wrong thing for me. I’m glad I eventually managed to get the right diagnosis and was able to get the right therapy. The hardest step is the first one – asking for help. But once you do that, you’re on the road to recovery and reclaiming your life.“
*The name has been changed to protect the identity of our case study.
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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.