This is my first blog post in quite some time. Since losing my little boy, Ned, last year, I have blogged about my journey through grief. These blog entries have shown how my grief has affected my mental health, and I have spoken openly and honestly about this.
I have recently contributed to a book in the Welsh language about grief. There were 14 contributors to the book, each with their own story, each with their own unique experience of dealing with grief. The book has become a huge success and has started several discussions about the need to be open about grief; about the need to talk honestly about it.
By also writing openly on my blog, I hope to reach out to someone. I hope that someone can read an entry and identify with it and thus feel less alone. I also hope it helps those who know me personally to understand a little better what life is like for me.
Due to having pre-existing mental illness which has escalated dramatically since losing Ned, the support I have needed has been complex.
Grief is not an illness. There are no tablets that can help make it better. It will never go away. One can only hope that somehow, they learn to live with the pain. I have weekly bereavement counselling, specifically for my grief.
I am on strong mental health medication specifically for my depression and anxiety.
I therefore have two paths – my grief and my mental illness. These paths have now become intertwined. They can’t be separated. So where do I start? How do I begin to deal with such a complex and frightening concoction? I struggle to get out of bed in the mornings. I struggle to remember which day it is. This is why I have to rely on professional support.
I see my wonderful GP fortnightly. We re-assess my medication, my mood and my actions. We talk. We both agreed that I still needed more. I’m not moving on. The hole I’m in is still as dark as it was on March the 25th, 2016.
This has lead to my decision to have psychology. I have reached a point where my coping strategies have become dangerous.
I began having psychology a month ago. My psychologist told me that the therapy she would be using is called EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing), which has been successfully used to treat PTSD.
I came home and Googled the therapy and to be honest, it all sounded a bit strange. I couldn’t really grasp what I was reading. This is one of the reasons that I have decided to blog about my experience of having EMDR therapy. What I understand so far is that my brain has been unable to process what happened last year. Ned’s sudden death was so traumatic, my brain just hasn’t been able to cope. This has lead to me having PTSD (I have previously written a post about living with PTSD). The aim of EMDR therapy is to reprocess this trauma so that my brain can store the information in a much let intrusive way. It will never take away the pain I feel at losing my little boy, but it will hopefully make my grieving journey safer to manage.
I have only had one session so far, so I’m starting at the very beginning …
My psychologist asked me to visualise a safe place. Somewhere real or imaginary where I can go when my feelings begin to overwhelm and suffocate me. No one else can be with me in my safe place.
It took a little bit of time, but I did find my safe place. It’s a small cottage which opens up onto a secluded beach. I’m alone in my cottage therefore I don’t have to pretend. I can grieve openly for the loss of Ned and my dad. I can cry without trying to hide my tears. I can scream at the waves crashing onto the shoreline. I can curl up on a chair wrapped in a blanket, close my eyes and lose myself in my memories. There is no one worrying about me. There’s no one waiting for me. There’s no one wanting me for anything. I’m alone and I can simply be me – the broken me that I have become.
Once we had established my ‘safe place’, my psychologist began with the eye movements. I visualised myself in my cottage then followed her fingers from right to left for about 25 seconds. This was repeated several times and at the end of each set, I was asked how I was feeling. I honestly couldn’t believe that I was experiencing physical changes in my body. The weight in my stomach felt lighter, my limbs felt lighter, my tears dried and the most important one of all for me, something that I haven’t been able to feel since the day my little boy died, I felt like it was ok. It was ok for me to be alone. It was ok for me to think only of me. It was ok to be broken. I didn’t need to hide.
At the end of the session, my psychologist explained that we would continue with this until I’m able to access my safe place without her help. I need to be able to do this before we start reliving the trauma.
As yet, I have been unable to access my safe place when I’ve been in a heightened state of crisis over the past week. My psychologist has said that this will take a long time. She has encouraged me to try to return there when I’m feeling calm and quiet. The more times I can reach my safe place, the easier it’s going to get.
I am full of positivity about this therapy. I will never ‘get over’ losing my little boy. I will never stop hurting. I wouldn’t want to. He’s my son. The little baby that grew inside me. The little boy who was always at my side, beaming at me with his beautiful dimpled smile.
I have two other beautiful sons too that need their Mam now more than ever. My hope is that with EMDR therapy my coping strategies will become safe ones; that I will no longer turn to the ‘risky behaviours’ that I have used to cope over the past year.
I hope that slowly, step by small step, I can move forward in my life, with Ned safely tucked up in my heart.