This afternoon I balanced my sick baby on my lap, and pounded my keyboard as words of frustration flooded my screen. Anna’s had a fever since Sunday night. We are all tired, physically and emotionally. Our insurance deductible reset for the New Year, so affording care has been frustrating. We broke down and brought her in to be seen last night, even though we dread the bill. The provider refused to do any testing – no strep test, flu, rsv- nothing. They observed Anna for 1 hour and sent us on our way. She’s been alternating between inconsolable and sleeping since. The crying is overwhelming. Being clung onto for days at a time is draining. We all just want her to feel better, and get things back on track.
All that being said, my frustrations will not take over an entire post. I’ve been actively trying to live a more positive life. Although those frustrating feelings are normal and totally allowed, I’m not giving them that kind of credit. I’m ready to leave them in the past. Entire post deleted, let’s start fresh.
When things were at their most overwhelming, I decided to put Anna in her crib. She cried, but I knew it was a safe place where I could leave her alone for a moment. I stepped into the next room, where I could still hear her or be there quickly if she needed me. I needed to do something for myself, something to recharge me to tackle this day.
When we close an EMDR session, we typically end in a visual of a “calm, safe place.” Many times my OCD does not let me leave a session at my therapist’s office. I continue to obsess and process throughout the week, so I have been taught how to direct EMDR on myself at home. I’ve only been able to maintain short burst on myself, and for that reason I have only brought myself to my safe place. I will not process trauma with EMDR on my own. I feel that level of EMDR requires intervention, supervision and guidance by a professional. I decided that I needed to take a break from our little home, filled with loud cries and sick kids. I went to my safe place instead.
There are quite a few different methods of doing EMDR on yourself. The first method taught to me was the ‘Butterfly Hug.’ You sit with your body squared off, then cross your arms like a mummy in a sarcophagus. Your right hand will touch your left shoulder, and your left hand will touch your right shoulder. Close your eyes and alternate tapping. Focus on your safe place. What does it look like, smell like, feel like?
The butterfly hug is my preferred method. I feel more in control, and I like being able to close my eyes to really focus. If I’m wound up to the next level, I use this GIF to do the work for me. Just follow the dot with your eyes (don’t move your head, just your eyes) and try to focus on the image.
Where did I go in my safe calm place? I recently learned the word thalassophile. It’s a lover of the sea. That word in and of itself brings back visuals of the beaches in Bermuda. Having the word on my mind brought me right to those sandy shores.
First, I see blue. Bright, virant blue. Then I notice the edge of the waves turning white as they crest tord the sand. The water isn’t like the water here in Massachusetts. It’s not murky and dark- you can see right through it. I see tropical fish swimming around my feet. I love the little white ones that remind me of mermaid angels. I smell salt in the air, and coconut sunscreen on my friends. I smell burgers grilling at the beach bar, and Rum in a tropical drink- it’s called a Swizzle, and it’s a specialty in Bermuda. My shoulders tinge from the bright sun, I know I’m burning, but I love the warmth. I can hear my friends laughing in the distance, steel drums being played at the bar, and the tide coming in and going back out.
I remember happy things. My friend Heidi’s gorgeous smile when she told me the sun brought out my freckles. Watching the girls face away from the shore, take their tops off, and hoot while they swung them over their heads. The sound of Dustin’s voice, and his little accent. Nik and Jean-Marie taking a kissy selfie- It is their honeymoon after all. These things make me smile.
I focus on remembering how the salt textured my hair, and how the sand felt on my feet. I remember finding comfort during my pregnancy by hollowing out a place in the sand for my bump. It was one of the rare times I could lay on my belly. Warmth. Warm sun, warm water, hot sand. Comfort and security in that warmth.
The last thing I remember is dragging my feet as we lazily made our way back to the ship. We walked slowly, took a bunch of pictures, and tried to make those last moments last forever. The sun had zapped our energy, and we were in a sleepy daze. I think we knew at the time that we would want to revisit this place in our mind again, and we all tried to soak in every last second, every last smell, every last memory.
I opened my eyes in Jacen’s room to find my body relaxed. I was breathing normally. The tears in my eyes had turned from overwhelmed to nostalgic. In the few moments I had taken for myself, Anna had cried herself out to sleep. This break, as short as it would be, was so necessary. It was how I took control of my day, how I loved myself enough to realize I didn’t deserve to spend any more time in a frustrated state, and how I strengthened the bonds with my friends in Bermuda (and they didn’t even know it was happening!)
I encourage you to take back control of your feelings. Anger, sadness, frustration and being overwhelmed are all normal, common feelings. Being normal or common doesn’t stop them from sucking. You don’t have to carry those feelings, try EMDR and flip them around. Try meditation, journaling or mindfulness. Do something to make yourself happy. Reach out to a friend. Don’t keep yourself in the darkness today.
With healthy hearts,
Kate and the Kids.
(EMDR can be difficult to initiate on yourself if it’s new. If you’re having a hard time, just stop what you’re doing and focus on these waves for 20 seconds. Focus on your breathing, and feel better!)