By Susan Stay
Last year, I drove from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati in though a driving rain storm. By the time I arrived in Cincinnati, I was a bundle of raw nerves. An old nemesis had some how snuck into my car and was threatening to over to take my entire weekend. My nemesis, panic, had been out of my life for a decade or more.
I experienced panic attacks many years ago on a freeway in Los Angeles. Clearly I was going to die. I could not get my car to go over 25 miles an hour without feelings as if my heart would explode. I had driven this stretch of freeway many times in the past and understood my reaction was IRRATIONAL. However, that did not stop the panic. This incident was the beginning of a downward spiral that forced me to on a path that while painful, led me to where I am today. I am grateful for this experience in the abstract. On the road to Cincinnati I wanted it to be placed firmly where it belonged, behind me.
I was attending the first weekend of basic training for EMDR in Cincinnati. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a psychotherapy approach that uses bilateral stimulation to process information in an adaptive manner. Memories or information that are unprocessed or have not been processed in an adaptive manner can impact our beliefs , emotions and physical sensations.
My interest in learning EMDR came from working with clients with trauma. I associated trauma will the big life changing events. These big T trauma's include life threatening incidents such as car accidents, physical or sexual abuse, rape and violence.
What I learned that weekend about myself was the smallest of incidents (little t trauma) can have a profound impact on our life. When you train to be an EMDR therapist you have to be willing to work on your own issues with EMDR. I determined that I would address my nemesis. My panic was triggered by a little t that was was round and hard. It was a baseball.
I have never been very good at sports and baseball was a form of torture for me. I must have been daydreaming about escaping across the field and into the woods in gym class because a ball came flying toward me. It took on the shape and size of a missile. The ball struck me, but I was not injured. (a hard head?) I had no memory of this event prior to processing with EMDR. That baseball was the unprocessed information that helped shape my panic attacks years later. When the information was processed in an adaptive manner with EMDR, my nemesis took the train.