Hangin’ with Harry! The Brain-Changing Beauty of EMDR
I never thought that one day I would say that Prince Harry and I have something in common!! Well, we do. We both experienced EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).
EMDR therapy “is a phased, focused approach to treating traumatic and other symptoms by reconnecting the client in a safe and measured way to the images, self-thoughts, emotions, and body sensations associated with the trauma, and allowing the natural healing powers of the brain to move toward adaptive resolution. ”
You might have seen Harry’s interview with Oprah, or heard about their collaborative project, “The Me You Can’t See”. It was there that I learned about Harry’s experience with EMDR.
I didn’t get the call from Oprah, but here is a bit of my story….
In March of last year, my husband and I heard the word ‘pandemic’ as we sunned in Huatulco, Mexico. The days following were tense, and we heard more and more about what was happening around the world. We quickly knew we had to get back home.
During our isolation at our cottage, a colleague called me to tell me that her son had died by suicide just a week before. It literally knocked me off my feet. I could not compose myself well enough to offer condolences properly; I was overcome with emotion. She said she wanted me to know before it hit the newspaper. Her son, a beautiful 24 year old, had done some work on our deck with his dad in the summer of 2018. I remember chatting with him and then telling her what a nice, respectful man he was. And, that he had a great smile! My colleague knew my history and thought it might upset me to be surprised at seeing his obituary, which was going to be in the paper the next day.
Shortly after that, while my husband (VP of HR for a high-tech company) was consumed with managing the pandemic in two countries, I started feeling ‘off’. He was responsible for getting reliable information out to staff, at a time when none of us knew much at all. I felt for him and did my best to give him the space he needed to do his job. I, essentially, isolated more.
Of course, everyone I knew was feeling ‘off’, so I did not think much of it. I was sure the feeling wouldn’t last, just as I thought about the pandemic. I continued to work out every day first thing in the morning. After the workout I felt good. As the day moved on, I felt less and less good.
Then I started being unable to sleep. I decided to stop drinking coffee, stop drinking wine (even though there were all those early humorous videos showing people guzzling wine in their sweat pants), and avoiding all stimulants. I worked out regularly, meditated (although badly; I seemed unable to be ‘still’), stayed off of electronics 2 hours before bed, got lots of fresh air…and still, sleep evaded me.
After that, I started to notice that my clothes were falling off me. I was losing weight rapidly. And I just generally felt like a piece of garbage.
On top of it all, my hair started falling out. It freaked me out! Not only because MY HAIR WAS FALLING OUT, but because my hair is part of my brand, and it no longer looked or felt like ‘me’. Eventually, after months, I got in to see my dermatologist. She diagnosed it as telogen effluvium, a common cause of temporary hair loss due to the excessive shedding of resting or telogen hair after some shock to the system – in my case, a trauma that was triggered.
Losing sleep, losing weight, losing hair…it was like I was disappearing all-together.
My doctor thought I was experiencing symptoms of anxiety, and prioritized getting something to help me sleep. The medication brought it’s own problems. First, symptoms became WORSE! Second, the many side effects were quite awful.
Once I was sleeping and could function a little, I sought out a therapist. I wanted to try to figure out what happened and why I felt so bad.
I tried talk therapy at first. I attended faithfully, fully motivated to get well. After several weeks, I knew it was not working. My therapist suspected there was a connection to unresolved grief, and she recommended I try EMDR at Peace of Mind Therapy and Consultation with Dr. Kelly Penner Hutton.
I reserched it a little before calling for an appointment. I wasn’t sure how moving my eyes back and forth might help, but hey, I would try just about anything not to feel so horrible.
We spent weeks processing the suicide of my former husband of 8 months, when I was 27. I thought I had done the work around that long ago, but we discovered that there was still much distress connected to that memory
When I saw the clip from Oprah’s chat with Prince Harry, in which he revealed that he had experienced EMDR, I told my friend – “hey, I can totally hang with Harry now!!” I have always found him to be a most interesting person, and I love his work in Mental Health, including his recent appointment as Chief Impact Officer at Better Up, Inc.
Simultaneously, I heard Harry on the Armchair Expert podcast. He said many things that were helpful to me, like ‘We all have trauma. Life is trauma.’ And, he also coined a term I will use in the future; PTSI (Post Traumatic Stress Injury). The common term is PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Harry talked about how changing the term will change people’s perspective, and might help more people to get help sooner. In explaining it, he said “you have experienced an injury, you are not disordered.”
I like that, and I agree. I have experienced an injury, and I am not disordered. Thanks, Harry. Let’s hang!
Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker, Author, and Organizational consultant, Deri works with organizations who want to create happy and healthy workplaces for increased positivity, productivity and prosperity!