EMDR: From my Comfort Box

Two Many!

‘…a child I once knew, who – having been carefully instructed that one of any earthly thing was enough for any little girl; and that to ask for two buns,  two oranges, two of anything, would certainly bring upon her the awful charge of being “greedy” – was found one morning sitting up in bed, solemnly regarding her two little naked feet, and murmuring to herself, softly and penitently, “deedy!”‘

from The Nursery Alice, Preface to the 1890 edition by Lewis Carroll

Alice in Wonderland as drawn by Lewis Carroll

WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE SWITCH IT OFF?

My series of EMDR sessions is coming to an end. I can’t say what a relief that is. I am so thankful to have had this opportunity, but I am clinging on at the moment by sheer determination (which is helped a great deal by a thoughtful, hard-working, kind and very patient husband). It is draining to have memories jumping into your head unanticipated in the days following an EMDR session. Seriously, they spring out of nowhere. I’ll be idly stirring a teaspoon as I’m making a cuppa and suddenly, vividly, there is an image, sometimes accompanied by sounds and (worse) smells, of – er – things I don’t want to write about let alone think about, especially not when I’m minding my own business making a cup of tea. My 9-year-old is talking to me about Harry Potter and boom! there it is again and she wonders, reasonably, why I’m not listening to her.

Sleep brings no respite because strange dreams are made ever-stranger. I never seem to wake up refreshed; I just wake up thinking how glad I am to not be asleep, to not be living through whatever I was dreaming. EMDR is the therapist’s mangle: it squeezes out every last drop of what you don’t want but it completely destroys any semblance of the human form (that was rather a good metaphor there, I thought) and it takes some time for the thing to even begin to look ‘normal’.

Memories, memories, memories… it’s like having live, uncensored news from a brutal warzone broadcast two feet away from your head, at full volume, 24/7. Will someone please switch it off? I’d like a bit of Gardeners’ Question Time, please. Or the shipping forecast. Or Dan Cruickshank explaining in detail the structure of the Roman Pantheon.

Still, I’m not giving up. I’ve only got three sessions left, but dear Lord I will be thanking You when it’s all over. I am reminded of the words of the psalmist:

‘Why are you downcast, O my soul?

Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God,

for I will yet praise him,

my Saviour and my God…

Deep calls to deep

in the roar of your waterfalls;

all your waves and breakers

have swept over me.’

Psalm 42:5,7 (NIV)

Reblog: The Joy of Forgiveness, Oh Happy Day

Sometimes when people are worshipping with their whole hearts I get the sense the angels in heaven, surrounding the throne of God, are rejoicing too (people tend to think I’m a bit crazy when I actually say these things out loud, but… so what? 😉 )

In the West, in our often comfortable, sanitised lives we become complacent and forget the real sky-falling-down, truly reborn nature of forgiveness. Hallelujah! I’m loved by the King of Kings. Oh happy, happy day 😀

NB. I’m writing this a day after a particularly gruelling EMDR session which left me exhausted (who am I kidding? Every session is gruelling!). It is easy to feel weary, burned out and discouraged. After reading Tim’s post (below), and listening to the wonderful music, I still feel exhausted, but I am encouraged by the reminder of the glorious freedom found in Christ. May it all be for His glory.

Tim's Blog - Just One Train Wreck After Another

When the Bible says your sins are forgiven, it means forgiven:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14.)

Look at all the past tense in that passage. God has made you alive. He forgave all your sins. He took what had stood against you and condemned you and canceled it by nailing it to the cross.

All your sin is forgiven and hanging on the cross.

The sins you’ve committed in the past?

All forgiven.

The sin you might be committing right now?

All forgiven.

The sins you’ll commit in the future?

ALL FORGIVEN.

Hard to fathom, isn’t it? Edwin Hawkins wrote a song…

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In the Darkness

EMDR hits you full frontal like a gigantic slap in the face. You look into the abyss. The abyss looks into you. You see things about yourself, about other people. If you’re a follower of Jesus you pray, too, for courage, for guidance.

“Thy will be done”

In the darkness the voice of Christ whispers what I’m blind to in the light of day.

“O still, small voice of calm”

In the darkness are lessons that can only be learned there, and that’s a blessing, painful though it may be.

“Thy Kingdom come”

Today while listening to a Librivox (free) recording of the Gospel of Matthew after my EMDR session, I heard these words and knew they were for me. Maybe they’ll be useful for you, too. I think they’re particularly so for those of us who have experienced abuse at the hands of those we loved and trusted:

‘…have no fear of them; for nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, or kept secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered in the ear, proclaim upon the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be afraid of Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Gehenna)*.’

Hallelujah. EMDR is also exhausting so that’s where I’ll leave this for now. Peace be with you.

*Gehenna refers to a place outside the city walls (i.e. apart from God) – a scrap heap, a rubbish dump.

Wholly Holy

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.

Sometimes I feel discouraged
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the holy spirit
Revives my soul again.

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.

Don’t ever feel discouraged
For Jesus is your friend,
And if you lack for knowledge
He’ll ne’er refuse to lend

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.

A song from the days of slavery.

EMDR stirs up memories and I often find random memories appearing in my mind. It also stirs up dreams. By act of will I can attempt to ignore the memories during the day, but when they attack at night I often wake up anxious and uneasy. Praise God for His healing balm. Praise God for His holiness in all the ugliness. He gives me strength in my weakness. May the glory and honour always be His, forever and ever.

‘Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.’

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (The Message)

‘Mummy, Sometimes I Feel Like Killing Myself’

Frank is away this week in London on business. It’s been a surreal time. I miss him terribly. It’s the longest we’ve ever been apart, but I’m making the most of the time with just me and the children. Also, it has proved the EMDR is working because I am no longer panicking and paranoid when I’m alone in the house. I am coping. Yay!

Anyway, yesterday evening, Fluff was at gymnastics. Chip had lost this privilege earlier in the week through bad behaviour so at 6 o’clock she and I were eating soup with Prince, all nice and calm, like.

“Mummy,” Prince said matter-of-factly while munching toast, “sometimes I feel like I want to kill myself.”

If your child said this to you at the dinner table, how would you react? 

I took it in my stride… we are used to brutal honesty in this house, and we are used to a young man who often says things that are completely unexpected, especially at the dinner table for some reason! He may have autism and learning disabilities, but he’s a very deep thinker (can’t think where he gets that from, can you?). So, despite the seemingly terrible tea time conversation-starter in front of his 9-year-old sister, I asked dear Prince what made him say that. I wasn’t shocked or horrified or… anything, really. I just wanted to understand what he was thinking and why.

“Because sometimes,” Prince replied, “the world just seems like such a horrible place full of horrible things and I don’t want to live in a world like that.”

Bless his beautiful black-and-white thinking. He doesn’t have the social skills to recognise why saying exactly what you think might be socially unacceptable. e.g. when we were in the supermarket and he said, horrified (and within earshot), “Mummy, why does that lady stink?!”

So we had a conversation about a world full of sin and sorrow, and a caring, loving God whose heart was breaking seeing all the misery. We talked about how He sent His Son, who willingly gave Himself to be killed in the most horrible way, to experience for Himself the very worst suffering, so that the bridge between us and God could be mended. Eventually I promised to get him a notebook so that he can write down all of his feelings and show them to his counsellor, whom he sees monthly. Then the conversation took a slightly different turn.

“I’m not sure I want to be a Christian, Mummy.” He said, “I don’t want to be like you and Daddy. It’s too hard. I just want to be able to pray sometimes.”

We talked about love and what happens when God is your friend and constant companion. We talked about how love is the only thing to make a difference in the world, how love is the only thing worth living for, and how God is love. These conversations are always challenging, because Prince’s vocabulary is limited and his comprehension is very literal. I have to keep my language very simple and straightforward, and this is quite difficult!

I thanked God for the opportunity to talk to my son about Jesus on his terms. Church and Sunday School are pitched way over Prince’s head, so he’s never going to learn from there, even if he does recognise that church people are generally kind and friendly to one another. We’ve had some conversations around the dinner table, but that one was a corker.

What about you? Have you ever had stunning questions from your offspring? How have you dealt with it?

Reblog: Confidence through Weakness

‘I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me’ gets bandied around a lot by well-meaning-but-naive types. Trouble is that it often gets interpreted as ‘I can do all things because I am strong’ rather than ‘my weakness is huge, but grace gives me strength’ (which is what Paul is actually saying in the rest of the chapter – he’s talking about suffering). In the face of ‘I can do all things because I am strong’ I just want to run away and hide, appalled at my weakness, but given the other interpretation… as long as I say ‘yes’, I am strengthened beyond what I ever imagined. God has been showing me this, lately, as I go through EMDR – this strength that He bestows. It is a somewhat fearful thing, but it is nonetheless beautiful.

Philippians is one of my favourite books of the bible. In particular this end section of the letter to the church at Philippi:

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress.

Philippians 4:8-14 (NRSVA)

Contemplative in the Mud

So now, since you want to belong entirely to God, why should you be afraid of your weakness – on which, in any case, you shouldn’t be relying.
Saint Francis de Sales

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First a Spider, then a Pigeon

A small brown spider crawled across the damp lino in the bathroom. I picked it up. It wouldn’t have made it otherwise. It would have been crushed underfoot by an unwitting toed foe. I put it out the window. It may go on to spin a hundred webs. It may get eaten by sparrows.

Then there was the wood pigeon. It’s lovely living in a rambling old house with half a dozen open fireplaces, but there are drawbacks. We use chimney pillows to prevent draughts (helpful hint: they have probably already paid for themselves several times over in terms of energy savings). This pigeon had somehow fallen down the chimney onto the chimney pillow so that when we were attempting to play a game, Chip and I were startled by a loud scrabbling and movement of the chimney pillow. We’d heard birds in the chimney before, but not like this. I called Frank and we attempted to remove the balloon and capture the bird with a blanket. It didn’t work. The bird panicked, flapped and flew back up, settling on a ledge just behind the fireplace.

We were flummoxed. After some discussion we opened the window, left the room and shut the door. We made sure we were quiet in the vicinity of the room, hoping the pigeon would find its own way down into the room and out of the window. Four hours later, as night was drawing in, we tentatively opened the door and peered under the fireplace. The bird was gone. It didn’t need to be rescued. It just needed to be left alone. The only evidence that it had even been there was a solitary grey feather.

********

Last Friday was the most intense session of EMDR that I have had so far. It affected me for the best part of a week and left me functioning well below par. Even FlyLady-ing was a serious challenge and I didn’t manage much most days. I have had nightmares and panic attacks and… well, it was not good. But did I allow myself the time to ‘go with the flow’ and let myself feel whatever I needed to feel? No, in good old Sandy King style I ploughed through and tried to be everything I thought I ought to be. In some ways I had to: Fluff had a Guides camp and I had to drop her off on the Friday and pick her up on the Monday, plus poor Frank had terrible toothache which wasn’t fixed until Wednesday, so I couldn’t step back and ‘rest’, I had to continue; I have a family.

The trouble was, instead of beginning to feel better after a couple of days, I still felt horrible. I started worrying that this was how it was going to be for me from now on – horrible, like it always used to be :-/ I prayed and said, “God, you are always good, even when life is not. I am so sorry for when I have let you down. Please forgive me. Thank you that your love remains. May it all be for your glory.” I continued praying this prayer as my mind brought all its horribleness up over and over. It was the most difficult phase of EMDR because it related to a period of my life where I felt guilty. I felt as if I should have been a better parent, despite being under enough pressure to make a normal person implode… I believed I was a bad mother and this belief was worse than any abuse I experienced at the hands of others. So I prayed and prayed for forgiveness and praised God for His grace.

But God said (once I was listening), “Hang on a minute! What was your immediate reaction on seeing that tiny wee spider on the floor the other day? Did you tread on it? Did you flush it down the toilet?”

Me: “Well, no, but…”

“No buts! Now, you know that pigeon, right?”

Me: “Yes.”

“What did you instinctively do when you realised it had fallen down the chimney? Did you swear and shout? Did you plan how to trap it and break its neck?”

Me: “No! The poor thing was frightened. I knew it needed to be left alone to make its own way out. I was worried that it might have broken a wing and we’d have to rescue it.”

God: “So if your reaction – without thinking – to something as tiny as a spider is to protect it, do you think you’re likely to not protect your own children? Do you think you’re probably a bad mother?”

“Well… I suppose not.”

God: “Do you think that, whatever happened, you probably did your best under enormous pressure?”

Me, hesitant: “Er… Well… I suppose. If You say so…”

God: “Hmm. What did the pigeon need to feel safe and be able to fly again?”

Me: “It needed to be left alone.”

God, softly: “Do you think that might apply to you, too?”

Me: “Ohh…”

………………..

Thank you, Lord.

Safe

‘It is far safer to be feared than loved’ says the Prince in Machiavelli’s infamous book (not that I have read it).

Jesus says ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’ (Matt 12:31 NIVUK). Jesus says Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command… This is my command: love each other.’ (John 15:13,14,17)

John says: ‘There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.’ (1 John 4:18)

With worldly eyes, what the Prince says might sound like wisdom, a way to get ahead in life. With eyes changed by grace, suddenly the Prince just sounds a bit pathetic; a coward. When we cling to the cross, when we walk with the Saviour, one step at a time, not only do we not look down on those who suffer thinking ‘rather you than me, chum’, not only do we think, ‘there, but for the grace of God, go I’, but ‘here, with the grace of God, I go’.

Suddenly the King of Kings says we don’t have to worry about being small or afraid or worthless (and making other people afraid of you is only something you do if you can’t find value in yourself any other way). No, we don’t have to worry any more because ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ 2 Corinthians 12:9. I don’t need anyone to be afraid of me, and I don’t need to be afraid, because I’m already safe; I’m loved by the King 🙂

EMDR

EMDR is like deliberately driving a train at full speed along a railway track knowing full well the track runs out any second and, unlike Marty McFly, you don’t have a time machine to escape at the last second so you crash into the ravine. Miraculously, although you’re wide-eyed. trembling from shock and unable to speak, you’re not dead. Yay! So you do the obvious thing: you arrange a convenient time to do it all again next week.

The one thing I do have, the thing that allows me to walk out of the building and drive home after the session is that, at the end, I cling to God like a limpet clings to the rock. I am brought to my knees in every sense and it is on my knees that I am most thankful.** 

Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

Psalm 42:7 (NIVUK)

**Also, I have chocolate. Fair trade.