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It’s a beautiful midday just before the summer solstice and I am exhausted. I make myself a cup of plain cocoa and water, my version of black coffee, and prepare to write. Sit and breathe…
My being feels pulled in two: positive excitement to be reopening the centre this fall—and anger with deep underlying sadness about difficulties that have erupted between my sister and me. The details need to be private to honour my sister. She doesn’t spread her personal life in blogs as I do. And yet, I still feel that it’s important to mention this as it isn’t unique and causes much pain in families. Witness this article sent to me by Sylvia McGee, which acknowledges that there is not very much written about sibling conflict. Or very much support. https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201503/the-ties-unwind?utm_source=FacebookPost&utm_medium=FBPost&utm_campaign=FBPost
The issues between us go back to childhood of course and bring up so much emotion that I feel swamped, especially at night. I keep turning bitter thoughts around to opening my heart, feel better for a while, and then relapse into reactivity.
…Several busy days later, early morning. It’s the actual solstice and Father’s Day. Yesterday we celebrated the longest day with Trish Wall https://ecowellness.wordpress.com/2015/06/26/trish-shines-at-solstice/ and then attended the annual barn dance hosted by our MPP Jack MacLaren https://ecowellness.wordpress.com/2015/06/26/when-politics-is-heart-warming/. Then home to tend to an orphan skunk I found staggering around the main street in Carp on Friday evening, bewildered and dehydrated. https://ecowellness.wordpress.com/2015/06/26/cute-but-smelly-visitor/
…Now it is a whole week later. I have not been able to write in the midst of my turmoil. The good news is that my sister’s recent brain MRI was clear of cancer and she is doing exceptionally well. After speaking to my close friend Stephen, I see our process from a bigger perspective of family healing: the bitter old toxins need to leak out and as they clear, my love for my sister will emerge stronger than ever. This helps me handle the strong emotions by aiming to remain as neutral as possible, focussing on my breath instead of escalating the story, thereby allowing the process to move forward without getting stuck in it. I am grateful to have found a path through the clouds!
On the easier side of things, I am full of summer energy and using it to plan the new version of the centre. Today I had a delightful meeting with three young counsellors for the holistic summer camp which starts soon and I’m hoping to offer another week in August, then a full summer in 2016. We have a new member on our staff, Sue Hall (see link), with whom I am developing various programs, a unique online store and holistic services. More about that in the next newsletter. Finally, I am realizing my dream of holding free monthly healing circles at the Carp Memorial Hall where we held the Carp Dinner Talks last year, working with Reiki Master Sylvia McGee who was central to the dinners as well.
My personal health continues to improve and I feel younger than I have in a long time, despite the emotional distress. My joint pains are almost gone where before I could barely walk when waking up in the morning. My digestion is slowly starting to normalize after two decades of distress. My eyes are stable so I can continue to avoid cataract surgery. My energy is improving, allowing me to have sleepless nights and still be productive the next day. Even my hair is slightly less gray, something I’d heard could happen, but haven’t seen before. The breast reduction surgery is having some repercussions with a slow-to-heal sore and tenderness—but I am so delighted to be lighter in that area, it barely bothers me at all!
On the emotional and mental levels, I continue to work with EMDR therapist Mary Ann Carmichael. This is the most important factor in allowing me to spiral up even as I get older as stress is my weakest link and the cause of most of my physical conditions. Other than the family situation, my main challenge is not to do too much with my somewhat manic energy this time of year, grin…
Much reason for gratitude for sure, as well as the pleasure of being in a career where I can pass it on! Wishing you well during these beautiful summer days and looking forward to seeing some of you in fall.
Sitting in the clinic kitchen and looking out over the cold, white landscape, it’s hard to tell that it will be April next week. It makes me think of our northern inhabitants and wonder how they manage their long winters every year. Maybe lots of whale blubber full of vitamin D… At least the sunlight has significantly increased, bringing in the cleansing season again. Time to cook up some kitcharee and break out the milk thistle, grin.
Life continues to be intensely focussed on loved ones struggling with illness. If you’ve been following me since summer, you might have guessed that my sister in New York has brain cancer. It happens to be the same kind to which my late husband succumbed in 2002, glioblastoma multiforme, GBM. Lili is bravely going through chemo and radiation with naturopathic assistance. It’s almost surreal because she is so strong and healthy…as was Mickey. However she has a better prognosis and expects to live for decades. All of us pull together to get through this intact, even if it means healing through loss and death.
Mickey’s eldest son is recovering from flesh-eating disease and will need to live in a long-term care facility. It is astounding to me how he keeps his spirits up. It’s like visiting an angel. Last Saturday I went to a Salvation Army store and bought a bag full of movies, books and CD’s which I will deliver to his bedside tomorrow. It’s fun to visit him, not something one usually feels in a hospital.
My daughter’s partner is still disabled with some unknown illness, which is maybe the hardest, the not knowing. We go from doctor appointments to the pharmacist to the hospital and keep getting more tests. Her doctor has been stellar, helping us feel that eventually we will figure this out. And my good friend who had the heart transplant and is staying with us is having complications that don’t allow him to move forward in his life. Utter frustration and yet he powers on. The good news on this illness front is that the family member with mini-strokes is doing fine and back to regular life.
In the middle of all this, I do my best to help and regain some sort of balance. Normal life happens in between crises and hospital visits and trips to New York. And yet I’m generally at peace. It is deeply satisfying to be of service and growing into acceptance. My own health is improving beyond my expectations and I am booked for a long-desired breast reduction tomorrow, armed with remedies and pain techniques, which will allow me to exercise more comfortably. At this point I’m looking forward to the two week recovery—my turn to rest!! My joints are slowly getting better, my eyes are stable with days of actual improvement, my hair is shiny for the first time in decades and my back is no longer keeping me up at night. My guts are still the resistant area, leading me to deeper awareness of how I hold tension and emotions. I am definitely not as enlightened as I thought, laugh!!
Yesterday I had a phone consult with my German New Medicine teacher, Ilsedora Laker, about these guts of mine, embarrassed that it’s taking me so long to figure out the trigger. She took me in the direction of looking for a “lack” and led me to see that because of my guilt around having so much, I deny myself many things, especially time to relax. In the conversation, I could clearly see the issue but couldn’t imagine not feeling guilty. Later in my meditation, I asked myself what it would take. The answer came: to accept that I DO MY BEST to share and contribute all that I have. I don’t have to be a super-human or beat myself up or drive myself to the brink of exhaustion to justify my existence as a person with wealth. A beautiful light flooded me and I realized that I’ve cracked the code. Now to continue reinforcing it gently. Eureka!
In the middle of all this intensity there have been many fun moments: taking slow walks with my sister; participating in the ice show with Felix (see photo); sleeping in the yurt with grandson Felix and our friend Jessica—until 2am when we rushed back home through the woods in the dark because I couldn’t get us warm enough with the wood stove; trying out ecstatic dance with the regulars in Ottawa; cross-country skiing at Fitzroy Park; and simply enjoying the privilege of being well enough to do my daily tasks of cooking, laundry and looking after Felix…who is trooping through all the stress around him with courage and kindness.
The best part of my own healing process is that night is no longer a time of horrific visions and terror but growing into a delicious experience of relaxing and coming home to myself thanks to the ongoing work with EMDR therapist Mary Ann Carmichael. Decreasing my constant anxiety and increasing my awareness is the central piece that allows everything else to change. The main thing I need to be careful of is that much of the energy I seem to have may be due to being in a shock state because of my sister’s illness, a long surge of adrenalin that will take me to exhaustion as it did with my late husband. This time around I need to take better care of myself.
And underneath everything there continues the dream of the centre. Every time someone is helped with a remedy or a healing technique I fantasize sharing it in a class or workshop. With the spring sun comes new visioning and soon we will be able to let you know what we will offer here. Patience all around! I do realize that I have a compulsive tendency to overdo and am committed to moving forward slowly and thoughtfully. I think that will be easier with the recent insights.
Here’s to your own visions and dreams–
It’s a cold and sunny winter day which I safely observe from the clinic kitchen window while I type. Checking in with myself, I feel as if I’m finding my way through a long, dark tunnel. This tunnel has a definite light at the end, with thoughts of “in a few years I’ll be ok”. However, when I breathe consciously and let myself sink deeper into the moment, I can sense the light right now, in my centre, and am filled with gratitude for the reality of soul and Spirit. I notice lately that the light is still there when life seems hard, with almost too much suffering to bear—as I remember to access It!
Eventually I’ll write the details of this difficult time. Right now I need to keep confidentiality for others. But I can describe the pieces that are mine.
There are several, beginning with being more aware of my closed heart for which I compensate with “saviour behaviour”—helping others in order to cover my fear of loving and losing, of getting too close and getting hurt. When I’m in helper mode, it looks and even feels like I’m loving, but as a giver it leaves me free from being vulnerable to loss and hurt; it lets me keep my real heart closed and safe. It explains why I feel uncomfortable receiving from others and often pick relationships where I can (sometimes obnoxiously) help/fix. I sense this as a constant tension in my chest and recently realize a lack of deep emotion for people with whom I want to be close, made clearer because of certain current events.
I also hide any anger I may hold for a close person so that I don’t hurt them. Jim Dowling, a healer in Carp, senses this as a volcano in my abdomen. I experience it physically as chronic bowel problems which don’t respond to any therapies. Inevitably the anger leaks out and hurts people in spite of all my efforts to hold it in but I’ve continued anyway.
This coping mechanism of keeping my heart closed and my anger suppressed has served me well enough for decades. Now it is causing me physical problems, blocking my ability to relate to people I want to love and stopping me from continuing to grow spiritually. My ability to heal is also blocked.
In EMDR therapy with Mary Ann Carmichael, the part that is trying to keep me safe by closing my heart feelings is arising as a frightening demon, a part that I have kept safely under wraps, unconscious, for most of my life. As I am forced to look at this behaviour by painful situations lovingly served up by the Universe, I notice that my most tender longings and self-love are also being blocked, that I am hard and unloving toward myself, that I don’t allow my vulnerable and hurt parts to show themselves and therefore to heal/integrate. I’m split off, unauthentic, partly dead.
At the same time, as this awareness arises, I have solid faith that I can be whole, alive and loving towards myself and others. I am fortunate and profoundly grateful to be able to get the help I need and am taking notes to apply what I’m learning to a restructured ecowellness centre! Skating and cross-country skiing with Felix and friends helps immensely, smile.
may your winter be a balance of inner work and playing in the snow!
ps Two books that I read daily to support my process are: Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach and The Presence Process by Michael Brown. Very different flavours, the first more gentle and feminine, the latter rather strict and masculine. For Simple Abundance, I recommend to start at January 1 no matter what time of year it is as her process is progressive, as is Michael’s.
By Katherine Willow
This topic interests me personally. After decades of being driven by subterranean terrors, I find myself finally and concretely learning to feel my body, ground into safety and create a life based on realistic adult thinking. Along the way numerous therapies and naturopathic remedies helped maintain my body, daily functioning (sometimes barely) and relative sanity until I could start coming to grips with the intense feelings which threatened to sink me whenever there was a quiet moment.
All this is to say that treating anxiety and fear can be a long process, although I have seen some patients break a cycle of anxiety and panic attacks in a few weeks or months. Here’s the general treatment plan.
Overcoming anxiety and fear starts with strengthening the body:
- Restore nutritional deficiencies, especially protein. Eat easily digestible protein (powders come in handy) at every meal and snack. Take enzymes to help absorption if there is gas and bloating.
- Support the adrenal glands. Depleted adrenals lead to anxiety which in turn depletes the adrenals more. One needs to break this downward spiral or crash into chronic fatigue or depression. I suggest adrenal glandulars as well as herbs and homeopathic remedies and eliminating caffeine, which whips the adrenals into even more fatigue and prevents their recovery. Stop overworking.
- Move regularly, gently and mindfully to release muscular tension. Weight training is awesome for feeling stronger emotionally.
- Learn to sleep well to rebuild the nervous system.
- Acupuncture can help balance weak organs and systems.
At the same time, there is a process of becoming aware of one’s emotions and learning to feel without freaking out or needing to self-medicate.
- Talk to someone regularly: a therapist, co-counselling buddy, sponsor in a 12-step process or life coach.
- Bodywork such as massage or craniosacral therapy with emotional release is useful.
- EMDR, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, with an experienced therapist has a strong track record for healing trauma that lies at the root of chronic anxiety.
- Mindfulness meditation likewise is well documented to help anxiety as well as depression.
- EFT or emotional freedom technique is a safe and effective self-help technique which can move us out of anxiety in minutes. See www.thetappingsolution.com for instructions and inspiration.
- Energy work such as reiki, quantum touch or shamanic journeying can access soul strength that has been lost along the way.
Then we can learn to relax and defuse the anxious state on our own:
- Yoga, meditation and conscious breathing.
- Relaxing massage.
- The Nordik Spa.
- Socializing in a safe group of friends.
Sometimes one needs several modalities over many years to break through layers of habits, addictions, delusions and denial. Sometimes it takes generations.
Finally, we need to understand resistance when we do all of the above without seeing much progress.
Resistance is the biological survival mechanism which tells us it is not safe to relax and heal. It does not respond to rational self-talk, reading self-help books or many of our efforts UNTIL there is a solid sense of safety, usually with another person. Sometimes it takes one person reaching in and being present with our unbearable feelings to begin coming out of the isolation of living in chronic anxiety and fear. And this person doesn’t need a title…
It is common to suffer from anxiety and fears; let’s be gentle and patient with ourselves.
by Katherine Willow, ND
Depression is unfortunately a common experience in our culture, so we had quite a few people at the last Open House talk on Nov 7th at Carp Ridge Healing House. We began with introductions and many people there shared current or past struggles with depression, including yours truly.
The keynote to depression that differs from simple sadness is a lack of interest in life which can vary from a reluctance in getting out of bed in the morning, to not getting out of bed at all, to being withdrawn and suicidal. Or it can manifest as various other symptoms such as sleep disorders (waking too early, insomnia, etc) and addictive behaviours.
Naturopathic medicine looks for the causes of a complaint in order to create a focussed treatment plan and so we examined the roots of depression, simplifying them into physical and psychological aspects. Here is a brief summary of some common factors in each:
Physical~ these are often contributing factors, and when they are primary, progress in mood improvement can be fast when treated effectively:
- deficiencies — vitamin D/sunlight, iron, B complex, low nutrients in general
- lack of sleep, exhausted adrenal glands (burnout), low thyroid, low serotonin (treatable)
- not enough time for nurturing self
- no exercise, or not enough exercise
- excesses: toxins in the liver, overwork, congestive foods (especially dairy and wheat), excess of food in general
- unresolved pain/trauma that is being ignored or suppressed, sometimes going back to childhood
- unfulfilling work, relationships, living space, creative outlet, spirituality — without the hope of changing these situations
These two lists are definitely not complete, and sometimes there needs to be an extensive investigation of what is underlying an individual’s depression, including a broad range of lab tests and honest soul-searching in order to become aware of why one has little or no joy in life.
Once there is a clear picture of what is actually going on, it is evident what needs to be done. Physical treatments for depression include revitalizing and/or cleansing diets for sluggish systems; nutrients and glandulars to rebuild a weak body; lifestyle changes to re-stimulate body and mind and specific herbal and homeopathic remedies which rekindle one’s spark.
When the cause is psychological, we encourage the person to face the underlying issues — if they are able. Old traumas can be acutely painful and sometimes one needs to progress very slowly within a safe context. However, there are new therapies which take the edge off this pain, including Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), hypnotherapy, Journeywork (one of the favorites in our clinic) and EMDR (a technique that uses eye movements). And of course there are the old standbys such as constitutional homeopathy and the well-studied herb St. John’s Wort.
In rare cases we will suggest a person take medical antidepressants in order to be able to function well enough to even begin a natural program and then wean off as they don’t need them. All of these tools (including the physical ones) allow a person to deal more easily with what has been making them depressed so that they can move on with their life.
This is easy to write or suggest to a patient. But the reality is that sometimes solving depression takes a long time, even decades if it has been in the family for generations — although we have seen minor miracles in even these situations when the person is ready to heal (which is both an attitude and a grace).
In chronic cases, ongoing loving and nonjudgemental support is not only crucial, it can be lifesaving. During the talk we spoke of all the varieties of support that are available in our area, including hospitals, recovery organizations and spiritual groups/churches, where a person learns that they are accepted just as they are.
Treating depression is well within our training as naturopathic doctors and we welcome people with this debilitating condition to come in for an individual assessment and treatment program. For myself, this has to be one of the most satisfying things in my practice, to watch a person come back to life after suffering with depression. Believe me, I know the feeling!