Friday, January 2, 2015

2015: The word is "Health"

Each year around the end of December, I ask God for a word for the new year.  Sometimes I have to spend a bit of time meditating and journaling to arrive at it, but every year since I began this practice (at least 5 or 6 years now), a word will float to the surface that shapes my prayer for the new year and a focus for the next few months ahead.  This year the word came to me without my seeking it much, coming to my mind spontaneously as I was busy at home and at my job at the bank.  Lord knows I've little time for concentrated "seeking" these days!  It's a word that surprised and cheered me, and the word is "Health".

I'm sensing this does not mean a frantic collecting of recipes and a stocking-up trip to the natural foods store, nor vows to get up in the early hours to work out or signing up for an exercise class.  It has more to do with the inside of  me, the spirit and soul part at the core, though the body is inextricably connected to these things.  Other words that came to mind as I prayed over the matter are integrity, wholeness, connectedness.  Encouraging words indeed for someone who was fragmented by the trauma of sexual abuse at a very early age, and has spent years trying to put the pieces back together.  For years--or to be honest, decades--it seemed I was fighting a hopeless, losing battle.  I have lately learned that this kind of trauma literally rewires the brain and body, so it is not a wonder that much of the commonly given advice simply doesn't work.  But in the past nine years, and especially in the past year, I've found new sources of information, and genuine hope and help.

Most recently I have been undergoing EMDR--Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy.  This was something recommended to me by my GP at the birth of my 2nd son fifteen years ago, and again by others over the years.  The whole idea of it freaked me out: I was simply too scared to pursue it.  Most recently when I went to the doctor for problems with extreme insomnia, looking for a pill to help me sleep, he told me there was nothing he would prescribe for me that I could take every day, and encouraged me to deal with the root problem, Complex PTSD.  Then he gave me a referral to a highly recommended local psychiatrist, Dr. Dean Funabiki in Pullman, the same name I was given 15 years ago.  I really did not want to pursue it, but decided it was time.  At the same time, Dr. Funabiki himself called me more than once, explaining the specifics of the therapy, assuring me I would remain in control of the process, and answering my questions.  And amazing provision opened up that completely covered these normally very expensive appointments.  All signals were "go", so with fear and trembling, but also determination and courage, I went.

It has been tremendously hard, but I can feel some differences already.  I may talk about the specifics of EMDR more in a future post.  I am not going to talk about the uncomfortable subjects of sexual abuse, trauma and PTSD very often, but . . . sometimes.  They have been huge, huge shaping factors in my life.  And it is simply not right to leave these subjects out in the "unmentionable" ether.  That is how child abusers get away with the horrible things they do in the first place, and what makes adults who have to live with such memories feel so "crazy" and alone, and alienated from the "normal" people around them.  Although sexual abuse is unfortunately all too "normal" in our society, no matter how unmentionable it may seem to be.

Before I sign off though, I will share about two significant things that--I think not coincidentally, though I did not plan them this way--began on January 1st.  On New Year's Eve I took a pill--not a sleeping pill actually, but a blood pressure and prostrate medication that is also occasionally prescribed for PTSD and was recommended to me by Dr. Funabiki--and fell asleep within 15 minutes.  How encouraging!  And the next day was the same!  Having gone years on end without this ever happening, and often sleeping only 2 or 3 hours a night, this felt like a miracle.  Secondly, I started to read a book called The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma by a man named Bessel Van Der Kolk, whose name keeps popping up all over the place as I research things like trauma, PTSD, EMDR and the like.  Van Der Kolk is apparently one of the leading researchers in the world on these subjects.  For the curious, a fascinating and accessible PBS interview with him can be found here.  What an amazing, revolutionary book.  Though it is dense with hard-core scientific information, it is surprisingly easy to read.  It is also positive and hopeful in tone.  The book was a present from my Mother, and I want to say that my parents have been 100% supportive in my efforts to heal since I truly began remembering specific episodes of abuse nine years ago with the birth of my daughter. They are not the ones who abused me, another relative was to blame.

So "Health" is my word, and I am cherishing it.  Despite the struggle and the extreme unpleasantness of the things I get to think about since starting the EMDR, I am encouraged.  Significant healing is perhaps in my sights, and that is not something I have ever felt before.  I only wish I could have learned the things I am learning now 20+ years ago, before marriage and especially, before becoming a mother.  But if I can help another by writing about these things now, I am happy to do so.