I seem to be a star pupil when it comes to EMDR therapy, so much so that we have taken a break from it and returned to CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). In other words, I am back to what I would like to call normal therapy. My therapist, after months of reprocessing certain devastating memories… Tyler, losing Tyler, losing myself, my Postpartum fiasco… decided I needed to learn how to cope.
To cope… according to Dictionary.com, the word “cope” is defined as “ “.
Key word: successfully. Okay, Dr. B., I agree with you completely. After being on this earth for over 36 years, I should learn how to “cope” with my tragedies, both big and small. Instead of stuffing them to some corner of my brain and locking them away, I need to face them head on. I need to embrace them. After years of CBT, you would think I would know by now how to “cope”. I don’t. It seems that with every episode of Depression and Anxiety, I start out as an infant and need to relearn everything once again. It is rather annoying and downright tedious.
So after dealing with the typical “replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts” exercise, my therapist who is big on Mindfulness and Meditation, suggested we try exercises employing this. Why not? I am game for anything therapy wise. We decided to focus on a guided meditation dealing with sound. Why sound you ask?
One example… this Saturday night, as my husband and I were in the basement watching TV, our neighbors decided to celebrate July 4th a bit early. I mean, it isn’t even June 4th yet. Even though we were in a basement which deafens the sound a bit with its concrete and insulated walls, I sat scrunched up in a fetal position with my hands on my head scratching at my scalp. I started rocking back and forth, curses flying out of my mouth. It was not a pretty sight. This sound, like my neighbors’ annoying diesel truck and dirt bike is something I can’t control. I dislike things I can’t control. I am an Alpha after all.
I sat comfortably in the soft cushioned chair upholstered in a floral pattern. My arms draped over the arms of the chair, my feet were flat on the floor. My therapist proceeded to get up telling me that for this Sound Meditation we would in fact need sound so he opened two of his office windows and returned to his seat. He began to read from a book which directed me to close my eyes. Simple task, done. Then it got more difficult.
“Focus on the sounds around you. Those near and those far. Those that are long, those that are short. Those that are loud, those that are quiet. Notice how they fade in and then fade out…”
As he spoke these words all I could think was these damn cars. They are so loud. How am I supposed to learn how to tune them out?! Okay, Steph, focus on the birds. You like nature sounds. Ah, birds, tweet, tweet, tweet. Damn cars! Shit, a motorcycle!
I was then supposed to imagine the sounds passing by like clouds. They roll in, they roll out. Instead my breaths got short and rapid, my lank hands were now gripping the ends of the arms of the chairs, my head felt like it was being squeezed. I was nauseous, dizzy, tense and about a few seconds away from getting up and shutting the windows myself. The sound was too much for me. I was having a full blown Anxiety Attack.
When my therapist finished reading, he looked up at me and asked me how it was. Being a great faker of feelings he didn’t notice any of the affects my Anxiety was having on me. Between rapid breaths I asked, “Does it get better?”
“Does what get better?” he replied.
“Meditation? I am having a freaking Anxiety Attack.”
“Hmmmm… this exercise is supposed to have a calming effect,” he responded.
“So was the Container Exercise. I seem to be in this 1% where Meditation has the opposite affect,” I joked, “My head feels like it is being squeezed in a vice.”
At this point my hands were now in tense fists. I felt as if I would vomit soon. I just wanted to leave. I needed fresh air. I needed space. I needed….
“Would you like to try this again?” he asked.
My eyes widened in horror, “Like now?! I am still coming down from my attack!”
“No, not now. I can see how distressed you are right now. But could we try it again with the windows closed focusing on smaller sounds at another session? I think you should give it a try a few more times before ruling it out.”
I pondered this. Obviously, this first time did not yield the response he or I wanted. Neither did EMDR for at least the first month of doing it but eventually it worked wonders. I knew I needed to get over this sound annoyance thing or I would forever be enveloped in my Anxiety. I trust my therapist and agreed to try it again. The battle continues.