On going back to therapy

Hello. Let’s have a bit of honesty, shall we?

It’s been three years since I last saw my (utterly brilliant) therapist. I’ve kept her contact details (and given them to quite a few people in that time) but I hadn’t spoken to her in three years – until yesterday.

I saw her for about four months over the end of 2016 and beginning of 17, and underwent EMDR treatment for the duration of that time. I remember quite a lot about that period of my life. It was the first treatment out of three that I found effective, it made me feel brave enough to leave a job I wasn’t right for, I was blogging a lot and getting really stuck in to writing about mental health and being a part of Twitter’s mental health community, it was Winter, and towards the end of my treatment I started feeling really, really strong. For that reason I look back on it almost fondly, but in reality it was really bloody hard.

Since then, I haven’t had a panic attack. I get anxious sometimes but it’s almost always manageable. I have to work hard to manage stress but I’ve kind of decided that I’ll probably always be like that. I’ve accepted that I will probably always be on high alert in some ways for the duration of my life because unfortunately that’s just what PTSD is and does. My brain is a little different and I’ve learned to be somewhat cool with it – this is just who I am.

So I’ve been ticking along and on the surface I’m doing pretty good. I like my job and have managed to keep it throughout the Coronavirus pandemic so far. I’m getting married, I moved to a new flat earlier this year which I love, I’m finally starting the degree I should’ve signed up for like five years ago and I have a good support network. I’ve become pretty good at managing my own mental shit.

But then early this year (I think?) a new symptom came out of nowhere. I’ve talked about this a little bit recently in a post about some lesser-known symptoms of PTSD, and I have absolutely no idea where it’s come from. EMDR took care of a lot of my most overpowering symptoms and I’ve learned to live with the day-to-day, so I have no idea why this has suddenly become a thing. Perhaps I jinxed it by saying I didn’t have that much to write about mental health anymore. I thought I’d dealt with all the big stuff, you know?

Anyway at least once a week, I have night terrors.

These are sort of dreams which awaken your fight-or-flight, making you think you’re in immediate danger. For me, they are not flashbacks, they’re totally new, fabricated things. You’re partially awake and believe that what you’re seeing is 100% real, and it usually involves a racing heart, sweat and shouting. It’s panic when you should be peaceful and, more importantly, have no way of controlling it. When I’m awake I can use coping strategies, when I’m asleep I can’t do jack.

It’s also common to move around, so you might physically try to run away or escape: I’ve woken up sitting on the edge of my bed, climbing over my partner and, most recently, I woke up whilst opening my bedroom door to leave. Sometimes they don’t happen for a bit, and then I’ll have one every night for like three days. Last night, I had two one after the other.

I can’t seem to spot any rhyme or reason to when or why they happen and every night when I go to bed, it’s pot luck.

That’s why I’m going back to therapy.

Now this is pretty frustrating if I’m honest. I’ve been doing so well, and why does this have to happen now? But this is in no way a regression. It’s more like a new phase.

I’ve still dealt with all of the things I have and I’m still managing a lot of this thanks to things I learned in therapy as well as the actual EMDR itself. I’m still able to do all the things that therapy enabled me to do – this doesn’t take that away. It’s just a new thing I need to figure out. Don’t get me wrong it’s absolutely not ideal, but I always knew (and preached) that recovery is not linear. Ain’t that the truth.

PTSD used to take away my days, and now it’s my nights. I don’t know what will help and I’m praying that this isn’t just another thing I have to learn to live with. Who knows if my therapist will know how to help, if it’s treatable and what I will need to do, but it’s worth a try, right?

I’m prepared for the possibility of having to go back into EMDR and the prospect of a difficult few months. Believe me, that shit is hard. But if I did it before, I can do it again – and the benefits are so huge. This is the right thing to do.

There is no shame in seeking help. I’m trying to look at this as simply a new phase of my recovery: I’ve dealt with the rest of the super problematic, overwhelming stuff and it made way for this. I’m still looking up: there is always the hope of a peaceful night.

More soon,

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