From Therapist: Faith Foo (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
This is my client’s testimony. Permission given by client to share so others will be encouraged to get early intervention help. I am grateful I started my journey to be trained as an EMDR clinician, I believe in the research and witness results daily in counselling sessions. I am ever grateful to hear a report like this.
Don’t suffer alone, whatever you are going through. Reaching out for help is important.
(Written on 31 October 2018)
My brother hung himself to death in 2011. And I found him. For years after that I was living with the images of what I saw. Images that would come to me uninvited – like rude intruders. I remember the way I felt and I remember the smell. I was living with guilt and regrets – for what I didn’t or couldn’t do to stop that from happening.
It is 2018.
My therapist thinks that I have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) because of the incident that happened in 2011. I couldn’t relate to that concept. But I should trust the expert.
I thought I was “normal”. I may have relied on substances to cope with pressures or anxiety, to numb pain, to fill a void or to put myself to sleep; and half of the world population deal with issues in life the same way – so, I thought I was quite normal.
But, I have forgotten that issues can be dealt with in many ways. And sometimes, the healthier alternatives can be very confronting and can get you uncomfortable – it may require you to dig deep, confront your fear and feel your pain before you get to that place where you are finally free, liberated and emotionally healthy. And therapy is one the healthier alternatives.
So, my therapist said EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing) may be the answer to my issues.
All I needed to do was to fix my eyes on her hand while she moves it from side to side. Sometimes she would tap on my knees. It is supposed to guide my brain into processing and storing information at the appropriate sections of the brain – to replace the unpleasant thoughts with positive ones etc. Not that I understood any bit of it. But, I trust her. And she trusts the process.
The first EMDR session dealt with my reliance on substance. That same night, I slept deep the way I never did in many years. I haven’t since then relied on alcohol for sleep – which was the right thing to do since alcohol affects the quality of sleep.
The subsequent sessions dealt with my brother’s death. I would be watching my therapist’s hand moving from one side to the other side like a pendulum swing, and my mind was directed back to that time and place where I found him. It is still 2018. And, I saw it with vivid details in my head – that same appearance, colour, light, and smell. My heart was racing, and my arms and feet were cramping. I was feeling the way I did when I first saw him – confused, fearful, guilty and after all that, numbed.
The way I felt, of course, improved as we progressed. I was taught to get into a “safe space” that I created in my head – that place where I will never get hurt and where I can get my rest. After each session, I considered a series of questions – questions that required me to probe my thoughts, intents and feelings as well as the way my body responds to them.
The unpleasant images were eventually fading away. Soon, the memories of my brother were no longer associated with condemnation, darkness and pain.
It was so surreal.
I saw how past trauma can affect the mind, body and emotion in ways many of us can never comprehend; your brain and body can perceive a past event as still being in the present; you can get trapped in the past and not move on. But science and psychotherapy have found ways to recondition how our brain deals with trauma so as to enable us to live the best life we should. And I am thankful.