What is EMDR and why am I undergoing this unusual mental health treatment?

Editor’s note: I dropped out of EMDR after only a few sessions. I did not trust the therapist, who seemed to be trying to put words into my mouth. She also wanted me to abstain from medical cannabis two days before each session, which I deemed a wholly unreasonable request. Finally, if you are the victim of a violent crime, they will throw out your testimony if your memories vis a vis the crime are tampered with via EMDR. We never got past my childhood Florida trip, when my morbidly drunk dad threw the empties into the flatbed of his truck with no AC as we barreled down the interstate.

This was going to be the blog that “kicked butt and named names,” so to speak.

But after seeing Dr. Lash at Southpark Psychology a couple of times, I don’t feel the need to do that.

Besides, if I gave everything away now, nobody would buy my book. So maybe I will only give away a little bit.

I have begun a mental health treatment known as EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It took me a long time to decide whether to do this. Because my trauma involves being the victim of multiple crimes – at least I considered them crimes and reported them to authorities – I wasn’t sure whether it would be a good idea to tamper with my memories.

In a nutshell, once you have this done, if you ever are called to testify about a crime, they essentially declare your testimony null and void.

That’s fine with me. I’m never going to be called to testify about anything anyway because the people who hurt me clearly are untouchable.

What is EMDR?

What is EMDR, you ask?

It’s different. Click here to get the full explanation from the EMDR International Association.

From the website:

“Processing does not mean talking about it. Processing means setting up a learning state that will allow experiences that are causing problems to be digested and stored appropriately in your brain.

“That means that what is useful to you from an experience will be learned, and stored with appropriate emotions in your brain, and able to guide you in positive ways in the future. The inappropriate emotions, beliefs, and body sensations will be discarded.

“Negative emotions, feelings and behaviors are generally caused by unresolved earlier experiences that are pushing you in the wrong directions. The goal of EMDR therapy is to leave you with the emotions, understanding, and perspectives that will lead to healthy and useful behaviors and interactions.”

Can you see why I signed up?

The treatment, I think, is more important than the process, which is intense and a bit unusual. It’s difficult for people like myself not to rant, but that’s not how this works.

The process involves following LED lights in such a way that it literally frees your brain so that you can look at things differently.

It may sound strange, but scientific research has proven the efficacy of this treatment.

Dr. Lash speaks passionately about how she got into EMDR. She was at the APA Convention in New York City and EMDR founder Francine Shapiro was giving a presentation that had spilled outside of the ballroom.

This was back in the 1980s, and Dr. Lash pushed her way inside as opposed to being content to just listen in the overflow, where a monitor and speaker also had been set up.

I am incredibly grateful to have access to this kind of treatment, especially in the Quad-Cities, where mental health services are abysmal for most people.

Check out my portfolio of paid articles about mental health

Story about jail heat gets me steaming

The trigger that pushed me over the edge and caused me to see Dr. Lash is the story making the rounds lately about the Rock Island County Jail’s broken air-conditioning system. Check out Chris Minor’s report for WQAD-TV 8.

These worthless politicians for decades have been irresponsible and corrupt with taxpayer funds. Now the county is broke. There are still almost 30 members on that board and they have repeatedly demonstrated their incompetence to the taxpayers.

All of them, as far as I’m concerned.

Are we supposed to feel sorry for them that they have opened themselves to litigation? They’ve done it repeatedly. It would be interesting to know just how much they’ve paid out in settlements in just the past 10 years, actually. I chose not to go that route and share my story instead.

I was held two years ago in that jail, stripped naked in solitary confinement, on no charges at all. My story never has changed one bit.

You can read about it here.

And here.

Despite GPS evidence and phone calls by pastor, no justice

I essentially want to re-process what happened inside the jail to create a different reality. It’s so haunting I need it wiped from my memory.

While my story of what happened inside the jail is extremely complex, several damning facts have emerged that those close to the case understand adds much credibility to my entire story.

If anyone in authority cared about what happened to me in the Rock Island County Jail, they would have called my pastor by now to confirm what we know to be true: She called my phone at least twice while I was held in the jail on no charges at all, and a Spanish-speaking person answered.

Check out my paid portfolio of addiction/recovery reporting

We also know from the GPS history of my phone that it left the jail. You can see it for yourself in my blog post regarding what happened in the jail.

Why was the phone on, why wasn’t it in a locker, and how can anyone think anything about my story doesn’t ring true with these two pieces of evidence alone?

I don’t mean to put the pastor in a bad situation, but look what I have been put through. To say or do nothing is not the right thing to do.

Check out my paid portfolio of reporting on matters of public health

She ministers to pillars of the Rock Island County establishment, including a Rock Island County board member who I also have known quite well for many, many years.  The board member not calling to apologize to me on behalf of the county is wacked as far as I am concerned.

But again, all of them are worthless as far as I am concerned. The entire county government is a systemically corrupt malaise from the view I have.

Disgraceful county owes me, pastor apology

The pastor has been a wonderful person to my entire family, a faithful spiritual adviser, and trusted friend. The entire county board should apologize to her, too, as far as I’m concerned. For multiple reasons.

To the best of my knowledge, they have done absolutely nothing about any of this but stick their heads in the sand.

Some people actually say I should take personal accountability for what led to me being taken to that jail.

To them – and there really are only a handful of dishonest people who still are trying to play that card – I suggest they take care of the heaping pile of stink on their own side of the street, and not worry about people who have finally challenged their rapidly crumbling influence.

I could play the victim and succumb to the terror of what happened the two days I was held inside that filthy, incredibly unprofessional, God-forsaken jail. Some would say I have, but I don’t buy that. Someone playing the victim would have done just that and kept their mouth shut.

I’ve shared my story with the proper authorities. Now, I’m doing EMDR.

And I have faith it’s going to help me rewrite the history of how the trauma I experienced inside that jail affects my life from this day forward.

Besides, my story already has a happy ending.

Medical cannabis learning event, Omni device take the scary out of dabbing

Photo courtesy Pixabay

I went to my first “learning event” tonight since becoming an Illinois Medical Cannabis Registered Qualifying Patient. It was held at Stern Beverage in Milan, next door to Nature’s Treatment of Illinois. About 60 people attended.

I hesitated a bit about writing this blog, but then I figured I really need to. People have so many misconceptions about cannabis. Some glorify it to the extreme. Some belittle it to the extreme. The truth about cannabis is somewhere in between and there is no one size fits all for anyone. I always say the same thing about sobriety.

The topic of the Learning Event tonight? Concentrates.

As in “dabbing,” among other things.

I was intrigued by the topic because a story I wrote about “dabbing” is what catapulted me into writing about addiction and recovery, which is largely how I pay my bills these days.

In the Healthline News dabbing story, which you can read by clicking here, Kevin Winslow, former director of the Quad-City Metropolitan Enforcement Group, told me “It’s all going to go eventually into the wrong hands. Sick people are not smoking dabs.”

He was referring to the Illinois Medical Cannabis pilot program, of which I am now a part, and which permits the learning events sponsored by the dispensaries.

But more importantly, Winslow warned of what happens to people who try to make their own dabs – their houses can erupt in flames. When I wrote that piece well over two years ago, the mainstream news media had not yet begun to write about dabs.

And that is why the speaker tonight, Whaxy.com founder Zach Marburger, stressed that no one should EVER try to make their own dabs at home.

“It’s a modern-day meth lab,” he said. “It will blow your house up, and the product won’t be that good.”

Marburger said he began smoking marijuana after being “hopped up” for many years on ADHD medication. You would never guess Marburger has ADHD today. Certainly not a “stoner” either.

Maybe he’s like me. I told my therapist the other day you can see how people who have a baseline speed of a million miles per hour can benefit from cannabis.

Why ‘dabbing’ is so controversial

Concentrates are controversial because of how CBD and THC are extracted from the plant. One process is by using solvents such as butane hash oil. This is not only why houses explode (concentrates purchased legally at dispensaries are made in safe, controlled laboratories), but many have argued the residue from the butane should disqualify dabs from medical cannabis programs.

But Marburger explained Illinois, which has what is considered the strictest medical cannabis program in the country, does not allow more than 10 parts per million of solvent residuals in the final concentrate product. This is in stark contrast to Colorado, which allows 8,000 parts per million, Marburger explained.

Marburger, by the way, is from the Midwest originally but now lives in Denver. He has founded a second company called Cannabis Technology Association, which advocates for the use of data in the emerging cannabis industry.

Illinois’ medical cannabis program is nothing like Colorado’s, he said, saying in Colorado the program essentially amounts to a discount card for the same cannabis everyone else can buy.

That cannabis is not strictly regulated like that grown in Illinois. You can check out my interview with scientist Andy LaFrate, the owner of a Colorado marijuana testing laboratory, by clicking here.

I know that even medical cannabis is controversial and maybe some people aren’t thrilled I’m writing about it. But I got into journalism to educate and, more importantly, to challenge misinformation or apathy when I see it.

As for me, tonight I bought a device called an Omni. It has three attachments. One is for smoking “dabs” or “budder” or “shatter” or whatever you want to call it.

Another is for vaporizing “flower,” or “bud.” This is nice because the pungent odor is greatly reduced, as is the mess. You just tap out the ashes (not really ashes, but a residue…vaporizing breaks down the carbon differently) with a little clicker button.

The third attachment is for oils.

Unlike dabbing via a traditional “rig,” which involves using a torch, with this thing you just dab the wax (or flower, or oil) into the chamber and smoke it like an e cigarette. It runs on a battery. No lighter needed.

Better than benzodiazepines?

I am thankful for the medical cannabis program for the very fact that I got off the benzodiazepines. I had not been myself for a very, very long time.

While the benzodiazepines the doctor prescribed after I had been stripped naked and jailed two days on no charges  made life manageable after such outrageous trauma, I had become addicted to them. I felt bad if I didn’t take them and I felt bad when I took them. That is not the case with the cannabis.

One study I ran across recently showed that elderly people are filling fewer prescriptions in states where medical cannabis is legal. Junk science? I’m not sure since I haven’t seen the entire study myself.

Anecdotally, when I go the dispensary, which is usually before noon, it’s almost exclusively elderly people. There are a lot of construction workers, too. And people who I suspect may be undergoing chemotherapy.

Everyone has very serious discussions with the medical cannabis agents, who truly are knowledgable and have not steered me wrong yet. I smile because I know people are being helped. I see it every time I go.

It’s kind of like this is our little secret. I think many people don’t dare tell their friends, and certainly not their co-workers if employed, that they have a medical cannabis card.

But I also know that cannabis can be addictive. And the more you use it, the more you need to get the desired effect. And this is the reason “dabs” and other concentrates are included in the medical cannabis program. They deliver that stronger dose.

Pot on steroids? Absolutely. Pharma calls it dosing.

That said, Lt. Winslow’s words about dabs were not lost on me. He is in law enforcement and illegal dabs is causing them problems. I respect that.

Cannabis relief, law enforcement can coexist

I happen to firmly believe in law and order, probably because I understand all too well the consequences of not having it.

It’s very encouraging that as people in my Illinois Medical Cannabis groups on Facebook share experiences with law enforcement, most of the time they are saying police are very curious but courteous about the program and are asking good questions.

If a police officer runs your license plate in Illinois, it will show that you are a medical cannabis cardholder. Naturally, people do get pulled over now and then for a heavy foot.

Finally, the outcome of my own experience dabbing. I will admit it sort of felt like smoking cannabis for the very first time. And then it wore off reasonably quickly.

If I said it wasn’t a pleasant experience I’d be lying. But I also know that dabbing sends your tolerance through the roof. In the end, it means more money out of your pocket on top of everything else.

As the speaker tonight kept saying as he offered very truthful information about concentrates, “Be cognizant of that.” He blew neither smoke nor sunshine during his presentation.

My ultimate goal with my medical cannabis card is to remain calm at all times and to sleep well through the night. So far, I’m accomplishing that with CBD edibles before bed and an occasional hit of good old-fashioned flower during the day.

I’m doing so much better. Being angry all the time and not sleeping at night – for about five consecutive years – was not fun.

Nobody likes living with PTSD and not trusting a soul, believe me. Cannabis is bringing me great peace. I am incredibly grateful to live in Illinois and to have this program.

Chapter 5: Dad diagnosed with rare “terse and curse” called FTD, behavioral variant

Six months into dad’s stay at the memory care facility, my brother and I both wanted an accurate diagnosis of what was going on with him.

He seldom made any sense when he spoke. When he did, “I can’t believe he said that” insults were par for the course.

At times, he clocked workers (at least they said he did…he often claimed getting clocked as well). He had been completely incontinent for six months (since the day he went into the hospital) and wearing pull-ups.

Regardless of what was wrong with dad, to me it didn’t matter. But my brother was hell-bent on disproving the hospital’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

It seemed to me at the time that if my brother thought he could prove dad did not have Alzheimer’s, he could remove him from the memory care facility and move him back in with me.

David Heitz on LinkedIn: How my dying father breathed new life into my career

He didn’t put dad in the memory care facility because he wanted to. He didn’t have a choice, according to an administrator who worked at the nursing home where dad had been two months prior. She claimed she threatened my brother with turning him into the elder ombudsman if he brought dad home to me. I absolutely believe her because there’s no way my brother would have put dad into the memory care community otherwise.

Ironically, I chose the memory care facility that ended up trespassing me. But it had changed hands by the time that happened.

Administrator at ‘John Deere hospital’ proves golden

The administrator of the dementia unit at the CMS-certified nursing home where dad stayed for two months prior to the memory care facility ran things like a dedicated, no-nonsense medical professional. She was following the letter of the law.

I readily admit I was not capable of single-handedly caring for dad any longer. For the record, I have no doubt my brother did come to understand that later.

Dad on many occasions would ask to go to back to “John Deere hospital” which for whatever reason is how he referred to this nursing home. Dad was a Deere retiree.

Thank God for laws, by the way, regulating elder care. While the strictest federal laws only apply to facilities receiving federal Medicare/Medicaid dollars, other laws very state by state.

Most aren’t enforced, for a variety of reasons that I list in another chapter. But, if you learn what the laws are in your state, you can at least advocate on your loved one’s behalf.

And I did. Had I not, I never would have seen my dad again, as explained in another chapter. Advocating got me “trespassed” from dad’s facility, and advocating got me reunited with him again.

Although I’m the one who moved back from Los Angeles after dad had moved into a long-term care facility the first time (then moved back into his apartment, which he had kept, upon my return), ultimately quit my job, and even moved in with dad, as the youngest child I was not power of attorney.

That would have been fine if my brother and I would have been able to work together. But this is less about hindsight being 20/20, and more about informing others so they don’t have to live through the hell my brother and I did.

At any rate, after six months, at a cost of just under $4,000 per month for the memory care institution, every penny coming out of dad’s pocket, the fighting between my brother and I had reached epic proportions. Or so I thought.

In reality, we still were just engaging in warm-up verbal sparring at that point. Soon, it would become one Main Event after another for the next few years.

This is not at all uncommon for siblings of a parent with dementia. Add that my brother and I both are never married, no children, and had lost our mother 20 years prior, and neither of us with anyone to lean on.

It just made everything worse. We’re both loners. I never used to be, but between trying to live an alcohol-free life and caring for dad, I have found true serenity in just being alone with my thoughts most of the time.

Read more: My report on how a binding caregiver contract can keep siblings out of court

Neurologist warned dad’s behavior will worsen

I made an appointment with a neurologist to try to find out what was going on inside dad’s brain. I had no idea what the neurologist was going to say, but I wanted to make sure I had witnesses.

I corralled my cousin and the activities director of the memory care facility to also attend dad’s appointment with the neurologist. My brother had to work.

The day we took dad to the neurologist, he initially was very quiet. He wasn’t really acting up at all, but he did say several nonsensical things. The doctor asked him a few basic questions about current events. Dad answered a few things correctly, but mostly he was acting a clown.

Read more: My dad, class clown of his memory care community

“Frontal lobe!” the doctor exclaimed.

“Frontal lobe? OK, so that’s the next most common form of dementia in elderly people next to Alzheimer’s, right?”

As much as I wanted to think I was the health reporter who knew everything, I didn’t.

“No! Frontal lobe, very rare,” the doctor continued. “Behavioral variant.”

Read more: Why FTD is so hard to talk about: My dad’s story

Then he added, “Take him three doors down to (a psychiatrist) for medication. If you do not, his behavior is going to get so out of control the facility will throw him out. No one will take him. Then he will have to go to Galesburg.”

Galesburg, Ill. is about 40 minutes or so south of the Quad-Cities. Not someplace you could take the city bus to, which is how I was visiting dad at the time. There is a place there that takes elder people with dementia who have become hostile. They medicate the hell out of them (which should only be done when absolutely necessary) and then get them placed somewhere.

At least that’s how it was explained to me.

Sadly, the neurologist turned out to be right about everything both in terms of dad’s diagnosis and the progression of his disease. Although I wasn’t really surprised.

In long-term care circles, some refer to dad’s rare disease – only 50,000 people in the U.S. are estimated to have it – as “terse and curse.”

Check out my portfolio of paid work on caregiving topics

Actually, the neurologist gave dad a secondary diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, which I really never have much written about. Dad at the time, and for a certain phase of his illness, had the classic “Parkinson’s shuffle” and many of the classic dementia, behavioral and mobility problems that comes with it.

But in the end, the progression of dad’s disease was classic BvFTD.

Dad’s own private WMD: A cement bulldog

When we went to see the psychiatrist just a short time later, dad already had begun to have violent explosions. He would pull the blinds down inside his room: Literally right out of the wall, rod, plaster and all. He did that many, many times.

He also had discovered a weapon of mass destruction: A cement bulldog. (You can see the bulldog by clicking on this link here. The story has nothing to do with my dad but I used the bulldog as a prop for the photo.)

Dad would take the bulldog and crash it against the porcelain toilet in his room, releasing floodwaters that would ravage the lower level of the memory care community.

At least I suspect that’s what he did, as the bulldog is now damaged, and I know at one point they took it away from him. But for all I know, he had a lady friend who got mad at him and did it. There was one resident who got into bed with dad once and he allegedly hit her. He was written up for it. I had them rewrite the report because it did not state the other resident got into bed with him, which an employee confirmed.

It took another six months after dad’s diagnosis for me to fully research dad’s disease. By the time I had read up on it, I was analyzing his symptoms after every visit and trying to figure out how much time he had life. It was brutal.

It also was already close to the end. No, dad didn’t have Alzheimer’s. If he did, he would have lingered with the lights off for at least 10 more years most likely.

Actually, the lights never were off for dad. He knew every horrible thing that was happening to him until his last breaths. The part of the brain that controls vocalization had stopped working the last few days of his life. Instead, there were silent screams and convulsions that no child of any age should have to watch their parent go through.

Dad lobs nasty insults at psychiatrist

“Hey doc!” screamed dad as we wheeled him into the psychiatrist’s office.

Dad immediately hurled an ethnic slur.

“Seroquel immediately to sedate him!” the doctor snapped.

Dad then hurled another ethnic slur.

“I’m doubling the dose!” responded the doctor, rewriting the script like a mad scientist.

And dad that was pretty much it.

Getting dad into the doctor’s office was pure hell. People with dementia can put their feet flat on the floor when they are in a wheelchair and refuse to let you take them anywhere.

On the way out, he was screaming, hunched over, fighting all of us. A young father with gigantic blue eyes gazed at me and offered help. His little girl clearly had troubles of her own.

I was profoundly impacted by this man’s gaze, and I never will forget it. It was as though he immediately saw another person caring for a loved one who so badly needed help. Someone who has cared for another person and faced the challenges that come with it knows when they see another person who is struggling with that 10,000-pound responsibility.

Check out my portfolio of paid work on mental health topics

Chapter One: Dad and I reclaim the property

“Jeezus Christ! What the hell is going on!” I screamed to dad as I pulled up to the house, admittedly excited to be moving in despite the inevitable battles I innately knew were ahead. “You better not chop down that God damned tree!”

Undoubtedly, I had been out all night drinking the night before. I had been totally unemployed for a year, as checking in on dad had become too stressful and I was completely burnt out with my newspaper job.

Honestly, I had thought to myself more than once, “If you’re not going to report on things you know about that need to be reported because of personal relationships, you need to get out of the business.”

So that’s what I did.

Branches were falling from the maple tree out front of what was the family homestead until mom died. It had changed hands just twice when dad got it back, almost 30 years – three decades — to the day mom got rid of him.

Check out my portfolio of paid reportage on mental health issues

Dad and his best friend Jack Long dug up the tree down by the Mississippi River and transplanted it into the front yard when the room addition was built in 1976. I remember it grew very fast, and in a couple of years I was enjoying climbing it. Now I could not even reach the lowest branch if I wanted to. The tree is massive.

Dad had no intention of cutting down the tree. In retrospect, I’m sure he knew hiring a big crew to top that monster was not something I would make a priority, or possibly even be able to afford. He took care of certain things immediately.

Like re-siding the garage. The garage looked like hell when dad bought the house back for more than seven times the price he paid for it in 1963.

Dad and I had a wonderful first six months back in the family home.  He began to fall from the day we moved in. In fact, I found him lying on the floor when I moved in the day after he did.

He would fall out of the lawn chair in the front yard. My brother and I both thought maybe he did it on purpose to get neighbors to talk to him.

For me at least, it became apparent by the seventh month that was not the case, and something really, really frightening was going on with my dad. In fact, he had a horrible, extremely rare brain disease called frontotemporal degeneration, behavioral variant, also known as Pick’s Disease.

Learn more about the rare brain disease that killed my dad

My dad, who had saved my life so many times, soon would meet an unthinkable finale to half a lifetime of suffering.

In retrospect, some might argue not soon enough. And did.

About a year after dad and I moved in, dad was taken out by paramedics, never to return. He had chased me with a butcher knife and I had called the police, but only because I thought he was going to fall and spear himself. The night before, he had shoved towels and cooking utensils down the toilet.

Check out my portfolio of paid caregiving/aging reportage

And as he was running through the house with the knife – remarkably without a walker, as though Lazarus had stopped by – smoke was pouring out of the kitchen wastepaper basket.

Once again, he had thrown a burning cigarette in it.

My poor cat, an incredibly spry 18 years old at the time, used to hide in the basement. Dad loved the cat and she ignored him, so he would cuss her. Later, I found out he was feeding her cookies when I was at the bar at night those first six months.

It would fast become a terribly exhausting, scary and frustrating situation. Dad would howl at the moon at night. He would wake me up and order me to go across the street to the church and turn their music down. There was no music.

This should not be surprising, as he was having many odd flashbacks in the house. In 1984, he walked across the street to the church once, interrupted service, and told the priest that someone needed to move their car so my brother could get his boat out of our back yard.

Check out my portfolio of paid addiction and recovery content

I call my neighborhood Redneck Ritz.

It was incredibly surreal to be living with dad, in the very house I was brought home to from the hospital. The hospital right up the street, in fact.

The hospital has a helipad. As a kid, I always thought the helicopters touching down at the hospital were the coolest thing ever. That, and the airplanes flying overhead, so low if you squint it feels like you could touch them. The house still is directly in the flight pattern of Quad-City International Airport. Which is not a big deal, despite the “international” in its name. The Quad-Cities likes to be bigger than it is. Almost 30 members on the Rock Island County Board, after all, in a county of 130,000 or so people.

Check out my celebrity interviews

I knew on move-in day that as profoundly bizarre that what dad had done might seem to some, it wasn’t at all strange to him. And by the end of the first week, it wasn’t strange to me either.

Dad, at age 72 and already with significant mobility challenges, incontinence and dementia, had purchased the family home he lost to my mother in their second 1984 divorce.

Yes, from each other. They married and divorced each other twice.

And I inherited half of the same house twice. It would have been a lot more economical had I kept it the first time I inherited it, when mom died, but as a 24-year-old living in Los Angeles in 1995 I was not about to move back to Rock Island, Ill.

I might have been on to something there. But we age, we make choices, and I chose the stability and the warmth of my family home, even if unspeakable things have transpired here. Not only in this house, but in the unspeakably corrupt community in which I live.

Lots and lots and lots of abuse.  I lived almost an entire life of abuse, and for many years resumed being a victim – and playing a victim – when I returned to the Quad-Cities from Los Angeles to care for dad a decade prior.

Little did I know my real troubles would begin once I already had been a year on the straight and narrow path nobody ever thought I would find. Clean, sober, and laying naked on a concrete slab in solitary confinement in the Rock Island County Jail, held on no charges at all.

Check out my portfolio of paid mental health reportage