EMDR

Sometimes Safety is a Golden Retriever

(I really, really debated whether or not to post this. Then I realized, I’m probably the only one who cares, so why not? I’m going to preface this by saying my father apologized to me. A few years ago, of his own volition, he apologized to me for the way he behaved when I was a child.)

I tried EMDR for the first time the other day. The therapist had me think about a situation that makes me anxious in my life now, that makes me want to run away. And then she asked me to think of another situation when I felt the same way.

So many moments come to mind when she asks me to think of a time I wanted to escape. All of them, all of them, with my parents. The one I settle on, which is no surprise to me, as I’ve settled on it before in my writing, is a fight between my parents. My father is yelling at my mother, I don’t know why. She’s crying and then yelling back, her voice desperate and raw. I’m hiding on the stairway, out of sight near the top. I can’t really see them, just the tops of their heads, an overhead view nearly.

At that moment, the therapist asks “What do you feel?”

“My hands feel small,” I tell her. My hands and arms feel small to me, like the hands and arms of a five year old. It’s the strangest thing.

“What are you thinking?” she asks.

I half laugh, disparagingly, at myself. “I keep repeating the dog’s name in my head, over and over and over.”

“What was the dog’s name?”

“Bryce.” And suddenly I’m crying. I had no idea her name would do that to me. But I feel this rush of grief, tying into a knot at the base of my throat.

“Where is Bryce?”

“Next to me, on the stairs. I have my arm around her.” I pause. “She died when I was five.¬†She was my best friend. She made me feel safe.”

“So she was your best friend, the only one who made you feel safe, the only stable thing in your life…”

“Yes.”

“And then she died.”

And suddenly, I understand. When Bryce died, there was no more safety for me. There was no safe place I could go, no one who would always protect me. The one reliable thing in my life was gone. All I had left was the turbulence between my parents. No Bryce to hide with me at the top of the stairs while my parents fought. No Bryce to hold on to.

That was the first time my parents sent me to therapy. When I was five. I was depressed. No, Depressed, with a big D. Because Bryce died and I was alone.

A Sketch of Bryce