Photo courtesy Pixabay
In 1974, my dad hurled my toy Jack-in-the-Box at my mother.
The Jack in the Box nailed me instead, in the crease of my nose, running into what’s now my laugh line on the left-hand side of my face.
In the 1970s, believe it or not, toy Jack-in-the-Boxes were made of metal, not plastic.
What I remember is staring into the giant mirror in the living room, screaming in pain, blood running down my face.
I never forgot this horrible memory. But I never processed it either.
I did tonight.
EMDR (eye movement desensitization reprocessing) is pretty amazing. One theory is that as you watch the light beam go back and forth, back and forth, REM sleep is initiated, allowing you to process those deeply embedded, disturbing memories that got stuck. The amygalda must deal with them or they can interfere with daily life later on.
I’m not going to get into my session, but being struck by that Jack-in-the-Box caused damage that never had been processed.
While the damage it caused has permeated my life in recent years, processing it tonight was easier than you might think. There were a few tears while some specific memories and “a ha!” conclusions bubbled to the surface.
But the “a-ha” epiphanies are liberating.
Domestic violence a cycle of meanness; kids lose
In a nutshell, tonight’s session pulled back the curtain in my mind shrouding the true impact domestic violence has on families. We hear over and over and over again how we end up choosing partners and relationships that mirror the dysfunction we grew up with.
But let me tell you something. Even when you work as a mental health writer, you might know that truth inside and out, front and back. But you probably don’t really understand it if it has profoundly impacted your life and you never have processed it. I had recreated those sorts of relationships with several people who no longer are in my life.
It’s a cycle of meanness. Words can be as bad as physical blows. Children always lose, and are left picking up the pieces just as I am now.
I hope they don’t wait until they are 47 years old to do it. But sometimes we don’t even realize those unprocessed memories are lingering. PTSD, obviously, is a huge clue.
Anger, jumpiness, fear, distrust of all, drug and alcohol abuse, and resentment all are classic signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. Remember, PTSD can happen to anyone.
If you have these symptoms, I urge you to seek treatment.
Deeper understanding, motivation of staying sober
I was asked tonight to rate how much I believed the statement, “I can live a healthy life.”
On a scale of one to seven, I listed it a seven.
I told my therapist I can only live a healthy life without alcohol.
I didn’t arrive at the conclusion though after sitting in a circle and being told I was bad. I’m not going to explain how I arrived at it with a much greater realization than I even had previously. It’s a personal process sifting through those stuck memories. Odd how they bubble up. Tonight they had themes of alcohol and domestic abuse.
And 2 ½ years of solid sobriety on your own is a pretty incredible accomplishment. So, I know I had a pretty deep understanding that I was powerless over alcohol from the day I chose to make the effort to quit.
I have known that more than three years now, even if I have been taking an occasional sip again since mid-January — until 10 days ago.
This treatment is working for me. I wish I had not waited so long to start it.