Besides having Bipolar, I also have OCD tendencies and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). As part of both the depression/mixed states associated with my Bipolar and PTSD, I regularly experience the annoying inundation of negative, self-recriminating thoughts.
Some may say ‘we all have negative, self-recriminating thoughts from time to time’ and that would not be wrong. But when you have a mental illness they aren’t just thoughts. With these comes the full-bodied experience, inclusive of the physical symptoms and reactions which were experienced at the time of the event or situation in which they originally occurred.
The lay person, or someone with a mental illness who does not encounter this experience, often say things like ‘it’s in the past, leave it in the past’ or ‘you have to stop living in the past’ or ‘you need to forgive and forget’. I wish it were that easy.
I call these thoughts ‘The Haunting’ because they come unbidden, unwanted, are intrusive, triggering, humiliating; anxiety, fear and night terror inducing. The physical symptoms associated, such as heart palpitations, immediately and excessively perspiring, tremors and muscle tension, are all encompassing, consuming and overwhelming. We, those who experience The Haunting, DO NOT want to experience these recurrences and symptoms. We would be ecstatic if we never, ever, encountered them again. We have no control over when they come and it is such an individual experience, with many different underlying abuse and trauma related events, that it is hard to find and learn coping strategies to reduce the impact on our mind and daily life.
From the time I was 17 to 46 years of age, I had tried numerous counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists, hypnotherapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, etc, etc, with no success. At 46, I had again gone into therapy with a psychologist, to whom I relayed all the therapies I had tried. After much discussion and disclosure, she suggested trying Eye Movement Desensitisation & Reprograming (EMDR). I thought ‘Yeah, right! Just another new age touchy feely therapy’, but as nothing else had been successful in reducing my symptoms, I thought ‘why not, let’s give it a go. I’ve got nothing to lose’.
Wow, was I surprised! It was actually working! We went through the process issue by issue, event by event, experience by experience. Some sessions had an immediate impact, some we had to revisit what we had previously worked on and three situations/issues/events it had no impact on. We achieved success on about 85% of my Haunting experiences and I have to tell you, it is bliss. The therapy did not work for me in the area’s that were not around the unbidden thoughts and memories and the associated symptoms They were those that were triggered by smell, sight and taste. But I am still ecstatic that the other 85% has been dealt with and rarely (the brain is a fickle thing) have an impact on me anymore.
This therapy has made my life so much calmer, easier to manage and sooooo many other positive outcomes have been experienced, ones that I never would have thought were impacted by The Haunting. But this is not to say it works for everyone. I am sharing this with you to encourage you to keep searching and striving to find the therapy and support that will work for you. I know that continual unsuccessful attempts to work with and overcome The Haunting is disappointing, discouraging, daunting and wears on your patience and ability to remain positive and motivated. But don’t give up; a better, healthy and freeing mind experience is out there for you; persist, persist, persist.
If you would like more information on EMDR, the link to the Australian & International EMDR Association sites are below.
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